Books, New Releases, Original Post, YA Fiction

Anticipated releases: December 2017

Guys, can you believe it’s December already???

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It’s been a crazy and stressful year (in nearly every aspect) and I honestly can’t wait for these December contemporaries to close the year out in their lighthearted fashion. Yes, my anticipated releases this month are all indeed contemporary novels (surprise surprise!).

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Three Sides Of A Heart: Stories About Love Triangles – Coming December 19th

You may think you know the love triangle, but you’ve never seen love triangles like these.
These top YA authors tackle the much-debated trope of the love triangle, and the result is sixteen fresh, diverse, and romantic stories you don’t want to miss.
This collection, edited by Natalie C. Parker, contains stories written by Renee Ahdieh, Rae Carson, Brandy Colbert, Katie Cotugno, Lamar Giles, Tessa Gratton, Bethany Hagan, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, EK Johnston, Julie Murphy, Garth Nix, Natalie C. Parker, Veronica Roth, Sabaa Tahir, and Brenna Yovanoff.
A teen girl who offers kissing lessons. Zombies in the Civil War South. The girl next door, the boy who loves her, and the girl who loves them both. Vampires at a boarding school. Three teens fighting monsters in an abandoned video rental store. Literally the last three people on the planet.
What do all these stories have in common?
The love triangle.

Never have I been so happy about love triangles! This sounds like a highly ambitious anthology and if there’s anyone who can turn the love triangle trope upside down, it’s definitely these authors. HYPEEEEImage result for page breaker
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Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West – Coming December 26th

Everyone knows Abby Turner is in love with her best friend, Cooper Wells. Including Cooper Wells. But despite what people tell her, it doesn’t affect their friendship. And she’s practically over it, anyway. What she really can’t get over is when her boss at the local museum tells her that her paintings lack heart. 
Art is Abby’s passion and she hopes her future as well. She is determined to change his mind and earn her way into the upcoming exhibit at the gallery. So along with her family’s help, she compiles “The Heart List,” a series of soulstretching experiences that are sure to make her a deeper person and better artist in six weeks or less. When Cooper decides to complete the list along with her, she realizes this list is expanding her heart in more ways than one. Maybe she needs to start another project.
Love, Life, and the List is about a girl who, in an effort to bring more emotional depth to her art, compiles a list of soul-stretching experiences to complete with her best friend—a boy she also happens to be in love with. 
This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

God, I really need to catch up on Kasie West. It’s amazing how this woman puts out several books in a year when I take months to get a task done. Definitely looking forward to this one!

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33413929The Love Letters Of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle – Coming December 26th

When Lily Michaels-Ryan ditches her ADHD meds and lands in detention with Abelard, who has Asperger’s, she’s intrigued—Abelard seems thirty seconds behind, while she feels thirty seconds ahead. It doesn’t hurt that he’s brilliant and beautiful.

When Abelard posts a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise online, their mutual affinity for ancient love letters connects them. The two fall for each other. Hard. But is it enough to bridge their differences in person?

This hilarious, heartbreaking story of human connection between two neurodivergent teens creates characters that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

This sounds like such a sweet and diverse read. I’m glad mental illness is being represented more and more in YA literature and I hope this book doesn’t disappoint!

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Thanks for viewing guys! What are your upcoming December releases? Let me know in the comments 😀

 

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Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

November mini-reviews

Hey peeps! I’ve decided to ‘mini-review’ a couple of shorter books I’ve read this month. This is probably a good idea because I don’t want to talk on endlessly about books that I don’t have much to say about.

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Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr (2.5 stars)

Gem & Dixie explores the story of two sisters living in a dysfunctional and financially disadvantaged household with their unstable mother. After their dad comes back into their life, the sisters unexpectedly embark on a journey across Seattle that sheds light on their family and their complicated relationship. I found this book to be simply average in all aspects. While it did have its moments, the writing and story felt flat most of the time and it was a chore to drag myself through it because I was disinterested most of the time. Gem and Dixie themselves aren’t incredibly fascinating individually, but I did appreciate how their relationship was written. However, it wasn’t enough to make me enjoy this book fully.

