A cute bisexual romance for fall: Never ever getting back together, by Sophie Gonzales

Sophie Gonzales’s latest YA romance

It’s no secret that I loved Sophie Gonzales’ previous books, Only mostly devastated, and Perfect on paper. With that in mind, I had high expectations for her latest YA romance novel, coming out in November this year! So when I saw it on Netgalley earlier this summer, I automatically requested it. (Before even reading the synopsis on the presentation page, which tends to happen with authors I know I’ll enjoy reading from!)

And, as always with this author, I was not disappointed.

The story so far

It’s been two years since Maya’s ex-boyfriend cheated on her, and she still can’t escape him: his sister married the crown prince of a minor European country and he captured hearts as her charming younger brother. If the world only knew the real Jordy, the manipulative liar who broke Maya’s heart.

Skye Kaplan was always cautious with her heart until Jordy said all the right things and earned her trust. Now his face is all over the media and Skye is still wondering why he stopped calling.

When Maya and Skye are invited to star on the reality dating show Second-Chance Romance, they’re whisked away to a beautiful mansion—along with four more of Jordy’s exes— to compete for his affections while the whole world watches. Skye wonders if she and Jordy can recapture the spark she knows they had, but Maya has other plans: exposing Jordy and getting revenge. As they navigate the competition, Skye and Maya discover that their real happily ever after is nothing they could have scripted.

A light and cute contemporary tale

I loved this plot. A good revenge, lots of drama, quid pro quo in the beginning, enemies-to-friends-to-lovers… what’s not to love?

Sophie Gonzales has a talent for tactfully and emotionally writing the experiences of bisexual youth. That’s something many authors struggle to do, and that I deeply appreciate in her work.

The animosity between the main characters in the beginning was very entertaining, and I especially appreciated the development of the romance, which felt very natural (and appropriately awkward at times!). The alternating points of view helped to get to know both main characters in all their complexity (even in the “enemies” phase of enemies-to-lovers).

The main antagonist, Jordy, is probably the character I’ve hated the most all year so far. However, with the dual POV, I got attached pretty quickly to the two protagonists! Skye is an easy character to love, and her anger and heartbreak when she discovers Jordy’s duplicity were very touching. Maya’s cold determination, on the other hand, was refreshing to see and moved the plot forward at a steady rhythm. There was never a dull moment!

I do feel like it would have fit the story better to have them be one or two years older than they are here, if only because it would seem more believable for Jordy to have so many exes a couple of years later. (But that might simply be me being a bit disconnected from teenagers’ experiences!) Overall, that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story.

Is this novel for you?

This book is scheduled to come out on November 29, 2022, and it is definitely for you if you enjoy :

  • contemporary romances
  • enemies-to-lovers
  • Wlw stories
  • dating show settings

In conclusion : I strongly recommend this book – and will definitely get a paper copy for myself when I see it hit the shelves in my city!

Fireside favorites : 10 of my favorite 2020 reads

Welcome back to another Bookending Winter post! Today’s prompt is hosted by Lauren and Becky @ Northern Plunder.

Bookending Winter is a book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during the month of December. Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, make 3 (or more) posts during the event, and link them up on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Prompt Explanation : Take a look back at your favorite reads of 2020. Hopefully these will make it to someone else’s TBR for them to pass the time whilst snuggled in with a hot coco next to the fire.

At the beginning of 2020, I set my Goodreads challenge to 52 books – one a week, I thought, was perfectly attainable, seeing as I used to read a lot more than that, and my current classes at the time weren’t that time-consuming. 52 books, I reasoned, was a perfectly adequate challenge, and one I’d surely be done with in September, at the latest.

That didn’t age well. I’ve been trying my best to get through my ARCs and finish the books I currently own, to maybe get to the 52 books goal, but it might very well not happen this year. Still, I’m trying to not be too bummed about this, and this prompt serves as a good reminder that, even if I didn’t read a ton of books this year, I still read a couple of really good ones!

