REVIEW: Young Jedi Knights 1: Heirs of the Force

One of my favourite characters when it comes to the old Star Wars canon was always Jacen Solo, so what I’ve been doing is slowly collecting the now out-of-print Young Jedi Knights series that was published for the middle grade/young adult market to get more of Jacen and Jaina while also learning a little bit more about Luke’s Jedi Academy on Yavin 4.

Heirs of the Force, the first book in the Young Jedi Knights series, follows Jacen and Jaina Solo as they train at Luke’s Jedi Academy. Right away we get to know that the twins are incredibly close and that Jacen has a knack for animals while Jaina takes after her father (and grandfather, Anakin, in my opinion) with her talent for mechanics and technology. We also get to meet their friend, Tenel Ka, who is a total badass from Dathomir. The trio quickly becomes firm friends with Chewie’s nephew, Lowbacca, who has been gifted an old speeder to put together. With the help of his new friends, Lowie completes the speeder and goes off on something of an adventure…where he finds the remains of a TIE Fighter from the first Battle of the Death Star. When their curiosity winds them up in under fire from the long-abandoned pilot, things take a nasty turn.

This book was a quick read but was honestly so much fun. It requires very little knowledge of the original extended universe of Star Wars (which I know can be an intimidating run of content) and makes sure to fill in a lot of gaps newer or less-intense fans to Legends might have in their knowledge. Jacen and Jaina are so lovely and wonderful, with the original hopeful and kind quality that made Luke such a sweetheart in the original films. I loved getting to know the newer characters as well like Tenel Ka – who is so cool I wish I had read these when I was younger – and Lowie – who is basically an awkward version of his uncle.

The tension and the pacing of the story is so well done, it reaffirms that Kevin J. Anderson is incredible and has definitely put Rebecca Moesta on my radar. And seriously, what’s not to love about a rogue TIE pilot stranded for years trying to single-handedly overthrow a school full of Jedi?

Heirs of the Force is clearly meant for a younger audience but that doesn’t take away from the writing at all. If anything it makes it an even better jumping in point because it’s not as technical as Star Wars books can be. Since the series – to my knowledge – has never been re-released as formal Legends titles, they’re difficult to get ahold of these days, but if you’re willing to search I’d definitely say this first book is worth it.

REVIEW: Red Rising

During July, I tried my best to participate in the FaeCrate #bloodydamnfae Red Rising read-a-long, but sadly was too caught up in other things to finish it on time.

BUT I FINISHED IT NOW AND BLOODYDAMN HELL WHAT

HOW DID IT TAKE ME THIS LONG TO GET INTO THIS SERIES?!

The story follows Darrow, one of the best miners in his colony beneath the surface of Mars. After his wife, Eo, is martyred, Darrow has a choice to give up or fight for what the girl died in hopes of. Darrow is then thrust into a world he isn’t entirely prepared for, fighting fights without rules against those who were ready for all of it.

Immediately, I was hypnotized but Darrow’s distinct narrative style that Pierce Brown brings. There’s a harshness, a bluntness, there that shows the jagged edge of a young man that Darrow has while also melting it all away when he talks about love and family. Darrow is so observant and self-disciplined and it’s incredibly unique. Considering how aggressive and full of rage he is as a character, Darrow is the kind of alpha male that doesn’t suffer from the nonsense that is toxic masculinity.

Thinking of toxic masculinity, Red Rising is such a great example of not only classism and nepotism, but also of privilege in general and how that plays a factor in the toxic behaviour of some of the male characters. For some minor spoiler alerts, as the plot gets into something of a Lord of the Flies situation, the rougher boys turn to horrible acts of mutilation, slave driving, and sexual assault of the girls who are weaker than them. Darrow and a few of the others oppose these actions right away, but the way Darrow earns over the trust of the rest is a thing of beauty. Even as he consults with victims of abuse later in the book, it’s a true look at how victims should be treated.

I’m honestly at a loss for words over this one.

It did get a little slow in the middle while Darrow was in his transformation, this 400 page paperback is such an intense read it goes by in a blink. I love the characters, I love the world, and I want more as soon as humanly possible.

Bloodydamn brilliant.

REVIEW: Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries 3)

It is recommended that reading the previous two Murderbot Diaries reviews and/or books before reading this latest review.


The third Murderbot book marks the end of the second act of this arc of Murderbot’s life as it travels to the outskirts of society where an abandoned facility that was under the control of GrayCris needs to be investigated. The lawsuit back in the Corporate Rim is gaining steam and this facility hopefully holds the remaining information PreservationAux needs to put away this terrible corporation.

