I decided to put all the December books in one post. Because I can. Also though, they are all really good, so that is a plus!
In Compound Eleven, the hierarchy of the floors is everything.
My name is Eve Hamilton, and on my floor, we fight.
Which at least is better than the bottom floor, where they toil away in misery. Only the top floor has any ease in this harsh world; they rule from their gilded offices.
Because four generations ago, Earth was rendered uninhabitable—the sun too hot, the land too barren. Those who remained were forced underground. While not a perfect life down here, I’ve learned to survive as a fighter.
Except my latest match is different. Instead of someone from the circuit, my opponent is a mysterious boy from the top floor. And the look in his eyes tells me he’s different…maybe even kind.
Right before he kicks my ass.
Still, there’s something about him—something that says he could be my salvation...or my undoing. Because I’m no longer content to just survive in Eleven. Today, I'm ready to fight for more than my next meal: I'm fighting for my freedom. And this boy may just be the edge I've been waiting on.
I love me a dystopian, and this book absolutely fulfilled my craving. I could not put it down, and immediately knew I would be needing the next book. We follow the story of Eve, a surly and rather unhappy inhabitant of Compound Eleven. It’s basically a crappy bunker town, at least for the Have-Nots like Eve and her friends and family. In fact, Eve’s own brother was Octavia Blaked (it’s a verb now), only instead of floating the mother for having a second child, they floated (reverse floated I suppose) the kid which is next-level cruel. So to say Eve isn’t exactly enamored with the place would be a gross understatement.
She fights (voluntarily) in the pits, but she doesn’t really want to fight forever. This is how she meets Wren, an upper-level privileged sort that decided to take part in a fight for funsies. (In truth, I think Wren may have a serious anger management problem, but that is an issue for the next book to tackle.) Eve gets beat up pretty badly, and even though Wren kind of feels bad, it just cements what Eve has always known: she needs to get out of there.
What ensues is Eve formulating an escape plan while simultaneously falling for Wren. This complicates matters, of course, but his position is also helpful to her plans. She’s also quite remiss to trust him, or any of her existing friends with her intentions, which makes sense (I mean, things don’t seem to end well for many folks) but obviously this creates a lot of conflict.
There were some predictable moments, which is the only actual negative I can offer. Otherwise, I was deeply invested in Eve’s escape plans, as well as her evolving relationships with her friends, family, and Wren. I also liked reading about the hierarchy of Compound Eleven itself, and there was mention of other compounds (and the world in general) outside of Eleven, so I am really looking forward to reading more about those mysteries in the upcoming books!
Bottom Line: A very solid start to a series that has hooked me with its appropriately desperate main character navigating a pretty intense and uncomfortable dystopian world.
The troublemaker. The overachiever. The cheer captain. The dead girl.
Like every high school in America, Jefferson-Lorne High contains all of the above.
After the shocking murder of senior Emma Baines, three of her classmates are at the top of the suspect list: Claude, the notorious partier; Avery, the head cheerleader; and Gwen, the would-be valedictorian.
Everyone has a label, whether they like it or not--and Emma was always known as a good girl. But appearances are never what they seem. And the truth behind what really happened to Emma may just be lying in plain sight. As long-buried secrets come to light, the clock is ticking to find Emma's killer--before another good girl goes down.
The Good Girls was quite a trip! From the start, I was so invested in what happened to Emma, and what the girls we read about had to do with it. It’s clear from the start that this will not be a cut and dry murder investigation. And a big part of the reason why is because the police have seemingly doled out roles for the girls to play before they even begin to gather evidence. It’s so clear from the start that they’d love to pin any and all crimes on the “town bad girl” Claude. But as we the reader know, both from the start and as the book evolves, no person is all good or all bad.
And while the mystery of what happened to Emma (and other young women before her) is at the forefront of the book, it tackles a host of other issues as well. From the controlling nature of some of the parents, to inappropriate behavior from teachers and staff, to the young women in the book being shoved into roles for the convenience of society, it’s definitely more than a simple whodunit.
The characters are all fairly well-developed (especially for a mystery), and while I’d probably have liked to have been a bit more connected, I did enjoy them regardless. I also enjoyed their interactions with everyone else, especially each other.
Bottom Line: I found myself completely drawn into the story from the start, wanting to know all the answers, and I found the mystery satisfying throughout.
Warmaidens is the dark, action-packed conclusion to the heartwrenching Gravemaidens fantasy duology. Kammani and the maidens are now going to war against the ruler who tried to entomb them.
In the refuge city-state of Manzazu, Kammani has built a thriving healing practice and a life she’s proud of with her siblings, the maidens, and her love, Dagan.
But when an assassin murders a healer he believes is Kammani and attempts to kill Arwia, the displaced queen of Alu, they realize they’re not safe in their safe little haven anymore. Uruku, the usurper to Alu’s throne, has found out they escaped the tomb and must kill them to protect his newly acquired power.
Burning for retribution, the ruler of Manzazu wants to unleash her fiercest weapons on Alu–her warmaidens. But when Kammani’s best friend, Iltani, is captured, Kammani must use her intuition and her heart to restore Arwia to the throne before the life she’s built–and a future with Dagan–burn up in the flames of war.