So here’s – in random order – my 10 favorite books I’ve read so far in 2020.

Note : ⏳ are ARCs gotten through NetGalley or the publisher, 📚 are books I own or borrowed from my local library.

5 stars books

⏳ Better sleep, better you

I enjoyed reading this book a lot! It’s full of useful information on the science of sleep – why we do it, and what we’re doing wrong – and has a ton of advice adaptable for almost every situation so that its readers can improve their sleep habits. I learned a lot by reading this – definitely would recommend as a gift for a friend interested in science or how things work, or for your friend running every day on 5 hours of sleep and not understanding why they’re feeling like crap all the time!

Find it on Goodreads here.

⏳ Happily Ever After & Everything In Between

This is the cutest and most relatable thing I have read in a very long time, and every single one of the pages seemed like a situation taken out of my own life. I laughed so much out loud reading this that my partner came over my side of the living room to check if I was okay (and if I needed snacks).

It was my first book from this author, but I’m planning on checking out her other works too!

Find it on Goodreads here.

⏳ Surrender your sons

This was… wow. Just wow. You can check out my review here on Goodreads – I wrote it right after reading and I honestly couldn’t say it better right now. Excellent novel and amazing author, 10/10 would recommend.

⏳ Perfect on paper

I was really excited to see what Sophie Gonzales was going to give us next, and she did not disappoint! You can read my full review on the blog – I wrote an entire post about it, it’s just so good – but if you’re just looking for the short version : this is an excellent queer YA contemporary, and you should definitely read it as soon as it comes out.

Find it on Goodreads here.

Related post : check out my review of Perfect on Paper, by Sophie Gonzales

📚 The starless sea

I’ve been trying to write a review of this book for months now, but nothing I can write renders it justice. While this author’s previous novel didn’t work for me at all, this one was so poetic and beautiful that it went into my favorites in January and stayed there the whole year long. I’m planning on re-reading it in the second half of December, if I get stuck on my current TBR and need a break in the form of the most beautiful prose I’ve read so far in 2020!

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Leviathan wakes

I read the first three books of the The Expanse series, and rated them all 5 stars, so I’m only citing the first one here or they would take way too much space in this list. I love the narration, the different points of view, the intrigue and the space battles – everything fits neatly into place and it’s extremely entertaining!

If you like politics and spaceship, this is the book you need to pick up for the holidays. I’m waiting for next weekend to get into book 4, and I’m really excited to see what happens next!

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 The way of kings

One of my first Sanderson books, and I must admit – this one put him immediately on the list of authors I’ll automatically give a chance to, whatever the subject of his next book may be. It had been a while since I’d read such a long and good novel, and even longer since I’d started a really challenging series – I’m planning on reading more from him next year, maybe make it a small reading challenge?

Find it on Goodreads here.

4 stars books

📚 Skyward

Another Sanderson book! I rated this one 4 stars instead of 5, mostly because I do agree with some other reviewers in the sense that, even though this book was really good, it felt more like a prelude to a bigger novel than an actual first installment in a series. Still, I can’t fault the quality of the writing, and the characters were easy to love and well developed.

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Maybe you should talk to someone

A non-fiction book! I love anything and everything psychology-related, so this book by a therapist about her job and her experiences with therapy sounded right up my alley. I really enjoyed reading this, even if it felt a bit longer than it should be in the end. It’s not as informative as I thought it’d be from reading reviews about it, but the experiences described in this book are very touching and complex.

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Aurora Rising

2020 was a pretty good year for my sci-fi loving heart! Aurora rising was a fun and easy book to read, filled with humor and nice plot twists. I liked the ending a lot, and my preorder of Aurora burning couldn’t come to my local bookseller soon enough!

Find it on Goodreads here.

What are your favorite 2020 reads ? Did you read and review any of these ones? Let me know in the comments! (And link your reviews if you did, so I can go read them!)

Perfect on Paper, by Sophie Gonzales

Perfect on paper is author Sophie Gonzales’s third novel, coming out in March 2021 – and if you like queer romances, YA contemporaries or just love YA romance in general, then you should definitely add this gem to your TBR.

