ARC Review // Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

ARC Review // Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

Thanks to Rock the Boat for sending me an ARC to read and review!

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Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Beauty and the Beast has never been my favourite story, but when I saw that this BATB retelling was set in medieval Russia and incorporated aspects of Ivan Tsarevitch, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf, it went straight onto my TBR list!

Hunted follows Yeva (nicknamed Beauty by her family), a young girl who’s a skilled hunter after training for years beside her father in the woods close to their village. Yeva has a comfortable life with her father and two sisters, spending most of her days accompanying the baronessa of the village with a group of other women. However, she grows tired of living up to the standards of high society, and longs to live in the woods and carry on hunting – and also to meet someone who will understand her unconventional ways and treat her as an equal with admirable skills, rather than a submissive woman. 

When Yeva’s father loses his fortune, her family is forced to move back to his small hunting cabin deep in the woods. This may seem like a blessing in disguise for Yeva, who is finally able to escape the confines of high society, until the day that her father goes missing after becoming convinced that there is a beast living in the forest chasing away his prey. Yeva is then forced to go deep into the woods to search for him. What follows becomes a merging of Beauty and the Beast alongside Ivan and the Firebird, mixed with multiple other Russian folktales that I’ve come to love over the years.
I generally have three problems with Beauty and the Beast, and thankfully, Hunted eradicates all of them. First off, the stockholm syndrome. Yeva gets to know the Beast and forms a bond with him before knowing that he is the one who imprisoned her, and once she finds out, she struggles with her fondness for her mysterious friend Ivan, and the beast who chained her up and who she believes hurt her father. There is also a conversation between Yeva and a friend of hers about abusive relationships – something which I’ve definitely never seen in a Beauty and the Beast retelling before, and which improved the story as a whole so much. Issues like this need to be addressed in these sort of stories, and I was so thankful that Meagan Spooner took the time to add this conversation into the book. 
Second, I’ve never really liked Belle/Beauty in these stories. Thankfully, Yeva was a much more interesting character – she’s a strong female character (and we can never have too many of those, in my opinion), she had depth, she was incredibly selfless and always put others before her (even those who hurt her), she was determined and she knew exactly what she wanted, and I really came to relate to her story. The author’s note at the back of Hunted points out that this is very much a coming of age story that the author herself feels relates to her own life, and I could also relate to so much of it, so Yeva really grew on me. 

Third, the sisters. I don’t think I’ve ever read or seen a version of Beauty and the Beast where Beauty’s sisters aren’t awful to her, but Yeva’s sisters, Lena and Asenka, are both wonderful characters in their own right and are always looking out for their younger sister. I really enjoyed both of their individual stories and would definitely read more about them. 
Fourth (I think) the Gaston character. We’ve all seen this guy be the typical douche (lets take Tamlin in ACOTAR, for example) but Yeva’s suitor, Solmir, is actually such a nice person and admires Yeva’s talent for hunting and tracking – he doesn’t treat her like she’s below him or expect her to be the typical wife figure, and constantly reassures her that he’d never impose any expectations on her if they were to marry. When she’s unsure about being with him, he doesn’t push her at all and promises to protect her family when she leaves the cabin to search for their father. There was honestly a small part of me that was shipping him with Yeva, he was just that lovely!
And finally, the ‘fall in love to break the spell’ trope. Without spoiling anything, I’m so happy to say that the Beast isn’t constantly trying to force Yeva to fall in love with him in order to break his curse. He believes that his curse has to be broken in other ways that require Yeva’s help – but I won’t say anything else on this as it’ll spoil too much of the plot! 
I have to say that the incorporation of Ivan Tsarevitch, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf worked so perfectly with this story, and the second half of this book is definitely more of a retelling of this folktale than of Beauty and the Beast. It was done in such a clever way, and I’m still in awe at the way that the author managed to weave the two together and set the result in medieval Russia so perfectly. I’m always on the lookout for new books inspired by Russian folklore, and I’m so glad that I came across Hunted.

love Becky @


Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza


“Was there really so much hatred in the universe, so much prejudice, even among people who claimed to be unbiased? Had this always been true?”


Honestly, Sci-Fi isn’t always my go-to genre; I have always been an avid Star Wars fan, but I tend to be quite wary of sci-fi novels as I really struggle to find ones that I can connect with, or that don’t info dump too much (in my opinion). However, when Empress of a Thousand Skies was announced, I jumped straight on the hype train along with everyone else. All I knew about this book was that it was a YA sci-fi, centered around a Princess set on vengeance, full of diverse characters, and I had high hopes for it. I’m happy to say that this book didn’t disappoint. 
Empress of a Thousand Skies switches between two POV’s – Princess Rhiannon Ta’an (Rhee), the last survivor of the Kalusian dynasty. Rhee is approaching her sixteenth birthday and coronation, but is determined to out her family’s murderer before she is crowned. The second POV character is Alyosha, a Wraetan refugee who has found fame in a DroneVision show, The Revolutionary Boys. When Rhee is attacked during her journey to her home planet a few days before her coronation is planned, the galaxy assumes her dead, and Alyosha is blamed – a scapegoat in a universe still full of prejudices against Wraetans. 

