Polaris Rising – Jessie Mihalik

screen shot 2019-01-14 at 11.24.40 amPublisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: February 5th, 2019

Page Count: 448 (paperback)

From the Jacket:

A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy.

In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars.

Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.

When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape.

But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .

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Polaris Rising is the sexiest, most addicting book I’ve read in a long time. It is a deliciously fun blend of sci-fi space opera and romance (new favorite genre alert!) that I enjoyed so much I read it twice in a row without stopping. At 448 pages, this is not a short book. I flew through almost 900 pages in a single weekend and found the second read even more entertaining than the first! There is something inherently romantic to me about the possibilities for space exploration in the very distant future–to have the ability to effortlessly travel through space and time and wake up in a ship and look out the window to see vast, empty space, or some distant planet. For my imagination, the possibilities here are endless.

With Ada, Mihalik has created a character that made every part of my imagination sing. As the daughter of one of the most powerful families in the universe, Ada has rare access and means to go anywhere she wants to go. She’s been trained in espionage and fighting skills and her time growing up in a world rife with the dangerous politics of the other high houses means she has a confident self assuredness not typically found in someone so young. She’s disciplined, resourceful, intelligent, witty, incredibly brave, and she can pilot a ship! I want to be her.

The book opens with Ada’s unsuccessful escape from capture by a group of mercenaries (to be known here on out as ‘mercs’ because using her lingo makes endlessly happy) who plan to cash in the very large bounty her father has placed on her head. She has been promised since childhood to marry into one of the other high houses and it’s a fate she does not plan to take lying down, or at all. The mercs throw her into a cell with a very muscular, very handsome man who just happens to be the most wanted criminal in the ‘verse (see above note). *A quick note here to say plainly that I recognize the cliche here and throughout the rest of the book–recognize it but do NOT care at all. This is a romance remember? And some amount of cliche is going to exist because we can only tell this story so many times in a completely unique way.* If being captured frightens Ada, she doesn’t let it show. Almost immediately, she takes in her surroundings and begins plotting her escape, and the handsome criminal she’s locked up with, Marcus Loch, certainly makes things more interesting.

Full of believable futuristic world building that my nerdy brain devoured like candy, compelling characters, and non stop action, Mihalik packs so much into her debut. Polaris Rising starts off at a run that turns into a full out sprint as Ada and Loch plan one escape after another and make a discovery that threatens the future of the high houses, and subsequently, mankind. I particularly enjoyed the time spent planetside as well as the way the relationships are portrayed between Ada her friends and siblings.

I’ve always loved scifi, and while I enjoyed aspects of romance, they always lack something for me. I think part of the reason why this book worked so much for me, is the fact that Mihalik gives equal focus to the action and adventure you expect from a space opera as she does to the budding relationship between Loch and Ada. It reminded me a lot of The Illuminae Files and the Shatter Me series, but geared towards adults and has the steam factor I loved so much from A Court of Thorns and roses series.

If you are a fan of scifi but also enjoy some good smut, you should read this as soon as possible. I cannot overstate how entertaining this book is and how utterly and completely addicting. I neglected all responsibility this weekend to read it not once, but twice and I have no doubt I’ll read it again. The best part is that book two in the series, Aurora Blazing, will be out this fall! I’ll be scouring Edelweiss from now until then so I can get my hands on this next installment as soon as possible.

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As always, the world’s biggest thank you to Edelweiss and Harper Voyager for the review copy of this truly wonderful book!!

The Kingdom of Copper – S.A. Chakraborty

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Publication Date: January 22nd, 2019

Publisher: Haper Voyager

Page Count: 640 (Paperback ARC)

From the Jacket:

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe..

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

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Sometimes you read a book that is so astonishing in scope and beauty that it takes your breath away and makes it hard to find the words to describe it. The City of Brass was an incredible book–one that introduced us to the world of Daevabad and it’s wondrous array of peoples, to Nahri and Dara, to the Qahtani’s, and a seemingly endless stream of other unforgettable characters. It was complex and full to the brim with intrigue, action, adventure, and quite possibly the lushest, most detailed world building I’ve ever come across. I finished that book and could not wait to get my hands on the next one. I had to know what was going to happen to everyone, where Chakraborty was going to take me next, how she could possibly even begin to wrap up what she set into motion. I was so impressed, so desperate to keep reading, that I did what I almost never do. I took a deep breath, and reached out to the publisher to inquire about an early review copy. And then I waited. And I got a reply back almost instantly thanking me for my interest but explaining that the next book wasn’t even finished yet, and there should be more information in the fall. So I waited some more–for what felt like an eternity, but was in actuality only a few months–to inquire again. This time I did not hear back and had all but lost hope when I got an email from the Harper team asking me if I wanted to be a part of their Fan Ambassador group. If I was interested, not only would I be getting an advanced copy of The Kingdom of Copper, but I would also have five copies of The City of Brass that I could give to whoever I wanted.

