Monday, July 25, 2022

Review: Eclipse the Moon by Jessie Mihalik

Eclipse the Moon
(Starlight's Shadow)
Jessie Mihalik
Release: July 12, 2022
Goodreads Amazon
Kee Ildez has been many things: hacker, soldier, bounty hunter. She never expected to be a hero, but when a shadowy group of traitors starts trying to goad the galaxy’s two superpowers into instigating an interstellar war, Kee throws herself into the search to find out who is responsible—and stop them.

Digging up hidden information is her job, so hunting traitors should be a piece of cake, but the primary suspect spent years in the military, and someone powerful is still covering his tracks. Disrupting their plans will require the help of her entire team, including Varro Runkow, a Valovian weapons expert who makes her pulse race.

Quiet, grumpy, and incredibly handsome, Varro watches her with hot eyes but ignores all of her flirting, so Kee silently vows to keep her feelings strictly platonic. But that vow will be put to the test when she and Varro are forced to leave the safety of their ship and venture into enemy territory alone.

Cut off from the rest of their team, they must figure out how to work together—and fast—because a single misstep will cost thousands of lives.

One of my favorite books of the year so far has been Hunt the Stars so you can say that I was more than a tad bit excited to get my hands on its sequel, Eclipse the Moon. And when I found it was going to be Kee's book I was even more exited! I may have squealed when I finally let myself read the synopsis and discovered who the likely love interest was going to be.

I was a little nervous going into this one based on a few of the ratings I saw on some of the early reviews but I loved this book so much! It was the grumpy/sunshine trope mixed with Jessie Mihalik's signature action-packed scenes and twisty mystery. This book picks up right where the first one left off with the Starlight's Shadow heading to Bastion station as the crew tries to dig up all the information they can to stop the powers that be from starting another war.

Y'all know how much I adore the found family trope and this book had it in spades. The tight-knit human crew and the Valoffs are becoming more and more of a family and it was everything! The standoffish Valovians from the first book have been settled in and taken their positions as part of the crew to heart. I loved seeing the crew interact with each other and to see how happy Tavi and Torran are. What really shined in this book was the romance though!

I wanted Kee and Varro to be paired with each other from the very start of their tumultuous relationship and Eli and Varro's subsequent sparring match. Kee is the heart of this small found family and is part of the glue that binds them together. She is sunshine incarnate and a genius hacker and gets to be a badass in a different way than Tavi. I too would rather eat cookies than train. She is convinced that Varro doesn't have feelings for her beyond being friends so she decides that she needs a vacation on the space station to get over him and do some sleuthing with a better connection. 

Things on the station don't go as planned and Varro reveals himself at the first hint of Kee being in trouble and things just escalate from there in both the romance and the action. I'm not a big fan of the miscommunication trope but I enjoyed how Mihalik used it in this story. It made the romance even sweeter. I loved Varro and his grumpiness! Getting to know more about the different psychic abilities the Valoffs have was fascinating! And I loved getting to know more about his ability! One thing I do wish is that we got a bit more of both Kee and Varro's backstories beyond the vague hints we got in this book.

I adored so many things about this book! The action! The romance! The crew! The mystery and its twists! The tech! The fashion! This book grabbed my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat until I ran out of pages to read. Was this book perfect? No. Some of the miscommunication got a bit repetitive in my opinion but my enjoyment of the story as a whole made up for it. 

I cannot wait for the next book! One, I need to know what happens next because HOLY COW! And two, THE NEXT BOOK IS LEXI'S ROMANCE! My body is ready! I have no idea how many books will be in this series but I am hoping this is going to more than a trilogy because I want to see some other crew mates ( *cough* Eli *cough*) get their happily ever afters as well! I'm totally on board with the polyamorous vibe that is going on. One thing is for sure, Jessie Mihalik is turning into my go to for sci-fi romance and has cemented her place on my auto-buy list.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

  5 / 5 Stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik

Recommended for fans of:
Ilona Andrews's Kinsmen Series
Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling Series
Jessie Mihalik's Consortium Rebellion series

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Review: August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White

August Kitko and the Mechas from Space
(The Starmetal Symphony #1)
Alex White
Release: July 12, 2022
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When an army of giant robot AIs threatens to devastate Earth, a virtuoso pianist becomes humanity's last hope in this bold, lightning-paced, technicolor new space opera series from the author of A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe. 

Jazz pianist Gus Kitko expected to spend his final moments on Earth playing piano at the greatest goodbye party of all time, and maybe kissing rockstar Ardent Violet, before the last of humanity is wiped out forever by the Vanguards--ultra-powerful robots from the dark heart of space, hell-bent on destroying humanity for reasons none can divine. 

But when the Vanguards arrive, the unthinkable happens--the mecha that should be killing Gus instead saves him. Suddenly, Gus's swan song becomes humanity's encore, as he is chosen to join a small group of traitorous Vanguards and their pilots dedicated to saving humanity.

Do you ever start a book and know within the first chapter that you are going to love it? August Kitko and the Mechas from Space was one of those books for me. This book is hands down my favorite book of the year so far! I tried to savor this exquisite space opera slowly but it was such a cinematic thrill ride that I ended up devouring it in every free moment I had. Holy Moly, y'all! I never knew I needed a book that combined music and mechas! Add in that it was an epic Gays in Space romp that is so delightfully and unapologetically queer and my heart was a goner! I cannot tell you how excited I am that this is the first book in a trilogy because I need more! Alex White is quickly cementing their place on my favorite authors of all time list.

