Through The Dark by Alexandra Bracken

“Don’t miss this breathtaking collection of stories set in the world of the New York Times best-selling Darkest Minds trilogy. Featuring ebook original novellas In Time and Sparks Rise, and a gripping, brand-new novella, Through the Dark is a must-have for fans of the Darkest Minds. This collection contains three novellas: In TimeSparks Rise, and Beyond the Night, as well as a sneak peek at the first novel in Alexandra Bracken’s new series, Passenger.

Gabe’s life has been devastated in the wake of the economic crash. The only option left for someone like him to escape his tragic past is to leave his small town behind and to attempt to become a skiptracer. This already almost-impossible task is made all the more difficult by his first “score,”a young girl who won’t speak, but who changes his life in ways he could never imagine.

Sam didn’t think things could get worse at Thurmand rehabilitation camp. Then the Reds arrive. Everyone assumed the kids with firepower had been killed years ago. Instead they were taken away, brainwashed, and returned as terrifyingly effective guards. To her horror, Sam recognizes one of them: Lucas, the one spark of light in Sam’s dark childhood. Lucas has a deadly secret–he beat the brutal training that turned his fellow Reds into mindless drones. When Sam defends herself against an attack by a vile PSF guard and faces a harrowing punishment, Lucas must risk everything to save her.

The government-run “rehabilitation camps” have been shut down, but kids with Psi powers are anything but free. Sam would rather be on her own than put in the care of a foster family and given the “cure”–a dangerous procedure that unclaimed kids across the country are being forced to undergo. But there’s more at stake than just her own safety. Sam once made someone a promise, and the time has come to fulfill it. Now that she’s out of her camp, Mia only has one thought in her head: finding Lucas, her beloved older brother.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“One day we will ignite and create a blaze that no one can put out, ignore, hurt. We will move forward as one, and in time, rise like sparks beyond the night.”

Stars (Out of 10): 7/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Lucas

There will be spoilers for the main books within the short stories that take place after.

Spoiler Free: Well, this is it for now. I’ve reached the end of the currently released Darkest Minds world, and my heart is heavy. I’ve closed this long opened series in my life, and I absolutely loved getting the chance to read it now. But I explained a lot of my feelings for the series in my In The Afterlight review, so I’ll spare you here!

Unfortunately, while I enjoyed getting to see other parts of the TDM world, the novellas didn’t click with me as much as the main books did. I’ll break down this review into each of the three novellas!

In Time (Novella 1.5): I had actually read this novella once already, back when I first read The Darkest Minds, and I remember it hitting me really hard back then. The feelings I associated with this novella were stronger than the ones associated with the first book itself, at least in memory. However, while the first book did hold up to a reread, “In Time” just didn’t seem to. It seems like when I know how it ends, it kind of ruins the journey to get to that ending. Regardless, that doesn’t change that the first read through of this novella is an amazing experience, and gives an interesting new side to the world! Overall, this story was probably a 5/5 for my first read, and a 3/5 for my second.

Sparks Rise (Novella 2.5): I really enjoyed getting to see how life in Thurmond carried on after Ruby escaped, especially from Sam’s point of view. While Ruby was able to give a pretty good first-hand experience of the camps already, she didn’t showcase a character being broken, as Ruby was always fairly subdued compared to Sam in the camps. However, we see how different Sam is now, after that extra time in Thurmond, in this novella. Ashley and Ruby are gone now, and we see Sam stripped of her original courage and bravery, her fire. It was a hard voice to read from, to get used to, but I quite enjoyed the perspective in this point of view. The story itself is fairly tragic, like most of the world is, but the interweaving of hopeful moments made the tragedy even harder to bear. Additionally, we got to see even more of the fucked up stuff in the camps, as it seems to increased as time goes on with still no fix to the psi problem. Overall, this story was probably a 4/5 for me!

