AURORA BURNING by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

First, the bad news: an ancient evil—you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal—is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first.

Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces.

And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri.

Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted.

When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV.

Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes—and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well.


Title : Aurora Burning
Author : Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Series : Aurora Cycle (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 512
Genre : YA sci-fi
Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date : May 5, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

So I think I’m in the same boat for book two in this series as I was for book one. There are good, and interesting, and twisty things happening, with some mostly fun characters, but I’m definitely not loving this series compared to the duo’s other books.

There were some big reveals in AURORA BURNING; some I saw coming, others I didn’t, and while there is a bit of overall underwhelmingness happening here for me (and that makes me a little sad), I’m not about to get off this ride because we’re only one book away from the end. However, that said, I did chew through this book in one afternoon, so it’s still got that compulsive readability that you would come to expect from these talented authors, both as solo writers and a duo. It just doesn’t have the kind of characters I’m used to loving unequivocally, and for all the Big Moments, Big Stakes, I’m still just not feeling them.

I’m again surprised (I can’t remember if I mentioned it in my review for book one or not) about the heavy romance element that we have going on, mostly because it feels so less organic than their previous couples, and as a result less romantic despite the additional page time, so, it’s just adding to the weird headspace I have over this whole series.

But.

When it comes down to it, I think if you loved AURORA RISING, you’ll be very satisfied with this follow up — but probably pretty mad about that ending.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

NETWORK EFFECT by Martha Wells

Murderbot returns in its highly-anticipated, first, full-length standalone novel.

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.


Title : Network Effect
Author : Martha Wells
Series : The Murderbot Diaries (book five)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : May 5, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I enjoyed, but didn’t quite love, the first four novellas in the Murderbot Diaries. With one exception being the second installment which featured ART, aka Asshole Research Transport, because the snark and hilarity was just top notch. Not that the snark and hilarity didn’t exist in all these books, really, because Murderbot is.. Murderbot. But it was just on a higher level.

Was that a subtle threat?
No. It wasn’t subtle.”

So naturally when given a full length (!) Murderbot story which heavily featured ART? Well, it’s no surprise I loved this.

Do you have to call it a relationship?
You don’t like the word ‘friendship’. What else is there?
Mutual administrative assistance?

This series has heavily benefited from this full length story, not just because of the aforementioned snark and hilarity, but all the layers of Wells’ writing and cleverness is just so much more fleshed out. I think, too, this particular stage in Murderbot’s story was just really compelling to begin with. And I hope we get more full length installments moving forward because.. reasons.

You look angry.”
That’s just something my face does sometimes.

If you didn’t think your life was missing a not-human but not-quite-fully-a-construct who once was considered disposable security, and is now mostly autonomous, and loves to watch soap operas and be anti-social, while also multitasking to save humans it mostly likes, and who also has a complicated relationship (or, in Murderbot’s words, what, ew, no) with a research ship, I’m here to tell you.. it is. You are. As in, you are missing out. This won’t be for everyone, I know that, but if this sounds even remotely appealing, it’s worth pushing through some of the installments that you may not totally love (as in, I’m basing this off my own experience of books one, three, and four, being three star, and two being a four), because this one? So much love.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

GOLDILOCKS by Laura Lam

The Earth is in environmental collapse. The future of humanity hangs in the balance. But a team of women are preparing to save it. Even if they’ll need to steal a spaceship to do it.

Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.

The team is humanity’s last hope for survival, and Valerie has gathered the best women for the mission: an ace pilot who is one of the only astronauts ever to have gone to Mars; a brilliant engineer tasked with keeping the ship fully operational; and an experienced doctor to keep the crew alive. And then there’s Naomi Lovelace, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, who has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity to step out of Valerie’s shadow and make a difference.

The problem is that they’re not the authorized crew, even if Valerie was the one to fully plan the voyage. When their mission is stolen from them, they steal the ship bound for the new planet.

But when things start going wrong on board, Naomi begins to suspect that someone is concealing a terrible secret — and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared . . .

Goldilocks is a bold and thought-provoking new thriller for readers of The Martian and The Handmaid’s Tale.


Title : Goldilocks
Author : Laura Lam
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : Sci-fi/Thriller
Publisher : Headline
Release Date : April 30, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 rounding up to 5 star review

GOLDILOCKS is the rare kind of sci-fi that kept pace from beginning to end without any kind of lull or overly descriptive narrative. I have just finished the book on a wow whilst congratulating myself on already having secured an order for a signed hard copy; it was that good.

