Despite everything, there was hope: Reviewing Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith by Adam Christopher

Hello everyone! I know we are only a week into the new year, but I still hope that the new year is treating you well. I have definitely been in the mood for more Star Wars content lately. I will definitely do some research on which Star Wars novels I should read in the future. In the meanwhile, let’s go to a galaxy far, far away and talk about Shadow of the Sith.

It’s been twenty years since the Empire fell. Luke Skywalker is working tirelessly to build a future for the New Republic. The past, however, not far behind. Luke begins having visions of a terrifying and ancient on a lost world called Exegol. His fears are only confirmed when an old friend, Lando Calrissian, comes to him with news of a sinister plot by a new Sith Lord. Lando, having lost his daughter, believes her disappearance is tied to a plot to kidnap a young girl named Rey, led by Ochi of Bestoon, a Sith assassin. The two old friends team up on a dangerous journey across the galaxy to stop this deadly new force and save the galaxy.

Although I am not sure if this book is considered canon in the Star Wars universe, it very well should be. Adam Christopher does a great job filling in some of the blanks between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. I am not Star Wars lore expert by any means, but I certainly enjoyed the lore that he incorporates in this novel. Luke and Lando make for a great pairing who were enjoyable to follow throughout this story. Though this novel is on the longer side, it is fast paced and has plenty of action. What is Star Wars without a great fight scene? This may be my new favorite Star Wars novel, next to Brotherhood. I would definitely add this to your list of must reads if you are interested in delving into the literary side of a galaxy far, far away.

No Star Burns Forever: Reviewing Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Hello everyone! I hope the holiday season is treating you well so far. I am wrapping up all my Christmas shopping and trying not to stress out over the holidays too much. This will probably be my last review of the year. I have another book that I might be able to finish, but we will just see. I’ve read a lot of intense books this year so it is nice to end this year on a softer note. Let’s talk about Sea of Tranquility.

In 1912, a young man named Edwin St. Andrew travels to Vancouver to start a new life away from his aristocratic family. While exploring a forest, Edwin has a bizarre experience; the most distinct thing he remembers is the sound of a violin. Two centuries later, an author named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour for her critically acclaimed novel about a pandemic. Within that novel is a passage about a mysterious man playing the violin when something strange happens to him. A century after that, Gaspery Roberts is hired by the Time Institute to investigate a strange anomaly that is appearing across time. During his travels, Gaspery encounters various strangers with tragic fates. He realizes, though, that it might not have end that way after all.

While I typically read very action-packed and complex science fiction, it is nice to see an author explore some of the profound questions that arise from the genre. Emily St. John Mandel delivers a poignant, philosophical narrative about fate and free will. Time travel can be a tricky plot device but it is handled wonderfully throughout this book. I enjoyed the delicate balance between hopefulness and existential fear that threads through each character’s life. It is hard for me to properly describe what happens in this novel, but Emily St. John Mandel makes it make sense in her own wonderful way. I would recommend this novel if you want a science fiction read that is both thought-provoking and sentimental in the best ways.

New worlds come from the meeting of the minds: Reviewing Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell

Hi everyone! If you are up reading this review, then you should definitely go to bed. If you can’t sleep, then you are welcome here. I have crossed off yet another book I really wanted to finish before the end of the year. My next goal is to finish Babel by R.F. Kuang because that one was so hyped for 2022. I am also reading a shorter book that I will hopefully finish sooner than later as well. That’s enough chit chat for now. Let’s get into Ocean’s Echo.

Tennalhin “Tennal” Halkana has spent his life using his upper-class status and impeccable flirting abilities to cruise through life. Another distinct advantage Tennal has is his ability to read minds. As a “reader,” Tennal is considered a threat and an asset as he can navigate chaotic space. Because of his abilities, he is conscripted into the military by a powerful and scheming relative with no warning. Tennal is promptly placed under the watchful eye of Lieutenant Surit Yeni, a model soldier whose mother was a traitor to the military. Where Tennal can read minds, Surit is an “architect” who has the ability to influence them. He is ordered to “sync” with Tennal’s mind and control him. Unaware that this was the true meaning of his mission, Surit refuses to control Tennal. Instead, they decide fake the sync and help Tennal escape. The plan goes horribly awry when they end up in chaotic space and uncover the truth behind Surit’s mother’s treachery. This discovery upends a power struggle, which threatens to start a civil war unless Tennal and Surit can stop it.