This one read a little bit more like what I was initially expecting out of this series (as I’ve said many times, I often go into books mostly blind to avoid unfair expectations). It was really a deep-space thriller as Murderbot needs to – once again – help some humans around this GrayCris facility while they’re being attack by who-knows-what that was left behind in the abandonment. Although the point of the book is for Murderbot to collect data that’s needed, and this does come across.

I was less taken by the new characters than I was in the second book. I didn’t particularly care for the humans, and while Miki was sweet enough, it wasn’t enough of a character for me to connect with. I was honestly much more interested in Murderbot’s reaction to it than any of their interactions.

While this wasn’t my favourite of the books, it was still phenomenal and the psychology behind how robots are treated by everyone individually is really interesting – and that was a strong point of this part of the story. I can’t wait to read the final book but am also putting it off so I don’t have so long to wait until 2020 when we’re supposed to get book five.

 

Books to Read on Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day and, love it or hate it, there’s a lot going on today. I definitely fall into the later category myself. So whether you’re up for romance or in the mood to avoid it at all costs, I’ve come up with a list of books to read for either category.

Bring on the love!

Here’s a list of my top 5 favourite romance/romantic novels to read today.

5. One Day In December by Josie Silver
[ goodreads | review ]
Yeah, okay, this one is more of a yuletide centric book, but the love story crosses over ten years and that’s what makes it a great read for any time of the year. Definitely for fans of Love, Actually and also for those who want a real love story with a feel good ending

4. The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli
[ goodreads | review ]
This debut novel is about the difficulties of finding love when you’re both looking and not looking for it. It’s about culture pressure and the important of being yourself no matter what any one else tells you to be. A great read for those looking for a romance novel that’s not 100% about the romance.

3. When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
[ goodreads | review ]
Who doesn’t want some f/f contemporary on Valentine’s Day? A story of self-discovery in sexuality with some humor and delightfully witty banter, this is a fun queer read about hard working women who also just want to have fun and be happy.

2. A Date With Darcy (Bookish Boyfriends #1) by Tiffany Schmidt
[ goodreads | review ]
A YA retelling of Pride & Prejudice but with a bit of a twist. Despite having a 15-year-old protagonist, this book is definitely a relatable one to all ages and has strong feminist notes about being more than your partner and remembering that your opinion counts, especially when it involves the word “No.” Fluffy with a hint of drama to keep things interesting, this one caught me by surprise when I read it and loved it to pieces.

1. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman 
[ goodreads | review ]
Allow me to scream to the high heavens once again about how the book is almost always better than the movie. This phenomenal novel is a queer romance and a coming of age story all in one. Heartbreaking and beautiful as well, this book takes you to Italy and forces you to feel all of Elio’s vivid emotions to the fullest extent. You can’t go wrong with this book.

Down with Valentine’s Day!

And here are my top 5 books that are very much against this Hallmark Holiday.

5. The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman
[ goodreads ]
This is an incredible look at the birth of the novel Lolita and the very real and very traumatic events that happened to young Sally Horner. Despite how mezmerising and misleading Nabokov’s novel is, Weinman dissects just how horrible men like Frank La Salle (or his fictional counterpart, Humbert Humbert) truly are.

4. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler 
[ goodreads | review ]
An eerie narrative of why eccentric, Min, broke up with her popular boyfriend, Ed. This is a YA novel but written in such a memorably bizarre fashion that almost gives away Handler’s alter ego (as he is more commonly known as Lemony Snicket). A great break-up story with a twist.

3. The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion by Margaret Killjoy
[ goodreads | review ]
A Tor.com novella of magic and horror that brings out of the dark side of people and what they will do for power when it should belong to no one. Since it is a novella, this is a great book to bang out quickly and so atmospherically pleasing, you’ll completely forget it’s Valentine’s Day in the real world.

2. The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein
[ goodreads ]
Boarding school + mental illness representation + potentially vampires = this wonderful book that also has f/f undertones. Incredibly spooky (and so much better than the movie adaptation of it), this book is well suited to those who want a creep factor on Valentine’s Day.

1. All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
[ goodreads | review ]
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog recently, you’ll know I’m obsessed with this series. Want to forget about the real world and bond with someone fiction who also doesn’t care for humans? Murderbot is definitely for you. This novella series is so much fun you won’t want to put it down.


And there you have it! My list of books to read to either join in on or hide from Valentine’s Day. Personally, I plan to spend my evening binge watching some true crime documentaries (for anyone wondering, I’m eyeballing the Paradise Lost trilogy) since I’m not a fan of today.

Do you like Valentine’s Day? What are your plans for tonight? Let me know in the comments!


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REVIEW: Artificial Condition (Murderbot Diaries 2)

This review may contain spoilers for the first Murderbot Diaries book, All Systems Red.


Since finishing the first Murderbot book, I have been very seriously itching to get my hands on book two. With my library coming through for me, I was very excited to see where Murderbot was heading to.