This did not feel like a story I’d read before, it was fresh and gripping. The protagonist Naomi was the daughter of a renown scientist and protege of a leading researcher into all things space science. This story was set in the backdrop of a close dystopian patriarchy with an active programme of sidelining women and their rights. Therefore, this story took a matriarchal path into the future on another world.

I could not predict the twists in GOLDILOCKS, nor could I predict many of the character developments. But I knew Naomi, I came to admire her, cheer for her, will her survival. The team she was working in was complex with allegiances unknown. The morality and ethics of the mission had me taking quick in-drawn breaths, thinking…what???

“Success will never be linear. Success is illusive, it’s a mirage. What you learn, what you do, how you react – that’s what matters.”

Success came at a price in this story, this mission and whether the crew were willing the pay that price was the nugget to follow through the story. The ‘baddie’ of the piece came from initially unexpected quarters for me, although later I questioned why I hadn’t been more suspicious.

The science in this story was utterly palatable, readable and not beyond any readers’s comprehension. I liked the botany aspects of the science, I found the futuristic nutritional ideas fascinating. This was an intelligent read and I devoured it front to back.

I am now off to work out if I can turn Alexa into a male voice in my house…you have to read to understand this subtle but creepy suggestion.

Thank you to Headline Books for the early review copy.

THE ELECTRIC HEIR by Victoria Lee

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.


Title : The Electric Heir
Author : Victoria Lee
Series : Feverwake (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 469
Genre : YA dystopian / sci-fi / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Skyscape
Release Date : March 17, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

After coming out of THE FEVER KING with much less love than I thought I would, I was pretty pleased by how strong I felt this follow up was. At least, initially.

My main problem was where this story went in regards to a certain relationship and the direction it took. There are so many complicated emotions, so many traumas, so much grief, wrapped up in the why or maybe the how of it. And Lee does (I think, at least) a good job of trying to explain the messiness of it all, the conflicting perceptions and means to which one might convince themselves of something, through her characters. But I still didn’t like it, and every time it came up I wanted to put the book down and walk away. One particular exchange, between the two POVs and leads, made me oh so very angry. And hurt. So, I mean, kudos for that. But that didn’t make me like the story anymore.

And the story itself, well, there’s not much I can say regarding the plot for a sequel/finale, but mostly I’m just confused. I have no idea how we got to the ending we did, and how it’s going to stick, considering.. everything. Additionally I guess I just don’t understand why the story, the series, happened in the first place? Why these kids, why couldn’t Lehrer just.. I don’t know. I feel like I understood what I read, what happened, but I’m missing the point, I guess.

For all that I clearly have no idea how to feel, despite knowing I didn’t love this, I have to say that Lee’s writing is strong. She doesn’t shy away from darker topics (there’s a warning at the front, and content/triggers listed at the back) and I feel she handles a lot of it with dignity and care. These characters, all of them, have been through so much, are still dealing with so much, and while sometimes it felt like too much, it’s all rather tied up in one catalyst. It’s heartbreaking and awful and while I didn’t hate Noam, one of our POVs, I absolutely adored Dara. Full stop.

Anyway, I don’t know. I feel like this is a series I should’ve loved and, when pitched to me, I knew I wanted to read it. Something about this just didn’t connect. And I’m sad about it. But I’m also an outlier, so, please read the glowy reviews and, if this sounds like your thing, definitely give it a try.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE FEVER KING by Victoria Lee

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


Title : The Fever King
Author : Victoria Lee
Series : Feverwake (book one)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 376
Genre : YA dystopian / sci-fi / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Skyscape
Release Date : March 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This is a book that my mind is shying away from being too critical about because it’s doing a lot of great things. And yet..

Beyond the representation offered in Lee’s characters (one lead is bisexual and Jewish/Latinx, the other is black, I believe), this is a sci-fi/dystopian story that heavily deals with how society treats refugees. For all that this is set, like, a hundred years (or something?) in the future, this is a very timely narrative and I felt the author did a good job of making this less of just a conveniently relevant backdrop and, instead, you really feel the struggle, the disparity between the social classes, which is made more dramatic by the haves, and the locals, being magical while the have-nots, those who have fled their home, are not.