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18075234Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (2.25 stars)

Challenger Deep follows the story of Caden Bosch, a boy suffering from mental illness and how it affects his delusions and what he experiences in the real world. The story is told from two narratives, one being real life and the other being a delusion of Caden, in which he is a part of a ship and crew that are traveling to the deepest part of the Earth, Challenger Deep. I feel sort of guilty for disliking this book, because Neal Shusterman (one of my favorite authors ever) is writing about a very serious and relevant topic. While I commend that aspect, the execution of it was simply not my thing. I normally don’t enjoy books told so abstractly which is why it was difficult to engage myself into the dual narratives. But, Shusterman’s ability to create something so different and though-provoking is always amazing.

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32860355Alex & Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz (3.75 stars)

Alex and Eliza follows the love story of Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler in the midst of the American Revolution. It seems that many have been attracted to this book because of Hamilton, the play but I’ve actually never seen it or listened to the songs (a grave sin, I know). I picked it up on a whim because I wanted a cute romance and I actually ended up liking the romance and many more elements. While the writing was a bit difficult to get into, I loved the atmosphere it evoked. The commentary and humor concerning the war and the social issues of the time was also entertaining. And of course, Alex and Eliza themselves were just lovable and their love story was swoon-worthy. I don’t use that word often but I can’t find a more accurate description than that.

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17623975Just One Day by Gayle Forman (3.75 stars)

Just One Day follows the story of Allyson Healy, as she meets Dutch actor Willem on a post-graduaction European tour before traveling with him to Paris on an impromptu trip. One day of freedom, risk, and getting lost on purpose with Willem changes Allyson’s life, and when she wakes up the next day to find him suddenly gone, she is shattered. The second half of the novel follows Allyson as she goes to college, creates new memories, and tries to find herself while searching for Willem. This book came as a pleasant surprise, and I loved how while it was marketed as a romance, it was actually about Allyson desperately trying to tap into the girl she was on that one day in Paris. It’s about her journey to self-discovery and I thought her character, and the rest of the characters and their relationships with one another, was very well-written.

Thanks for reading, guys! Leave a comment below with your thoughts 🙂

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

This Is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E. Smith (review)

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2 1/2 stars

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O’Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie’s Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media’s spotlight at all costs?

This Is What Happy Looks Like is my fourth Jennifer E. Smith novel and my last attempt to salvage my rocky relationship with her style. I’ve never strongly disliked Smith’s books but most of them have been deemed as ‘meh’ novels, which is much worse to me because I hate being in a limbo, not liking but not hating it either. I looked to This Is What Happy Looks Like to change that, but all it did was add to it. While I definitely liked the writing better this time around, the characters, pacing, and overall plot still fell glaringly flat.

Smith’s writing was always a sore point for me, while I did like her way with words, they didn’t keep me engaged and actually bored me to an extent. But, I was definitely more entertained by the writing in this novel, It felt much more defined and stable, contrary to the directionless and vague prose of The Geography Of You And Me and Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between. However, the writing couldn’t save the utter mind-numbing boredom the story gave me. Smith’s novels all have very different concepts but there’s always something missing that ties them together, and I just felt like I wasn’t reading anything new. While I appreciate the fact that the movie-star story line wasn’t campy and cliche, the pacing and plot were so stale and far too quick.

Also, unresolved plot points?? Ellie and her best friend Quinn end up in an ‘argument’ over freaking nothing at the beginning of the book and they don’t talk for most of the book until Quinn suddenly shows up again towards the end? What about Quinn and Devon? Where did that come from? What about Ellie and her dad? Graham and his parents? What about the emails? We were shown 5 of the emails and then … no more. These are important questions, people! There are so many subplots involved but they all either build to nothing or are completely ignored. I feel so unsatisfied by this, because these plot points seemed added in just for the hell of it but they aren’t correctly paced or told about at all.