Gravemaidens was an incredibly dark book (the premise is, after all, young women being sacrificed to death so the king doesn’t have to die alone), but Warmaidens upped the ante.
Obviously the title indicates that there is going to be a war at play, and wars are generally not peaceful events. But this battle is brutal. Kammani and her friends and family just wanted to build a peaceful life now that they’ve escaped entombment, but you know what happens to the best laid plans. It’s clear that they won’t be able to rest until they’ve defeated the current ruler- or die trying.
I loved that Kammani wanted to opt for the most peaceful, least loss of life choice of unseating this jerk. But as is often the case, she faced opposition at every turn. While Kammani was able to see the value of all life, not everyone else was. I won’t say more, as I don’t want to give much away, but it was wonderful to have the whole cast of characters back together and fighting against the awful regime.
Bottom Line: Just as dark as its predecessor, though in different ways, Warmaidens is a strong and satisfying conclusion to a great duology.
In the sequel to Day Zero, stepsisters Jinx and MacKenna must put aside their enmity and work together to rescue their little brother…and possibly save the world. A nonstop whirlwind of a read for fans of Marie Lu, Rick Yancey and Alexandra Bracken.
RULE ONE: THOSE WHO PANIC DON’T SURVIVE
IT’S AS TRUE NOW AS IT WAS THE DAY OUR WORLD EXPLODED INTO CHAOS
Three months ago, all I wanted was to stay up late playing video games and pretending things were fine. But with my parents’ role in a massive political conspiracy exposed, I ended up on the run, desperate to rescue my little brother, Charles, from the clutches of The Opposition.
I used to hate my father’s obsession with disaster prepping. But as I fight my way across a war-torn country and into a secret military research facility with only my stepsister to count on, I realize that following Dr. Doomsday’s Guide for Ultimate Survival might be our only hope of surviving to see Charles again.
Once, I had it all. The right backstory. The right qualifications. But my life as a student journalist was destroyed forever in the explosions that triggered the country’s meltdown. Now I’m determined to help Jinx get our little brother back. But we also have to find our own reasons to survive. Somehow, I’ve become the first reporter of the new civil war. In a world where your story is your ultimate weapon, I have to become the toughest freedom fighter of all.
Day One picks up right where its predecessor Day Zero left off, with main character Jinx and her stepsister MacKenna trying to find Jinx’s brother, who has been taken. Jinx’s parents and MacKenna’s dad have all played a fairly active role in the current hellscape that was the United States, so it could really be just about any faction out to get them. Jinx’s father was a big doomsday prepper, and had aligned himself with the eerily relevant and terrible political party at the helm, at least until he realized their intentions. So, everyone is on the hunt for the group, as Jinx is the last living link to her father’s knowledge.
I read this the day before the election, which maybe wasn’t a great plan. Things get dark in this book, and it is all too easy to see how. MacKenna’s chapters delve more deeply into the questions of how the country got to such a place, and it’s just such a scary comparison to current events that it’s even more unsettling.
“What if, in the end, political parties are incapable of putting a stop to the injustices they themselves are busy creating?”
Of course we’re rooting for Jinx and MacKenna and their family and friends to make it out alive, but it’s horrifying when you see how many would not be. And that’s the crux: the heroes may end up victorious, but what is the cost? Jinx and MacKenna have to navigate all kinds of ugly no-win scenarios, fight their way through some very intense situations, all for the hopes of saving their brother and just maybe, stopping a war.
Bottom Line: Even more intense than book one, this was an incredibly solid finale to a strong duology that felt so very pertinent to current events.
When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo
Series: The Singing Hills Cycle #2
Published by Tordotcom on December 8, 2020
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley
"Dangerous, subtle, unexpected and familiar, angry and ferocious and hopeful. . . . The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a remarkable accomplishment of storytelling."—NPR
The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.
Nghi Vo returns to the empire of Ahn and The Singing Hills Cycle in this mesmerizing, lush standalone follow-up to The Empress of Salt and Fortune
I daresay this installment is more lovely than the first, which is saying quite a lot. While it follows Chih, the same cleric from the first story, it’s a story that stands on its own. I do think it helped to have some knowledge of the world though, as it was so easy for me to hop right back into it where in the first book it took me a second to get acclimated.
In this story, Chih finds themselves riding mammoths, and I was here for it. I mean, mammoths! Chih also is counting on the mammoths to eventually rescue their party from some tigers. Though tigers, in this case, are sentient and excellent conversationalists. They will, of course, still eat Chih and company, depending on how the storytelling pans out.
The story that was woven (and told in parts by each group) was lovely in itself, and I adored that we ultimately got to hear two sides of the same tale. And as with most stories, the versions were recalled quite differently. I loved the commentary on stories in general, and I loved the characters even more. I hope we get to spend more time in this lush, gorgeously written world.
Bottom Line: With a story that pulled me in even more strongly than its predecessor, I fell in love all over again with the incredibly developed characters and beautifully imagined world.