But I found the worldbuilding somehow overly complex, or confusing, and I’m not entirely sure why. It centers around this big event that tore apart the US and left the remaining habitual areas into their own countries, the wars and tragedies that ensue, and along the way we’re given glimpses into that history, and particularly the figureheads of that time; one of which happens to still be around, now that he’s not only all powerful but also immortal. Somehow Carolinia is the only place in the world where it’s okay to be witching, someone who survives the fever brought on by a magical surge (or something.. notice a trend?) and Britain and Canada had tried bombing them, because to hell with magical people, but now.. they don’t? But, instead of Carolinia being a refuge for people, they close their borders? And, specifically relevant to the current plot, there’s the Carolianians vs the Atlantians conflict, because in Atlantia apparently it’s really terrible and toxic and you die, but somehow they make it to Carolinia anyway, but Carolinians want nothing to do with them, and.. I don’t know, like, I get what was happening but I also feel like I have no idea what was happening. Even in writing that summary (ish) I confused and doubted myself. I have no idea what’s just happened, I think I blacked out.

This paragraph is where I had a bunch more words written that I’ve since deleted. I mention this to honour their memory. You tried. You tried to make this review work. But it just didn’t.

Suffice it to say, this book is doing a lot. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of characters we don’t know if we are supposed to like, and a hate-to-love romance I wanted to get behind.. but only sometimes did. This book should’ve been a new favourite because of all that, plus a lot of darker and adult themes which made this YA the least YA-feeling YA book I’ve read in a long time (take a shot for every time I said “YA”) but I found it easy to put down, either because I was bored or my brain was just processing white noise. This should’ve been action packed and thrilling (and I guess it sort’ve was in a muted kind of way) and I should’ve been speculating and making theories (some of which I did, shoutout to my buddy Amanda who loves this book and got some of my reactions), and while I was clearly invested and following along enough to guess some things correctly, to see things coming, I’m still not sure what to do with any of it. Particularly after that ending. I think half the problem is there’s so much still not being revealed, or left unknown, and that is why I have one foot out the door on this one.

I can only hope book two has me diving into the feels, and the love, with both feet.

** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

DOCILE by K.M. Szpara

There is no consent under capitalism 

Docile is a science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power, a challenging tour de force that at turns seduces and startles.

To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents’ debts and buy your children’s future.

Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.


Title : Docile
Author : K.M. Szpara
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : science fiction / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Hello darkness, aka I don’t know what to rate what I read, my old friend..

So my biggest problem with this book had nothing to do with this book. I got stuck at 30% for almost two weeks after being beat-up by the flu and then I went into a slump. I felt no motivation to pick this back up (or anything else, really, though I felt honour bound to finish what I had started) because the beginning of this book is the most uncomfortable part.

In the beginning we are neck deep in watching Alex, our rich entitled ‘thinks he’s a do-gooder’ protagonist train our Docile protagonist, Elisha, into being the best little slave he can be — all so his family’s debt can be paid and they can be afforded a stipend so they can try not to incur any more debt. Yes, Elisha’s signed away all but his most basic rights, though some apparently still exist and yet everyone is shocked when they are called into play, but he exists inside a system where a drug was created so that you can be treated more or less like furniture. Worse than furniture, even. Anything can be done that does not do harm. That’s a.. broad range, particularly when you’re the Docile of a trillionaire and feel you are afforded the right to do anything.

But outside of the framework itself, and beyond the knee-jerk sympathy felt towards Elisha, I didn’t feel much for either of these characters. Elisha is in the unenviable position of having to sign over his life to clear his family’s debt, sure, and Alex is trying to do the best he can for his Docile who he has to actually consider a real person because he’s not on-meds, and the whole thing is just uncomfortable because until this moment, Alex never did. Consider them real people, I mean; not that anyone but the poor seem to, either, but still. The drug is his family’s legacy but, more than like, like all of the haves vs the have-nots, there’s just no consideration, no awareness, and this ends up being a thirty-year-delayed wake-up call for him — and, maybe, for society?

I’m not saying this isn’t supposed to be uncomfortable. It definitely is. And I suppose it’s no different than comparing District Twelve to District One in THE HUNGER GAMES but, like, add sex instead of violence? It was definitely good at spotlighting at decadence and depravity of this society’s culture in stark contrast to the fact that people are literally signing over years of their lives so that they, and future generations, can avoid prison or worse. But halfway through this took a sharp turn into a sorta conspiracy and then courtroom drama, all while one character is trying to recover from trauma and rediscover their agency, and it’s just a lot of things.

This was a story that I requested because I wanted to be shocked, made angry, even heartbroken, but I think I wanted to feel those emotions from the complexity of the story and less uneasy over the spoiled antics of the rich. But I think therein lies the problem. Even today, the rich are just so rich, while so many people have so much less, and it’s a tough pill to swallow to think that one day they might own people, too.