Beyond The Night (Novella 3.5): Overall, I’m not 100% what I feel about this novella. There were some really deep and introspective parts of it, where the kids thought more on their situation, but there was also too much action contained in certain moments. I think it just felt paced weirdly, in a sense. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the narration in this novel. I never really clicked with Mia, as I found her a bit too aggressive towards Sam/Liam/the others at points, but then again she didn’t know the background behind some of the actions she was angry about. It was also just hard to read Sam’s character at points, because of how broken she is after the main books and the second novella. It makes complete sense for her fire to be hidden, for her to lean towards cowardness at points, but it didn’t make it any easier to read. The book did seem to pick up around the final two chapters, and that was where the novella moved from a more actiony plot to a more emotional/mental one. I think another part that made this novella harder to read was the hope that it extinguished in me. This takes place after the liberation of the camps, when the world is rebuilding after the decade of suffering and pain. But it just doesn’t seem to be getting any better for these poor kids. Both before and now they are trapped by their age, their powers, still under the thumbs of adults when they’ve been surviving independently for a long time now. It just hurts to think how the work may have been for nothing, that they may just suppress the abilities or hide the kids in another camp-like setting until the abilities disappear. But I guess that would book 4 will help resolve! Overall, this novella hovers between a 3/5 and 4/5.



In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

“Ruby can’t look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the “rehabilitation camps” housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“Now isn’t the time to change yourself to fit into the world. You should be changing the world to accept you. To let you exist as you are, without being cut open and damaged.”

Stars (Out of 10): 10/10

Favorite Character: I just love everyone

Spoiler Free: I don’t think I can be okay again after this book. I don’t know what made this series stand out compared to the other dystopians I’ve read lately (which is not many), but I think this will be one of those series that sticks with me for a very long time.

This book will stick with me because it is honest, it is dark, and reveals to us the shadows that hide in our world. I don’t doubt for a second that if this were to actually happen that our world would react in a very similar way, and that what makes this series so hard to read sometimes.

The characters were also phenomenal, just like in books 1 and 2. Almost all the characters are layered in such a phenomenal way, given motivations and flaws, weaknesses and strengths. They are also all individuals, and while there is overlap in the reactions to certain events, there is not overlap in why they reacted that way. This series seemed to have some of the most realistic representations of humanity that I have read in a while, and it had this great representation in almost all of the characters.

It was this realism that allowed me to connect with this story, to fall into it, as much as I did, even if that had some emotional consequences on my end (I kept getting so sucked into the story that I felt as if I was the one experiencing the story itself, and led to me having some pretty rough anxiety at points, and a dream here and there). This connection made some of the deaths/rough parts even more hard hitting, as you feel for the characters as if they were your friends.

Once again, the pacing of the plot was also really well done as well. This series in general did a really good job of pacing out the twists so there was always something more shocking to learn about the world, and this lead to me being even more hooked by the story, as I kept wanting to learn more and more about the reasoning and mystery behind the world. Additionally, the plot itself was also just really interesting as well. While some of the events themselves are ones that commonly occur within dystopian/rebellion books, the way in which it was written made it all feel new. There was also a well-balanced blend of emotional and political tension throughout the entire book, making it interesting on a variety of fronts.

Lastly, the ending was both heartbreaking and happy at the same time. It was hopeful, yet realistic, which matched the rest of the series really well. It managed to make me smile while stabbing me in the heart.

Overall, this series has cemented itself in both my brain and my heart as one of my favorites, and has proven to hold up over time (to me, at least). It’s been a while since every book in a series has blown me away, and managed to consistently keep me happy. This is a series that I am happy to just have been able to experience, and I am incredibly thankful for that. (This review is bringing tears to my eyes, I don’t want to say goodbye!)

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

“Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“Life isn’t fair. It’s taken me a while to get that. It’s always going to disappoint you in some way or another. You’ll make plans, and it’ll push you in another direction. You will love people, and they’ll be taken away no matter how hard you fight to keep them. You’ll try for something and won’t get it. You don’t have to find meaning in it; you don’t have to try to change things. You just have to accept the things that are out of your hands and try to take care of yourself. That’s your job.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9.5/10 Stars

Favorite Character:

Spoiler Free: So I’m an idiot and put off this review until after I finished the series. However, this book has a pretty big event at the end, so I should be able to distinguish what happens in this one and what happens in book 3!