For me, what really made this book was the incredibly relevant social commentary. Alyosha struggles daily with being Wraetan and being famous – he feels as though his actions will reflect the actions of everyone from Wraeta, his home planet which was destroyed in the last war with Kalu. Despite the treaty between the Kalusians and the Wraetans following the war, tensions are still high between them both, and Alyosha is determined to prove the often racist and stereotypical opinions that the Kalusians have of the Wraetans wrong. However, when he is framed for Rhee’s murder, all of his carefully done hard work goes awry, and war flares back up across the galaxy. Alyosha also has an incredibly emotional backstory, focusing on his journey away from Wraeta before it’s destruction, and his feelings of displacement ever since. I felt as though Alyosha’s story particularly is so relevant to the world we’re currently living in, and it was easy to see the parallels despite him being from a completely fictional planet. 
Rhee’s side of the story is far more fast paced, and is much more of a coming of age story as she delves into the secrets surrounding the murder of her parents and sister, as well as coming to terms with the differing opinions of her being on the brink of taking the crown at such a young age. Both Rhee and Aly’s stories circle each other and join together in such a perfect way, making the overall plot of this book full of cliffhangers, surprise twists and heartbreaking scenes. 

I often struggle with world building in sci-fi novels, however the world building in Empress was both easy to follow and complex enough to flesh out the galaxy at the same time. Each of the characters visited multiple planets, moons etc throughout, which I thought really added to the overall plot – why stick to one planet when you have a whole galaxy in your reach? There was also a map and a little glossary at the front – two things which are bound to start a book off on the right foot!
If I were to have one criticism, it’d be that I would have liked more character development. I felt as though I could have connected to Rhee more than I did, and hopefully I’ll be more emotionally invested in her story in the second book. 
Overall, Empress is truly unlike any other sci-fi book I’ve ever read – it’s culturally relevant to our time, whilst remaining fast-paced enough to keep you interested, and is set across a whole galaxy that I can’t wait to see more of in the sequel. I’d definitely recommend this book! 
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love Becky @

Kingdom of Sleep by E.K. Johnston

I don’t think I quite enjoyed this book as much as its prequel, A Thousand Nights, but it was still an intriguing, beautiful story!

Kingdom of Sleep, or Spindle, depending on where you live, follows Yashaa, Arwa, Tariq and Saoud, on a quest to return to their crumbling home of Karuf and save the Princess, Zahrah. At her fifth birthday party, she was cursed by a demon who intended to possess her once she had learned everything she needed to be a ruler, forcing her kingdom into ruin and resulting in the banning of spindles (this is where the Sleeping Beauty references come in), as the demon pronounced that once Zahrah learned to spin, she would be ready for inhabitation. Yashaa, Arwa and Tariq’s families, who were spinners, were forced to leave their home at this point, but now the three of them along with Saoud are determined to break Zahrah’s curse. 



A Thousand Nights was very much a slow building story, and whereas Kingdom of Sleep was also slow, there was still a lot more action in it. It was definitely more of a “journey story”, focusing on the development of the characters and their relationships with each other rather than on the plot. I did struggle to get into this book at first, mostly because I wasn’t expecting some of the differences between it and A Thousand Nights (for example, I assumed that the characters would all remain unnamed as they did in the previous book) but once I got into the book I really enjoyed it and began to connect with the characters a lot more. 

Although I thought the ending was a bit too rushed, the very last chapter really made the book for me. With A Thousand Nights, the thing that really stuck with me was how beautiful and poetic the writing was, and I’m so glad that Kingdom of Sleep still had such beautiful writing, even though it was written in quite a different style and voice. 


This definitely isn’t a sequel to A Thousand Nights, but a companion novel – it’s set in the same land, but quite a long time afterwards (hundreds of years, as far as I’m aware) and although key events are mentioned from the previous book, you could definitely read this as a standalone and have no trouble at all understanding what’s happening. I’d also just like to mention something about the Sleeping Beauty comparisons – Kingdom of Sleep is marketed as being inspired by/a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and I think this may have put some people off, but in my opinion, the two stories couldn’t be more different – literally the main similarity is that in both stories, spindles are the triggers in the Princesses curses. Because of this, I would definitely not let the Sleeping Beauty inspirations embedded in this book put you off reading it, as like I say, they’re barely there! 



