THE END AND OTHER BEGINNINGS by Veronica Roth

Bestselling Divergent and Carve the Mark author Veronica Roth delivers a stunning collection of novella-length stories set in the future, illustrated with startling black-and-white artwork.

No world is like the other. Within this masterful collection, each setting is more strange and wonderful than the last, brimming with new technologies and beings. And yet, for all the advances in these futuristic lands, the people still must confront deeply human problems.

In these six stories, Veronica Roth reaches into the unknown and draws forth something startlingly familiar and profoundly beautiful.

With tales of friendship and revenge, plus two new stories from the Carve the Mark universe, this collection has something for new and old fans alike. Each story begins with a hope for a better end, but always end with a better understanding of the beginning.

With beautifully intricate black-and-white interior illustrations and a uniquely designed package, this is the perfect gift for book lovers.


Title : The end and other beginnings
Author : Veronica Roth
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : SFF
Publisher : Harper Collins UK Children’s
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3. 5 star review

This whole book of short stories has a futuristic feel, sometimes a little dystopian and sometimes a little Sci-fi. One story I loved, some I liked and some I didn’t. What is special about this book of shorts is that it is illustrated. The illustrations are gorgeous, so much so that I bookmarked most of them so that I could go back and look at them again. They add a lot to the story and definitely help with visualisation. Here is a flavour of three of the stories.

Inertia was a story steeped in some mental health issues, grief, loss and things unsaid. This story gripped me immediately as two friends were confronted with mortality. It was both hopeless and hopeful. This story of firsts and friendships in a backdrop of futuristic death rituals was my favourite.

The Spinners had a feel of the THE HOST but executing the world in a short story was a tall order. So this one crashed and burned a bit for me. I found it a little boring and I didn’t feel the connection between the siblings or other character.

Harken was a super interesting concept but it felt a bit unfinished. I wanted to know so much more about the world, the bio bombs and the giftings. A longer story would have done this more justice.

Overall this was a book that you could dip in and out of. Not all the stories appealed to me but they might to some. Considering how stunning the illustrations are in the ebook, I am only imagine how they will translate even better into a physical book.

Thank you to Harper Collins for this early review copy.

THE INFINITE NOISE by Lauren Shippen

Lauren Shippen’s The Infinite Noise is a stunning, original debut novel based on her wildly popular and award-winning podcast The Bright Sessions.

Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”

Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.

“What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?” (Vox on The Bright Sessions)


Title : The Infinite Noise
Author : Lauren Shippen
Series : The Bright Sessions (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : Tor Teen
Release Date : September 24, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

There’s a lot to love in THE INFINITE NOISE. Representation-wise, we have a protagonist who is Jewish and gay and plagued by depressive episodes, another who is.. well, we’re never given his orientation on page, and also an empath who struggles with the overflow of emotions and lashes out in rage. There’s also a ton of therapy. Positive therapy.

This world is based on a podcast where, as the book’s blurb says, “What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?” In this world, though, the people with powers, or extraordinary abilities, are Atypicals. And we learn of their existence through Caleb discovering his own abilities, that he’s an empath, with the help of Dr Bright.

The majority of this book is spent with Caleb trying to sort through and also keep from being overwhelmed by the emotions of his classmates and family. His mood swings, culminating in a fight, are a result from processing things he didn’t understand, couldn’t understand, and the aftermath is learning to deal. There’s a lot of talking through of emotions, as represented by colours, and trying to block out the infinite noise of it all. Which only seems to work when he’s alone or with Adam.

I get a moment of enjoying the silence before something inside of me tries to make itself known. Oh. Right. I have my own feelings. I sort of forgot about those.

Adam, who is lonely, alone, and depressed. Who has a hopeless crush on the big jock in his class. Who knows, as a tentative friendship begins, that Caleb is hiding something. But then again.. so is he.

Thinking about Adam makes me feel a little less like a sponge that doesn’t get a say in what it soaks up.

