This turned out to be the Feminist AF Sci-Fi story I needed to reignite my craving for SFF as a whole! It also made one thing very clear and that’s that I enjoy a good revenge plot especially when it’s executed by a female MC who feels she has nothing to lose. Zetian has been groomed from birth to accept her role in society as the weaker gender, her sole purpose if enlisted to fight in the war against the Hunduns (evil robots) is to serve as sort of an amplifier/conductor of Qi (spirit pressure) for the males. Accurately pitched asRed Rising meets Pacific Rim, in this world we have our main characters fighting in giant Chrysalis robots against the Hunduns over the wall. A Chrysalis is controlled by a male pilot and his female “Concubine.” While in battle, their bodies remain dormant in the husks of the Chrysalis while they battle using spirit pressure. Many times, the males thoughts & feelings will overwhelm his concubine and kill her. This is understood and accepted by all, until Zetian comes along with a mission to avenge her sisters death. What begins as a plot for revenge against one pilot turns into a much greater mission to strike against the patriarchy and question a system designed to keep women subservient and/or dead.
CW: Death of a loved one, domestic violence, murder, attempted rape, alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts, misogyny, war themes, descriptions of forced foot binding, and organ removal
This book was hella quotable with social commentary delivering truths on the patriarchy and I absolutely loved it! My rating is a 4.5 only because the finale didn’t match up with the level of climax built up, it felt just a smidge rushed towards the very end. This still wasn’t enough to take away from the story, I found myself fully invested in the characters and overall world building. I’m not yet sure if I’d consider Zetian an unlikeable character, she harbors a ton of anger which I found justified given the crummy deck of cards girls are dealt from birth. We see her experience emotional and verbal abuse from her father as well as the physical pains of having her feet bound at the age of five. Zetian is always in a state of pain and in many ways she uses that as fuel to power through her quest for revenge. From the start when we meet her she makes it clear that she will not consider anyones life (including/especially family) who at some point treated her own life as dispensable. Zetian’s hate/love relationship with Li Shimin was well developed, I honestly felt at some points that they’d never get on the same page. I enjoyed seeing Zetian come to certain realizations with regards to the world they live in and the whole Pilot/Concubine set-up. There were some awesome discoveries at the end that really set-up for the next book in this series. This is a fast action packed Sci-Fi with bits of romance sprinkled throughout haha! it’s def more plot heavy. Our main characters are all queer, the Polyamorous relationship that developed was *Chefs Kiss*! it legit was the perfect balance of sweet and rough around the edges. I have some theories as to where the story will go next and hope to the Book Gods that at the very least we get a cover for the follow-up early in 2022 *fingers crossed*
The Montoya family is used to the oddities that come with having Orquidea Divina for a Matriarch. They’ve stopped asking if the fantastical stories she told them were true…how she managed to make a barren land fruitful? or how the pantry never seems to run low? One by one her grown adult children and grandchildren get summoned to their childhood home in Four Rivers for what appears to be her funeral. Orquidea wishes to dine with them and give them their inheritance however when they arrive, they find she has already begun her transformation. She is literally transforming into a large tree with roots when her family arrives with a lot of questions and frustrations. They want answers but Orquidea has never been a woman of many words and will make them all work for the answers they seek. She gives Marimar, Rey and Tatinelly’s small child Rhiannon special gifts that they don’t quite understand. In order to get answers they need to dig deep into Orquideas past which means they must travel to Ecuador. It’s through this journey that they get to know Orquidea, a woman that didn’t speak much and came across as cold but was filled with magic and mystery.
This story was EVERYTHING and so much more than what I thought we were going to get! I’ve always loved Magical Realism (I’m lookin’ at you Anna Marie-McLemore) and know that some readers have a hard time suspending their disbelief with this style of writing, however here is a story that makes it easy for you. Each of her descendants ALSO have a hard time digesting what they’re seeing but they kinda have to because they’re being hunted and killed off one by one. Cordova takes you by the hand as you travel to Ecuador with this tale of roots, the ties that bind us, and finding where you belong. I wanted to know so badly what transpired in Orquedias past to make her flee the country she was born in. Other than The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, I’m not really a fan of circus themed settings so I was a bit hesitant to learn from early readers that we’d be visiting one in this story. Atmospheric and tantalizing, my eyes couldn’t absorb it all in fast enough and those last 100 pages flew right by! This was beautifully written and heartfelt, really no surprise to me when the tears started flowing and the page tabs were growing. This is hands down a 6 star read and going on my favorites list for 2021! ❤
Who else has been counting down the months for the release of The Russian’s story arc?!?! I couldn’t wait, I just knew there was more to him than the comedic scenes we saw him in when reading the other Bromance Book Club books. Happy to report that there is Book Lovers! Vlad aka The Russian is perhaps the ultimate hopeless romantic in the club but he’s running out of that hope that has kept him in a marriage of convenience to Russian journalist Elena Konnikova. Vlad is a famous hockey player who has done well for himself in the United States, marrying Elena who was his childhood best friend was something he was happy to do at the time. Life for Elena in the states has been a mix of both good and not necessarily bad but definitely a big adjustment mixed in with a yearning for home. Vlad takes the approach of giving her space to find her way in her new normal which includes at one point going to Chicago in order to pursue her degree in journalism. The time away from each other doesn’t really help either of them come together in their marriage. We see them stumble through interactions while trying to learn each others boundaries. This changes when Vlad suffers a sports injury and Elena sees this as an opportunity to show him gratitude for all that he’s done for her. In the background we also learn that Elena is actively investigating the mysterious disappearance of her father who was also a journalist. She decides to pick up where he left off with his story on a sex trafficking ring but as we’ve seen in the other installments in this series, things get a bit dark and complicated along the way.
