My 5 Most Anticipated August 2021 Releases

Hello, everyone! I cannot believe it is already time to start looking forward to anticipated releases for August. But it is that time! Here are my top 5 most anticipated releases for August 2021 that I will definitely be reading at some point:

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Book Review – The Darkness Outside Us

Author: Eliot Schrefer

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Length: 416 pages

Read Date(s): June 4, 2021 – June 8, 2021

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Goodreads Synopsis

Two boys, alone in space.

After the first settler on Titan trips her distress signal, neither remaining country on Earth can afford to scramble a rescue of its own, and so two sworn enemies are installed in the same spaceship.

Ambrose wakes up on the Coordinated Endeavor, with no memory of a launch. There’s more that doesn’t add up: Evidence indicates strangers have been on board, the ship’s operating system is voiced by his mother, and his handsome, brooding shipmate has barricaded himself away. But nothing will stop Ambrose from making his mission succeed—not when he’s rescuing his own sister.

In order to survive the ship’s secrets, Ambrose and Kodiak will need to work together and learn to trust one another… especially once they discover what they are truly up against. Love might be the only way to survive.

My Review

I honestly don’t think I can put into words how much I loved this book, but I’m going to give it my best shot. Reviewing this book is even more complicated by not being able to talk about anything that happens in it without ruining the reading experience. It is truly a book best read without any spoilers because experiencing the plot for the first time was a total mindf*ck. I thought I knew what this book was about going into it, but I was completely unprepared for what actually happened.

The book started out exactly as described in the synopsis. However, right away I could tell something was not quite right because of the strange formatting and early hints. The book does not have chapters, but it has multiple parts that vary in length. The first part is the longest, and it is a slow burn mystery coupled with an exploration of the relationship between the two boys. The pace of the rest of the book increases significantly after the first part, and I was so thrown by the end of the first section that I had to put the book down for a bit before continuing. The ending of the book felt a bit rushed, but I also loved how the story ended. I just wished there was more of it.

One of the main themes of this book is the importance of intimacy to feel human. This story does an excellent job of exploring this idea because it strips everything down to only two people surrounded by infinite nothingness. Seeing the progression of the relationship between Kodiak and Ambrose was a beautiful reminder of how important connection to other people is for our sanity. It was also an excellent example of how people who are very different can come together and find understanding even if they are raised to be enemies. One of my favorite quotes from the book highlights this theme of intimacy very well:

Intimacy is the only shield against insanity. Intimacy, not knowledge. Intimacy, not power.

The Darkness Outside Us, page 142

Existential crisis and the necessity of meaning in one’s life is also a major component of this novel. The story explores the effect on an individual’s psyche whenever they lose their main purpose in life. It also examines how people raised in two different cultures can respond to this loss in distinct ways. Overall, the narrative is filled with existential dread. If you don’t have at least one existential crisis while reading this book, then you aren’t human. 😉 It just does such a great job of reducing the complex human experience down to its barest essentials and making you question whether there truly is a reason for all of it.

That was how life on Earth worked, too. People did a lot of tasks and tried to keep death as far away as possible.

The Darkness Outside Us, page 236

This book has become my top read so far of 2021. The story was so unexpectedly profound in its relationship-building, philosophy, and plot twists that I’m left thinking about it days after finishing it. I could say so much more, but that would ruin the book. So, go read it instead! I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and cannot recommend it enough, especially for lovers of science fiction.

Have you read The Darkness Outside Us? What did you think? Let me know in the comments, but do your best to avoid spoilers.

Audiobook Review – Doctor Who: The Minds of Magnox

Goodreads Synopsis

A brand new standalone adventure for the Tenth Doctor, which also forms part of the Time Lord Victorious story arc, read by Jacob Dudman.

The Doctor travels with Brian, the Ood assassin, to the planet Magnox, one of the greatest receptacles of knowledge the universe will ever know. The Doctor needs to ask a vital question, but the answer is Grade 1 Classified! In order to gain an audience with the Minds of Magnox themselves he must take a dangerous test. Is he smart enough to get through?

Meanwhile, Brian gets involved with the criminal fraternity and is given a job: to assassinate the Minds of Magnox. However, others also have the planet within their sights….

Jacob Dudman reads this exclusive audio adventure by Darren Jones, and this edition also features a short coda to the story.

My Review

What I Liked

This is probably my favorite story, so far, of the Time Lord Victorious multimedia project. It is a tight story with an interesting, self-contained plot. While it is clearly interconnected with the overarching story of the event, it tells a good story of its own, which some other entries were lacking. I liked the premise of a planet ruled by people who have access to all the information in the universe and the answer to every question. I also enjoyed seeing the Doctor become obsessed with discovering whether his actions in other parts of the TLV event had made the universe a better place. The consequences of this obsession are ironic given the harm caused by it. This entry also contained another stand out performance by Brian the Ood, which I absolutely loved. He really is such a demented, yet fun, character.

The narration really brought this story to another level, as well. It was top notch, and Jacob Dudman did a great job impersonating the Doctor and making Brian the Ood sound eery. The coda was also fantastic and is probably my favorite scene from all of Time Lord Victorious, so far.

