Warcross by Marie Lu | Epic Virtual Reality Adventures in my Favorite City

Content warnings: poverty, pre-book kidnapping, bombing, some mature scenes

Emika is a bounty hunter on Warcross, the world’s biggest video game and pretty much how people live their lives. She lives from county to bounty and recently she hasn’t been getting much luck. Until she accidentally glitches into the opening game of the International Warcross Championships. And instead of being taken to be interrogated she is whisked off to Tokyo to meet with the game’s creator for a secret mission.

This was on my radar for quite a while as most of my friends on twitter were yelling about how good it is. And they were not wrong. The world is so well built, I could imagine every single scene both inside the game and in the real world with the Virtual Reality added elements. And it was so fun to imagine. As someone who has grown up with video games and as someone who has also been to Tokyo, I was thinking about every place I went and how it would be if Warcross was real.

I loved Emika, she was so badass. In sci-fi and fantasy the main female characters are often physically strong and get through problems with brute force, but Emika is a coder. Emika uses computers and knows how to hack and does it so cooly as if it’s nothing, and I loved her for that.

I need to take a moment here to talk about all the twists and turns that happened in this book. I knew there were twists but I didn’t know what and I like half predicted them whilst reading but I was also not 100% right and that was so fun because I went from “Am I right?” to “I’m totally right” to “omg wait what”.

I really enjoyed that this wasn’t set so incredibly far in the future. It was something I could fathom the world being like in my lifetime and I think that definitely added to my experience, not that books set in the future are bad, they’re just a different experience.

My only problem with this book was it felt like it moved a little fast and I wish it had been longer. I definitely think there could have been a few more scenes throughout and it would’ve deepened my connection to the characters and the story. And for that reason, I cannot wait until Wildcard is out at the end of this month. I have it preordered and I don’t preorder often so that speaks to how much I fell for this book.

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Scythe by Neal Shusterman | Utopian Novels Should Be a Bigger Genre

Content warnings: death, and lots of it. Mass murder. Car accidents. You name it it’s either in here or has a passing mention. Be careful.

As I write this the sequel is sitting on my shelf, which I took out from the library, so obviously I liked it enough to continue. But yes this book lives up to the hype. I am very annoyed though as I learned after I got invested that Schusterman is anti-abortion and quite vocal about it. I’m just glad I’m reading the library books and didn’t buy myself.

This book id that type of dystopian that is actually utopian but not really. Like your Brave New World kind of type. Humans have figured out how to defeat death and can live centuries. But to stop the world from being overpopulated there is an organisation called Scythes, so called because they are like Grim Reapers, they choose at random who to kill based on statistics of how people died before humans stopped dying. Citra and Rowan are chosen to be apprentices of a very well known Scythe, but only one can go past the first year of training.

The reason this wasn’t a favourite was the pacing. It honestly was a bit like a rollercoaster. It went up and down with how fast it was and I would have loved this more if it wasn’t like that. I struggled at time and other times I sped through some chapters.

I really love books of this type, utopians that aren’t really a Utopia. It reminds you that whilst some things in the world are really horrible they have their place in the life eco system. Utopians aren’t really utopians because there’s no such thing. It can breed some really interesting discussion as well.

I think what I found really interesting was the politics in this book and I’m honestly really interested to see where it goes in Thunderhead. The Scythes kind of sit on 2 sides. There’s the more classic Scythes that feel terrible about the job they do and just kill as they go. And then there’s the kind who mass murder and use their whole limit of kills in one go because they love the drama. In the world we’re in now this would be considered terrorism, but because of the way the world is in this book it makes them celebrity status. It’s a bit wild to be honest.

The other thing I thought was interesting is that humans are so mixed racially that they all have a kind of identifier number that shows how much of each race they are. I found this again something that would be a really good topic for discussion because it’s like would this make the world a better place or is it still separating them because it’s such exact numbers. But then identity like that can mean a lot to people. I don’t know man. That conversation is not something I can have because I’m 100% white and it’s not my place.

I would 100% recommend this book if futuristic dystopians that are different from all the rest are your thing. But if you have access to a library get it from there because I don’t want to support with my money an anti-choicer.

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Winter by Marissa Meyer

As this is the 4th book in the series this will be brief.

It took me a long time to get to Winter as it is SUCH a long book, and I think it suffered from that. I enjoyed it but not to the same extent as Cinder. There was a lot of time where it just felt a bit too drawn out.

I loved the ending of this book, it tied the series together so well. As much as it’s a cheesy happy ending it left me super content because when you have a series like this where there are so many characters that you start to get very fond of.

I’m glad I finally got around to finishing this series, especially finishing this book as I feel like I have a sense of accomplishment because it’s so long.