Vlad and Elena’s story is not just a marriage of convenience, it’s also friends to lovers and SUPER slow burn. I would say around the 52% mark is when we see our characters really start to make progress in their feelings towards one another. It’s not filled with cute moments or steamy scenes, instead we get their backstory in Russia and the childhood memories that pretty much makes their love story feel destined to be. Elena can be a bit stand offish and is self aware that she’s not as warm as other women she comes across. However, if I had to take a guess at her love language I’d say it’s a combo between acts of service and physical touch. The latter posing an issue since Vlad is SUPER respectful of Elena and would NEVER think to even kiss her for fear of pushing her away. As for acts of service, my girl Elena LOVES to cook and bake all of Vlad’s favorite Russian dishes and just so happens to have learned them from his own mother! I was fully invested in their love story and would go as far as saying that it is the most fleshed out from the other couples in the club simply because they share so much history. The fellas reconvene to help The Russian who is adamant about NOT being their next project but eventually gives in because he still has hope for his own love story. Also, Vlad has a project of his own he’s keeping under wraps (won’t say what cause SPOILERS) but I was both surprised and cheesy smiling when reading about his passion. What I didn’t love? I always find the subplots in these books to be very interesting, having the potential to cover some hard hitting topics. That being said, I always end up feeling like the subplots aren’t quite as developed as the romance. The sex trafficking ring we learn about in this book sucked me right in but it quickly wraps up at the end of the book. I would’ve like to see Elena’s journalistic skills come into play some more. What I loved? the healthy dose of our fellas in action, comedic relief, the continued efforts towards fighting toxic masculinity, supportive male AND female friendships as well as our couple in the kitchen cooking together. I’m NEVER quitting the Bromance Book Club!
Book Lovers I’m usually good at guessing whether we’ll get another book and who the love interest would be…this time I have no clue! Taking any guesses and/or info you may have on Lyssa Kay Adams next book <3’s!
Those that love Horror Noir with atmospheric/creepy vibes may find a new favorite in The Taking Of Jake Livingston, it is intense across the board invoking many emotions all at once. Jake is a black gay Medium who is caught in a life of trauma having to see the death loops of victims that are sort of in limbo. This means his reality bleeds into the spirit world where Ghouls, Demons and Ghosts wander aimlessly. He sees the gruesome ways many have been killed accidentally & those that were not, like the mass school shooting executed by Sawyer Doon. Sawyer, a Caucasian male who was briefly in therapy and mostly at home with a mother who was more ashamed to have a son who struggled with mental health. Sawyer is now haunting Jake and also killing students he wasn’t able to get to before committing suicide at the school. Jake finds himself trying to stop Sawyer while also dealing with racism at his school, bullying, homophobia, and memories of an abusive father who tried to pray away the fact that his son is gay. Told in dual POV, we get to be in Jake and Sawyer’s thoughts all throughout until it’s made clear what it is that Sawyer is after. Haunting and absolutely THE scariest book I’ve read in a long time.
I could NOT put this book down! I worried constantly for Jake & how living through the horror of death loops alone would affect his own mental health. Then seeing him in a school where he’s the only black student and how the teachers/students interacted with him, was maddening and heart breaking. We get to live in Jake and Sawyer’s minds, the latter felt like the toughest to read from. Sawyer’s thoughts are from beyond the grave, we’re reading excerpts from his journal and it’s made very clear that Sawyer is aware he’s struggling with mental health. He’s having deeply disturbing thoughts of self harm as well as harming others and it felt as if it was only a matter of time before he gave in and acted on these impulses. We see him go in and out of therapy mainly because his mother feels it brings shame to their family. I can’t say I felt sorry for this character however, I do feel his mother failed him and in doing so contributed to the events that took place at the school. Jake’s POV was also tough for different reasons. I felt paranoid at times which made sense since he couldn’t allow himself to fall into a deep sleep for fear of Sawyer’s ghost killing him. It feels like Jake has become numb to it all but it’s still very shocking to read what he’s witnessing. Towards the last quarter, Jake does have a romance take off (LOVED Alistair) and being that he experienced so much trauma just to exist, I really wanted to see more of him coming into his own. I wouldn’t have minded it being a bit longer just to see more of Jake & Alistair’s relationship really have a chance on the page. All in all I was completely engrossed by this story!
Content Warning: CW: Homophobia, Bullying, Child abuse, off the page domestic violence, Racism, attempted rape, violence, school shooting (graphic), abandonment