What I Didn’t Like

There isn’t really anything negative that stands out to me about this story.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this audiobook is a great entry in the Time Lord Victorious event. It has a fun and interesting story with fantastic narration. Therefore, I rate it 5 out of 5 stars. If you are a fan of Doctor Who, I recommend it!

ARC Review: The Year Before the End

***I received a free copy of this book from the author. My review has been completed voluntarily and is my honest opinion.***

Plot Summary

Aliens have finally made contact and seem to be interested in helping humanity join the larger galactic stage. However, many think the aliens have other nefarious ideas and are worried the building of a gate to connect Earth to the wider galaxy will bring nothing but conquest and domination from the stars. Amidst this backdrop, Zo learns of plans that the aliens will indeed attack Earth once the gate is built and agrees to have her crew participate in a mission to stop it. Along the way, she learns nothing is as it seems and not all people, even those close to you, can be trusted. Now she and her crew must run for their lives and attempt to prevent calamity from unfolding.

What I Liked

This was a solid science fiction story. I liked it’s take on what would happen if beings from other worlds made contact with humans. The various reactions described were very different, and it was a realistic approach to the topic. I think it is logical to assume some people would view the aliens as opportunity while others would see them as dangerous, and I enjoyed seeing the dynamic between the two factions play out throughout the novel. I also appreciated the amount of science present in this science fiction. I felt as though I understood what was going on, and how it was happening, fairly well thanks to the descriptions.

I enjoyed all the characters in this book, but I liked Zo and Clarice the most. They were the characters with the most background information. The rest of the crew were fun to read too, but I still felt like I didn’t really know them very well by the end of the book. With Zo, I enjoyed the backstory of how she became captain and liked how capably she led the crew. Clarice is probably my favorite, though, because I loved the exploration of how she integrated technology with her body.

The descriptions in this book were very detailed. The author did a great job making the battle and chase scenes feel realistic. There is plenty of action throughout the book, which keeps things fairly fast-paced for much of the story, especially the latter half. I also enjoyed author’s descriptions of locations, and I felt I was looking out at Mars with a vivid image in my mind. I loved the way he described the movement of the crew through the spaceships; it made me feel as though I was there bouncing around with them.

What I Didn’t Like

Even though I enjoyed the detail in the descriptions throughout the book, I found it made the book harder to read, especially the first half. There were parts that read almost like a technical manual rather than a novel. I had to take breaks or re-read some passages to fully understand or grasp the image or information trying to be conveyed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I enjoyed it once I wrapped my head around it, but sometimes it made the reading tedious.

I also did not like the romance in this book. Luckily, it played only a small part. However, the one major romance scene was seriously problematic. It was steeped in sexual harassment and applied the use of a power differential and intoxication to obtain companionship. I cringed while reading it and hope the author does better with future outings for these characters.

Final Thoughts

If you like science fiction that is heavy on science and descriptions of how things work, this is probably a great book for you. There is also plenty of great action, political intrigue, and interesting uses of technology. Therefore, I rate the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Wrap-Up: March 2021

This month has been an absolute whirlwind. I can’t believe it is already over! The months of this year seem to be flying by quickly. Luckily, I’ve been able to find a lot of great books to enjoy this month. I’ve made significant progress toward my reading goal for this year and am on track to beat it if I can manage to keep up this same pace. We’ll see if life continues to allow it to happen. Regardless, I am excited to reflect on my reading journey from this month. So, without further ado… Here is my wrap-up for March 2021!

What I Read

Master Thief/Lesser Evils by Sophie Iles/Simon Guerrier ⭐⭐⭐

These Doctor Who short audio dramas follow the Master during two of his adventures, which are tangentially connected to other outings in the Time Lord Victorious multimedia project. They are both interesting, straightforward stories that I found fun to listen to.

He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not by Carrie Thompson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is another audio drama from the Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious crossover event. It follows the 8th Doctor as he discovers a world that is different than it should be. The theme of the story is Western, and it is a fun introduction to Brian the Ood.

Amazing Spider-Man: Sins Rising by Nick Spencer ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This collection of Spider-Man comics pits the web crawler against a resurrected Sin Eater. I enjoyed reading it and found the parallels with violence extremists to be interesting.

Amazing Spider-Man: Green Goblin Returns by Nick Spencer ⭐⭐⭐⭐

These comics make up the conclusion to the Sins Rising story line. In them, Spider-Man must decide whether he is willing to let Norman Osborn be cleansed to prevent him from committing future evil acts. It is an interesting moral dilemma that is fairly well executed.

Into the Dark by Claudia Gray ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The first YA entry in the Star Wars: The High Republic multimedia event was a lot of fun to read. It follows the adventures of several Jedi as they get stranded on an ancient space station after the hyperspace disaster. See the full review!

Solaris Seethes by Janet McNulty ⭐⭐

This book had the potential to be a great story. It had an interesting premise and was filled with fun adventures. It followed a group of people determined to find six crystals before they could be merged into a galaxy-dominating super-weapon. Unfortunately, the writing style was quite annoying and difficult to read. See the full review!