Synopsis

Darcy Phillips:
• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes—for a fee.
• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.
• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.

However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89—out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service—that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach—at a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.

Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.

Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?

What I liked

I had high hopes for this story, and… they were all met. And then some. Oh boy.

The themes Sophie Gonzales approaches in this book hit extremely close to home, and, as was the case with her previous novel, Only Mostly Devastated, were written in a very thoughtful, delicate way that left me unable to put it down until I had read it entirely.

The story touches on themes of internalized biphobia, LGBT+ relationships, parental conflict, lying… Expressions of emotions and feelings are on point (I might have cried, more than once) and the book is full of all the complicated relationships and drama that are so characteristic of high school experiences. The romance is also super sweet, which is always a great point.

Darcy and Brooke… the unrequited love trope is something I’m very partial towards – if it’s done well, it can be so much fun for the readers, and this one is done perfectly. I also loved the relationship between the main character and her transgender sister, and the way all of the characters were fully fleshed out and each had their own journeys throughout the course of the story. These characters aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, (and downright questionable choices, looking at you Darcy) but they try to learn from them and do better – and that makes them all the more likeable and attaching for me.

What other people didn’t like

Some people have mentioned the common plot points with the show Sex Education (the secret locker and giving advice to other students part) but, as with OMD, since I haven’t watched that show, I didn’t have any sense of déjà-vu. (Additionally, as the author said in a tweet recently, this book was mostly written by the time Sex Ed came out – it’s not plagiarism in any way!)

As an additional note : some reviewers have mentioned that this story was “unexpectedly mature” and “not appropriate for YA”. I won’t elaborate too much on that here, because it would honestly deserve an entire post, but I’ll tell you this : the most mature thing in this book is a kiss, and I think we know exactly what this person had in mind when they made this critic.

LGBT representation is not inherently “mature”. Our existences aren’t “mature”, they just are. Leave queer kids alone. Stop policing queer books.

Conclusion

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is absolutely a five stars book for me, and I would definitely recommend it to YA romance readers, and contemporary YA readers in general. Sophie Gonzales is now firmly on my list of authors I’ll read every book of, and I’m so excited to see what she writes next!

Related posts : Only Mostly Devastated, by Sophie Gonzales

The Guinevere deception, by Kiersten White

The Guinevere deception is the first book of Kiersten White’s Camelot Rising trilogy, which came out in November 2019.

I bought it as a gift from myself, to myself, for Christmas (if you want it done well, do it yourself!) and… have been sitting on this review ever since. There’s no specific reason why – I enjoyed reading this book, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get the next one as soon as it comes out too, so there’s really no logic to this except me just forgetting to write this post every week since January.

Synopsis

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

What I liked

I loved the characters! Guinevere was terribly cute and tried her best to make herself useful in a strange place, alone and uncertain of her place in the world. Arthur was kind and just, and trying his best to do right by his new wife, and all the secondary characters had interesting backstories. (Also, no spoilers, but : Lancelot is the best.) There’s also some LGBTQ+ representation, which is always a nice thing to have.

The system of magic seemed very original to me – I always think of magic in Arthurian retellings as elemental magic, like Merlin’s, or very complex spells and potions, but knot magic was a refreshing take on this and helped bring novelty to the story.

Merlin and Arthur’s complex relationship, as seen through Guinevere’s eyes, was interesting and made me want to see it more developed in the next part of this series, The Camelot betrayal, coming out in November 2020.

And one last point : Mordred. Mordred was excellent. I don’t want to spoil anything – if it is even possible to spoil Arthurian mythology – so I’ll stay super vague, but Mordred stole my heart in a couple of pages and then broke it. Damn you Mordred.

What I didn’t like

The pacing of the story was a little strange – it was very slow for the first half / two thirds of the book, then accelerated exponentially until the end. Personally, it didn’t bother me too much, but I can see why it might feel too slow to some reviewers.