Ultimately, DOCILE seems to follow the standard (from what I know which, is, admittedly not much..) tropes of slavefic stories and I think if you go in knowing that, you’ll appreciate what Szpara does. I just wish there’d been more explored for how this had started, whether or not the rest of the world followed along (this deals primarily with only one State and while it’s mentioned vaguely that Maryland isn’t the only one, I have to wonder..) and.. I don’t know, I think I just wanted this to feel bigger than it did. But maybe I would’ve minded less if not for the slump? Which is why, well, there’s no rating.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

LIMITED WISH by Mark Lawrence

One choice. Two possible timelines. And a world hanging in the balance.

It’s the summer of 1986 and reluctant prodigy Nick Hayes is a student at Cambridge University, working with world-renowned mathematician Professor Halligan. He just wants to be a regular student, but regular isn’t really an option for a boy-genius cancer survivor who’s already dabbled in time travel.

When he crosses paths with a mysterious yet curiously familiar girl, Nick discovers that creases have appeared in the fabric of time, and that he is at the centre of the disruption. Only Nick can resolve this time paradox before the damage becomes catastrophic for both him and the future of the world. Time is running out—literally.

Wrapped up with him in this potentially apocalyptic scenario are his ex-girlfriend, Mia, and fellow student Helen. Facing the world-ending chaos of a split in time, Nick must act fast and make the choice of a lifetime—or lifetimes.

Game on.


Title : Limited Wish
Author : Mark Lawrence
Series : Impossible Times (book two)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 222
Genre : YA sci-fi / historical fiction
Publisher : 47North
Release Date : May 28, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

LIMITED WISH was both a little bit deja vue, though slightly out of alignment from the first book, and also.. way more timey wimey wibbly wobbly than book one. We have converging timelines, paradoxes, choices, divergences.. honestly I didn’t understand half of it. At least half of it.

But everything that intrigued me from book one was still present, there was even more D&D, and things fell into place that allowed for some events from book one to come about. Yes, it’s confusing, I think that’s sorta the deal when you have time travel on the board.

There was a bit of a Sliding Doors-esque choice for our main protagonist to make in this installment. Each book has been named for a key piece of the plot and in this case it’s a wish. You won’t get everything you want and you might not get it for long, because the wish is limited. And that’s kind of where we are at the end of this one. I’m curious to see where we end up in the final book. Shockingly this whole trilogy is being released in one calendar year so I only have to wait until November to find out!

Meanwhile, these books have definitely solidified my interest in reading Lawrence’s other series, the Book of the Ancestor. So maybe I’ll get going on that while I wait.

** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

COLLISION by Victor Dixen


The third book in a heartstopping, high-octane new space series. Perfect for fans of Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins, Amie Kaufman and Lauren Oliver.

The Genesis Programme reality TV show has brought twelve young astronauts to Mars, to face unprecedented hostility. An even greater danger is now threatening Earth, but the viewers are too glued to their screens and the rescue mission to see what is really happening.

Leonor is ready to risk everything to bring out the truth and warn the world. She can never admit defeat – but can she fight her last fight alone?


Title : Collision
Author : Victor Dixen
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA sci-fi
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : April 18, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

If you’ve been listening to me the last 18 months, I’ve been enjoying Victor Dixen’s series immensely and highly anticipating COLLISION. I feel satisfied with the culmination but it was one crazy ride! I have felt angst, suspense and desperation for answers.

So many unexpected events occurred in COLLISION despite the cliff that DISTORTION left us with. I felt pretty shocked in particular, at the turns in some of the characters’ behaviours. Everything you think you knew about the couples and individuals were thrown up in the air and came down in a different way; I gasped. I didn’t care for the Marcus storyline as much as the others.

Leonor remained the most solid, reliable character and protagonist. Mozart grew on me more. Serena McBee, well she surpassed the scale of devious and evil with some revelations no one could see coming. I felt frustrated with Earth politics at times, wanting to get back to Mars. Andrew and Harmonie were in the forefront a lot which brought some exciting developments.

Victor Dixon knows how to keep readers on the edge of their seats and in some ways, I still am left in suspense with some elements left unanswered but acknowledged as such. This is a series that is memorable and I do hope he will write more in the world of sci-fi. Thank you, it’s been a ride!

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book. thank you Hot Key Books and Netgalley!