Let’s start with by commenting on the trend that this series seems to have: it likes to fuck with your feelings and make you cry, a lot.

Originally, I put this book aside because of how upset I was by the ending of book 1, and how scared I was of the series, and the tone of the series, changing now that Ruby was working with the Children’s League, and that the side characters I had grown so attached to didn’t seem to be making an appearance in this book. I was worried for no reason. This is one of those series that seems to get better as it continues on and as it develops, rather than expending all its interesting twists in the first book.

Having Ruby working with the Children’s League puts her in a position to show more of the world to the reader, and expand her knowledge past what the kids are feeling in the crisis, as she now regularly sees how the adults are handling the change as well. This book just seems to expand the reach of the characters, and gives us some of the puzzle pieces that were missing in book one.

Like I mentioned above, I was at first worried at how Ruby, and the story itself, would change now that she wasn’t on the run. I had gotten used to this free and in charge Ruby, and was worried that putting her back under the thumb of someone else would make her lose her strong will again. This was not the case, and Ruby actually seemed to blossom in the Children’s League, at least in the sense that she learned more control over her abilities and strengthened her body and mind. Now she wasn’t just a girl with a fierce personality, but had the skills to back it up. Additionally, she never bought into some of the bullshit of the Children’s League, and therefore it gave an interesting perspective on the rebellion, one we don’t often get to see in dystopias. Normally, the rebellion is seen as the single shining star in a dark world, pure and full of hope. Often, that’s not the case, as every light casts a shadow, creates a darkness. Having Ruby as our eyes into this instance of rebellion gave the entire book a really interesting perspective.

Additionally, another worry was losing all our side characters and having to meet new ones that I assumed I would not like as much. Not only does the book one cast play a large role in this book, the new characters we are introduced to are also just as layered as Chubs, Liam, Zu, and Clancy were. Ruby is also less trusting of them at first, as she had recently been burned by Clancy, which also made the process of befriending Nico, Vida, Jude, and Cate an interesting one to follow. The variation in the characters also meshed really well together, and meshed well with the personalities of the old cast as well. Additionally, they all felt really well established, and there wasn’t really an overlap in personality/character. They all felt like actual individuals.

The plot was, once again, really well paced and action-packed. Something about the way this series is planned and written manages to keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time, but in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you. I never noticed a true lull in the book, and whenever I started getting bored of a setting, or it started to feel repetitive, the book changed things up once again.

Overall, I loved this installment just as much as book 1, if not more! It tied together so many characters and so many elements, and I am just constantly amazed by what this series accomplishes.

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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Circe by Madeline Miller

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love. ”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9.5/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Circe!

Spoiler Free: Madeline Miller has done it again! I don’t know how she manages to write so beautifully, but this book has been no exception to the trend. She manages to both retell the myths in an enticing way as well as connect it to modern times, and this was especially the case in Circe.

In comparison to Song of Achilles, the story covers a much broader span of time, and involves many more myths and powerful characters. The story is also less focused on one specific set of events, but rather covers so many that Circe’s growth throughout all of them is the true story. It almost feels like an anthology at points, lots of small tales and stories, just connected by a larger, overarching theme. However, even with this difference in plot, the emotion behind the story, and how much the ending affected me, was still in line with Song of Achilles.

The character of Circe was a very interesting one to explore. She didn’t seem to belong in any societal sphere, not fully belonging with mortals due to her immortality and not fully belonging with the gods due to her lack of “godliness” and power, and not fully belonging with the other nymphs due to her lack of beauty. She was the outcast in almost every situation, and her desperation to be accepted was one many could relate to. It also led to a very nice starting point for a novel about acceptance and growth, and seeing this change was almost more beautiful than the words it was written with.

Like I mentioned above, in terms of world and plot, the story seems to tie in a large variety of tales and myths. In almost all of these mini-retellings, Circe was always a minor player within them, making her mark gradually over time rather than through a single heroic tale. This led to the existence of a multi-faceted character with a very interesting history, a history which often came back into play over and over. It felt like a living and breathing entity, her history, and played a large role in shaping her actions and reactions, and I loved that.

