ARC REVIEW: Iron Widow

Thank you to Penguin Teen Canada for sending me a copy of the ARC. Iron Widow is on sale as of September 21st!

One of my most hyped releases of the year is Iron Widow by the absolutely flawless Xiran Jay Zhou. After bothering Penguin for several weeks (I love you, Penguin~) I was able to get my hands on a beautiful physical copy of the ARC. Now, believe me when I tell you that you are not ready for Iron Widow.

In a world overrun by large parasitic creatures called Hunduns, Zetian has lost her big sister to the military and her death has only brought pain to her and her family, resulting in increasingly horrible treatment towards her. Making the decision to enact her revenge on the pilot who murdered her sister, Zetian signs herself off to the same fate as a concubine used as fodder to pilot the Chyralises against the Hunduns. What Zetian doesn’t know is that her abilities far outweigh that of what the Sages of the army have told her. 

I can honestly say that this book was perfection from start to finish.

Iron Widow is a permission slip for people to be angry, to be unforgiving, and to say “No, fuck you.” As Zetian is used and belittled and controlled over and over again, she begins to learn that the only person who can shame her is herself. The only person who can tell her what to do is herself. She is absolutely a badass to look up to as she refuses to be anything other than her powerful self and will subdue anyone who gets in her way. Her rage is so raw and visceral that it made my blood sing especially considering the reasons she is mad. The injustice is rampantin this book and I have never seen a lead in a YA novel – or potentially any novel really – who seeks to change the world as much as Zetian does. 

Meanwhile, this book also has one of the greatest romance subplots I have ever read in my life. Bad ass bad boy with a sunshine heart? Check. Wholesome sunshine study boy who is ruthless on in the inside? Check. A female lead that doesn’t want to need to choose between the two and instead and truly wholesome and functioning polycule forms? CHECK! Iron Widowis one again the first example I’ve read of a truly healthy relationship in YA and it’s actually between three people!

So I truly want to say thank you to Xiran. Thank you for this beautiful book that is a permission slip to be angry. A permission slip to take your life by the goddamn horns and take what is yours. To love how you want to and be who you are. Thank you for giving the reminder that we don’t owe forgiveness or compassion to those who have genuinely abused us and that found family is no less legitimate than blood relatives.

Thank you for this incredible book that is going to mean so much to so many people who have been put down and stuffed into boxes of expectations. For fans of Pacific Rim and Darling in the FRAXXwith the feminist anger of Handmaid’s Tale, please pick it up when it hit shelves tomorrow if you haven’t already pre-ordered it.


TRIGGER WARNING NOTE: Please be aware that this book does contain instances of foot binding, abuse, sexual harassment, alcoholism, and extreme withdrawal.

ARC REVIEW: Aetherbound

Thank you to Penguin Teen Canada for providing me with an eARC via NetGalley.

I’m a big fan of E.K. Johnston’s work in the Star Wars universe, so I was very excited to receive and ARC of her newest stand-alone sci-fi YA novel, AetherboundI was even more excited to learn that the incredible Ashley Eckstein was going to be narrating the audiobook – what kindStar Wars fan doesn’t love Ashley?!

Aetherbound is an interesting foray into worldbuilding. Society has been seemingly reduced to live aboard space stations and cargo ships, everyone having a place and a use to the rest of the collective or else they are placed elsewhere (or even killed for being a waste of supplies). A certain kind of magic exists as well, in tune with a force called the Aether. Pendt Harland is in tune with the Aether but in a way not useful to the crew, but of potentially high value to others and is at risk of being sold to another ship or station upon her 18th birthday. When she decides it’s time to escape her life and her family, Pendt meets the Brannick twins and the three of them work together to make their lives their own.

The worldbuilding in this novel is intense. I loved all the concepts introduced and the complexity of the essentially closed societies that have been formed on the stations as well as the ships. That being said, a lot of it was told through massive info-dumping rather than being teased out by the characters. It made the novel feel like it wasn’t quite formed in its entirety at times and read more like a planning guide rather than a finished story. I would have liked it to have been explained more through dialogue or character actions rather than informative narration as I feel that would have built a closer connection to the characters and been a more immersive story. I liked the characters enough, Pendt is a sweet and perseverant girl and I loved the Brannick twins immediately, but I wanted more from them. I wanted more of a reason to cheer them on than just the upsetting circumstances this world has put them in.

Said “upsetting circumstances” definitely did make me uncomfortable at several moments, so I did appreciate the trigger warnings for medical trauma and calorie counting (not eating disorder based for anyone wondering, it’s more of a portion control thing) that were listed at the beginning. Selling off young girls (yes, 18 is young) for the sake of them being able to have children is really uncomfortable and the insemination moments had such an intense air of violation that I skimmed over the scene as fast as I could. I almost think that this novel would have been better has it been longer, with more time to tease out the world building, and marketed as more of a new adult or even straight up adult science fiction novel.