The characters, save for Graham, couldn’t seem to characterize themselves as anything else than cardboard cutouts. Ellie has everything set up for a typical contemporary female lead: a single parent, some secret concerning her family, a relationship with a best friend that somehow loses its way throughout the story (usually due to ‘trust issues’ or some shit like that). While I liked her enough toward the beginning, I slowly started to lose interest as the story progressed because her characterization didn’t progress along with it. Again, nothing new. Graham, on the other hand, surprised me immensely and is actually my favorite part of the book. He felt human and totally real from page 1, and I love how Smith didn’t try to overemphasize his ‘regular’ side and ‘perfect celebrity’ side.

The romance was another element of the book that completely took me by surprise, and not in a good way. Ellie and Graham’s in-person meet took place early in the book, which ruled out any possibility for the tension building up to a possible relationship. There weren’t nearly enough emails showed to display their previous connection, and when they made the jump to form an in-person romantic relationship, it just felt too fast and unnatural. Plus, when they were together, Graham and Ellie had no chemistry! I didn’t find their romance to be believable at all, Hadley and Oliver from The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight were more believable together, which is saying something because I wasn’t the biggest fan of those two either.

I wish I liked this concept’s execution just as much as the concept itself, and while this pretty much marks the end of my complex relationship with Smith’s writing, I still have some hope remaining. Would recommend if you’re looking for a quick read and are a fan of Smith’s previous novels.

Books

More Than This, by Patrick Ness

4.5 Stars

A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies.

Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive.

How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place?

As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

From multi-award-winning Patrick Ness comes one of the most provocative and moving novels of our time.

Patrick Ness is such a popular name nowadays: his Chaos Walking trilogy is lauded by many, and his A Monster Calls made me, and apparently everyone else cry. Therefore, I picked up More Than This rather on a whim, not realizing what it was about at all (because the copy at the library irritatingly didn’t have an inside cover. Why do back covers have to only contain quotes about the book I don’t care about?). As I read it, though, “pleasantly surprised” became a bit of a misnomer, because this book was engrossing, captivating, deep, and had me questioning my existence on every page.

I will say right off the bat that the writing is phenomenal. The prologue to this book is quite literally one of the best beginnings to a book I have ever read, and I had to put down the other book I was reading so I could finish this one in two sittings. The third person perspective also contributed to the mystery and suspenseful atmosphere of the novel, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m beginning to prefer it to first person narration.

The first third of this book is literally just our main character alone trying to figure out what’s happening to him, and although the plot is slow, it’s punctuated by meaning and character depth, and I was not the least bit bored even when nothing was happening.

I loved Seth’s flawed, struggling character. The circumstances surrounding his death are slowly revealed, and his development was beautifully unrushed. The side characters of Tomasz and Regine were also extremely layered and distinct, and I enjoyed every bit of their page time.

There’s not a ton I can say about this book since it’s one of those books where you’re much better off reading it with very little information, as I did. It’s not like there’s some big reveal at the end, it’s just that it’s easier to get sucked into the book without the impediments of prior expectations. When pointing out flaws, I will say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the explanation for Seth’s situation we were (kind of) given, since the entire thing then felt too easy and slightly undermined the themes of existentialism and knowledge that are interwoven into this book. However, Ness does well to overturn explanations often, so the characters can never figure something out completely before their perceptions are shaken again.

This is the first book in a while that I found completely fresh, beautiful, and without romance. More Then This was an amazing ride the entire time and I find myself now clamoring after Ness’s other works.

-Liz

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Turtles All The Way Down, by John Green |mental illness exploration + classic John Green

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2 1/2 stars

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

I don’t need to debrief you guys on my complicated history with John Green. I claim to either love or hate his books, but they’re all found on my ‘meh’ shelf, precisely because I understand the struggles behind his characters but don’t quite agree with how they are expressed. Turtles All The Way Down is no exception to this, while I commend Green for exploring mental illness, perhaps spending more time on further characterizing Aza as something other than her illness would have helped. Perhaps it would have stalled the book’s eventual descent into the regular philosophical, pretentious, unrealistic shit Green just seems to love.