While I did like both characters, I’m not sure I liked either one all the time. They both make questionable decisions, both hide things for too long (and as of the end of this book, one is still hiding things), and.. I don’t know. I loved so much of them, but. Maybe I loved the idea of them a bit more than the reality of them sometimes.

Knowing someone’s feelings doesn’t give me a guidebook on how to respond to them. That I have to make up as I go along.

The back and forth between these two was tough. On the one hand, there’s a lot of baggage, uncertainty, and angst involved. On the other, I’m not even sure how Caleb identifies but while it took quite some time before he blinked and realized he wanted to kiss Adam, date Adam, there wasn’t much issue coming to terms with that. Nor for his family, either. With exception to a few slurs, there wasn’t really any conflict surrounding their characters’ sexualities. The real angst, beyond being sixteen and struggling with depression, with school, with the future, was surrounding an organization who targets Atypicals and who might be working for them; and how keeping Caleb’s secret was paramount.

I think, for all the good, what keeps this book from being great is the pacing. The latter half of the book changes a lot in both tone and scope and after all the big build-up of who is hiding what, I’m not really sure where we are in the end of it all. I know more books are to come (three, it looks like) but the summaries indicate they are to focus on other characters, so. If that’s true, I’m even less satisfied by this ending. At least for how it wraps for this pair.

I love the concept, therapy for superheroes, and it’s a very creative way to ease into the transition of adapting to new powers, but I guess I wanted a tighter focus on these two soft boys.. but also less time spent getting them together, if future books weren’t going to focus on them, and also an ending that was.. more. I don’t know that I’m explaining this well, but. That said, I would read on. I like this world. I love the unique perspective. I just hope book two, and subsequent books, are stronger.

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

GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.


Title : Gideon the Ninth
Author : Tamsyn Muir
Series : The Ninth House
Format : eARC
Page Count : 437
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sci-fi fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So listen. The only reason I’m not giving this five stars is because sometimes, while reading, I would feel a little lost. Confused, even. It’s been awhile since I read an adult science-fiction novel, particularly one as complex as this, with such a large cast, and during the over (!) two (!!) weeks (!!!) it took me to read this, between slumps and life chaos and other ARC deadlines, it was just.. a lot.

I would have thought you would be happy that I needed you. That I showed you my girlish and vulnerable heart.
Your heart is a party for five thousand nails.”

But I never stopped having fun.

Gideon would’ve sworn there were tears in her eyes, except that no such liquid existed. Harrow was a desiccated mummy of hate.

The characters in this series are.. just, everything. Gideon is a riot. I spent most of my time, confused and non-confused, reading this book and giggling. Snorting. Cackling. Highlighting. This isn’t a comedy but is comedic af. The author, through Gideon, is snarky and sarcastic and just.. relentlessly relatable. For all that she’s the cavalier, swords-person/bodyguard, of a necromancer, in space, who is battling to riddle out puzzles of which the end goal is to make them immortal and all-powerful. You know, totally relatable.

I cannot and will not read your thoughts, control your body, or look at your most intimate memories. I don’t have the ability and I certain’t don’t have the desire.
It’s for your own protection, not mine. I imagined Crux’s butt once when I was twelve.”

I’ve seen this pitched, and even pitched it myself, as ‘lesbian necromancers in space’ and that does such an injustice to the scope and breadth and complexity of everything, plot and characters, of this book. But it’s one hell of a great hook and if it’s what pulled you in, fantastic. Just buckle the hell up and know there is so much more to this.

I’ll still do it.”
Why?
Probably because you asked.”
That’s all it takes, [..]? That’s all you demand? This is the complex mystery that lies in the pit of your psyche?
That’s all I ever demanded, you asswipe.”

This book is spooky, funny, heartbreaking, hilarious, rich in ‘I’m too dumb for this’ science, and even weirder magic. The cast is vibrant and diverse and while sometimes I wish I had taken notes on who is what and why and what are the Houses.. even confused, I was happy. Truly. This is a book that needed more time than I had to give it and that’s on me. Even though, yeah, okay, it’s on me but I’m also knocking down a star.