At times, Guinevere’s decisions seemed hasty and not well thought-out, even though she was supposed to be in dangerous territory with the goal to defend her king at all costs – but I guess that could be blamed on the character’s age and naïveté : after all, she’s supposed to only be 16 when the story starts, and her backstory strongly suggests she hasn’t met a lot of other people before being sent by Merlin on this top-secret mission to Camelot.

Conclusion

This was a very fun read for me, I enjoyed it a lot and will most definitely try to preorder the next one when it comes out!

The never tilting world, by Rin Chupeco

I read this book as part of the January read-along for the Books and tea bookclub, and it was my first-ever book by Rin Chupeco, also author of the acclaimed series The bone witch – which I have added to my TBR, after hearing so much good about it on book twitter over the last few weeks, by the way.

Synopsis

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands

I’ve got some conflicting opinions about this book, so I’ll try my best to express them intelligibly – it’s past midnight when I’m writing this and I haven’t slept well in a few days, though, so I can’t promise anything. (Please do warn me in the comments if something I wrote didn’t make any sense, and I’ll try to fix it if possible!)

What I liked

First of all : the cover is ridiculously good. It makes you want to pick up this book immediately. I absolutely love it.

Secondly, I really liked the concept of this story : a world that has been broken in half and has stopped spinning on itself, damaging the climate in the process – it sounded super interesting when I read the synopsis.

This was a very character-driven story, with both goddesses traveling all the way from their respective home cities to the breach in the middle of the world, to try and repair it to the best of their abilities. It made for a lot of character development, and you can really see the changes in both girls, from the beginning of their journey to its end.

A third thing I liked was the romance – I’m not usually a fan of romance in books when I’m expecting adventure or saving-the-world shenanigans, but this one had love interests that were actually likeable, made sense, and it was overall adorable.

Finally, on the topic of LGBT representation, this novel does have a lesbian main character and an f/f ship at the center of the story. The topic of PTSD was also mentioned via Lan, Odessa’s bodyguard, and it seemed tactfully written to me (although I’m not an expert on the subject, so if there’s something I’ve missed, feel free to notify me!)

An honorable mention : the sand dolphins were the cutest things ever. Best fantasy animal of the year so far.

What I didn’t like

I think this is the first this year – I wasn’t a fan of the system of magic in this book. It just never seemed to make sense to me, and I didn’t find it as engaging as the other parts of the worldbuilding. The overall mythology and legends were interesting, but I didn’t manage to grasp the actual rules of the magic in this world, and it might have diminished my enjoyment of the ending a bit. (Also, I’d like to know what exactly makes Odessa and Haidee goddesses? I mean, they’re clearly different form other people, but what distinguishes a goddess from, say, a really strong sorceress?)

The 4 narrative points of view were also a bit too much for me, as I felt like the story kept switching to another character’s perspective right when things became interesting in the current chapter, and so on. Even with all the character development and the drama going on in their respective sides of the story, the changing POV made it difficult to get attached to the goddesses.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t put this book in my all-time favorites list, but it was a solid fantasy novel and it did leave me wanting to read more. Hopefully, since the second part of this duology is expected to come out in 2020, I’ll be happily surprised by the ending of the story!

Even if I haven’t been blown away by this book, I still intend to read the next one – maybe I’ll change my opinion once the full story is complete!

Have you read other works by Rin Chupeco? If I wasn’t a fan of The never tilting world, do you think I should read The bone witch nonetheless?

An Enchantment of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson

I read this book a while ago as part of the March 2020 read-along of the books and tea book club, and even if it wasn’t something I might have found on my own, I had fun reading it !

An Enchantment of Ravens is YA author Margaret Rogerson‘s first novel, published in 2017 – you might also know her from her second YA fantasy novel, Sorcery of thorns, published last summer.

Synopsis

With a flick of her paintbrush, Isobel creates stunning portraits for a dangerous set of clients: the fair folk. These immortal creatures cannot bake bread or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and they trade valuable enchantments for Isobel’s paintings. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—Isobel makes a deadly mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes, a weakness that could cost him his throne, and even his life.