I also love how, as Circe grows and learns to be more confident and accepting of who she is, the story seems to center more on her as well. Yes, she has always been the focus of the story, but not necessarily the focus of the events she acts within. As the story goes on, and Circe becomes more assertive, she also begins to assert her place within her story, and mythology as a whole. We start getting Circe-centered stories, and she flourishes within them.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book, from its writing to its character development, and cannot wait to see what Madeline Miller writes next!

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

“When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here again with another review!

“Maybe nothing will ever change for us,” he said. “But don’t you want to be around just in case it does?”

Stars (Out of 10): 8.5/10 Stars

Spoiler Free: Why did I ever stop reading this series? There was something really wrong with past me. On the other hand, it does mean I got to reread it again now!

I did expect to like the book less on this reread. One, I know all the twists already, a reason that usually keeps me from rereading in the first place. Two, I’m out of my dystopian phase. When I first read this, I was coming off the dystopian high that The Hunger Games and Divergent had created, and so this book was in a genre I was already loving at the time. Now? It’s been so long since I’ve picked up a dystopian book and loved it, so I was worried this book might suffer from that. But it turns out, I loved it just as much as the first time I read it, if not more.

This world is still one that entirely fascinates me, and I’m almost happy I didn’t continue reading before because it means I still have secrets to unravel in it. There’s just so much going on, so much mystery and intrigue, that I just know this series will be chock full of twists and surprises!

I also love the extremely dark undertones this book has. The characters themselves are pretty light-hearted, but when you think more on their situation and the things they’ve been through, it’s really scary. This makes for all of the characters being broken in some way, making for a very interesting, and heartbreaking, cast.

The plot itself, as well as pacing of the story, were both also really well done. We’re given enough of an introduction to Ruby’s camp life, which is also used to give background information, before she moves on to the real part of the story. Additionally, the book itself feels evenly paced throughout, with bits of the world falling into place more and place over time as the story builds up to its ending.

The writing itself is also leagues up what I’ve come to expect from dystopia, especially as it was declining in popularity again. I had gotten used to the dime a dozen books, all capitalizing on the hype. But this one? It could’ve stood out from its writing alone. Bracken writes in such an enthralling style that keeps you hooked, while still inserting quite beautiful lines here and there, ones that make the story hit really hard. (Unfortunately, she still suffers from having characters lose breathes they didn’t know they were holding.)

Overall, I really loved rereading this book, and am starting on the next one right away!

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

“Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“Imagine going about your day knowing someone’s carrying you in their mind. That has to be the best part of being in love- the feeling of having a home in some else’s brain.”

Stars (Out of 10): 7/10 Stars

Favorite Character: I still can’t get over how much I love Simon and Bram!

Spoiler Free: I finished this about a week ago now, and the farther I get from it, the more conflicted I seem to be. There were many things I loved about this book, and what I felt it did well, from the friendship tensions to actual decent bi rep, but there were also a few things that I felt got sacrificed wrongly for the story to be a happy ending, or for the relationship within the book to work out.

To begin with, I really liked Leah, for the most part. Her way of narrating things was super funny, which I’ve come to expect from Albertalli at this point, and kept me hooked in the book. Her voice was also extremely strong, and she felt like a full and developed character. However, she was also a bit of an ass at points. She admits this though, knows she sometimes treats people unfairly or judges some situations too harshly, and so in that sense, it’s kind of okay. The only problem is that I feel like she doesn’t really grow herself, but the people around her do. There are some moments where she just crosses the line, and there’s never any consequence for that, and Leah never starts moving away from those moments.

Like Becky’s other books, the main plot is also the relationships within the book, whether it be the platonic ones or romantic ones. And this book was even more chock full of them than usual! We’ve got the familial relationship of Leah and her mom (and occasional Wells, the mom’s boyfriend.) We’ve also got a myriad of platonic friendships, a combination of multiple social circles (the band, the Nick/Simon/Leah trio, and the larger, broader friendship group). We also have two romantic interests, which I won’t mention by name just in case of spoilers (not sure how quickly these were revealed!) All of these come with their own issues to navigate, so the fact that this book doesn’t have much of a plot is definitely not a problem, as the relationship conflicts more than carry the book.