When we left Murderbot at the end of book one, it was on it’s way to the spaceport to get away from it’s team of friends and find out more about itself. We as readers know that at one point, Murderbot killed a few dozen humans in a mine and that resulting in it hacking it’s own governing system. But did Murderbot hack the system in order to kill the humans? Or did something go wrong and caused it to kill everyone, thus making the hack a preventative measure? This is where Murderbot’s trip back to the mine begins.

We got a few new characters in this book, the best one being ART (a sentient transport ship that Murderbot dubs, Asshole Research Transport). ART is vaguely threatening, blunt, and straight forward in a way that makes me love it as much as I love Murderbot for being the awkward, tv-loving ball of sarcasm that it is too.

I loved seeing Murderbot have another robot friend and I loved seeing both of them come to care for the new humans in the book to the point of risking their “lives” to help them. I loved the mystery of this novella and the idea that Murderbot has been the target of some shady people for longer than it may think. This book made me laugh and it got me as far away from the world as I could possibly get.

It’s come to my attention that I find Murderbot comfortingly relatable and this series is relieving anxiety in a way I didn’t think books could actually do. I feel calmer while reading and calmer after finishing. Do I know exactly why I feel this way about this books? Not really, but at this difficult part in my life, I don’t really care. However, I think it might be something similar to what Tor.com’s Anya Johanna DeNiro wrote about these books. I am not a trans woman, but I’m masculine leaning genderfluid and she makes a lot of really valid points that resonate with me.

At the end of the day, I loved Artificial Condition as much as I loved All Systems Red and as of writing this review, books 3 and 4 in the series have arrived for me at the library so I will definitely be diving into them soon.

PS. Please read this series.


Note: You can find Anya Johanna DeNiro’s posts on All Systems Red here and for Artificial Condition here.

REVIEW: All Systems Red & The Future of Work (Murderbot Diaries 1 & 0.5)

It’s been a very long time since I’ve read a serious sci-fi book that wasn’t Star Wars so when I kept seeing these Murderbot Diaries books everywhere I turned, I just had to pick up the first book from the library.

All Systems Red starts off with Murderbot telling us how it would rather watch television dramas than be a murderer and how boring it is to be a security unit. It’s so done with everything around it until all systems go haywire and the story goes from a silly narrative from a bored robot to a self-hacked robot trying to save everyone from their own system that has gone Hal 3000 on them (for those who don’t get it, that was a 2001 Space Odyssey reference where the ship tries to kill everyone).

I loved this story from cover to cover. Murderbot was hilarious and relatable as hell and despite not having a ton of information on the rest of the team, I really enjoyed the whole cast. Fast paced, action packed, and entertaining, this is probably one of the best original sci-fi stories I’ve ever read. An excellent start to a series I can’t wait to devour and something I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to get into science fiction without worrying about intimidatingly long books or overly complex world building.


BONUS

In seeing the reading order of the next books, I discovered that Wired Magazine actually published a prequel short story about Murderbot being stationed on a mining station. The short story gives us a little more insight into how and why Murderbot comes to care about the people it is assigned to protect and while I definitely recommend reading after the first novella, it is a great example of what Martha Wells’s writing style is like in terms of this incredible series that I highly recommend reading immediately.

You can read the story here on the Wired Magazine website.

REVIEW: The Song Rising

With January comes the final instalment of #countdowntopriory on Instagram, and damn was I excited to get into The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon!

After the ridiculous cliffhanger at the end of The Mime Order, I was thrilled that the third book of the series picked up right where things left off. Paige is now the Underqueen and doing her absolute best to keep things in order with the syndicate as well as the Ranthen, but sadly her best isn’t quite enough.

What go to me the most is that everyone seems to forget that Paige is only 19-years-old and forget the pressure she is under. Not to mention that they’re all lucky she’s not dealing with any violent symptoms of post-concussion syndrome or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (aka. fancy words for the brain related injuries that have led many sports player to murder). Seriously, this poor girl either has a skull made of iron or head injuries don’t super matter in 2049. Regardless, I really feel for her character here.

The pacing felt a touch jarring in this one, but I appreciated that many chapters had real dates on them, making it easier to track the passage of time. I also really enjoyed seeing more of Maria and the other syndicate members that care about Paige and her fight against Scion. I would have liked more Warden, and do strongly believe that poor Eliza deserved more page time, but I’m sure we’ll get what we want with the next books to come. I mean, there were so many people we didn’t get to read about in this one that can only mean that their time hasn’t come just yet.

While The Mime Order is still probably my favourite so far in the series, I really enjoyed this and am happy that I stuck with the series.


It’s not too late to join in on #countdowntopriory! Check it out on Instagram via the event’s host, Sam!