I still love E.K. Johnston and I will still continue to support her work, but I won’t like and say my 3-star rating for this one is mostly based on Ashley Eckstein doing an amazing job with the audiobook….


Aetherbound is now available in stores and online.

ARC REVIEW: In The Wild Light

Thank you to Penguin Teen Canada for providing me with the eARC.

If you know me, you know how excited I was for this book. If you’re new here, let me tell you about just how wonderful Jeff Zenter’s books are. The Serpent King changed my life in ways I never thought a book could and Rayne & Delilah reminded me there is validity in anger while peace in move on. Goodbye Days is a story to help grieve. Jeff’s books will shape and change you for the better. So, yes, being able to review this book months in advance means the world to me.

Note: trigger warnings for drug abuse, drug-related death, and attempted assault

In The Wild Light follows Cash as he is rushed into a difficult choice to follow his best friend to an intimidatingly prestigious private school miles away from home, or stay with his terminally ill grandfather and therefore rob his friend of her chance to become the world-changing scientist she is sure to be with the help of this academy. When both of their lives have been ravaged by parental drug abuse, it’s not easy for Cash to accept what he considers a “hand-out” from his genius friend, Delaney.

Since this book doesn’t come out until August (can you say, “Happy birthday to Lucien”?!), I won’t go into too many details about the contents of this book, but I will say it will break you just as much as Jeff’s other books have (or will if you’re yet to read them). As I usually do with books that make me cry, please allow for a vulnerable moment here. 2020 was rough with pandemic life, and 2021 is proving to still be tough on many of us. One thing that In The Wild Light really struck a chord with me on was Cash’s feelings of “leaving his grandpa behind”. Pep has cancer and while Cash is given the chance of a lifetime to really become someone, that means leaving the only father he’s ever known mostly on his own.

So what does that have to do with pandemic life?

My 98-year-old grandmother means the world to me. She’s a cheery, church going Welsh woman who doesn’t have a bone in her body not full to the brim with love. Pep reminded me of her a lot with his wit and his compassion for others of all sorts even being in the deep south. I haven’t seen my grandmother in almost a full year and I used to see her three times a week growing up, and even as an adult, I’d have dinner with her at least once or twice a month. I miss her a lot even when we can talk on the phone, so Cash’s feelings hit home for sure.

In a funny way, I think this is the perfect book for these times, even with the tinges of loss. People are losing their loved ones right now, but as long as we express our love towards those people we’re missing, it’s better than nothing. Right? This is a book about doing what’s best for yourself, pushing past the impostor syndrome and the fear of failure and allowing the room for growth to breathe.

I miss my friends right now. I miss my family. But if I just keep moving forward and doing my best, I’ll get to see them again. In The Wild Light reminded me of that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve made myself cry once again.

You’re the worst best, Jeff Zentner.

DNF Review: Infinity Son

So my first fresh read of 2020 (meaning I didn’t start it in 2019) was meant to be Infinity Son by Adam Silvera. I’m a big fan of Adam’s contemporary work, so when he said he was releasing a fantasy novel I was so excited! However, I’m sad to say that this was not what I was hoping for at all and it’s also become my first DNF of the year.

Over the last several months I kept seeing tweets referring to it as an “epic fantasy novel” which I took to mean high fantasy (think Lord of the Rings) when it turns out the use of the word “epic” was meant to be used as a word for “cool” and in reference to the book rather than the genre. Part of this is my own fault for not looking more closely at the back of the ARC, but I’ve got to say I was disappointed at the “urban” level of the genre.

On a good day, I’m not a fan of urban fantasy. It takes a lot for me to be interested in a fantasy novel that is set in the real world, so that was already a mark against this novel. Strike two was that not only was it urban fantasy, it was a superhero story; yet another subgenre element that I’m not interested in. Had I known that’s what this book was going to be I wouldn’t have requested the ARC in the first place.

To me, the biggest problems were in the first two chapters. And by problems, I mean the entire plot of the book is so easily guessable. In this world, it seems that people have until their 18th birthdays to discover if they have superpowers or not. It is also mentioned that there are “villain” characters who do something with phoenix blood to force superpowers on themselves. Now, this is a decent enough concept (with more PG-rated Vicious vibes) but quickly becomes boring when you consider that the main characters are twin boys, one of which just wants to be a normal boy and the other who wants to be a hero. I didn’t even make it past 13 or so pages but I can basically guess that Normal Boy Twin gets powers on their birthday while Other Twin goes after phoenix blood to become a hero.

I’m so sad that this book is miles away from what I was hoping for, but as a result, I will be hosting a giveaway on my Instagram for this ARC. I’d really love if it went to a good home with a reader who would actually enjoy a book like this.