As distance grew between me and reading the book, I found that the things that annoyed me stuck with me more than the things I liked, and that’s quite unfortunate. I loved the read itself, but the problems stick out more now that it’s been a few days since I actually read it. I’ll discuss the specifics in the spoiler section, but unfortunately, I don’t think this book will stay in as high a regard with me over time, unlike Simon vs. and The Upside of Unrequited. I’m still going to pick up anything Albertalli writes though!

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world…or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other. ”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

First off, I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing me this ARC to review. Please note that the version I read was an advanced copy, and certain events/language may be changed in the published edition.

Stars (Out of 10): 5.5/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Eliana

Spoiler Free: I was super excited when I received this ARC back in the November Fairyloot box, and then proceeded to hide it on my shelf for a few months! I finally picked it up now, the month of release, and I’m actually happy I waited (waiting for the next book is going to suck.)

Overall, this was a really nice read, though there were still some issues I had with it. There was no portion of the story (in terms of world, plot, characters, etc.) that I unconditionally loved, but in the end, I still did enjoy the story!

Firstly, we have the expansive world that Legrand creates. Not only are there multiple kingdoms and continents, but also a semi-large magic system that couples with the long-standing fight to keep the angels at bay. While this large world leaves a lot to be explored, and a lot of places to pull surprising twists from, it seems almost too big. There are political issues between the kingdoms, there’s a prophecy, there are patron saints of magic and inner turmoil within the main kingdom, and that’s only in Rielle’s story. We then also have Eliana’s story to understand, which takes place a thousand years later, where magic does not exist and almost all of the kingdoms have been conquered by an “Empire.” This leads to a lot to remember, while also not allowing Legrand to delve deeply into any of the areas. This also leads to both an abundance of information and a lack of it. For example, I feel I don’t fully understand how magic works and how it’s called upon. There are moments it is tied to emotion and moments it follow prayers, and I hope Legrand builds upon this later.

We then have the plot, which makes up for the lack of simplicity in the world. It’s fairly straight forward, with a few twists within Eliana’s storyline. By telling both the tale of Rielle and of Eliana, we get both a pretty standard tale of royals in a kingdom (Rielle’s story) as well as a rebel story (Eliana’s story.) This blend, this contrast, kept both sides quite interesting, and I found myself quickly enraptured by each chapter. The only issue here was that you switched back and forth with each chapter, and with such a stark contrast between the two stories, it made some portions hard to follow. Just when I was sucked into the Eliana’s tale, I had to switch back to Rielle’s, and vice versa.

Additionally, our prologue is truly the ending of Rielle’s tale, which means that most of the “twists” are already known to us. This does put the tale in an interesting perspective though, as we look for foreshadowing the crevices of each sentence. It also creates a sense of anticipation, as you are constantly waiting for the moments that build up to what we saw come to fruition. However, Rielle’s tale does continue into the rest of the books, so we do not truly get to connect her beginning with her end yet, but I am excited to continue reading for that.

Lastly, the twists contained within Eliana’s tale are all quite predictable due to how much the prologue unfortunately gives away. I’m even quite sure of one of my theories for the later books, as everything else was quite predictable so far.

When thinking more on the characters and relationships, I personally feel this is where the book fell the most flat. Out of the entire cast, I probably find two characters interesting. Thank goodness one was one of the protagonists, Eliana, and the other also played quite a large role, Corien. Compared to the other characters, these feel the most layered. We have Eliana, whose main goal is survival and protecting her family from the expanding Empire, even if it means working for it. Her wavering moral code and steadfastness to this goal is what makes her interesting. She doesn’t flip easily from her set path, and often looks at the world selfishly, trying to see what she can get out of it. While this does not make her the most likable character in the world, it does make her interesting. Corien is a different matter. I can’t say much without spoilers, but he follows a trope I find quite interesting, and changes within the story. Yet he still isn’t a simple mystery to solve either, and I still am unsure of his motivations at the end of this book.

