These are some early November books! Good news, most of them were awesome!
Cira Antares is deeply loyal to two things: Pax Novis—the cargo ship captained by her mother that transports supplies across war-torn star systems—and her personal mission to save war orphans. But hiding them as stowaways on the ship is illegal, and if any of them were found, not even her mother could protect Cira from the consequences.
She has successfully kept her secret…until supplies start to go missing. Food. Clothing. Tools. All signs point to her stowaways, but they wouldn’t do anything to risk exposing themselves—or her. Especially not Riston, the oldest of the group and someone Cira has grown close to. Someone she might even be falling in love with...
And petty thefts are only the beginning—whole ships are disappearing now.
Not caught in a firefight. Not destroyed by another planet. Vanishing. Without a trace.
And Pax Novis is next.
Oh, how I love a space adventure! Even better? A high stakes space adventure, which is exactly what we have here! I am going to get the one thing that I struggled with out of the way so we can move on to the awesome: The world is really interesting, really well-built, but it did take me a little bit to fully grasp what was going on. Luckily, the characters gripped me from the start so my interest level was high enough that I was eager to learn about the world. And when I did, I was super glad because it’s really fascinating! I’m going to break down the stuff I loved in three separate groups: Characters, world, and plot!
It’s a dual POV story, interwoven with some really great mixed media excerpts that give the reader just enough information about what’s happening/did happen outside Pax Novis to get the gist of things. Most of our time is focused on main characters Cira and Riston. Let’s start with Cira. She’s lived on Pax Novis since forever, and she’s the daughter of two very high-ranking officials. This is important for a few reasons, one of which is that Cira puts a lot of pressure on herself to make her moms proud. And proud they are! I loved the relationships Cira had with both of her mothers (each was individually fleshed out really well), and just the family dynamics in general. Often in a fast-paced novel as this, especially with the parent(s) being important themselves, the relationships are pushed to the back burner, but not so here. Cira must grapple with her decision to let Riston and the others onto the ship, especially when the shit hits the fan.
Riston has basically lost everyone and everything ze’d ever loved. Ze is now a (super illegal) stowaway, and faces death if caught. Not only that, but Riston has formed zir own little family with the other stowaways that Cira rescued. Riston is also completely in love with Cira, and would do just about anything to keep her safe, too. Basically, Riston will put zir own life on the line to save any of zir loved ones.
Both characters are extremely likable, flawed in their own ways, and so very easy to root for. The side characters are awesome too- I really grew to care for them, and the author made me understand exactly why these people were so beloved by Cira and/or Riston. They’re a diverse group of genuinely decent folks who are just trying to save their home and their loved ones. Who wouldn’t cheer for them?
Ooooh child, this world is bananas, in the best way! See, it’s pretty far in the future, which I actually like because it makes it believable that so many different space entities/planetary dwellings exist. But as is always the case with human beings, we don’t play nice. Someone is always at war, and someone always thinks they have the ultimate solution. Who’s right? Is anyone, actually?
We all know I love a gray morality, and this book has it in spades. There are so many questions that we as the reader need to ask for ourselves: Should Cira have allowed the stowaways? Should Pax be so strict with their rules? Who is actually helping who in this world? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
Okay, holy high stakes! I mean when ships start full-blown vanishing, you know it’s getting bad. And when some sketchy things start happening on the ship that our characters are on… well, get ready to be on the edge of your seat! For so long, our characters’ main goal has just been to stay under the radar, to remain undetected until they can plan for the future. But when that goes out the window, what will everyone involved do? Not only that, but it involves lots of other ships and lots of other worlds full of people. So again, the stakes just keep escalating, and I love it!
The ending of the book is quite possibly my favorite part, too. I’ll spoil nothing of course, but just know that I have not needed a sequel so desperately in quite some time! Where the author chooses to leave the story… well, it’s pretty brilliant.
Bottom Line: Once I got a hang of the world, I was so fully invested in this story that I couldn’t stop reading. And when I got to the end, all I craved was more of these truly fabulous characters in this intricate world!
Deluxe edition with special embellishments on first printing only.
From New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep comes a haunting romance perfect for fans of Practical Magic, where dark fairy tales and enchanted folklore collide after a boy, believed to be missing, emerges from the magical woods—and falls in love with the witch determined to unravel his secrets.
Be careful of the dark, dark wood…
Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.
Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.
But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.
For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.
I really enjoyed the author’s first novel, The Wicked Deep, so I was pretty thrilled when this one was announced. Sad to say, I didn’t have quite the same love for Winterwood. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t leave me as enamored. So let’s break down what I liked versus what left me wanting more!
The Stuff I Liked:
- The writing was fabulous as always! I definitely think the author just has a way with words, you know? It flowed beautifully, and painted such lovely pictures. Definitely a high point.
- On-point atmosphere. This is another thing the author seems to excel at, as it was one of my favorite parts of The Wicked Deep, too. I could feel the eerie vibe, the cold and barrenness of the woods, the bleakness of the whole area around them. I felt that the characters were trapped in this desolate landscape. It worked phenomenally!
- The backstory on the long-dead Walker Witches was so fun! I loved these little snippets, they gave a great insight into the family and the forest.
- Nora grew a lot as a character. I kind of hated Nora when the book started, but she did seem to develop a lot as a character, and I am always here for that!
What Left Me Cold (crappy pun wholly intended):
- The story itself kind of meandered. Fine, I was a little bored. It felt like Oliver leaves, Oliver comes back. Nora leaves, Nora comes back. Suzy leaves, Suzy comes back. Lather rinse repeat. I just didn’t feel any urgency whatsoever. Which leads me to my next issue.
- I kind of guessed exactly what was going to happen at about 10% in. That isn’t always even a dealbreaker for me, it’s just that with feeling like the story wasn’t really going anywhere, and feeling pretty (correctly) confident that I knew where the story was headed, I just didn’t feel that invested.