Set in the same universe as Everina Maxwell’s first novel Winter’s Orbit, this particular novel shifts focus from royal politics to military politics in space. I enjoyed the intricacy of world-building in this indirect sequel. Ocean’s Echo reaches out further into the depths of space and the human psyche. While the characters are somewhat similar to the ones in Winter’s Orbit, they follow a different trajectory that will have you rushing to finish this book. I would definitely classify this romance as “slow burn reluctant allies to lovers.” What I really enjoyed, though, was the “reader” and “architect” dynamic that Maxwell introduces. It can be a little bit confusing at times but you do catch on before the thrilling conclusion. If you want a high-stakes sci-fi adventure with an intense romance at the center (or if you liked Winter’s Orbit), then you should absolutely check out Ocean’s Echo.

Gun to your neck, blood on my hands, saints against God: Reviewing Nona the Ninth (Book Three in the Locked Tomb series) by Tamsyn Muir

Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I am actually recovering from COVID and feeling a lot better. That really sucked, though. I had been so lucky and managed to avoid it for a long time. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I felt like I had a terrible head cold the whole time. I struggled to get anything done for the last week, but reading was a pleasant enough distraction. I’ll stop complaining about my illness and get on to reviewing the latest book in The Locked Tomb series, Nona the Ninth (Content warnings will be at the very bottom).

To the outside world, Nona seems somewhat ordinary. She has a loving family, a job at the local school enjoys walks on the beach, and always looks forward to meeting new dogs. Nona, however, is far from normal. She woke up in the body of a stranger six months ago and will have to give it back soon enough. As Nona fears the inevitable end, the city she lives in is under siege and the planet is collapsing. A militia group known as the Blood of Eden surrounds the last Cohort facility and waits for commands from God himself. The leaders from BoE want Nona to be the weapon that saves them from the Nine Houses. Nona would much rather plan her birthday party, but she fears she will not be able to celebrate as the end swiftly approaches.

Tamsyn Muir does it again with this thrilling third entry in the Locked Tomb series. Nona is an unlikely hero who ends up fitting nicely in this complex and intriguing narrative. Muir does certainly answer more questions but still leaves plenty of mystery for this series. I love the way that this series is so fluid and has gone to so many places that I never had expected. I personally love books that just throw you into the “deep end” and let the story unravel in a rather unexpected way. I am absolutely going to recommend The Locked Tomb series if you want an intense and thrilling sci-fi/fantasy series with plenty of interesting world-building, compelling characters, and a roller coaster of a plot to keep you hanging on until the very end.

Content Warning: Gore, Violence, Self – Harm, Some Harsh Language

Monsters were never beyond her: Reviewing Harrow the Ninth (Book Two of the Locked Tomb series) by Tamsyn Muir

Hello everyone! I stayed awake to finish this novel rather than actually relax. Who needs a healthy sleep schedule anyways? Regardless, I am excited to hop back into this series again. I actually bought the newest (and third) installment before I even finished this one. I have actually never really been a huge fan of book series but I am so glad I found this one. Now, without further ado, let’s get into Harrow the Ninth. (Content warnings will be at the very bottom of this post).

Harrowhark “Harrow” Nonagesimus, the last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been made a Lyctor and fights alongside the Emperor Undying. As the youngest of the Lyctors, Harrow must work twice as hard to perfect her skills. Her training, however, is proven to be extremely difficult as her health starts fail her, her teachers try to kill her, and her mind is seemingly know longer her own. Harrow soon finds herself facing a seemingly impossible task as the ghost of a murdered planet is chasing after her. As the universe seems to be ending, Harrow finds herself confronting some uncomfortable truths as she begins to question what her real purpose is.

Wow. At no point in this novel did I fully understand what the heck was happening. I mean that in a good way too. Muir keeps the reader thoroughly engaged in this sequel. The narrative jumps around in time at random and changes narrative styles without warning. I found myself having to re-read parts to make sure I was processing everything correctly. The world – building in this novel is intense, to say the least. Nothing lets up as Harrow plunges further and further into wild scenarios. I was truly impressed with just how this novel tangled and wove into something that made sense in the strangest way possible. I really don’t want to spoil too much. I will just say that this was definitely a very successful sequel to an incredible series.