I must have reread the email ten times to make sure I had the details correct. I cannot recreate my reaction to this news in a blog post, so let’s just say there was an immense amount of high pitched squealing and some really bad celebratory dancing. I do not know if mine was the first reply they got to this email, but I’d be shocked to learn otherwise. A few weeks later I had the books in my hands. I gave one to my OB who I spend more time fangirling about books with than discussing my reproductive health and did a giveaway for the rest of them on my bookstagram account. My first ever giveaway!

Fast forward to today. I’ve just finished The Kingdom of Copper and it absolutely blew me away. For the past few days I’ve been posting almost incoherent updates on bookstagram, because I just could not find the words. This book has everything that made The City of Brass great, multiplied by about a billion. From the first page I was plunged back into the breathtakingly beautiful world that is Deavabad, only this time it was a place I knew intimately and reading felt like a homecoming.

**Some City of Brass spoilers coming after the jump, so read at your discretion.

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In the first few pages we learn what happens to Ali after he is exiled from his home, to Nahri after she and Muntadhir are forced to marry, to Jamshid who is brutally injured in the fight with Dara, and to all the others. There are so many surprises contained in the first few pages but I won’t be spoiling any of them here. Daevabad remains thick with rising political tensions and the city’s inhabitants continue to fight amongst each other after centuries of war and hate. Sending Alizayd away seems to have sharped Ghassan’s cruelness and there have been countless deaths as a result of his actions. Despair and unrest seem to be everywhere, but it is perhaps the Shafit who are suffering the most. Outside of the city, dangerous plans are being laid with the potential to change everything.

The Daevabad Trilogy is so so good and this second installment is just phenomenal. I loved getting to see Nahri grow into her role as the Banu Nahida. As her skill increases, so does her confidence, and after so many months of seeing her broken down and unsure of herself, she rises up and becomes the Nahri from Cairo again.  There is so much character development in this book, and not just for Nahri. Ali is not the easiest character to like or even relate to in the first installment, but his growth shows a bravery and strength of character that shines far brighter than the enthusiastic naivety and fanatical ideologies of his younger years. Alongside the growth of the characters I’ve come to know so well, are a slew of new ones to love… and hate.

The Kingdom of Copper is intricately plotted and contains multitudes while moving at a such breakneck pace that I could barely put it down. It never gets slow and I was left to marvel at the level of detail in everything. Chakraborty’s writing is so vivid that I was left spellbound even when reading about the plans for a new building in town. She is remarkable. I thought the cliffhanger ending of The City of Brass was bad, but it has nothing on the ending of this one. I loved every single second I spent reading this book and I have no idea how I’ll bear the wait for the final installment.

I am eternally grateful to the team at Harper Voyager for allowing me to be part of the Fan Ambassador team for this incredible book. Thank you thank you thank you for giving me the chance to share my thoughts about this book by providing me with a copy!!

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The Library Book – Susan Orlean

Screen Shot 2018-12-14 at 3.02.03 PMPublisher: Simon and Schuster

Publication Date: October 16th, 2018

Page Count: 336 (hardcover)

From the Jacket:

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

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I have come to believe that books have souls—why else would I be so reluctant to throw one away?

When I first started The Library Book, I thought it was going to be a book about the fire that took place at the Central Library in LA back in 1986. And while Orlean does discuss that event in great depth, including details about the investigation and subsequent court cases surrounding it, she also talks about the science of arson and the progress that has been made in that area since this fire occurred. The book is written in alternating chapters starting with the fire and working up to the present time of her investigation. In the alternate chapters, Orlean talks about the history of libraries and librarians and how those individuals helped to shape what libraries look like today and the functions they serve.

To say I loved this book would be an understatement of epic proportions. Orlean is incredibly adept at capturing parts of history and turning them into a book as compelling and page turning as any great mystery or thriller. Learning about the fire at Central Library was fascinating and I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the power and magnitude of the fire that raged for more than seven hours and destroyed over four hundred thousand books. The fire captain described the fire as being so hot that it was completely colorless so that they were able to see through it to the other side of the room. Of all the crazy things I learned while reading this book, that one has stayed with me.

Before reading this book, I had no real idea of what it meant to be a librarian beyond the functions I see them serve any time I visit–they help answer questions, find books and other resources, and make recommendations. But libraries function as so much more than a place to go to check out books and use the internet. They are open and free to everyone, welcome everyone, and provide vital functions to those who may not have access otherwise. Because of this, along with all of the basic straightforward functions a librarian serves, they also play the role of a social worker. If I could go back and do it all again, I would do whatever it took to become a librarian without doubt or hesitation.

Every problem that society has, the library has, too, because the boundary between society and the library is porous; nothing good is kept out of the library, and nothing bad.

I am immensely glad that I read The Library Book. Because I lack free time and read to escape, making the conscious choice to pick up a nonfiction book does not happen often. This book did not feel like so many of the nonfiction books I’ve read in the past. It was never a dry presentation of facts, but a story full of wit, unforgettable characters, and compelling history woven together into a story I found impossible to put down. Susan Orlean has written several other books, and I will definitely be looking into those soon. If you are a lover of books and the library and enjoy history, you should not hesitate to pick this one up.

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A big giant thank you to Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!