Turtles All The Way Down mainly focuses on Aza’s OCD and anxiety issues clearly, and one can tell right off the bat that much research definitely went into crafting a realistic portrayal. Aza’s compulsions and constant thoughts were written pretty accurately, and I especially loved the inclusion of that little voice of doubt constantly creeping into Aza’s life. I also thought Daisy, her mother, and Davis seemed to handle her anxiety realistically, even if it wasn’t handled well. However, I felt as though Aza’s entire character was marked by her OCD and anxiety, making her a total caricature of her illness. Her narration consisted of nothing other than her ‘spiraling of thoughts’ and I honestly do not know anything about her personality apart from her anxiety and OCD.

Unfortunately, I found the other characters in the book to be replicas of every other teenager John Green has created in his novels. Daisy and David were likable at first but later just became annoying. While I did appreciate the small pockets of complexity the side characters showed, it wasn’t enough to make them memorable. They demonstrated the same amount of superficial complexity that all of Green’s characters show, precisely due to the same unbelievable, pretentious, overly philosophical thoughts and discussions they have. I like abstract concepts and the stuff they talk about in this book, but literally NOBODY extends that shit to the point where you’re talking about the universe, just randomly and bluntly. If someone started talking all this shit about the universe and astronomy out of nowhere, as a way to start a conversation, my ass would get the hell away. It’s just too artificial to me.

Regardless of all these character complaints, the book in general was just boring. Again, while I appreciate the tackling of an important subject here, Green’s habit of simply re-hashing his plots and characters kind of defeats the purpose of bringing a new, fresh idea to the table in a new book. I wasn’t surprised to see the completely random and pointless subplot of Davis’s missing billionaire father, which doesn’t contribute anything to the message of the story. I suppose it was a means to inject some life into the book, but you can’t revive something that wasn’t there in the first place. *shrugs*

After gathering my thoughts fully, it does perplex me how I haven’t rated Turtles All The Way Down a much lower rating. The truth is, the book had its special moments where I thought it actually had something going for it, but its eventual descent into John Green land where uber-intelligent teenagers randomly discuss oblivion and astronomy and introspection like it’s high school gossip, just ruined things for me. I can’t roll with it, and unless Green tries something new, I won’t be able to rate any of his books higher than three stars.

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Frostblood, by Elly Blake | Shadow And Bone meets Frozen

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3 stars

The frost king will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

I was reluctant to go into Frostblood because of the overflowing negative reviews, before realizing that it was rated such a way because of its repetitive plot, repetitive character writing, and other aspects of nearly every YA fantasy we have seen before. And yeah, I agree. However, much to my chagrin, I ended up liking it anyway due to my everlasting love for the Avatar universe (water, earth, fire, aiiiir) and its general engaging, entertaining nature. Plus, arena battles. You can never go wrong with arena battles.

When it comes to the world-building and plot, many readers have been comparing Frostblood to Red Queen and Red Rising, comparisons that I totally understand even if I’ve never read those two. I would consider Frostblood to be similar to Shadow and Bone, but its world-building and writing isn’t nearly as developed as the Grishaverse. Of course, I will always choose the Grishaverse over anything but I don’t know anything about the Frostblood world, besides a few stories about their mythology and their powers. Yes, there is background information sprinkled here and there, but it never comes full-circle to form a big picture. A map would have really, really, helped (seriously, can we make maps mandatory in all fantasy novels?). It’s a good thing I enjoy frost and fire powers (you can thank my Avatar obsession for that), because that’s the only thing that kept me afloat throughout the book, plot and world-building wise.