Furious, Rook spirits Isobel away to his kingdom to stand trial for her crime. But something is seriously amiss in his world, and they are attacked from every side. With Isobel and Rook depending upon each other for survival, their alliance blossoms into trust, perhaps even love… a forbidden emotion that would violate the fair folks’ ruthless laws, rendering both their lives forfeit.

What I liked

The magic system in this book felt very new to me, but it might be because I haven’t been reading a lot of YA fantasy lately – if you’ve read books with the same kind of magic system, please feel free to recommend it in the comments !

In Rogerson’s world, the Fair Folk are physically unable to use any sort of creative ability – what they call Craft, and what they so desperately crave from humans. The village the MC comes from specializes in providing such Craft, in exchange for enchantments given from the Fair Folk – but all magic comes at a price, and the Fair Folk’s magic is especially tricky. If you don’t make a specific, clear, and loophole-free demand, the enchantment you asked for will be turned against you, and could lead to serious harm – or even death.

I loved the sharp wit of the main character at the beginning of the book, and the way she managed to exercise her Craft and sell it to the Fair Folk without falling into any of these possibly deadly loopholes that could be used against her and her family. (And her little sisters were the cutest). We so often see characters who take up the offer of immortality as soon as it appears, without a second thought or a “hey, could I regret this in the future?” that her determination to hold on to her ideals and her stubborn refusal of immortality, even if it might mean death for her, were refreshing to see.

The portrayal of the Fae as more cruel, alien-ish beings than in most other fantasy stories where Fae are just, well… very beautiful and immortal humans, also felt original and added a lot to the overall atmosphere of the story. I liked discovering their inhuman characteristics,the way they looked lie under their glamour or the depth – or absence – of their actual emotions.

I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but I enjoyed the plot twists a lot, and the ending surprised me without being disappointing in a Game of thrones level of subverting-your-expectations (Ugh. Let’s never talk about that again.)

What I didn’t like

I wasn’t such a fan of the romance at the center of the story, to be honest – but that’s probably because I’m not easily sold on romances in action-heavy books. This one wasn’t an insta-love romance, but I still found it a little too fast for me, which made it a little difficult to believe in : as soon as the prince appears on the page, you can see where the story is headed.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the context in which this love develops – for all intents and purposes, Isobel is essentially captured by the prince to be condemned in his kingdom, and something about falling in love with your captor while running for your life and hoping he doesn’t led you to your untimely death is… a bit icky to me.

Conclusion

With a great worldbuilding and lore, and a plot that always keeps you on your toes (except for the romance part), this book is a very fun YA fantasy suited for anyone who likes Fae stories and journey-centric novels, sprinkled with a little add-on of cheesy romance on top.

Related posts : Self-isolation library eBook haul

Starsight, by Brandon Sanderson

If you’ve seen my previous posts, you’ll know that I read Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson , which is the first book in this series, a few weeks ago, and I really enjoyed it. It was my first time reading a Sanderson book, and I didn’t know what to expect of the next : was the enjoyable experience of Skyward only a fluke, or was the sequel going to be as good as it promised to be ?

So, naturally, when my library hold came through for this book, I started reading it ASAP and ignored my university work for a whole day even though I really shouldn’t. And oh boy, I was not disappointed.

Fair warning : even though I try my best not to spoil the action of the book I’m reviewing, this review does contain spoilers for the first book in this series. Read at your own peril (and please don’t be like this reviewer on Goodreads who got angry at the author because the description of book 2 spoiled the ending of book 1. That’s just a big no.)

Synopsis

All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing.

Spensa is sure there’s more to the story. And she’s sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars–and it was terrifying. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie.

But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself–and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.

What I liked

When I finished this book, I updated my goodreads list and added a few words about it on my account. You can find my abridged, right-after-reading review here.