However, the other characters, and relationships between them specifically, are where the problem lies. Most of the cast of both stories felt rather flat, they carried one or two main characteristics and that was it. Additionally, I didn’t see them really grow. While I did like some of them more than others, namely the princess in Eliana’s story and Ludivine. And while I had to love Eliana’s little brother, the rest of the characters often felt like shadows, clinging on to a small part of personality. The romance was, unfortunately, even worse. Both MC’s are involved in a relationship or two, yet none feel real, and all moved too quickly/felt fake. I wasn’t invested in any of them by the end (even though I did start invested in Rielle’s romance.)

All in all, this kind of brings me to a conclusion. I didn’t love this book, but I did like it, and enjoy the time I spent reading it. It might not be a book I preorder, but it is definitely a series I will continue reading when I can!

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

“World War Z meets The Martian in the explosive follow-up to Sleeping Giants (“One of the most promising series kickoffs in recent memory”—NPR) and Waking Gods (“Pure, unadulterated literary escapism”—Kirkus Reviews).

In her childhood, Rose Franklin accidentally discovered a giant metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin led the team that uncovered the rest of the body parts which together form Themis: a powerful robot of mysterious alien origin. She, along with linguist Vincent, pilot Kara, and the unnamed Interviewer, protected the Earth from geopolitical conflict and alien invasion alike. Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find her old alliances forfeit and the planet in shambles. And she must pick up the pieces of the Earth Defense Corps as her own friends turn against each other. ”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“I don’t care what happens to my soul. I don’t care if there’s still a me. But I really want there to be a you. The world makes more sense, if there’s a you.”

Stars (Out of 10): 10/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Vincent! (I mean, a lot of this may also have to do with the amazing narrator)

Spoiler Free: There will be spoilers for the first two books in this review, as I really can’t discuss this book without mentioning important plot points from them!

When I first started listening to this book (definitely check out the audiobooks, they make the story even better!), I was surprised by the huge time jump. The story has jumped about a decade from where Waking Gods left off, and we now see the cast older and ready to escape from the alien world they’ve been stuck on. A lot has changed it seems, Eva is older, and Vincent and Rose seem much more morally flexible.

Thankfully, we get the answers to all our questions anyways, as the story follows a parallel structure, telling the story on from the time jump while still explaining what we missed in those ten decades. Vincent and Eva have also learned a new language, the one of the aliens, which is amazing to listen to spoken, and finds its way tied in with the normal English the narrators speak (for example, Eva seems very fond of an alien curse word.) The way these two tales are blended together are done an in amazing way, as I loved both learning about the past and seeing where the future went (as Earth is very different now).

A lot happens in the plot, with an interesting twist/tale in both the past storyline and the present storyline. I was enthralled the entire story, as there were never any lulls or empty spaces in the story. There was always something going on, something to pay attention to, and I loved it. Additionally, it wrapped up the story very well, and tied together all the loose ends amazingly.

The characters, once again, were fantastic. While we were unfortunately missing some of my favorites (Kara and The Interviewer), the story was still just as full of emotion and conflict with our smaller crew. I especially love that this story carries itself so well on friendships/familial relationships that almost no romance is needed to keep it interesting. This story especially focused on the father/daughter relationship of Vincent and Eva, and what happened to that while on the alien planet. This led to a lot of super emotional scenes that the audiobook narrators did a fantastic job of bringing to life (if I had just read this book instead of listened, I probably wouldn’t have cried as much. That’s how good that audiobook is)

We also get almost all the answers in this book. Books 1 and 2 left many gaps in terms of the aliens, we could only ever guess at what they wanted and their future plans. Now, we finally get those answers in the best form ever, a trip to the world itself. We even get to learn their culture, portions of their language, and the conflicts affecting them. It’s all very interesting, and brings this book to an entirely other level.

Overall, I absolutely loved this series, and cannot wait to see what Neuvel brings out. This book had science and plot, yet still was full of emotion, full of humanity. Each book seemed to get better, which doesn’t happen often with a series, and it will be a series I will definitely carry in my heart for a while.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Author Maureen Johnson weaves a tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a new series.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“You have to take things as they are, not how you hear they’re supposed to be.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Stevie and Nate! Jury isn’t out on David yet

Spoiler Free: I have never felt so betrayed by a book while still loving it. I am just plain mad at the state this book has left me in. I mean I loved every second of this book, but the ending is so frustrating and unsatisfying!