Why was I born so attractive?
Because everyone would have throttled you within the first five minutes otherwise.”

But.

Nav, show them what the Ninth House does.
We do bones, motherfucker.

I will say, brace yourselves. This isn’t the standalone I thought it would be. And I was u n p r e p a r e d for the end of this book in many many ways. I may have cried. Well, okay, welled up. But regardless I need book two yesterday. The good news is I’ll definitely reread this before the sequel (is it a duology? a trilogy?) so I hope to a) maybe have a better handle on things earlier on in the unfolding of the story and b) maybe, hopefully, round up.

Gideon was experiencing one powerful emotion : being sick of everyone’s shit.

Regardless, if you’re comfortable with adult sci-fi, prepared to hunker down with a long book, and want hilarity alongside diversity? You need this. The fact that this incredible title is a debut just blows my mind. Just the way the book itself did. Infact, just putting this review together, and pulling the quotes, actually makes me want to just.. start reading it all over again. And that almost never happens to me. So I hope that says it all! Even though I said.. a lot. Already.

You are my only friend. I am undone without you.”

Oh, did I mention there’s a hate to love f/f romance? Hm? Did I?

You definitely need this one in your life.

** 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. **

ONE WORD KILL by Mark Lawrence – double review!

Ready Player One meets Stranger Things in this thrilling new novel by bestselling author Mark Lawrence.

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.


Title : One Word Kill
Author : Mark Lawrence
Series : Impossible Times (book one)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 204
Genre : YA sci-fi / historical fiction
Publisher : 47North

Release Date : May 1, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ /★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

ONE WORD KILL is a story I was absolutely, 100%, reading for the characters.. and maybe not so much for the plot. But at the same time, parts of the plot compelled me, even as they confounded me because.. science.

This is pitched as READY PLAYER ONE meets Stranger Things and I can definitely see why. It’s set in the eighties, features a group of D&D playing nerds (which, by the way, were some of my favourite scenes! and I say that as a non-D&D’er), and has fantastical sci-fi elements. But despite those elements this felt pretty grounded in reality : our lead character, and sole POV, is fifteen and dying of cancer and up until now the biggest hurdle some of these teens have had to face is the local bully, work up the courage to talk to a girl, or survive with a somewhat less-than-stellar parental figure. It gave the story a lot of gravitas, and sadness, without feeling melodramatic.

That said, I was more onboard with the wibbly wobbly timey wimey travel and paradox than I was the local psychopath who stalks the group and makes their lives scary and violent. Strangely enough I found that the least believable of everything I read.

With where this installment has ended, though, I’m left wondering : what’s next? I’m surprised there’s no cliffhanger but that doesn’t mean I’m not diving right in to book two.

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


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

Hold onto your hats, people. This was a fast-paced crazy ride that I found myself pretty interested in despite not always understanding the quantum mechanics (think Martian-level science and the way you get through that). ONE WORD KILL was about parallel universes, time travel and a great set of teenagers.

What made this tale palatable were the group of friends that were central to the story; Nick, Mia, Elton and the rest. The somewhat creepy Demus also grew on me. These friends were dungeon and dragons geeks and although I know nothing about the game or geekdom, it was kind of fun to read and it didn’t take up too large chunks of the narrative.

Nick’s personal story is what captivated me from the first page, his situation was sad and compelling but the exciting story that unfolded drew my attention away from his illness leaving me to get to know Nick just as he was. I really liked him and I kept reading for him. The British setting felt completely authentic for the 1980s that it was set in and I really appreciated that context.

However…there were periods of what the heck-dom in this book as the story got a little crazy and a little over science-y. All that said, the characters kept me grounded and reading. I’m really looking forward to the next two in this series and I’m hoping that the time travel aspect will come full circle. This book is definitely worth a try if you like sci-fi, science-based fiction and time travel.

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!

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