Slayer by: Kiersten White

Summary:

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

The Review:

I am a Buffy fan. I love the show, I have watched the entire series so many times now that I cannot even count the number of times. I still almost cry during Becoming and The Body. So, of course I was excited that a book set in the Buffyverse was coming out and also written by one of my favorite authors, Kiersten White who wrote the And I Darken series.

It starts with Nina or Athena as her full name, whose twin sister Artemis is training to become a member of the Watcher’s council who are tasked to guide the slayers as they hunt the demons and the vampires. The story is set at least 3 years after the Buffy series finale, in which she saved the world, but it had a price and with what happened at the end of the series, which had every young girl become “chosen” to be a slayer which resulted in too many slayers and not enough watchers. What surprised me, was how much the characters really hate Buffy, it was almost too funny to believe, but it added a lot to the story and created kind of deconstruction of Buffy as a character through the eyes of others.

With Nina, while her sister is training at the Watcher Academy, she is being trained as a healer, but in a course of events has her become chosen to be the slayer, a job she definitely has not trained for. Nina is a very different character from the Buffyverse, in which she is not prepared to take on this responsibility. While Buffy in the TV show has done the same, it took Nina a long time for it to get through to her. Throughout the book, she is trying to figure out her place in the slayer world, mainly because she spends most of her time blaming Buffy for the death of her father, who was her first watcher before Giles.

This book also had a few Easter eggs to the Buffy verse, my favorite was the Wyndham Prices, who are related to Wesley, who was mentioned as a watcher in training who moved to LA to work with a vampire. Also a dark haired girl, who is basically Faith.

The supporting characters were also good, There is Leo who is a watcher in training who is helping to train Nina, and there are also Rhys and Cillian. They reminded me a little bit of the Scoobies from Buffy and with the setting of the Watcher Academy, we got to see the research in what goes on with the world of the demons, from Buffy.

My main criticism, with the book was the pacing. The beginning of the book, was very info dump heavy, and I think it was made for people who aren’t familiar with the Buffyverse, and the book was not as plot heavy and it was mostly character focused, hopefully with next book we could also see more vampires which was lacking in this book.

In the end, I really enjoyed Slayer, I think it is a great series for those who are fans of the Buffyverse. It did a good job at introducing the new status quo in the world, and I kinda want to see more of what the world has to offer.

Grade: 4/5

Undead Girl Gang by: Lily Anderson

Summary:

Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There’s not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.

So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again. 

The Review:

This book was on my TBR for a long time, ever since last year and I finally got it at the bookstore, with the much better soft cover.

The book is very  much a zombie murder mystery novel which reminded a lot of the 90s movie The Craft, especially when dealing with the supernatural.

The story begins with the “suicide” of Mila’s friend Riley, and Mila obviously believes that it wasn’t a suicide, even when two other girls; June and Dayton who also have committed suicide much earlier. Mila using Wiccan powers brings them back to life to try to find out who killed them, but they don’t have any memory of their murders.

Mila is very sarcastic and snarky, and a lot of her light dialogue adds a lot of humor throughout the book.

The resurrected girls provide a lot of the humor throughout the book, especially when they find out that they are in fact dead. Some of my favorite scenes included the “mean girls” June and Dayton haunting their friends in order to find out who killed them. While June and Dayton are the stereotypical mean girls but they become a lot more fleshed out as the story goes on.

Another highlight was the relationship between Riley and Mila. As they are best friends, you really get a sense of how much Mila missed Riley after she died.

As a murder mystery book, it does cover a lot of the mystery formula in which Mila and other girls would have to find clues about their murder. There was a couple of red herrings, in which when you meet this one character you would think that he is the killer, but it turns out to be false.

My one main issue with the book was the rushed ending. The real killer’s identity I felt was not as fleshed out as I wanted it to be, while it sort of was hinted at the beginning of the book, but it was way to rushed. Also with the rushed ending it didn’t give enough time for me to really sink in what has happened.

In the end, I did enjoy Undead Girl Gang. It was a nice supernatural story with lots of humor throughout. I did enjoy the characters a lot, and even though it was a stand alone I kinda want to see more of Mila.

Grade: 4/5

Skyward by: Brandon Sanderson

Summary:

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. 