Content Warning: Graphic Violence, Gore, Harsh Language, Some Sexual Content

Let the pain and blood run free: Reviewing Your Mind is a Terrible Thing by Hailey Piper

Hello everyone! How are you all doing? I hope you are just continuing to thrive, regardless of the circumstances. I’m working my way steadily through my horror novels before the end of the month and have two more novellas alongside three full-length novels for anyone in the mood for horror. After that, my TBR will lighten up, content-wise, but I’ll still be delving into the macabre. This is my second cosmic horror read I’m bringing to you, so let’s get into it.

Trigger Warning: Body Horror, Gore, Scenes involving surgery, Some harsh language, Some sexual content

Alto is a communications specialist onboard the M.G. Yellowjacket. Their shift goes from interesting after having an intimate encounter with a fellow crewmate to a nightmarish experience. They find that their crew has seemingly vanished. Strange creatures made of brains are taking over the ship, being controlled by a sinister entity calling itself the Messenger. Riddled with anxiety and too underqualified to be dealing with this, Alto has no choice but to face these gruesome intruders who can invade a person’s mind and create horrors beyond human comprehension.

My first note about this book (and a positive one) is that this is the first novel I have read with a non-binary character as the main character. Alto is a unique yet relatable protagonist who I was rooting for the whole time. Hailey Piper certainly has an interesting way of portraying intense emotions and I mean that in the best way. There is no denying that this is certainly a gruesome novel but it is unlike anything I have read before. Cosmic horror is a very tricky genre but Piper maneuvers it masterfully. I would love to read more cosmic horror novels in the future and, if you are looking for somewhere to start (and have a strong stomach), then I would definitely recommend giving this novella your deserved attention.

They’re closer than you think…: Reviewing Parasite by Darcy Coates

Hello everyone! I hope you are finding enjoyment in all the ways that matter to you. This is your reminder to step away from the internet (for at least a little bit). Before I begin, I have to say that I weirdly stumbled across this book. I had never heard of Darcy Coates until I saw her books occupying most of the same space as Stephen King’s books. Obviously, I had to give her a shot for the spooky season. This was the only book I found of hers that wasn’t set in a haunted house. Please let me know if you have read other books by her and enjoyed them. In the meanwhile, let’s talk about Parasite. (Minor trigger warnings at the bottom)

A small crew on a remote station on a desolate planet stumbles across a parasitic alien creature that wears its victim’s skin and can mimic them perfectly. Humanity is blindsided by this invasion, leaving little hope of getting rid of this deadly species. It is up to a small group of unique individuals to fight against the ever-growing threat or face total extinction.

This book was very much Ridley Scott’s Alien meets John Carpenter’s The Thing. Overall, I enjoyed the plot of the book as I love space/sci-fi horror, but can’t seem to find a lot of novels in this genre. Coates certainly delivers a fast-paced and suspenseful narrative that made me want to keep reading. It was very plot-driven, though, so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to get attached to any one character. In fact, this novel was more like three stories mashed together and I kind of wished the novel just focused on one particular part. There also isn’t a ton of scientific explanation or an attempt at it, if you like that in your sci-fi novels. At the end of the day, I did enjoy this novel for what it gives and would recommend it if you want something more unique to read in the horror genre.

Trigger Warning: Violence, Gore

Do You Ever Feel Haunted?: Reviewing Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Hi everyone! I hope you are all still doing as well as the last time you found one of my blogs. I am still impatiently waiting the arrival of autumn because I am sick and tired of being hot all the time. I’m over it. I need hoodie/sweater season to begin already. September is still young and there is still plenty of opportunity left in the year. Let’s discuss Borne by Jeff Vandermeer.

The world is in ruins ever since the Company created a massive, monstrous ursine creature called Mord. Among those ruins lives Rachel, a young scavenger just trying to survive, and her lover, Wick, who remains a mystery to her. One day, while scavenging in Mord’s wake, she stumbles across a strange creature she decides to take home. The creature, who she names Borne, begins to grow and evolve at a rapid pace. With no discernible shape or origin, Borne relies on Rachel to guide him and Rachel finds herself growing protective over this odd being. As Borne grows, though, Rachel fears he might be a danger to himself and the world around him. As a new force threatens to invade Rachel and Wick’s safe haven, she must make critical choices and the consequences will change her reality.