One of my main critics from book one was that I had some difficulties maintaining my suspension of disbelief when the characters were thrown in some pretty unrealistic situations. The sequel avoids that problem by relying a little more heavily on its science-fiction elements and introducing a lot of new and colorful characters and places, which felt like a breath of fresh air after the confined atmosphere of the first book.

I really appreciated the fact that the main character’s powers, if you can call them powers, weren’t described as fantasy magical abilities, and more like something resembling the X gene in X-men – a mutation granting her the ability to do things others couldn’t, that put her in danger as much as helped her and her people. I loved learning more about what she could do, and how it was linked to her people’s past and their larger role in the universe.

The different species of aliens introduced in this new installment of the skyward series were super interesting to read about, and I loved the surprising turn into politics that this book went to. The much greater world-building helps a lot with the new themes the author tried to reach, and helped raise the stakes for the dramatic ending.

What I didn’t like

That being said, one of the thinks I liked from the previous book was the fact that the ending, while being an open ending preparing the characters for book 2, still felt like the characters arcs had been satisfyingly completed and the story arcs wrapped up.

This one ends on a cliffhanger, and to be honest… I’m not a big fan of those. I know a lot of authors love using them, and it keeps the readers engaged and wanting to read more, but it just gives me such an unsatisfied feeling that I can’t help but be a little disappointed every time a book ends on one.

Conclusion

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed reading this, and I’d rate this book 4.5 stars – it was a fun sci-fi sequel that I’d recommend to anyone who likes YA and Science-Fiction. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for romance, though, as there is little to none of it in the whole 450 pages. Definitely a fun read !

The loneliest girl in the universe, by Lauren James

I picked this based on the sci-fi tag, and oh boy. It was scary. I’m easily frightened, and I know it, so I don’t usually read thrillers, watch horror, or anything like that – so I was legitimately scared when I read this book.

This is going to be a very short review, because I think this is a book that you need to read without having been spoiled any of the plot twists or surprises in the story, but I’ll do my best to tell you a little about it nonetheless.

Synopsis

Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.

Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love. But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?

Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . . 

What I liked

The suspense ! The mystery ! Space ! Sending messages between two ships and actually respecting the time delays ! I adore science-fiction, and I’m pretty suspicious when books don’t seem to take into account the time it would take to send a message to a ship lightyears away from yours. 

With the first part of the book being mostly told through messages from Romy to J, the exposition scenes and the science are explained well, and you’re thrust into the story right from the beginning. The tone changes completely after 200 or so pages, and switches from cute space romance to scary space thriller – which I liked, but I see why some people wouldn’t, if they expected this to be a full romance book all along.

The main character was a realistic young adult, and her behavior was coherent with that of someone who had been isolated for a very long time – it made the rest of the story much more believable, and, after the 200 pages mark, added to the scary elements of the book.

What I didn’t like

The main character, to pass the time, reads and writes fanfiction of her favorite show, and sends them back down to earth to her NASA handler. As an avid fanfiction reader, the fanfiction parts of the book felt a bit strange, but I’m not exactly sure why.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a short, fun and scary novel about a girl in space to fill your quarantine time, this is the book for you. It’s well-written, and you’ll have a good time reading it.

Tess of the road, by Rachel Hartman

This book was… an experience.

I mean. Look at this cover. It’s gorgeous.

I got it on a whim, as an ebook from my local library a few weeks ago, because I liked the cover art. Without reading the synopsis on the back. In my defense, the cover has a dragon on it, and I love anything and everything with dragons.

It has since come to my attention that it isn’t, technically, the first book in a series, even though it was advertised this way on my library’s website. It is in fact a companion book set in the world of another series by the same author, the Southlands series. On Goodreads, a reader asked the author if it was necessary to read the other novels set in the same universe first, to which she answered :

It’s not strictly necessary, especially if you’re the kind of reader who likes to hit the ground running (I am, so I know we exist!). My husband recommends reading SERAPHINA first, at least, to get an idea how the world works.