At times it did feel like some of the characters were being too smart, like they just knew what to do and what to plan but thats a big theme in YA to be honest.

I’m not really sure about the portrayal of Winter. I feel like it could be quite offensive to people who are mentally diverse.

All in all I’m glad to finish this series but it could’ve been tied together a bit faster in this book.

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Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Thank you to netgalley and Orion for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. This was one of my most anticipated books of the year as I really enjoyed the Wolf by Wolf series from Graudin. And it didn’t disappoint.

Invictus follows a boy who was born out of time whilst his mother was travelling between centuries so he has no birth date which causes him a whole load of problems. When he doesn’t qualify to become a time traveller he takes matters into his own hands and finds a crew and a benefactor and goes time travelling himself. But then he comes upon a strange girl and his world starts unravelling… literally.

So if you are into paradoxes, time travelling and alternate universes then this is for you. At times this book was super confusing but not in a bad way, but in a way you felt a kinship with the characters. They didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t know what was happening.

I don’t really have any feelings for Far, the main character, I didn’t dislike him but I didn’t really particularly like him. What stood out for me were the side characters. They were so wonderful and well balanced. Priya was this wonderful, intelligent young woman who really was a huge driving force in my read of this novel. One thing that really stood out to me was that Priya was still very much involved in her cultural roots, this can be put to the side in futuristic novels as a lot of authors like to imagine a world where we all live irrespective of backgrounds which I personally think is a ridiculous notion. Also Graudin wrote “chai” instead of “chai tea” which just made me happy because chai tea is incorrect and just means tea tea.

Along with Priya my other favourite character was Gram, a geeky black boy who was pretty anxious and liked to keep to his technology but was an absolute sweetheart. There was an awareness I felt was obvious in this novel that Graudin knew she was writing POC time travelling and could get into some awkward and possibly racist situations, similar to Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. It can be easy for white authors to just ignore that kind of thing when writing POC characters because it isn’t something they’ve had to deal with.

My main issue with this book was the pacing. The first half was pretty slow and a bit heavy going whereas the second half was really fast paced. I don’t mind slow or fast but I’d rather have a consistent pace throughout.

I think this is a standalone novel and whilst I do love standalone novels for the lack of commitment involved compared to series, I would love to delve into this world more.

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Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I took a break from this book halfway through as it was a library book and I wasn’t going to take it to Asia with me.

Hanna is the spoilt daughter of a ship’s captain and Nik is her drug dealer but when the ship gets attacked by an elite strike team Hanna and Nik are some of the only passengers left on the ship. Somehow they will need to use their teenage strength and resources to take the ship back before a wormhole opens in the middle.

I didn’t like this as much as Illuminae, partially because I found the main characters unlikeable. Not like in an unlikeable character way in that you like them even though they’re unlikeable, these two just annoyed me. I did like the space mob aspect and the kidnapped ship idea. And as the bad guys were dying we get a crossed off data file with their faces each time which was actually really good and helped build anticipation as they were gradually picked off.

What I thought was really good was that throughout my read of this this felt like more of a thriller than Illuminae. Due to certain aspects of the plot there was this constant feeling of doom because you knew there was something still lurking that could completely throw everything up in the air. However there were some twists that weren’t really twists as they felt like rip offs from Illuminae.

I absolutely adored when the cast of Illuminae were brought in especially Kady and AIDAN but man alive when they were brought in the book got so damn confusing.

Whilst the story was fairly easy to read because the format was so snapshot-y, told in all data files again so it was good to pick up and put down, it did get confusing sometimes and I felt like some of the action scenes could’ve used a little more work.

The one note I made to myself when reading was “laughing hysterically”, so at some point I found something in this absolutely hilarious but I have no recollection what, so there you go.

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The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

I saw a lot of hype on this book and my friend Den recommended it to me so I decided to pick it up. And I have seen a lot of discussion on the possibility of there being a slave/master relationship and it’s a very difficult concept in this book as there’s so much more to it than that, however if you are not a fan of a slave/master relationship be careful with this book, it isn’t exactly that type of thing but certain parts could trigger you.

Paige is a clairvoyant in London, 2059 where it is illegal to be a clairvoyant. She works for the criminal underworld as that’s all she can really do without risk of being caught, though it comes with it’s risks regardless. One day she’s unlucky enough to be on a train with a raid and gets caught. But instead of dying she is taken to Oxford, which has been the home of aliens called Rephaites for 200 years as they’ve been gradually taking more clairvoyants.

This book was super complicated, it felt like I was reading a high fantasy even though it was more sci-fi/dystopian/paranormal, but for all the different jargon and terms I had a hard time remembering what everything was. The world building is incredible an there’s so much in it that it really does feel like it’s own world and not a variance of our own world but it is a bit hard to wrap your head around at times. It did take me about half the book to figure out what the deal was, though I don’t know if that was because I was reading it in Asia or not.