Giveaway post
(Giveaway open to North American residents only, see post for details)

REVIEW: Young Jedi Knights 1: Heirs of the Force

One of my favourite characters when it comes to the old Star Wars canon was always Jacen Solo, so what I’ve been doing is slowly collecting the now out-of-print Young Jedi Knights series that was published for the middle grade/young adult market to get more of Jacen and Jaina while also learning a little bit more about Luke’s Jedi Academy on Yavin 4.

Heirs of the Force, the first book in the Young Jedi Knights series, follows Jacen and Jaina Solo as they train at Luke’s Jedi Academy. Right away we get to know that the twins are incredibly close and that Jacen has a knack for animals while Jaina takes after her father (and grandfather, Anakin, in my opinion) with her talent for mechanics and technology. We also get to meet their friend, Tenel Ka, who is a total badass from Dathomir. The trio quickly becomes firm friends with Chewie’s nephew, Lowbacca, who has been gifted an old speeder to put together. With the help of his new friends, Lowie completes the speeder and goes off on something of an adventure…where he finds the remains of a TIE Fighter from the first Battle of the Death Star. When their curiosity winds them up in under fire from the long-abandoned pilot, things take a nasty turn.

This book was a quick read but was honestly so much fun. It requires very little knowledge of the original extended universe of Star Wars (which I know can be an intimidating run of content) and makes sure to fill in a lot of gaps newer or less-intense fans to Legends might have in their knowledge. Jacen and Jaina are so lovely and wonderful, with the original hopeful and kind quality that made Luke such a sweetheart in the original films. I loved getting to know the newer characters as well like Tenel Ka – who is so cool I wish I had read these when I was younger – and Lowie – who is basically an awkward version of his uncle.

The tension and the pacing of the story is so well done, it reaffirms that Kevin J. Anderson is incredible and has definitely put Rebecca Moesta on my radar. And seriously, what’s not to love about a rogue TIE pilot stranded for years trying to single-handedly overthrow a school full of Jedi?

Heirs of the Force is clearly meant for a younger audience but that doesn’t take away from the writing at all. If anything it makes it an even better jumping in point because it’s not as technical as Star Wars books can be. Since the series – to my knowledge – has never been re-released as formal Legends titles, they’re difficult to get ahold of these days, but if you’re willing to search I’d definitely say this first book is worth it.

The Assassin & The Empire

I don’t have a review for this one, or much of a synopsis. Although anyone who started the series prior to reading the novellas will know what happens. As I felt it would be after reading the previous novella, The Assassin and the Empire is about how Sam died and Celaena ended up in Endovier.

I had to DNF this one.

Having heard time and time again about Sam being killed in the main books, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about the details in this novella. I didn’t care that Arobynn was a dick, because we already knew that, and I didn’t care about how it broke Celaena.

Having really liked the previous novella, I was hoping for more, but I’m sad to say I was disappointed in how bored I was with this final one. Perhaps if I’d read the novellas before the actual books I would have gotten more out of it, but instead I found it repetitive.


Today’s photo prompt was ROYALTY but I forgot my crown is in storage (oops!) so here’s a beautiful dagger. Be sure to tag me on Instagram at @lucieninthestars and use the hashtag #TWOTOGCountdown so I can see all of you’re beautiful photos!

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And finally, be sure to check out the wonderful A.K. Lee over on her site! There would be no read-a-long without her support and she’s an incredible author and friend. 

The Assassin & The Underworld

In the fourth novella, The Assassin and the Underworld, we see Celaena put in a rough position as she needs to decide what she truly wants while also trying to break free of Arobynn’s hold on her. Faced with the slave trade once again, Celaena and Sam team up once more to see if they can solve her problems together.

I really enjoyed this one! We finally got to see Sam as more than just an annoying brat like Celaena which made me really like him because it made me see him as more than someone equally as annoying as Chaol. Plus the way his feelings and Celaena’s came out felt a lot more natural than the majority of the other flirtations Celaena has had.

Although thinking of Chaol, I legitimately squealed with joy when he and Dorian so obviously showed up at the party. The way Dorian and Celaena flirted was beautiful and – as much as I’ve come to love Rowan – I’m still sad that they aren’t together in the current timeline of the story.

Honestly, the only thing that made me uncomfortable in this story is how SJM conveys the consorts. The way these girls idolize having their virginity auctioned off and have no issue with old men falling over them makes my skin crawl. There’s nothing wrong with sex work, but in the YA context of the story and the way something so dangerous is held to such a high position feels wrong. But maybe that’s just me. Regardless, an aspect of this that I did like was that is accentuated how gross Arobynn is so that’s a plus because he’s gross. 

We have one more story left which I get the feeling will end up being about when Sam is killed and Celaena gets shipped off to Endovier. I hope I’m wrong because I honestly feel that that point in her life is brought up so often that to include it seems redundant. But we shall see.