Rachel Hartman

Since I am part of the group of readers who like to hit the ground running, it didn’t bother me that much to not have all the information at the beginning, but if you like to be a little more informed, I would still recommend you don’t start with this one.  

Synopsis

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl—a subspecies of dragon—who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

What I liked

It’s not easy to write such a slow, coming-of-age, character-driven story, and Rachel Hartman does it extremely well. Tess of the road is a love letter to girls growing up – normal girls, flawed girls, loud girls – whoever you are, there is something for you in this book. Tess’s journey around the world is also a spectacular journey of self-discovery, and the complex world in which she grows feels extremely real – yes, even with the dragons. 

The road was possibility, the kind she’d thought her life would never hold again, and Tess herself was motion. Motion had no past, only future. Any direction you walked was forward, and that was as must be.

Tess of the road, Rachel Hartman

This story touches on some pretty heavy topics, like sexual assault, abuse, grooming, miscarriages, death and grief, alzheimer’s disease, and religious extremism – if you are sensible to those topics, you might want to be aware of that. But Hartman’s writing never feels voyeuristic or awkward. Instead, she talks about the struggles of her main character’s life with tact, and gives you an unlikeable, angry, bitter heroine who you nevertheless end up loving and hoping for the best possible outcome.

I also appreciated a lot the inclusion of neutral pronouns, and the in-world explanation given for it. I found it very thoughtful and interesting, and would like to see more of that in future fantasy books !

What I didn’t like

Not much. Even though the pace was extremely slow, I couldn’t put this book down once I started reading it. I don’t usually read extremely raw stories, but this one was absolutely excellent. I’m not that convinced about the Young Adult qualification, though – based on the heaviness of the story, I would have put this in the New Adult range, at least.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, but if you aren’t bothered by the themes it covers and like character-driven stories ? Go for it. It’s extremely well written, and it will make you feel like you want to put on your boots and travel the world. (Although, during this pandemic, it might be a little wiser to travel to your garden or your living room, just to be safe.)

Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson

I’m back with a book review !

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually done one of those, so I might be a little rusty, but I had fun reading this book ! This is a YA science-fiction novel by Brandon Sanderson, who apparently is a very prolific and famous American author and I won’t lie, I feel pretty dumb having no idea who he was before picking up this book.

Synopsis

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

What I liked 

I’m a sci-fi fan, so when I saw this book’s cover and description, I knew I had to try it. I quite enjoyed my time reading it, and got attached to the side characters really quickly – which made it even more heartbreaking every time something bad happened to one of them. But hey. That’s life.

Other good things about this book would be : it’s part of a series, but it doesn’t feel too unsatisfying and unfinished in the end. Story arcs are resolved, and wrapped up quite nicely, and you end up genuinely looking forward to the next one instead of being frustrated and left with no answers at all.

This novel also shows that you can write sci-fi without an extensive knowledge of space jargon, and without drowning your readers in spaceship parts and hyperdrive functions. The sassy AI robot and the snarky characters are a nice bonus, and I did like the added teenage angst in the flight school portions of the story.

What I didn’t like

A common critic about this book is that the main character is an asshole. And… yeah, she is. Maybe dialing that down a little bit would have helped more readers connect with her, instead of DNFing the whole novel because they couldn’t stand the MC. 

I had some suspension of disbelief problems too – at the beginning of the stories, the flight school recruits are called on to pilot ships in a fighting situation, when they haven’t had classes for more than a week. I’ll be honest, I expected it to be a kind of training exercise – they make them believe there’s an emergency, board the ships, and observe how the new recruits react under pressure – but, to my disappointment, it wasn’t an exercise. And even in a dire situation, I just couldn’t believe that instructors would risk recruits and ships without giving them the adequate training beforehand. 

Conclusion

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’m rating this book 3.5 stars – not because it’s bad, but because it could have been much better than it ended up being. However, I’m still very much looking forward to reading the second installment of this series, when my library hold comes through.

Have you read this book ? Did you read other works by the same author, and if so, is there one in particular I should pick up ?