The Review:

I was always a fan of Brandon Sanderson, I loved Mistborn and the Reckoners series, and while his writing may seem very dense but he is very good at world building, and I always wanted to read this book ever since I got a sample at BookCon 2018.

It was also nice to see Brandon Sanderson write a space opera, since he has done a lot of fantasy, most of which I would highly recommend to readers so it was a nice change of pace.

The main character is a girl named Spensa, who wants to be a space pilot like her father. She also has to tend with the the fact that her father was branded a deserter and coward and has to live with the fact everyday since she entered the academy. She was always told by her grandmother how she was descended from people such as Beowulf, Sun Tzu and Genghis Kahn, while she may have known it was obviously fake it have Spensa something to look up towards and the learning of Old Earth.

The main setting is on a planet called Detritus, which is inhabited by humans who live underground because of the Krell who keeps attacking. It seemed like an odd setting for the book, but I like that it was very different and using an underground city made it a lot more cramped and added a lot to the characters.

One of the main highlights was the relationship between Spensa and M-Bot an AI -driven ship. M-Bot was very snarky and I really liked it. I liked that she would confined in M-Bot, especially when dealing with everything that she is going through at the academy.

When Spensa is at the academy, while still being the daughter of a coward, she begins to learn more about what happened when her father died. It takes a lot of good twists and turns, and it kinda begs the question of what makes a hero and what makes a coward, with the consequences that come with it.

A lot of the supporting characters are also well developed. One of my favorites is Jorgan, and there back and forth is amazing, and I like how it kinda grew into a friendship between them and learned to respect each other.

In the end, I really liked Skyward, it of course has the same Sanderson style. Spensa is an amazing character and I really want to follow this series and see where it goes.

Grade: 5/5

Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart? 

The Review:

This is a book, I picked up on a whim, mainly because I have heard good things about this series and also with the release of Counting Darkness, which is said to be a spin off of that series.

What intrigued me about the premise is the fact that it deals with assassins, and a convent that deals with them. It starts with Ismae who escaped an arraigned marriage and seeks refuge. The convent gave me a lot of Red Sister vibes to it, I just wish I had seen more of the convent.

The main plot of the story is when Ismae goes to the high court of Brittany, and deals with the political intrigue that is going on, especially when dealing with Gavriel Duval, who is very mysterious.

I thought the book would have  a lot more assassinations, but the political intrigue was enough to keep me interested with a sinister plot. The main plot of the book also deals with the romance between Duval and Ismae, and yes it did start off as the enemies turned lovers, but their relationship was good enough to keep me interested.

A problem I had with the book, was the pacing. It did suffer from a kinda of boring middle part of the book, which nothing much was happening, but when the twist happened , is where the book started to pick up again.

I also liked the world building. It is a historical fiction dealing with a war between Britain and France, and it didn’t feel like info dump.

In the end, I enjoyed reading Grave Mercy. The political intrigue was enough to keep me interested, and also the romance between Ismea and Duval was interesting as well, even if the book had pacing issues. I do want to read the other books of the series.

Grade: 3.8/5

Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

Summary:

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

Review:

I was very excited to find out that after the Illuminae files that Kay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman was going to write another series, because if you have read my blog, you know that I love the Illuminae files and its one of the few series that received 5 stars for each of the books.

Aurora Rising, isn’t however written in the multi media format that the Illuminae files was written in but in the standard format with POV chapters for the characters. I like that each of the characters has their own personalities and charter arcs within those chapters and what makes it really good, is the fact that you get to see the different perspectives of what is going on in the story. It really reminded me of Mass Effect in a sort of way.

What also made the story great, was that it was about a crew of misfits who no one would really want on their crew, especially the main character of Ty, who is in the top of his class at the academy and is now dealing with the rejects because he was late for the ceremony and now has to deal with the last picks of the cadets.

The main plot of the story is dealing with a young girl named Aurora who wakes up and is found by Ty. Aurora is a girl out of time who was suppose to be in a sort of hyper sleep and is now waken up to a time not her own. There is a lot of mystery to unpack in the novel, and the story takes a lot of twists and turns.

My only issue with the book, was sort of the pacing. While the beginning and the end was very well done, the middle section of the book It is not as action packed as the Illuminae files but it still kept up with my attention.