Have you read A Thousand Nights or Kingdom of Sleep/Spindle? What did you think?

love Becky @ 


The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel


Jane was the first to run. Sophia and Penelope died. Sisters Eleanor and Camilla ran, and the third sister, Emmeline, died. Lane ran from Roanoke after one summer. Allegra disappeared, and now Lane is the only Roanoke girl left who can return to the Roanoke house and help her.
After fifteen-year-old Lane Roanoke’s mother commits suicide, she is sent from New York to live with her grandparents and cousin, Allegra, at their farmhouse in rural Kansas. Lane has dreamt of the Roanoke house for years, despite her mother fleeing from the home whilst pregnant with Lane and warning her that it was a place of nightmares – for Roanoke girls either run, or they die. When Lane uncovers the truth, she becomes one of the girls to run.
Ten years after Lane’s long summer at Roanoke, her estranged family track her down with news: Allegra, the one member of the family who Lane truly cared about, has gone missing. Lane feels obligated to return to the Roanoke house to search for her cousin – but will the darkness of Roanoke allow her to leave a second time?

 (Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for sending me an eARC of The Roanoke Girls.)


Thrillers definitely aren’t my go-to genre. To be honest, I just scare too easily, so I tend to avoid most things that I know are almost guaranteed to have me curled up in a ball on the sofa every time I’m alone in my flat, unwilling to move in case a murderer crept through a window whilst I wasn’t looking. However, every now and then, I find a thriller with a plot that I just cannot resist. This started, of course, with Queen Gillian Flynn, whose complete works I grew to love after giving Gone Girl a chance. Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, similarly, unnerved me but kept me in it’s grasp. When I read the summary of The Roanoke Girls, I knew; this will be another one of those books that will almost definitely scare or unsettle me in some way, but that I’ll almost definitely love. As I guessed, I was right – I actually read this book in just one sitting.

I found The Roanoke Girls to be very reminiscent of Sharp Objects – the deep-hidden family secrets, the mystery in a small town of a Southern US state, etc. – and as this was my favourite Gillian Flynn book, I definitely wasn’t complaining. I immediately liked Lane and found that she was definitely a main character who I could easily read about for a long time, and the switches between her present life and her life ten years ago, when she was living in Roanoke, helped to build her as a character really well. I can’t fault any of the secondary characters, either – I just wish I’d gotten to know Allegra a bit better, although her elusiveness did add to the overall mystery of the plot.
The older Roanoke girls – Lane’s mother, aunts and great-aunts – all got small chapters about themselves, expanding upon the dark secret that the Roanoke family hides within itself. I thought that this little touch was such a good way to develop the plot and show how each of the girls were affected.

So, the secret of the Roanoke girls: I won’t say what it is, but it is revealed very early on into the plot. I didn’t have a problem with this, as it helped to expand what each of the girls have been through because of this family secret and the twisted way in which they had all accepted it at some point in their lives, rather than it being a big shock at the end of the book. Really, the mystery of the book as a whole was what happened to Allegra in the present day and what led to her disappearance, rather than finding out what the secret itself was. It is a very dark, unsettling secret, which some readers may not be comfortable reading about, so I’d just recommend being aware of this going into this book.

Honestly, my only problem with this book is that I wanted more. I wanted it to be longer so I could learn more about each of the characters, so I could continue to follow the mysteries of what happened at Roanoke house, so I could know more of Lane’s backstory and of what she was going to do next. I read that this is Amy Engel’s first adult novel, and I honestly cannot wait to read her next one if she writes more.

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Love,

The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

Nemesis is a Diabolic – a humanoid creature created to protect one individual, and destroy anything that threatens them. Nemesis is bonded to Sidonia, daughter of galactic Senator von Impyrian, whom the Emperor considers a threat and a heretic. When the Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court, Nemesis knows this could be a death sentence, and finds only one way to protect her – she must become Sidonia, and visit the court in her place.
Amongst the Grandiloquy, Nemesis discovers the true intentions of the Emperor, as well as of his heir Tyrus, said by all to be a madman. Whilst learning to navigate court intrigue, attempting to hide her true nature, and being away from Sidonia for the first time since their bond was created, Nemesis begins to discover the one thing that she believed Diabolics didn’t have – her humanity. 

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When I first started The Diabolic, I described it to my husband as being “like Ancient Rome but in space”. I’m sticking by this description, as simple as it is. This was a very odd mash-up of worlds – the political and court intrigue in the style of the Roman Empire, with Roman titles and Latin-esque names, but in a futuristic world where Earth has become unsustainable, those living planet-side are viewed as commoners, Senators live on their own huge ships and rule over small sections of the galaxy, and the Emperor’s court is made up of numerous spaceships all docked together. Although I’ve read many Roman/Grecian style novels, I’ve never read any Sci-Fi ones, and I did really enjoy this aspect of The Diabolic and the world-building in it. 

