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The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Incurred racism, alcoholism, mentions of human experimentation, public execution, descriptions of graphic injuries, colonization, mentions of fertility issues, chronic fear, anxiety and panic attacks

“But they don’t know that rebels are made in the worst of circumstances, and even death can’t stop them. Us.”

I’ve been putting this review off for so long. Normally, I know exactly what I want to say and write, but… this book, this powerful, beautifully written book has my thoughts turned into scrambled eggs. I loved it. I loved every second of it. I could barely put this down and when I did, I was thinking about this book all over again. My reading experience was also different. I listened to this on audiobook and read it at the same time with my physical copy. Friends, I don’t have the words to describe all the emotions, all my thoughts, but I hope that somewhere within this review, you’ll be able to understand my love and affection for this book.

Our story takes place during the Ilori invasion, an alien race that has declared Earth it’s new vacationing spot. Janelle or Ellie Baker handles this in an entirely different manner than most people do. Her whole life she’s lived in a dangerous, unsafe world for her and her loved ones, but now it’s just different circumstances. But her situation is just as dangerous as she runs a secret library to help her fellow prison-mates even though she knows the penalty, if she were caught, would mean death. M0R1s or Morris is a lab made Ilori who was raised to be emotionless, but still manages to fall in love with music. Then one fateful day, Morris discovers a secret library and soon crosses path with Ellie. With their love for literature and music, they’ll put everything on the line in a deadly world to enjoy the things they love, the company of one another, and somehow find a way to save humanity from the invasion.

🌠 Janelle aka Ellie – Plus sized, 17-year-old Black teenager, who’s also pansexual and demi-ace, with anxiety and a secret library. She’s fierce, strong, and brave, though not in the most obvious way. Her strength and rebellion are more subtle, until she’s forced to run for her life.

🌠 M0R1s aka Morris – Lab-made Ilori, who’s demi-ace, with a deep love and appreciation for humanity. A true cinnamon roll who only wants peace. Though he tries to hide it, he’s an Ilori who feels the depths of emotions and gets so overwhelmed by those feelings that he doesn’t know what to do with them.

The first thing you need to understand is that I don’t usually enjoy sci-fi, but oh, oh did I fall in love with this book. The world building was absolutely beautifully chilling. There were often times as I was reading that it felt like I was there, experiencing it, feeling the weight of the situation, and yes, I cried a few times. When I read sci-fi books like this, it makes me wonder why I’m so quick to pass up a sci-fi book that isn’t Star Wars related. I can’t emphasize how powerful the writing is and how there are so many moments that will punch you in the gut, but it’s all woven together so gorgeously. The author also delivers such in-depth detail about the aliens and the information is given to us when we need it, there’s no sense of information down pours. And I loved how there was a cast system setup among the Ilori. I really appreciated the amount of detail that went into the two casts, the True Ilori and the lab-made Ilori.

What really surprised me was the fact that this is a standalone. I briefly mentioned that I was really hoping for a second book especially the way the ending had concluded, kind of sets things up for a second book, if the author wanted to. Despite that, I was shocked to find out it was a standalone because so much was done within the pages of this book. Alechia explores social issues drawing comparisons from the way the alien occupation treats humans and the systematic racism Black people face in our society today (which if you read this right now with everything happening in the world, there will probably be a lot that hits really hard for many readers, so please make sure you practice self-care). It’s powerful and emotional, and it’s so very important.

“If we get separated and you have to choose between life and joining us, choose life, okay? Live. Live for us. Breathe for us. Survive for us.”

I think what I loved most was the way literature and music brought Ellie and Morris closer together. But most importantly, anyone who reads this book will be able to tell this is a love letter to the arts, more specifically music and literature. I have always said since I was very young that arts have the ability to bridge gaps between people, between countries, and cultures. I still stand by that statement today. My heart can’t help but growing warm and fuzzy from the amount of love radiating from the pages for music and books. The fact that music and books in this book truly show that these tools can spread hope to one another, fill in the spaces between us as people, and even guide us to love.

