Warcross

29385546by Marie Lu
Science Fiction
5 of 5 stars

This book blew me away! Some stories are just FUN to read and this is one of them! It’s completely different from Lu’s last trilogy (which I loved) and I was sucked in the same way. I’ve never wanted to be a part of a sci-fi world before, but this one is as addictive as the virtual reality game at its heart!

Emika Chen has been a coder, hacker, and bounty hunter since her father died. Warcross is the biggest game in the world, and gambling on it is illegal, but commonplace. Emika hunts these gamblers for the police to pay her debts, but it hasn’t been going well. When she accidentally glitches herself into the Warcross tournament, she catches the eye of the game’s creator, Hideo Tanaka. He wants her to be his bounty hunter, because someone else has been expertly hacking Warcross, and he wants to catch them.

There’s a lot to explain about this world, Warcross, and the tournament, but Emika takes us through it all with ease, filling you in yet keeping her own secrets (good and bad) from you until she chooses to divulge them. Although Emika’s voice is very matter-of-fact, there are surprising emotional moments that punch you in the gut.

The pacing is perfect, and the reveals are satisfying. Each beat tugs your heart in just the right way, like a perfect popcorn / spy / adventure flick. Even the cover clicks into the story in the best way. It was an absolute pleasure to read and I can’t wait for the sequel!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Warcross is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Want by Cindy Pon – In the future, air pollution is so bad that the elite wear specially designed suits to protect their health, enabling them to live longer. Jason Zhou suspect Jin Corp, the maker of the suits, is manufacturing the pollution that makes their product necessary. He infiltrates Jin Corp, but falling for Daiyu, the CEO’s daughter, is not part of his plan to bring the company down. See my review here.
  • Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh – This debut explore futuristic Korea through the eyes of Jaewon, a soldier commissioned to guard a girl in a test program for people given superhuman abilities. Jaewon will have to guard his heart as well as Tera if he wants to succeed–but success means choosing to support a regime that goes against everything his parents fought for.
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Race to the Bottom of the Sea

33799086by Lindsay Eagar
Children’s Lit
4 of 5 stars

I’ve been looking forward to her next book since Hour of the Bees, so I was so excited to get my hands on this! It’s completely different, but I enjoyed it and it showcased the same great writing and layered characters.

When Fidelia’s parents die in a submarine accident, her life falls apart. Her family, her future, her love of the ocean, her dreams of scientific discoveries, gone. Then she’s kidnapped by the devilish pirate Merrick the Monstrous to use her knowledge and inventions to help him find some lost treasure. Treasure that will easily outlast the gravely ill pirate. Fidelia isn’t sure about anything anymore, especially her ability to perfect her one failed invention–an underwater breathing device–but she has to find some answers fast if she ever wants to see her home again.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this story’s balance of grief, guilt, and humor, but there were quite a few aspects I enjoyed! Fidelia is a charming protagonist, a girl with a love for sharks, and a passion for science and invention. She is used to proving her worth to overcome her youth, and I liked how she awkwardly interacted with adults as she tries to grieve and grow into the person she’s meant to be. Merrick’s backstory is one filled with darkness and sympathy, and we are left to form our own thoughts on him, which I liked. The world is our world turned on its head (nine seas, different countries) during a time when exciting new discoveries are happening every week (circa the early 1900s). Fidelia’s determination to make her mark on the world is contagious and inspiring. The subject matter is heavy but dealt with as lightly as possible. In contrast to her debut novel, science is the magic here, making everything turn and come together and pushing Fidelia toward answers.

In short, I loved this! The threads of this story tie up nicely, but the bones of the book are strong enough to support that.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Race to the Bottom of the Sea is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary – After accidentally cursing her family during Obon, Saki Yamamoto has just three nights to undo it with the help (and mischief) of the spirits. See my review here.
  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt – When her sister disappears, Jules is left to wonder how to pick up the pieces of her old life, while a fox in the forest watches her, knowing it is meant to help the sad girl. See my review here.
  • The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell – When her mother is taken, Feo and her trio of half-domesticated half-wild wolves go on a journey to rescue her. See my review here.

Wayfarer

20983366by Alexandra Bracken
YA Fantasy / Historical Fiction
4 of 5 stars

Yet another immensely satisfying end to a series! The 500-page factor had me a little hesitant to dive in—I knew I would need TIME—but once I did I found this even faster-paced with more adventure than Passenger.

Etta and Nicholas are separated across centuries and continents and their fight to find each other and destroy the astrolabe jumps us to every imaginable period and region (though regrettably, no dinosaurs). Etta finds herself in the care of the Thorns, with surprisingly not-dead people intent on helping her. Nicholas and Sofia struggle not to kill each other as they track the astrolabe, with the mysterious assistance and resistance of traveler Li Min. Surprises and twists keep the pages flying by!