In terms of characters, I loved Nemesis. She went through so much character development, and although “unhuman creature finding their humanity” may sound like a bit of a trope or a stereotype, it really wasn’t in this book! Nemesis’s thought processes and inner conflicts with herself, her feelings and her behaviour played out really well. Because of this, despite her supposedly being unhuman and without emotion (which definitely wasn’t true), she was actually a really easy character to relate to. I loved how protective she was over Sidonia, and how Donia always saw her as an equal and saw her humanity, even if everyone else in the Impyrian household and in the Emperor’s court believed her and other Diabolics to be nothing more than servants without feelings. 
There is a romance in this book, but I didn’t think it was a bad one. It wasn’t rushed into and the way that it was built up, it just seemed to make sense, especially with the events going on around the characters, and with the characters own developments and storylines.

A lot of reviews that I’ve read for this book seemed to think that it was too violent. Perhaps it’s my dark British mindset and sense of humour, but I just didn’t agree with this. Yes, it was violent, it was bloody, and it was packed full of nasty plots and backstabbing, but I just didn’t think it was too much? I’ve definitely read more violent books – the ASOIAF series is darker and bloodier than this book by far. Obviously this is just my personal opinion, as it’s others that it’s too violent, but I just wanted to say don’t let the violence put you off! Chances are you’ll be like me and not see it as being too far. 

Although I was happy with how the book ended and I wasn’t expecting the very final plot twist, I didn’t like what happened to lead to the conclusion, if that makes sense. I won’t say anything else about this as it’s a big spoiler! 

Overall, I enjoyed The Diabolic; it would have been almost perfect if the last few chapters had been slightly different and if they’d maybe been a bit less rushed. I think that this book could have easily had another hundred pages or so and benefited from it, and I definitely would have liked to know some more about certain characters, as well as the world it’s set in in general.

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love,

Nemesis by Anna Banks

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Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last known Forger of spectorium, a living element which provides her land with energy – and that’s why she’s a danger to her country. Sepora flees Serubel, heading to the neighbouring kingdom of Theoria, where she plans to blend in with the Serubelan freed slaves. However, she is captured during her journey and ends up in servitude to King Tarik of Theoria. Tarik and Sepora soon form a complicated bond, made all the more confusing by the fact that the one thing Tarik needs to stop the plague sweeping his nation is spectorium – and although Sepora is the only one who can provide him with the element, she must keep her gift a secret at all costs.


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Nemesis & extras from November’s Fairyloot box

Nemesis just happened to be one of those books that I couldn’t get excited about, but didn’t exactly dislike either. There were definitely high points and low points throughout, but it seemed that the majority of it was just sort of middle points? Anyway. I figured the best way to sum this book up was to do my favourite thing, and make a list!
Likes:

+ The Egyptian inspired setting. Theoria is very much Egyptian, from the pyramids (although Theorian pyramids are made from spectorium) to the clothing style, to the eye makeup. I haven’t read many Egyptian inspired fantasy worlds before, so this was interesting and I think it really worked!
+ The Serpens. Serubelans have these lizard-like things that seem to look like giant snakes but with wings. Legless dragons? I think so. I imagined them as legless dragons. They also have massive needle-like teeth, so maybe they’re more like flying basilisks? I don’t know. Anyway. Most Serubelans seem to see their Serpens as tools, but Sepora really cares for her Serpen, Nuna. There are also different types of Serpens – Defender Serpens, Seer Serpens, etc. More Serpen-lore in the sequel, please. 
+ The changing of the grammatical persons. Both Sepora and Tarik are POV characters, but Sepora’s chapters are written in first person, and Tarik’s in third person. I thought this was really interesting and I haven’t seen it done before – if nothing else, it helped to differentiate between the two character’s chapters!

+ The romance. This isn’t something I often say about this type of book, but I actually liked the romance portrayed in Nemesis! It wasn’t too rushed and I actually liked the idea of the two characters together.

+ The ending. I definitely didn’t expect the plot twist, and because of this I’ll definitely consider reading the sequel once it’s out.

Dislikes:

+ Sepora’s voice. It’s probably an odd thing to say, but I really struggled to connect with Sepora mostly because of the way she spoke. She’s very formal, and yeah, I know she’s a royal, but do royal’s always think in such a formal manner? I doubt it, but if there are any royals reading, do feel free to prove me wrong. 
+ The lack of action. I felt as though Sepora’s journey to Theoria at the beginning of the book could definitely have been shorter – it didn’t seem to develop her character or the plot in any way, and once it was over I felt as though the book picked up a lot. 
+ Lack of character development. Sepora is often referred to by others as being really smart etc, but there isn’t much to show this. I also felt that, as I mentioned, the way that she spoke and acted in her POV chapters didn’t help her character development.

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love,