Concerning the characters, I would say Ruby, Arcus, and the Frost King (I forgot his name, dammit) are direct parallels to Alina, Mal, and the Darkling from the Shadow And Bone trilogy. Ruby has a fiery, passionate, and mischievous personality but I simply couldn’t come to love her, because she reminded me too much of Alina Starkov, who I adore infinitely more. However, she was enough to keep the book engaging and played a significant role in engaging me. Unfortunately, her boy toy (s) aren’t as great. Arcus is another carbon copy of every brooding, mysterious male love interest and the Frost King is a poor-man’s version of the Darkling. He’s so forgettable, I can’t even remember his name!

Obviously, these three form a very uninteresting love triangle but this doesn’t entirely come to light until the second half of the book. Ruby’s primary love interest is Arcus, and while I enjoyed their chemistry and relationship, I felt as though it progressed too quickly and predictably. It didn’t particularly bring anything new to the romance department, but I am looking to see it grow throughout the rest of the books. If I even decide to read the rest.

Judging by commentary, one would assume I hated this book. So why the 3 star rating? Well, arena battles are my shit. Ruby fighting the various warriors and creatures with her powers and weapons was so cool and entertaining. I’m already hella biased toward elemental powers so I enjoyed the action scenes. The story’s overall entertaining and addictive nature kept me going, but other than that, there isn’t much that is special about this book. However, I still might continue with the series with the hope that it will define itself by branching out on its own more.

-Haven

Books, New Releases, YA Fiction

Anticipated releases: November 2017

What’s up, fellow readers? We’ve got an assortment of practically every freaking thing for November and I’M SO READY. Let’s go.

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28421168Renegades, by Marissa Meyer – Coming November 7th

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both. 

A new Marissa Meyer book? Count me the hell in. This sounds like something very X-Men-esque and I can’t wait to find out how badass it’s going to be.

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Here We Are Now, by Jasmine Warga – Coming November 7th

Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she’d ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense – kinda – because Julian Oliver is Taliah’s father, even though her mother would never admit it to her.

Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father – her grandfather – who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother’s trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes.

With her best friend Harlow by her side, Taliah embarks on a three-day journey to find out everything about her ‘father’ and her family. But Julian isn’t the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother’s past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.

This sounds like a great family-oriented contemporary. Romances usually take over the contemporary genre, but this one definitely sounds very unique.

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Rosemarked, by Livia Blackburne – Coming November 7th

A healer who cannot be healed . . .

When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she’s destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art—until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.

A soldier shattered by war . . .

Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he’ll do anything to free them from Amparan rule—even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.

Thrust together on a high-stakes mission to spy on the capital, the two couldn’t be more different: Zivah, deeply committed to her vow of healing, and Dineas, yearning for vengeance. But as they grow closer, they must find common ground to protect those they love. And amidst the constant fear of discovery, the two grapple with a mutual attraction that could break both of their carefully guarded hearts.

This smart, sweeping fantasy with a political edge and a slow-burning romance will capture fans of The Lumatere Chronicles and An Ember in the Ashes.

I’m definitely in the mood for a fantasy and I’m praying that this won’t be another repeat of the classic YA fantasy formula. Though it seems as the early reviews are already pretty good so my prayers are already being answered.

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Unearthed, by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – Coming November 22nd

When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying’s advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered. 

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study…as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don’t loot everything first. 

Despite their opposing reasons for smuggling themselves onto the alien planet’s surface, they’re both desperate to uncover the riches hidden in the Undying temples. Beset by rival scavenger gangs, Jules and Amelia form a fragile alliance…but both are keeping secrets that make trust nearly impossible. As they race to decode the ancient messages, Jules and Amelia must navigate the traps and trials within the Undying temples and stay one step ahead of the scavvers on their heels. They came to Gaia certain that they had far more to fear from their fellow humans than the ancient beings whose mysteries they’re trying to unravel. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more Jules and Amelia start to feel like their presence in the temple is part of a grand design–one that could spell the end of the human race …

It’s another Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner team-up woohoo! I haven’t read a good space opera since I finished The Lunar Chronicles earlier this year, so I’m certainly down for some sci-fi goodness.

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Thanks for reading folks! What are your most anticipated November releases? Let me know in the comments 🙂