It is the end of the world for humanity and all August Kitko wants to do is kiss gorgeous rockstar Ardent Violet and jam with them before they die. Then the unthinkable happens during their impromptu rockfest to play out the end of the human race. One of the murderous alien robots scoops Gus up so he and the rogue Vanguard can work together to destroy another Vanguard hellbent on destroying Earth. And it is nonstop action from that moment on.

I have been obsessed with mechas since I was a kid and the Traitor Vanguards have taken their spot on my favorites list. The Vanguards are like the Pacific Rim mechas on steroids had a baby with an AI. They are truly alien and have done some despicable things but are scarily cool. Actually, the only scarier thing than a Vanguard is their army of Golden Ghosts. The mecha battles in this book are so epic! Alex White did a fantastic job designing and outfitting the Vanguards with their abilities and weaponry! Each was so unique and I couldn't wait to see what they had up their sleeve next! And be still my heart! The tech in this book was absolutely fabulous in more ways than one!

I came for the mechas and space battles but I stayed for the characters and the romance. The story is told from the dual POVs of August and Ardent and I love them both so much! I just want to wrap Gus in a blanket and keep him safe. What I love about this book is that the characters are deeply flawed and not instantly transformed into badasses when they become Conduits. They feel more human because of it. Gus is a depressed cinnamon roll who knows more about jazz music than he does fighting styles. He's a bit mopey but his heart is ready to help save humanity anyway he can. His heart is also totally gone for rockstar Ardent Violet and he would do anything to keep him safe.

I loved so many characters in this book but hands down my favorite character is Ardent! They are loud and proud and a more than self-obsessed. But they have a heart of gold, can admit when they're wrong, and are totally head over heels for Gus (and their guitar, Baby) and just want to be their joyfriend. I found myself anticipating their POVs and when they would be present on page. They are gloriously epic with a wardrobe to match. I loved them and their agent, Dahlia, so much! I lived for the moments when Ardent and Gus got to be together on page. Their relationship and its development was so well done that I was literally squealing out loud at the cute one moment and yelling at them to get their act together the next.

I could go on and on about what and how much I loved this book but it is one that discovering its awesomeness is best done by reading it yourself. I need more space operas like this one in my life and the wait for book two next year might just kill me. If you are a fan of The Murderbot Diaries and/or Pacific Rim, this book is for you!

CW (this is what I caught. There could be more.): suicidal thoughts, blood, gore, injury/injury detail, violence,  panic attacks, body horror, medical trauma.

ARC provided by the Publisher via Netgalley.

  5 / 5 Stars

Recommended for fans of:
Pacific Rim
The Murderbot Diaries
Voltron: Legendary Defender

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Release Day Review: A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy
(Monk & Robot #2)
Becky Chambers
Release: July 12, 2022
Goodreads Amazon
After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.

They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.

Becky Chambers's new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?

I've said it before and I will say it again. Reading a Becky Chambers book is like getting a warm hug in book form and A Prayer for the Crown-Shy was a much needed hug. One of my favorite books of 2021 was A Psalm for the Wild-Built and I am so happy that I can say that its sequel will be one of my favorites of 2022. I absolutely adored this book!

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is full of hope and comfort like the best slice-of-life fanfic and it was everything I wanted for this book and more. Honestly, I had no idea about what to expect when I started this. The story picks up immediately after the events of the first book and we get to see Sibling Dex and Mosscap transition from acquaintances to companions as they travel across Panga in search of the answer to Mosscap's question. We got to meet a dazzling mix of individuals in this story and I loved seeing Dex and Mosscap interact with them. But their interactions with each other are what really make this story special! They had me laughing out loud one moment and thinking deeply the next. Becky Chambers has such a knack of writing such fully formed characters and their emotions while still including hard science.

This book was an absolute delight! Someone please tell me we're getting more novellas in this series!?! Our knowledge and view of Panga was expanded upon and we got to see so much more of this intriguing solarpunk world. Each chapter features Mosscap and Dex traveling together to new places and to many towns so Mosscap can ask and learn what people need as they travel to the City. Getting to read about Mosscap interacting with the villagers with whom they were delighted to meet and who were delighted to meet the robot in turn. Mosscap's curiosity and wonder in discovering the new things each region had and learning about the human experience warmed my heart. And Dex learning how to navigate this new experience while watching over Mosscap and searching for their own answers was heartwarming in its own way too.

This novella wasn't just a travel diary though. It also continued to expound on some of the struggles that Dex was having in book one. They are still learning how to deal with burnout and what it really means to rest. They are still struggling to not equate their value to how productive or helpful they are. And boy! Did that really strike a cord with me especially in our current world. The way that Becky Chambers wrote Dex's struggles with their mental health were so refreshing and so needed. One of my favorite things about her books (besides how fantastically queer they are) is the social commentary and the philosophical questions that get asked. I truly haven't been able to stop thinking about this story since I finished it and I don't think that will be changing any time soon.

Y'all. I'm not sure if I can truly convey how much I adored this book. To me, the story reads as unfinished so I'm hoping we get more books in this series. I could read the adventures of Dex and Mosscap forever. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed for more but I am also content with how this book ended. And hopefully if we get more we'll also get more robots in these two's future adventures.

ARC provided by the Publisher via Netgalley.

  5 / 5 Stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

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