These are all books that release today, August 7, so give them a big ol’ happy book birthday!!
Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.
Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.
With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.
I was so, so certain that I was going to love this book. Survival components, feels, finding oneself, I love all those things! But at the end of the day, some of those aspects just fell short and I didn’t quite love this as much as I’d hoped.
The Things I Liked:
- I love a good survival story! And it was one, no question. Mari is out on the John Muir Trail (which I spent lots of time looking up stuff about, the author did a good job of setting that scene for sure!) and it’s not an easy hike. For some time, she’s super alone, and that has to be harrowing for anyone, let alone someone without the experience under her belt. I liked it even more when it added extra characters to the mix, because the more people surviving, the more fun it is, for some reason.
- Character growth was definitely on point. Mari wanted to take this journey for a lot of reasons, but growth was definitely top of the list. And grow she did! She had to face a lot of things about herself that she didn’t like or didn’t want to admit, and she definitely did that. It was nice to see her go through such a personal learning experience.
The Things I Didn’t:
- It was just so unbelievable to me. My Kindle notes look like “but NO, no one would ever DO that!” and then a bunch of emojis and exclamation points because I was getting stabby. Look, I know some people are risk takers, certainly more than others. But I simply did not buy that this girl, who was only a literal day before completely obsessed with her internet presence, decides to just bag the whole thing, delete everything, and take off on a long hiking trek. When she has never hiked further than the mailbox. I get the cousin’s death jarring something inside of her, but that had happened before all of this, so it hardly felt like the impetus for such a drastic change? Or, if it was, it probably should have been a little more clearly defined as such- it felt so, so sudden.
- Not only was it wholly unbelievable, it was dangerous! Okay now I definitely sound like someone’s parent, but wow, this was a terrible choice. While I loved that the journey empowered her, I don’t know that risking her life to “find herself” is really the best plan ever? Especially when her cousin died training for this actual hike. Which I guess brings me back around to the unbelievability piece.
- Even though there was danger addressed, the stakes didn’t feel that high, and a lot of the scary stuff was easily resolved. And again, without experience and training, a lot of it was just summed up to… Mari getting lucky, honestly. Which felt far too easy.
- Her food issues weren’t addressed. It seemed like Mari had a bit of an unhealthy relationship with food, and some body image issues, and I felt like these were kind of glossed over. It was like somehow now that she was off social media these problems vanished, and sorry, that isn’t how that works.
- Lie of omission trope was in full effect. Gosh, I am not a fan of this. Like she was hiding stuff from her fellow hikers. Lots of stuff, lots of times, and look, we all know that’s going to end badly. Everyone will get their feelings hurt, lots of awkwardness when the truth comes out, you know the drill. Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but it is, and this is my review, so there you have it.
Bottom Line: While I loved the character growth and hiking/survival aspects of the story, the plot as a whole didn’t feel believable enough for me to fully invest.
In an alternate world startlingly close to our own, humans have nine lives—and they can’t wait to burn straight through them.
As you shed lives, you shed your awkward phases: one death is equal to one physical and mental upgrade. Julian’s friends are obsessed with the idea of burning lives, but Julian is determined to stay on his first for as long as he can. His mother, the ultimate cautionary tale, burned through her first eight in just a few years, and Julian has no intention of succumbing to the debilitating rebirth sickness that she inflicted on herself.
But the regime has death incentives aimed at controlling overpopulation, and Julian realizes that he’s going to have to burn at some point—especially when he becomes a target for Nicholas, the manipulative leader of the Burners, the school’s suicide club. And when Julian eventually succumbs, he uncovers suspicious gaps in the rebirth system that may explain exactly why his mother went so far down the rabbit hole years ago. Along with a group of student dissenters, Julian sets out to find answers and is soon on the verge of exposing the greatest conspiracy ever unleashed on the world.
He has just eight more lives to uncover the brutal truth.
*Trigger warning* The people in this book literally kill themselves and think nothing of it. It isn’t suicide as we think of it, but I assume it has the potential to be triggering so I wanted to put it out there.
This was such a unique topic for a book- the concept of every person having nine lives. It was like cats, but not. But also there were cats involved and I cannot help but wonder if that was purposeful? Anyway. Let us break this down into the stuff I liked versus the stuff I did not as much, because sure.
What I Liked:
- The concept! It’s really interesting- it’s basically an alternate universe I think, but where people have nine lives. But of course that creates… problems, because overpopulation and such, so there have to be advantages to burning off some of your lives.