Then we have that ending. It knocked me right out of the park. I think this will be a love it or hate it type of ending for many readers. Obviously, I loved it and I was constantly holding my breath. I’m not going to lie, I was ready to throw the book across the room and I may have gripped it so tight that pages crinkled a few times while reading those last few chapters, but it all felt worth it. It wrapped up in a way I never expected, it left me wanting more, and honestly, I mentioned this already, it felt like the ending was left open enough where this book could have a sequel (I’m still holding out hope that this turns into a duology instead of a standalone). I would even settle for a spin-off series, a mini series, something because I truly can’t believe this is the end of the adventure for our main characters.

“If music is a story, it comes alive with love. The more love it has, the more likely the story will never end.”

Overall, it’s so hard for me to say that this book is over. I truly fell in love with everything within this book. There were times where I thought about Mass Effect, times where I was thinking of a girl with Ellie’s personality (the one that got away), and so many times I reflected on the little things. You want to know what it’s like to listen to Crashing Cars by Snow Patrol and Heroes by David Bowie for hours on repeat while laying on the floor after finishing this book, reflecting and recapping everything happening in the world, go read this book and find out because that’s what I did. Do I recommend this book? Absol-freaking-lutely!

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Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun

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When a little alien is sent to observe the humans of Earth, thing slowly begin to take turns in which the little alien never understood before. Instead of humans, the little alien stumble upon many creatures who teach him valuable lessons of life, love, happiness, and even loss.

“we will always be with u. we internalize traits we observe in others as a way to honor and remeber them. we are all living memorials”

When picking this book up, I had no idea I would like this book so much. From the first page to the very last, you’re met with pure innocence learning about some of the greatest things in life; love, happiness, loneliness, and even loss. Every character in this book offers such a unique perspective on the things happening and I doubt that any reader won’t find at least one character they relate to. This is one of those reads that are wholesome, pure, bittersweet, but also something so much more.

However, among all the cuteness and the pureness, I can understand why many readers wouldn’t like this book. This book doesn’t have the greatest spelling in the world. Whether the spelling was intentional or not, this can definitely make reading this book difficult at times. While the spelling didn’t bother me too much, if you’re someone who gets upset and bothered by things being spelled wrong then I doubt you’ll like this book. There’s so much this book offers from the life lessons to relatable characters, but spelling is the reason why I lowered the rating from five stars to a four star.

Overall, this book was truly pure and wholesome. It was like reading about life lessons told from, not only the perspective of a child, but from various characters of different ages. It just has that kind of vibe to it. It’s also an incredibly quick read that has cute, little drawings to help the reader understand what’s happening on that page. I think this little book will be the book many readers will need to make their heart feel warm and fuzzy. Definitely a book worth reading with any younger siblings!

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Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Content/Trigger Warning: War themes, graphic details, mass death, suicide, trauma, PTSD, anxiety

“Miracles are statistical improbabilities. And fate is an illusion humanity uses to comfort itself in the dark. There are no absolutes in life, save death.”

Synopsis:

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Side Note:

Highly recommend the physical book over the audiobook. If you do the audiobook, I highly recommend having the physical book with you while listening to it. I ended up missing this little detail… BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more.” I think not seeing these little details really had an effect on my reading experience. So I am hoping that I’ll get the chance to reread this book in the future with an actual physical copy.


This book took me absolutely forever to finish unlike with my spouse who practically devoured this audiobook. In my defense, we have been buddy reading this since the end of April and we agreed to a three month reading (or listening period, rather) period. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan a through breakdown of this because we both jumped into it immediately.


After so many friends and other fellow readers telling me that I needed to read this book, I finally picked up the audiobook. This was one of two other choices for a buddy read between my spouse and I. This was the one we both mutually agreed on. I had so many friends cheer that I picked this up. My only issue, I’m not a big sci-fi reader and sci-fi is one of my most challenging genres to put myself into. So, I was a little skeptical about reading this book especially since my track record with sci-fi books is like me trying to trudge through quick sand. However, I gave this book a shot with a dash of benefit of the doubt and have some mixed feelings.