This is not my first time reading a Jeff Vandermeer novel. (Feel free to read my review of Annihilation if you wish). I find the way he portrays the power of nature to be fascinating and Borne was an interesting portrayal of an “eco-apocalypse.” Rachel served as an insightful narrator who helped to further enhance the strangeness and horror of the aftermath of man trying to mess with the balance of nature. Her relationship with Borne is as sweet as it is complicated. I liked how Vandermeer didn’t try to “uncomplicated” issues of people trying to control nature. His narrative is certainly thought provoking and it kept me interested through the whole novel. Though I am not usually a fan of apocalypse stories, I think Vandermeer breathes a breath of fresh air into the genre. If you want some eco-centric sci-fi, then you should definitely check out Borne.

Nature Does Not Make Leaps: Reviewing The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno – Garcia

Hello everyone! I hope you are all getting through your TBR pile as I am. I am not going to ramble on for too long as I stayed up far too late to finish this review. If you are interested, I have reviewed two other books by Silvia Moreno – Garcia, so you are welcome to check those out. Let’s talk about her latest novel, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, a retelling of H.G. Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Carlota Moreau lives an idyllic life on a beautiful estate in the Yucatan peninsula. Under the guidance of her eccentric yet brilliant father, Carlota studies diligently and prays constantly. She is not alone on this island as she lives alongside her father’s creations: half-animal, half-human hybrids who were created to be workers. With the assistance of Montgomery Laughton, an Englishman with a dark past, their little community exists in harmony. Everything is upended when Eduardo Lizalde, the son of Moreau’s patron, comes bearing news of his father’s frustrations at Moreau’s lack of progress. Soon, secrets are brought to light that force Carlota to confront the horrifying truth about her father. Now, with the help of Montgomery and the hybrids, Carlota must take a stand and fight to protect everything she holds dear.

I really enjoyed Silvia Moreno – Garcia’s take on this rather classic tale of man trying to control nature, only to have nature fight back in some way. I appreciated the carefully woven motifs about rebellion and what family truly is. The characters are complex and seem to move through the story of their own volition. I also appreciated the feminist undertones woven throughout the novel. Moreno – Garcia does an excellent job with character development, which has been my favorite thing about her novels. If you want a novel that harkens back to classic sci-fi while also putting a new spin on the genre, then I would definitely recommend giving this novel a read. (Read her other books too. They’re really good)

One Flesh, One End: Reviewing Gideon the Ninth (Book One in the Locked Tomb Trilogy) by Tamsyn Muir

Hello everyone! I hope you are doing well under the worst heat arguably ever. I’ve had some positive life changes in the last week, so I’m in a good mood right now. Though we are still little ways out from spooky season, that won’t stop me from delving into the creepy and macabre. Without further pretense, let’s get into Gideon the Ninth, the first novel in the Locked Tomb trilogy.

Gideon Nav grew up in the Ninth House, a place known for its dreary atmosphere, ossifying nobility, and strict religious conduct. Her only dream is to be free and enlist as a soldier. Her plans for her escape are thwarted by her childhood nemesis and the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth house, Harrowhark Nonagesimus. Harrow is called upon by the Emperor to join the necromancers of the other eight houses to be tested in deadly trials. The remaining heir will become a Lyctor, the immortal right hand to the Emperor. Harrow offers Gideon an ultimatum: serve as her cavalier and she will be free from her servitude. With Harrow’s advanced magic and Gideon’s sword, the two find themselves facing a challenge far greater than imagined and death isn’t even the worst outcome if they fail.

Content warning: body horror, gore, violence, language

With that warning out the way, I may have found my new favorite sci-fi horror novel. Granted, it isn’t necessarily scary, but Gideon the Ninth was certainly a thrilling read. Gideon herself was a great protagonist and I loved her playful banter and sarcasm. The novel itself was a rather cinematic one with an interesting magic system, fleshed-out characters, and big action set pieces. It is also a fairly classic whodunnit mystery at the heart of the novel. I do enjoy those types of mysteries so I might be a little biased. I am going to go ahead and give Gideon the Ninth my personal seal of approval and encourage you to try this one if you want a book that’s equally creepy and fantastical.