- It’s also quite thought-provoking. A lot of the situations that Julian finds himself in are tough- and it made me wonder what I would have done in his shoes. The answer isn’t always as easy as we’d hope or think.
- There’s also a lot of discussion about current topics. One of the main issues is how the poorer people are basically coerced into dying in order to stay afloat financially. There are a lot of other issues, but that’s a pretty non-spoilery example of how poverty can snowball, and I thought it was insightful.
- It’s full of action and a quick read. I was definitely entertained- and sometimes horrified. But never bored.
What I Didn’t:
- Really, I just wanted more information about the world. In a concept like this, I wanted so many more answers about how and why the world has become this way. I think I would have been better able to understand the motivation behind a lot of the choices that people made if the world made more sense to me. It’s a standalone for now, though I can see it being expanded upon too, so who knows.
- Some of the political stuff got a little convoluted. I think this probably goes hand-in-hand with the above point, because these were the people whose motivations I didn’t always understand. Or why some of the rules had evolved the way they had, and so forth. But when I didn’t get answers I might have started to get a little apathetic about the political aspects.
- A few bits were kind of predictable. Not terribly so, but some of the bigger stuff at the end I was pretty easily able to guess.
Bottom Line: A unique concept that is quite dark (yay if you enjoy darker reads like I do!), this book will certainly make you think- though you might also be thinking about how you’d like more world information, too.
Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s—a strict Catholic school—sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.
But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.
Story time! I loved high school. Like, a lot. Which is probably not the typical reaction, but there it is. Also, fun fact: I went to a Catholic high school. I, personally, am not nor ever was Catholic. It was… an experience. The main character in Heretics Anonymous is also not Catholic in a Catholic school, though I feel confident in saying that’s where our similarities end. But there’s a woeful underabundance of “non-Catholic in a Catholic school” books out there, probably because I’m the only person clamoring for such a thing? Regardless, it’s a fun story.
It deals with religion a lot, as you can imagine. But I thought that the conversations it brought up were quite important. Like respecting other people’s beliefs, or lack thereof. Michael, our main character, irked me a bit in the beginning because he was so dismissive of Catholic traditions and beliefs. And look- I get it. I brought turkey sandwiches on Fridays and watched the nuns balk, but not to be a jerk, I just always ate turkey? He kind of made a bit of a mockery of some of their traditions at first, which… rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t really believe in much of anything, but that is why I was respectful enough not to participate in those things. Michael… was just going ahead and grabbing holy water and such.
But, Michael makes some friends, and they have a bunch of different beliefs, and some don’t have any, and it’s such a great group of people honestly. They teach Michael so much about just like… life and other humans honestly. And they were way more fun than Michael. Is that wrong? And the group (Heretics Anonymous, of course) started to take some stands against some of the Catholic church’s more offensive teachings. And look- it was wholly unbelievable that this would catch on so swiftly, but it was still a good message. They weren’t, at this point, attacking religion- they were just attacking homophobic, sexist, sex-shaming stuff. Which should be a part of zero religions, let’s be real.
Basically, Michael says a lot of crappy stuff and makes some awful choices, but he grows a lot during the course of the book, so it’s nice to see. And I loved loved loved that so many of the protagonists actually liked their Catholic high school- because I loved mine, and it’s refreshing to see it not trashed completely, while still pointing out the definite problematic aspects in an honest, yet respectful way.
Bottom Line: Loved the story, the messages, and the supporting characters. I do wish I’d felt a little more connected to Michael, the main character, but overall it was a win!
SciFi’s favorite crabby A.I. is again on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is.
And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.
Val says Murderbot reminds her of me. Idk if it’s a compliment, but I’m going to go ahead and take it as one. Which, is actually a pretty Murderbot-y thing to do come to think of it… Anyway, Murderbot is, as always, highly amusing and entertaining. And just like the second installment, I worried that I would not be able to grow to like new characters in such a short page span. And once again, I was wrong.
First, Murderbot is developing feelings. Like stronger feelings, because they totally already had them, but you know. Basically, Murderbot is now recognizing their feelings, is more accurate.
“They were all annoying and deeply inadequate humans, but I didn’t want to kill them. Okay, maybe a little.”
And of course, it is full of action. It is also full of feels, as you realize how much people (and bots) can care for each other. I am just so, so happy that there is going to be a full-length Murderbot novel because if the next installment was the last? I’d need to go drown my sorrows in endless episodes of Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon.
Bottom Line: Need. Fourth Murderbot. Immediately.