Ships:
🌻 HypatiaThe ship Kady is located on
🌻 AlexanderThe ship Ezra is located on
🌻 Copernicus – Third ship in the fleet
🌻 LicolnEnemy battleship

Main Characters:
🌻 Kady GrantTech expert, takes things seriously, protege of her master Byron Zhang, girlfriend to Ezra Mason
🌻 Ezra MasonEasy going, likes to joke around, pilot ident, boyfriend to Kady Grant
🌻 AIDANAlso known as Artificial Intelligence Defense Analytics Network, AI of the Alexander

“The universe owes you nothing, Kady. It has already given you everything, after all. It was here long before you, and it will go on long after you. The only way it will remember you is to do something worth remembrance.”

My Thoughts:

I’m not going to lie, this was a really slow book for me to get into. I probably didn’t start getting into the book till about two and a half quarters, borderline three quarters, through the book before I actually started to become interested in what was happening. The beginning felt really slow and at first didn’t make a lot of sense. It was really hard for me to figure out what was happening. It was especially hard when it felt like so many perspectives were happening all at once in such a quick amount of time. As I stated above, there were parts that I ended up missing because they were images and I ended up listening to this instead of reading an actual physical copy of the book. So I think that played a part in why things maybe didn’t make sense or it felt like I was missing key details.

My only saving grace during the first two and a half quarters of this book was Ezra’s banter, the interactions between Kady and Byron, and the interactions between Ezra and Kady. These were some of the interesting points that would capture my attention and want to know more. I find both of the main characters very interesting and it was wonderful to see how their personalities went hand in hand with each other so well. That slow burn between them so so wonderful. In fact, I found myself really connected with Kady and Ezra’s relationship. I found it very similar to my own relationship between my spouse and myself. When I found that connection, I definitely felt more invested in Ezra and Kady. Not just as a couple, but also as individual characters. Kady is a very intelligent and entertaining character and Ezra is not only witty, but also shows his vulnerability. It was also nice to see a healthy relationship put to the test, but still handled in a healthy way especially during difficult times. They were like each other’s anchor and even though they each faced some hardships, they kept one another grounded. I wish we had more main character couples like Kady and Ezra.

“I am frequently underestimated. I think it’s because I’m short.”

AIDAN, however, is an entirely different story. I have so many mixed feelings about AIDAN. This AI was something I hadn’t expected. Brownie points to both of these talented authors for creating an AI that remind me of the AI, GLaDOS from Portal 2 and the AI, H.A.L. 9000 from A Space Odyssey. Also, plenty of kudos for the both of them making AIDAN have some human characteristics. For making this AI frightening, heartbreaking, caring, so human and real, and reminding me of my one of my favorite characters from Mass Effect, Legion. His point of views are unique and will definitely capture the reader’s attention, but I will admit, there are some parts that I found were giving me creepy vibes and goosebumps.

“If I breathed, I would sigh. I would scream. I would cry.”

And while there were things I really liked, one of the most unforgettable and horrifying things that this audiobook kept making me relive was playing through the Dead Space franchise. There were parts where my skin crawled and my adrenaline felt like it was kicking into over gear. If you have played that game franchise and read this book, then you know what I’m talking about. Some of those climatic scenes on the Alexander had me almost falling out of my seat, with my soul escaping my body due to imagining everything.

I think my biggest struggle was the ending though. Yes, I got a little emotional, shed a few tears, worried for Kady and AIDAN there for a few good minutes, but ultimately semi-liked the ending. I think my struggle with the ending was mostly with the time gap. It felt a little rushed and for me, it was a bit confusing on how we went from one point of time to a year later. It felt rushed or at least left something to be desired in the ending. Other than that, I thought the ending was cute and it encourages the reader to go forward with the next book in the series.

Overall, I think this was a good book especially for my first book by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. As I stated before, I definitely think the physical book would have been a better choice for myself just because it did feel like I was missing a lot of details. However, this book had me debating left and right on how to rate this book and after sitting on my feelings for it for a couple of days, I think I genuinely liked this book. I’m shocked and I’m kind of eager to start looking into reading the next book in the series. Who knew I would end up liking a sci-fi book outside of Star Wars!

“She is catalyst.

She is chaos.

I can see why he loves her.”

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Monstress Vol. One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

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Other creators involved in the making of this comic include: Art by Sana Takeda, Lettering & Design by Rus Wooton, Editing by Jennifer M. Smith, and Editing Assistance by Ceri Riley.