In the end, I enjoyed Aurora Rising, while it did have some issues with pacing, it was the characters that kept my attention. I am very excited to see another Jay and Amie Sci Fi series.

Grade: 4/5

Sky Without Stars by: Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

Summary:

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spying on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a traitor. Groomed to command by his legendary grandfather, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when he discovers a cryptic message that only one person, a girl named Alouette, can read.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have roles to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables.

The Review:

When I heard the terms “Les Mis in Space” I of course had to get this book, because I always love a good retelling especially one set in space. While it did have a Les Mis feel to it did tell its own story.

The book is told through three different POVs. First there is Chatine, a thief who hustles her way out of everything  especially when trying to survive as a young orphan girl. Her storyline involves disguising herself as a boy and is set to spy on Marcellus, for his grandfather.

Marcellus, has the reputation of being the son of a “traitor” and dealing with the aftermath of what his father did . As the book goes on he starts to learn more about what his father did. Throughout the book Marcellus is contently at odds with dealing with what his father did in the name of the revolution and also dealing with his grandfather.

Then there is Alouette, who spends most of her life as a refugee living in the underground being raised by sisters. A majority of her story line is discovering the world outside of her being a refugee because most of the what she knows is through books

The main story kicks off with the murder of the Premier Enfant, the the people trying to find out who murdered her. A major strength about the story is how it is full of political intrigue, and the while the beginning of the story is very slow, mainly because it focuses a lot on fleshing out the characters and the world it is set in.

Each of the POVs has their very own fleshed out stories to them. My favorite POVs is the relationship between Chatine and Marcellus. It does come across as a sort of enemies to lovers or more like undercover and then falling in love trope. But I did find myself rooting for them.

There is also Marcellus’s grandfather, who I always pictured as Tywinn Lannister from Game of Thrones mainly as a leader who finds himself engaged with power, but he always sort of have a gentlemen quality to him, trying to mold his grandson into something like him.

The book also has discussions about class issue, with the planet being divided into classes in which the rich lives extravagant lives, while the poor suffer. Like Les Mis it talks a lot about the theme of revolution and part of me was almost singing the soundtrack as I was reading the book.

In the end, Sky Without Stars, was a great read. It was a mostly character driven story. While it did have some pacing problems especially towards the beginning, I do find myself wanting to know what happens next.

Grade: 4.5/5

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.

An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.

The Review:

Last year at BookCon, there was a secret arc drop hosted by Penguin Teen, and it was there that the secret arc  was of course, Four Dead Queens. I unfortunately was a little late for the arc drop or the 2018 Hunger Games as it was called, but after finding out about the book, it became one of my most anticipated of 2019

This book is a sort of futuristic fantasy world, in which the world is divided by quadrants and each has their own ruling queen. There is Archia, which is agriculturally based, and values nature. Eonia, which is technology based. Toria which is coastal and values commerce, curiosity and expropriation and Ludia, which values music, art and entertainment.

I like that each of the quadrants has there own set of values and beliefs, which makes them very distinct from one another, and even learning how with different belief systems there could be clashes with one another. A major strength was the changing POV from the queens and learning more about the world from their perspective. Seeing their POV chapters helped flesh out the queens a lot more, and they didn’t feel like just a plot device.

Each of the Queen POV chapter was perfectly paced, and it kinda left me wanting more. I kinda want a series of books, from just the Queen’s perceptive and learning more about their courts . Also with the Queen’s POV chapters also gets glimpses of the Queens’ relationships with one another.

The main POV is Keralie, who is a thief and liar. She spent most of her life, thieving her way through the Quadrants. She has  a very clever narration, especially since her chapters are told through first person, so you get to see her wittiness and her snark, which made it a very clever read. There is also Varin, a citizen from Eonia, who she stole from.

I loved the relationship between them. Mainly a lot of there back and forth, while trying to survive. The murder mystery aspect of the book really kept me guessing. In each of the Queen POV chapters there was almost a time where I think I knew what was going, and there would be a twist that took me by surprise, and the author did a good job at setting it up.

Even though I know that it is a stand alone, I really wish to see more of this world. I though Four Dead Queens was a great debut novel, which mixed fantasy and mystery very well. It had great characters with a plot that never slowed down.

Grade: 5/5