Once again, the attention to detail and research blew me away. It just feels like you are there, no matter where they go. There’s more magic this time, and definitely more secrets to expose, so without spoilers, anything you loved in the first book is doubled in this installment! It made me want to plan a bunch of trips by the time I finished it.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Wayfarer is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – Not technically time-travel, but this is a beautiful story about a girl with a cursed horoscope that finds herself caught between the human and the Otherworld in a mystery that involves lifetimes. See my review here.
  • Abarat by Clive Barker – Candy Quackenbush of Chickentown, U.S.A. is bored to death until a wave carries her from our world to the world of the Abarat, where every island is an hour of the day and a dark power is threatening to destroy it all. Weird but interesting portal fantasy with incredible artwork!
  • Old Magic by Marianne Curley – When Kate and Jerrod meet there’s an actual lightning storm—in their classroom. Kate must convince the skeptical Jerrod that he has magical powers, and that the curse that has dogged his family is something they will need to travel to the past to fix. This is a fun read you’ll breeze through in a few hours.
  • A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones – One of the best fantasy writers of our time tackles time-travel in a unique way. Time City is built on a patch of space outside of time, and its residents are charged with overseeing the cycle of history. But when the timeline begins to crumble, two boys pluck Vivian Smith from Twenty Century to help them save it. Except they got the wrong Vivian, and now they have to save the timeline anyway! So good and will squeeze your brain.

The Edge of the Abyss

26219455by Emily Skrutskie
Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars

I have been waiting for this since I read the first book last year and it did not disappoint! More pirates, more adventure, more mayhem, more kissing!

Cas has had a tough three weeks since she pledged her loyalty to the pirate queen Santa Elena. But keeping busy with training lets her avoid Swift as much as possible, which is perfect. Then the crew of the Minnow discovers that Bao isn’t the only unregistered Reckoner in the NeoPacific—sightings of the untrained sea monsters, dubbed Hellbeasts, start popping up everywhere, threatening the entire ocean’s ecosystem (not to mention all the ships). Cas must find Bao and train him to fight the Hellbeasts if they want to restore balance to the ocean.

This book is filled with manipulative mind games from Santa Elena and the broken pieces of a relationship between Cas and Swift and I loved every page of it. All three women are ambitious, stubborn, ruthless, selfish, and constantly abrasive to each other. The power dynamics here are just addictive as Swift and Cas try to see if equal footing is even possible, and as Santa Elena challenges them to see who will be her successor. It’s a satisfying character study of pushing people to the brink of their conscience to see what they’ll do.

I felt like I could smell the sea the entire time, this story feels that real! I’m still impressed by how much the writing crams into such a short space. Every sentence is working hard and yet it’s easy to read. This short duology is a swashbuckling adventure you shouldn’t pass up!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Edge of the Abyss is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Rose Society by Marie Lu – Adelina chose to embrace her powers and it is leading to a rift between her and her sister Violetta, and her allies. It’s also opening a darkness within her that she must face before it destroys her. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel and Arin engage in games of deception that affect the war between their nations and the warning desires in their own hearts. For power plays and mind games there’s no better book than this! See my review here.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – A fun romp of a graphic novel about shape-shifter Nimona’s goal to become a villain’s sidekick. The usual themes of good vs evil, what makes a monster, does your past define you, what is justice, with plenty of good jokes thrown in the mix! See my review here.

Windwitch

29939390by Susan Dennard
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Book 2 in the Witchlands series

If you follow the author at all, you’ll know that she writes amazing monthly newsletters, has a wealth of helpful advice on writing and craft on her website, and this book took her two painful years to write. It is completely, entirely worth it, and I am so grateful she put in the blood, sweat and tears to share this story!

Picking up right after the events in Truthwitch:
-Merik the Windwitch is horribly scarred from an assassination attempt that destroyed his ship and killed all but one crew member. Merik thinks it was his sister’s doing, but his companion Cam is not convinced.
-Safi the Truthwitch is on her way to Marstok with its Empress, Vaness, who is an Ironwitch.
-Iseult the Threadwitch is alone and trying to meet up with her Threadsister Safi.
-Aeduan the Bloodwitch finds himself tracking Iseult again both as a job and to get his missing silver back.

-Added to all that is Merik’s sister Vivia (a Tidewitch) and her attempts to secure the throne.

Given all the intricate plot threads and magic tied to these characters, I think it’s completely understandable that this would be difficult to write. But Sooz makes it look easy! Each arc, each transition between the points of view is so smoothly done. Each character has a different voice as well, which is so hard to do. Characters naturally collide and separate again, and all of them experience such moments of growth. This book is just action-action-action EMOTIONAL PUNCH–repeat!