Whilst I remembered the main characters easily enough there were a lot of side characters and I found it really hard to remember who each of them were. Especially once Paige had moved to Oxford.

Whilst there was no romantic relationship between Paige and her owner, Warden, in this novel I could see it being built up which kind of annoyed me because it’s not necessary to always have a relationship just because they’re the main 2 characters. Never mind the fact that their relationship is so complicated, him being her owner after all. But as you go through the novel you find out that things are even more complicated and Warden isn’t exactly like the rest of his kind. This obviously doesn’t nullify the problematicness (is that even a word?) of the relationship being in fiction with the past the world has had with slave and owner relationships. I think it’s up to you where you stand on the issue, I’ve had POC friends find it really offensive and some who have adored it.

I’m scared to jump into the next book because I’m currently not really in the mood to read it but I worry if I leave it too long I’ll forget everything that happened in this book.

However if you’re reading this thinking I didn’t like the book, I definitely did. These were just the points that stood out to me. It’s definitely a really interesting read and I love the concept of the world and how it’s fleshed out and I want to read more, just maybe when I’m in the right mood.

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The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

I got this book from the library as it was so hyped up last year but I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it as much as I hoped but man I did not expect this to be as good as it was. I don't read a lot of sci fi so hey maybe it's not the most original thing ever but it read as pretty original to me.

In The Diabolic the world allows for humans to be grown in labs to become killers, that's what Nemesis is. However these humans are made illegal and Nem's owner is supposed to kill her, but instead they send her to the capital pretending she is Sidonia, her owner and best friend in an effort to hide her in plain site and also to protect Sidonia.

For such a short book in terms of it's genre this book is so full of twists and turns you'll be gasping incessantly. You won't know who to trust, you think you know a character but you don't. And I would say this had some really good writing because I could not see some of the twists coming, and I watch a lot of drama and crime shows on tv because of my parents so I'm normally pretty good at guessing twists.

I think what I really enjoyed about this book was the subtle little hints about a romantic subplot that if you weren't paying attention you would miss them until it began to build up. I could see it happening and it was so good to read it becoming part of the plot more and more and I think that's just really great writing.

On top of this, I know this isn't something that should be celebrated and should just be human decency but we all know not all humans are decent, there was language that was just generally trans inclusive. Instead of asking someone what gender they were someone asked someone what gender they identified with. And I just found it really good to see language like that being used in fantasy when so many people make fantasy worlds that basically just ignore trans people (cough SJM cough).

The world building was fantastic. It didn't focus much on location and scenery but focused on building the political landscape. I really felt like a got a good grip of what kind of a world this is set in. Even though I don't know what it looks like, but often I find it hard to imagine anyway and I find the political climate or having a well established power authority or religion helps me understand the world much better.

I'm actually desperate to find it what happens in the rest of the series. I was kind of sad to find that the book was a series and not a standalone though because the ending would've been a really solid ending for a standalone but hey ho. If this is how the author wants to tell her story I'm still interested.

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This was an incredibly interesting read. I’d seen a lot of people buzzing about it and I really wasn’t sure if I would get on with it. I have a lot of problems with formatting in books, and the smallest thing can put me off so the fact that this was all told in case files was quite daunting to me. I also wasn’t sure about it because I can be a bit iffy about sci-fi and sometimes I think I prefer sci-fi tv/movies to books. But man alive was it good.

As an aside right now I am not a fan of Jay Kristoff as he has repeatedly culturally appropriated for his books and has never apologised for it. Had this not been a joint written book I wouldn’t be nearly as in love with it.

So after breaking up Kady and Ezra are shot into space after their planet is attacked by the rival corporation to the one that owns the planet they’re on. They have to navigate their way through 2 ships with a crazed AI, being chased by the ship that killed their loved ones, and a disease that is causing the other survivors to turn into zombies. And it’s all told through case files.

I adored Ezra a lot, and whilst I wasn’t a fan of Kady to begin with she really grew on me. I really felt like I knew their characters even though I was only reading their chat logs and emails. I loved getting to know Aiden, the AI as a character, he was so self aware and seemed to have real emotions. It was just different for me to read from his perspective.

The one problem, and this is a very tiny problem, is that I found myself enjoying certain types of data files more than others, and I would skip ahead just to make sure certain things had happened and then go back and read properly.

I’ve heard from a lot of people that the audiobook for this was really good so I bought that and I’m excited to try it at some point. It apparently sounds like a space opera.

Whilst I was addicted to this book and read it really quickly, it was also really easy to dip in and out of because the data files were quite short so I wasn’t confused when I had to take a break.

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