Content/Trigger Warning: Violence, trauma, human trafficking, slavery, child brutality, death, inhumane experimentation, possible drug abuse, lots of gore and violent themes, very graphic content, cult themes, war themes. *This is a very, very dark story, and it doesn’t shy away from that darkness, the violence, or the brutality.*

“To quote the poets …. we’re fucked.”

With Monstress, we step into the 1900’s matriarchal Asia following a seventeen year old girl named Maika. Our story starts off with our main character sharing her inner thoughts while being sold into slavery. As the reader, in these first few moments, you will notice her missing arm and largely, red tattoo of an eye on her chest. Even though our heroine has found herself in a sticky situation, she’s a lot stronger and fiercer than she appears to be.

Maika is not only struggling with the trauma of the war, but she’s trying to find the answers to her past all while she battles her inner demons and an ancient monster who seems to be living within her. Thankfully she doesn’t have to go this journey alone! An adorable little half-fox (possibly kitsune origin!) and a poetic two-tailed cat at her side, Maika will embark on a journey to survive, discover her true self, learn about her past, and keep the pieces of a mysterious and highly sought after mask out of the clutches of evil.

In this world there are five races:
🌻 Humans – Like you and me.
🌻 Ancients – Immortal, animal-like rulers with an immense amount of power.
🌻 Cats – Much like people, can speak and fight, but much more adorable.
🌻 Old Gods – Little to no knowledge of them.
🌻Arcanics – Half-breeds.

“Yes. Miss Halfwolf scares me a lot. But that doesn’t make her a monster. Don’t be like the Witches, Master Ren. They call us monsters because it makes it easier to hurt us. But monsters are people too.”

Also in this world, there are factions at war:
🌻 The Federation – Humans, who just hate magic users and refuse to let them live and breed. These humans will take Arcanics and make them slaves to do whatever terrible things they wish.
🌻Arcanics – Magic users, who are sort of hybrids of the Ancients. Also, two powerful courts, the Dawn Court and the Dusk Court, have risen up to defend against the Cumaea.
🌻 Cumaea – Witch-like people that use Arcanic’s body parts to make Lillium.

Not going to lie, this comic was a little hard for me to stomach. I made it 1/3 of the way through this graphic novel before I had to put it down. I would say that the first half of this book definitely requires being in the right mind set and I definitely recommend setting the comic down if you start to feel nauseous. Highly recommend peppermint tea while reading the first half. However, the way things really pick up after that first half will have you on the edge of your seat.

In this world, people in this will use a drug like substance called Lillium for power, regeneration, and in some cases, resurrection. Between the war and the use of this magical substance, this world is also now aware of things much bigger than the Federation and Arcanics (and they all have a right to be concerned and afraid).

I’ll admit, this first volume…it’s thick! Most bind-ups have a couple of comics all grouped together, but this feels almost as thick as one of my deluxe edition comics (not that I’m complaining!). This comic also has a significantly larger writing content than most graphic novel too! In this first volume, you get lots of information,l lots of details, some history tid-bits, and you obtain all of this is a very fast paced fashion. While this works for a lot of readers, there were some areas where I really wish I didn’t get the as much details (can you guess what some of those areas are?!), but other than those parts, it worked to pull me through to the end of the comic. I can understand why others might feel more immersed or completely turned off by all that detail and information, so I really wanted to give my experience with this comic.

Even though there were parts of this graphic novel that turned me off, I can’t help but constantly thinking back to the world and the information I have yet to receive. The world building is incredible and a lot of the art really captures a lot of the information , and detail we gain in this comic. The story and the art will just leave such an impact with the reader. This comic twisted my gut, but I can’t stop thinking about what’s going to come in the next volume. This is that kind of story that will just stick to you like glue!

“There’s more hunger in the world than love.”

While I didn’t love everything about this graphic novel, it truly is a great story filled with enticing characters, stunning artwork, and great representation. For me, I still have another comic series that still ranks as my number one, but this comic is definitely in my top five and for sure, in my top ten.

If you can stomach hard hitting topics and imagery, please look into this comic series and consider giving it a try. There’s so many incredible elements in this graphic novel that deserve to be appreciated. Everything is beautifully woven together to deliver a master piece to it’s readers. Once again, be aware of the content and trigger warnings, and give this graphic novel a try.

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