Okay, now to back it up to the rest of the book. I honestly loved every part of it. I recently watched Sherlock (the BBC show), and so I’m just super into detectives/watching people solve crimes right now, and this book was perfect fit with that! Stevie notices the little details in a similar way (though to a lesser extent when compared to Sherlock), but this skill is also combined with realistic traits, such as her anxiety and difficulty making friends/expressing emotion. She’s still entirely human, unlike some portrayals of Sherlock. Additionally, I just found her narration super funny to read, and I felt myself click with her way of seeing the world almost right away. It made reading the book such an amazing and fun experience!

In terms of plot, the book also did super well. It did a good job of both hiding facts that were detrimental to the ending while still putting them right in plain sight. It both didn’t give away the twists too soon while still ensuring they didn’t just come out of nowhere, which is just the best thing a mystery plot can do in my opinion. It also did a good job of paralleling the 1936 murder with the present one, making it super interesting to see both of them being solved simultaneously. Additionally, the book still blended in enough romance and friendship to keep the book feeling realistic and relatable, and it overall just did an amazing job of connecting with me as a reader, even if I’m not necessarily a super huge crime fan.

The setting of the book also fit in perfectly. We get this secluded manor that is both house and school, and carries dark undertones due to its past. However, it still functions super well as a scholarly setting, and doesn’t give the book too gloomy of a vibe. Additionally, all the secret pathways and crevices added a bit to the setting/plot as well, although I do feel this whole set of tunnels could have been utilized a bit more (only one was really focused on.)

The only reason I even dropped this book a star was due to the ending. Throughout the book, we’re given 3 main questions, as well as many sub ones, yet the ending only truly answers one of the subquestions, leaving me utterly lost on the answers to our main plot points. While I get the need to stretch the murder arc farther into the series, and not to give too much away too soon, I still expected some sort of closure, and the super ultra ending just leaves me wanting more, and feeling as if I didn’t truly read the end.

Overall, I did absolutely love this read, even though it’s left me super frustrated! Am now anxiously awaiting the next book!

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

“Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?”

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey guys! Meaghan here with another review!

“But you know, there’s an upside here. Because when you spend so much time just intensely wanting something, and then you actually get the thing? It’s magic.”

Stars (Out of 10): 9/10 Stars

Favorite Character: Reid

Spoiler Free: Someone could say I’m on a bit of a contemporary binge right now. That someone would be right. I’ve probably more than doubled my contemporaries read so far this year in the past few weeks. And so far I’m loving all of them!

Back in my Simon Vs. review, I said I most likely found another favorite contemporary author. The Upside of Unrequited has just further cemented that point! There is just something about the voice of the characters that I can’t help but love, and the fact that all of Albertalli’s books so far have had happy but meaningful endings is also a huge plus (not that I dislike sad endings, I just love some happiness sometimes!)

In comparison to Simon, this was still quite a different book. We had a female, straight narrator instead, where the insecurity rested in weight rather than sexuality. This led to quite a different tale, with a focus on self-love rather than overall acceptance. However, in both this book and Simon, I absolutely loved the romances + family relationships.

I was less into the plot of this one, as Simon had a whole mystery aspect tied to it that I just loved, but I devoured this book just the same. The narration was just so fantastic that no matter how boring the actual events had been, I still would have probably enjoyed the book thanks to Molly’s narration alone.

I also really loved the characters, and how tied together everything was (which is kinda how it is in real life!) They felt real, from their inner thoughts (for Molly), to their reaction to certain events/changes, to how their relationships developed and changed with one another. The only character I still cannot find myself liking is Cassie, but I’ve explained that more in the spoiler section. Also, can I just say that I audibly gasped when I found out how this book connected to Simon. Vs, I was so surprised! (Even though it was kind of obvious had I been actively looking for it.)

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I cannot wait for Leah on the Offbeat now!

Careful! Spoilers beyond this point!

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