Without spoilers–we see Merik and Vivia struggling to help their starving nation as tensions erupt all around their borders. The Puppeteer continues to invade Iseult’s mind with disturbing information and hints about Iseult’s potential abilities. Safi continually finds herself among enemies-turned-tentative-allies. All of them are forced to confront uncomfortable truths about themselves and the world around them, and it’s this that keeps you flipping the pages as quickly as possible.

I think my favorite part was Vivia–learning about her motivations, her struggles as she attempts to run a country full of men who think she shouldn’t, and her dedication to her country regardless of what she must sacrifice or who gains the credit was so interesting and inspiring. All the characters make decisions you don’t always agree with, yet their earnest intentions keep you on their side. It’s truly enjoyable to follow their journeys!

This has all the best aspects of a sequel: deepened world-building, more types of magic, more intimate character relationships and interactions, and nonstop action. It’s hard to convey without spoilers, but if you enjoyed the mood and characters of the first, you will find more of that here!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Windwitch is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce – The Circle of Magic quartet and The Circle Opens quartet features four teens with different types of magic whose intense, unyielding friendships help them defeat evil sorcerers and unite cultures. Adventures abound, and it’s fun watching these characters grow up. These were some of my favorites when I was younger and Pierce is an author worth reading.
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas is captured by the Pirate Queen Santa Elena to train a sea monster for her (instead of training them to kill pirates). See my review here.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I recommend this because this story has another awesome female friendship at its heart, but it was much darker than Windwitch. See my review here.
  • Abarat by Clive Barker – Candy Quackenbush finds herself in an archipelago where every hour of the day has its own island and she discovers she is destined to save them all. Beautiful artwork by the author fully illustrates this series.

The Wolf Wilder

24885821by Katherine Rundell
Children’s Lit
5 of 5 stars

This is the perfect winter fairy tale! I loved every page of this story. Set in the heavy Russian winter a hundred years ago, we spend a week with Feo, the wolf wilder’s daughter.

Russian nobility started a trend of keeping beautiful wolves as pets—or as much of a pet as a wild wolf can really be. But when the wolf attacks a friend or the aristocrat tires of it, what happens to the wolf? It’s bad luck to kill one. So they make their way to Feo’s door for her mother to teach the wolf to be wild again, able to survive on its own after years of pampering.

But when General Rakov decides the half-wild wolves are pests, he will stop at nothing to kill them and everyone Feo loves if they don’t stop looking after the pack and keep the wolves away. When he imprisons her mother, Feo knows she and her half-wild wolves must save her.

Feo must traverse the wilderness outside St. Petersburg and find a way into the prison in only a week—but she and her wolves find surprising allies on her journey, and Feo realizes that sometimes people can provide comfort and help instead of just interrupting her solitude.

Full of charming and surprising side characters, true moments of darkness, and insightful comments on humans and the nature of community, this short story captivated me from start to finish! It’s the perfect blend of adventure and tension while keeping the mood of a legend told by the fire.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Wolf Wilder is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee – Another wintry story, this time in Vermont. Two sisters cope with their mother’s death in different ways, but when Sylvi disappears, Jules must figure out how to go on alone—until a fox kit finds her. See my review here.
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker – A boy and his fox part ways when his father enlists in the army. But Peter soon realizes he shouldn’t have left Pax in the forest, and begins the journey back to find him. Meanwhile, Pax waits for his boy, learning all he can to survive until they are reunited. See my review here.
  • Risuko by David Kudler – Another girl accustomed to isolation is taken in by a noblewoman who runs a secret organization that might turn the tide in Japan’s war. Risuko just wants to climb, but she must also see if her fate has other plans. See my review here.
  • Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin – Much darker and not about actual wolves. In alternate 1956, the Axis Powers won WWII and a desperate underground rebellion plans to assassinate Hitler at the Victor’s Ball for a grueling cross-continent motorcycle race. Yael is impersonating the only female racer, and she must win if she wants to take the shot that will avenge her family and friends. See my review here.
  • The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – This may seem too dark to compare, but aspects of Feo’s character strongly reminded me of Alex Craft. This story is about her, and her attempt to fit in and be normal in a small town after her sister’s murder—and her own secret vengeance. See my review here.

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

Truthwitch by Susan DennardTruthwitch

I adored this book and the pacing is unmatched! Nonstop action with incredible characters and world-building. Best friends Safi and Iseult have gotten into and out of a lot of scrapes over the years, but now they’re in over their heads. Three different groups and governments are hunting Safi for her truth-seeing abilities, and they don’t know where to turn or who to trust. As they race around the world, barely one step ahead, the true nature of the plot begins to come together.

No more spoilers, but you can see my review here! Windwitch is the second in this series of four books. It comes out in a few weeks, so pick this up now because you’ll want more of this story!

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