The Enemy of My Enemy by Tracy Ann Barnes ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This next story in the Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious event follows the 8th Doctor as he helps the Daleks broker a peace treaty with a race of people who shouldn’t exist. It was a fun story in which the Daleks were incredibly smart and ruthless. See the full review!

Doctor Who Annual 2021 by Paul Laing ⭐⭐⭐

I bought this book for the Time Lord Victorious background information, but it also has diary entries from the characters of Series 12 of Doctor Who that describe each of the episodes. It is a quick, informative read. See the full review!

Incursion by Mitchell Hogan ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I loved this book. It is an interesting fantasy novel with a unique magic system and great characters. It follows a young man as he attempts to pass his trials to become a Knight while grappling with the darkness rising within him. See the full review!

The Knight, The Fool, & The Dead by Steve Cole ⭐⭐⭐

The first novel in the Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious event is a fun read that follows the 10th Doctor as he faces off against the Kotturuh. Can the Doctor defeat Death? Or, more importantly, should he? See the full review!

Monstrous Beauty by Scott Gray ⭐⭐

This comic follows the 9th Doctor and Rose as they explore the Dark Times. The story is a bit rushed, and I was confused about certain aspects of the story and overall timeline. However, it does provide some background info for other parts of Time Lord Victorious. See the full review!

Genex of Halcyon by Joshua Stelling ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book is a beautifully written look into the potential future of mankind. While the story lacks a clear plot and is confusing at times, the world-building and exploration of deep themes is exceptional. See the full review!

Thurmond’s Saga by Robert John MacKenzie ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thurmond is the most unlikely of heroes, but he dreams of becoming a professional adventurer. After being approached by a stranger to complete some odd tasks, he finds himself on the adventure of a lifetime. This is a fun fantasy story that I highly recommend. See the full review!

Shadow Fall by Alexander Freed ⭐⭐⭐

This second book in the Star Wars Alphabet Squadron trilogy is an improvement on the first novel. It delves deeper into the psyches of the characters and explores the impacts that war can have on a person. Full review is coming soon!

All Flesh Is Grass by Una McCormack ⭐⭐⭐

This book is the climax of the Doctor Who Time Lord Victorious event. It is filled with vampires, Daleks, and a fast-paced adventure. Full review is coming soon!

The House In the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this book. It follows case worker Linus Baker as he investigates an orphanage that houses children who just happen to also be magical creatures. The character work, pacing, and emotional tone of this book are all fantastic. Full review is coming soon!

Minds of Magnox by Darren Jones (Narrated by Jacob Dudman) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This Doctor Who Time Lord Victorious audiobook follows the 10th Doctor and Brian the Ood when they land on Magnox to find answers to an important question. The Doctor thinks the Minds of Magnox can give him answers, but, as usual, things don’t go the way the doctor has planned. This audiobook is a fun adventure that provides interesting background information on Brian. Full review is coming soon!

Jairus’s Girl by L.R. Hay ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Tammie is a young girl living in Israel during the time period of the life of Jesus. This book was written for children to provide a window into Jesus’s life, and it follows Tammie as she witnesses events firsthand. Full review is coming soon!

Final Thoughts

I can’t believe I read 18 books this month! I usually don’t even read that much in a year. I enjoyed a lot of good books, especially a great number of Doctor Who stories. I hope to finish Time Lord Victorious in the coming month or two. Check back tomorrow to see my reading goal for April 2021!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Leave a comment and let me know!

Book Review – Genex of Halcyon

Summary

The year is 2051, and the world is a very different place. Global warming has caused catastrophic crises throughout the planet, but the technological breakthroughs of the last 30 years have allowed humanity to progress past its old economic systems. People live in relative peace and harmony with all basic needs met. Genetic manipulation has also increased lifespans and given humans otherworldly qualities never seen before. This story follows a group of people as they navigate their day to day lives for the last three days of 2051. It explores the consequences of their choices on their personal relationships and, potentially, the rest of society.

Things I Liked

The writing in this book is beautiful. It is written almost like a narrative poem, and the author does an excellent job of setting up this futuristic world in a breathtaking way. I also loved the exploration of very deep themes in this book. It seemed almost philosophical in nature and tackled a wide range of issues, including death, free will, technology vs. privacy, and the impacts of genetic manipulation, among others. I enjoyed how much this book made me think and how the author painted a picture of an Earth so different yet grounded in the problems we face as a society today.

Things I Didn’t Like

The lyrical writing style, while beautiful, made the book difficult to follow at times. It also seemed that the major focus was on world-building rather than delivery of a solid, interesting plot. It seemed as though the things that happened were occurring only to drive the philosophical discussions rather than to tell a compelling story. I also failed to connect with the characters and didn’t really like any of them.

Final Thoughts

This book was a fascinating take on what the future of Earth and humanity may look like. The author used beautiful writing to organically weave a world that is fascinating while tackling some very deep and timely themes. However, the plot of the story is weak and difficult to follow, with characters that I didn’t really care about. Despite these flaws, I enjoyed the book and rate it 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for fans of science fiction that like a more philosophical approach to storytelling.