In the meantime, The Assassin and the Underworld gets 5 out of 5 for me because the parts that made me uncomfortable were seriously outweighed and overshadowed by the cameo from Dorian.


Today’s photo prompt was DEATH. Be sure to tag me on Instagram at @lucieninthestars and use the hashtag #TWOTOGCountdown so I can see all of you’re beautiful photos!

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The next prompt is ROYALTY as we move into the final story, The Assassin and the Empire!


Also just want to say thank you to those who are following along for being patient with me this week! I’ve been trying really hard to stay on the schedule I made for myself but as I said on Twitter, life just gets in the way sometimes.

And finally, be sure to check out the wonderful A.K. Lee over on her site! There would be no read-a-long without her support and she’s an incredible author and friend. 

The Assassin & The Desert

The Assassin and the Desert follows Celaena on her trek through the desert to meet with the Mute Master and gain his approval or be disowned by Arobynn back in Rifthold. Put in close quarters with strangers for the first time in a long time, Celaena needs to learn what she really wants.

This story started out long and boring, Celaena being spoiled and full of complaints as usual. However, it picked up as Celaena got more and more comfortable with Ansel and Mikhail and even Ilias. This one was a story about patience, and what loss and pain can do to a person. It showed Celaena being given a real choice at how she chose to live her life as she was faced with Ancel, a girl who faced the same fate Celaena had as a child, and what that violence did to her. It made Celaena feel more human to me which is something that I’ve found rather laking in her character.

The only downside I found in this story was Celaena realizing she loves Sam after Ilias tries to kiss her. Maybe it’s just me but the romance plots are not great in this series. Things are getting better in the central plot now that Rowan is around, but still. There’s a lot to be desired there. I do look forward to the next story, and I hope we get to know what happened to Sam after Celaena got beaten (if only so she’ll stop moping about it) and give him a chance to be a person I can care about.

Overall, four and a half out of five!


Today’s photo prompt was VAST. Be sure to tag me on Instagram at @lucieninthestars and use the hashtag #TWOTOGCountdown so I can see all of you’re beautiful photos!

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The next prompt is DEATH as we move into the third story The Assassin and the Underworld!

The Assassin & The Healer

The story of The Assassin and the Healer is set almost immediately after The Assassin and the Pirate Lord. After having returned to Arobynn and revealed that she freed 200 slaves, a beaten and bruised Celaena has been banished to train with The Mute Master in the Red Desert. On her way there, she stops in a hellish hovel of a town called Innish where she meets an interesting young healer.

I liked this story a lot more than the previous one. Sure, Celaena is still miserable so there is nothing new in that regard, but Yrene Towers is a darling. I liked her character and her sense of doing what’s right even if she isn’t happy with the outcome of her life so far. I especially enjoyed Celaena taking time to teach the other girl how to defend herself around the aggressive drunks and hooligans of Innish so she knows how to get out of trouble should someone attack her.

I honestly don’t think Celaena has enough female friends, and the lack of a lot of female characters in general is disappointing, so I really liked this story showing two gals being pals, even if it was just brief.

I give this one four out of five stars.


Today’s photo prompt was FIRST AID. Be sure to tag me on Instagram at @lucieninthestars and use the hashtag #TWOTOGCountdown so I can see all of you’re beautiful photos!

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The next prompt is VAST as we move into the third story The Assassin and the Desert!

The Assassin & The Pirate Lord

The story of The Assassin and the Pirate Lord follows Celaena and her companion, Sam, in a moment set before the series begins. Sent away after the death of some of Arobynn’s best, Celaena and Sam are charged with doing business with Pirate Lord, Captain Rolfe, and end up in a situation neither of them particularly likes… The slave trade.

While I enjoyed the story and it’s nice to see that even when she was being ruthless, Celaena cared for people in need, I was annoyed with a lot of it too. Celaena feels spoiled and brattish in this story and her rivalry with Sam feels unnecessary to her character as she literally fights with every boy she’s ever met in the same way. She picked fights like this with Chaol, with Rowan, and also was constantly calling Dorian out for things. It feels boring and repetitive to be entirely honest.

I want to like Sam, knowing how much he comes to mean to Celaena, but as of right now, he’s honestly falling flatter than Chaol. Which is saying a lot coming from me… I hope I get to learn a little bit more about him in the next story so I can care more.

Overall I give this a 3 out of 5. I dig pirates and while she annoyed me, it was nice to see Celaena actually doing things instead of complaining about the things she needed to do (like how she was in Heir of Fire).


Today’s photo prompt was PIRATES so I went to the local boating club and grabbed a few shots of the boats down there. Be sure to tag me on Instagram at @lucieninthestars and use the hashtag #TWOTOGCountdown so I can see all of you’re beautiful photos!

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Tomorrow’s prompt is FIRST AID as we move into the next story The Assassin and the Healer!