- I really didn’t care a ton about Nora or anyone else. Nora just wasn’t all that likable to me, and even as she got better I was kind of too over it to care a lot. I was glad she started making friends with Suzy and Oliver, but neither of them had a ton of personality either. They just felt… lacking to me. I think had I liked them all more, I could have overlooked some of the other issues I had, but as it stands… I could not.
- Parent-In-YA Syndrome was strong with this one. Nora’s mom is trying to idk, pretend she’s not a witch. Oliver and all the dudes are at this school for troubled boys where no adult supervision is actually required apparently. And I just didn’t buy it. Like Child Protective Services probably aren’t going to allow any of this, I don’t care how deep in the woods you are. But alas.
Bottom Line: Lyrical writing and an incredibly atmospheric setting just can’t overcome the apathy I had to the characters and plot.
No one can save her.
In order to protect Prince Lucien d’Malvane’s heart, Zera had to betray him. Now, he hates the sight of her. Trapped in Cavanos as a prisoner of the king, she awaits the inevitable moment her witch severs their magical connection and finally ends her life.
But fate isn't ready to give her up just yet.
With freedom coming from the most unlikely of sources, Zera is given a second chance at life as a Heartless. But it comes with a terrible price. As the king mobilizes his army to march against the witches, Zera must tame an elusive and deadly valkerax trapped in the tunnels underneath the city if she wants to regain her humanity.
Winning over a bloodthirsty valkerax? Hard. Winning back her friends before war breaks out? A little harder.
But a Heartless winning back Prince Lucien’s heart?
The hardest thing she’s ever done.
I freaking adored Bring Me Their Hearts when it came out last year, and I could not wait for the sequel! Happy to report, it didn’t disappoint! I’ll be keeping this short to minimize the chance for spoiling anything, but if you enjoyed the first book, I think you’ll find this one to your liking too.
Zera is once again stuck between regaining her own heart, and keeping her newfound friends safe. Zera is not the monster she thinks herself to be, which is really what is at the core of this book. But what will it take for Zera to realize it? Can she? These are the questions. We learn a lot more in this book about the world around Zera, which I enjoyed a lot. We also get a lot more insight into what makes the characters tick.
Does it feel like a middle book? A bit, yes, but I don’t think that’s always a bad thing? It didn’t feel sloggy or anything, and Zera was funny as ever! And her relationship (or lack thereof?) with Lucien is as gut-wrenching as ever. I loved that Zera’s friendship bonds were tested, and now she’s figuring out who is truly there for her- and who she is willing to sacrifice for.
I will say, there’s a bit with a valkerax that went a bit over my head, but that might just be a “me” issue. Overall, the stakes are higher than ever, and more brutal than ever, and it’s set up the third book phenomenally!
Bottom Line: Definitely a solid sequel, bringing back all the characters I adored so much with a lot of added world-building information. Cannot wait for the next installment!
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It's better----for the other person.
She's got issues. She's got secrets. She's got rheumatoid arthritis.But then she meets another sick kid.He's got a chronic illness Isabel's never heard of, something she can't even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who's a doctor.He's gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her. Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It's never felt better----to consider breaking that rule for him.
Oy, where do I even start with my love for this book!? Look, I am probably never updating my Goodreads review because I think that sums it up perfectly, but for you folks who need a little more prodding to pick this one up, here we go!
All the Stuff I Love About Sick Kids In Love:
- The characters! Oh, how much I love Isabel! She is so wonderfully flawed, and I won’t lie, she reminds me so much of myself at her age (and you know, my current age if we’re being honest). Ibby and I don’t even have much in common, but her pessimism, her need for validation, her self-deprecation, her fears. I felt like I just got Ibby. And her friends were fabulous (except when they weren’t), but they seemed to have such normal relationships. They’d bicker, but at the end of the day, they loved each other. Sasha though, Sasha has my heart. Look, he isn’t perfect either, but he’s exactly who Ibby needs. Like they couldn’t have brought out the best in each other more, and wow, if that isn’t a healthy relationship, Idk what is. Yes, they fight, and yes, they (especially Ibby) question things. It’s so honest and real that I was floored.
- #Ownvoices rep out the wazoo! Gosh, this book is full of win, isn’t it? So Isabel and Sasha both have chronic illnesses. They’re very different, but they can relate to how the other feels. Which is so, so important, as Ibby’s illness (rheumatoid arthritis) is often disregarded because of its outward invisibility. She’s in pain, but those around her don’t see the pain, and it makes it less real, less important. Honestly this is just such a lesson for every reader, you know? Even Isabel’s doctors don’t take it seriously enough, and as anyone with a chronic, predominately invisible illness/pain/disability knows, that’s its own kind of hell. In addition, both main characters (and their families) are Jewish, and it delights them to find someone who understand that part of their lives as well.
- Isabel grows so, so much as a character, in an incredibly believable way. While I’d venture to say that all the characters grow, it’s Ibby who steals the show. She starts out as one person, and ends that same person… just with a greater self-awareness and a ton of personal development. See, Ibby doesn’t need to be anyone else. Just the best version of herself. And that is what she’s striving to become.
- The advice column cracked me up every time. Ibby’s “Sick Girl” column where she seeks answers to questions from randos in her life (and sometimes friends and family, too!) is hilarious. I loved the answers, especially a lot of Sasha’s. And of course old people from the hospital were always a hoot.
- I felt so, so many things! It’s funny, it’s heart-warming, it’s inspiring, and at times it’s sad. It’s such a microcosm of actual life, it’s one of the greatest, most relatable things about the book.
Bottom Line: I loved every minute of this book and you need to read it, that’s all, just do the thing.