Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Review: THE PROX TRANSMISSIONS by The Starset Society


Rating: 2.5/5 stars 

This novel is one for fans of the band Starset. They’re my favorite band, which is why I picked up this book. The Prox Transmissions, written by the singer of the band, is a prequel of sorts to their first album, Transmissions

If you’re not familiar with the lore of the band, Starset was “commissioned by The Starset Society to spread broad awareness of The Message through music and media. The Message contains the knowledge necessary to spare the future of humanity.” The primary objective of the Starset Society is “to shed light upon various emerging near-future technologies, investigating the potential and inevitable social, economic, political, and philosophical impacts thereof,” and one of the ways they do that is through the band Starset. The Message was received by the Society in a mysterious transmission from space, and the known details of that transmission are laid out in the book The Prox Transmissions.
(If you’re confused and want clarification, listen to the band. 🙂) 

I thought the premise of the novel was quite interesting. I’m not a huge sci-fi reader, but I was able to follow along just fine and stay engaged the whole story. The writing style is a bit amateurish, but I didn’t really have a problem with it.

The plot itself is intriguing—our protagonist Stephen receives a mysterious message leading him to obtain a mysterious transmission, and he has to decode its meaning before the enemy corporation steals the data from him. Even though Stephen receives more than one transmission from the planet Prox, this book only delves into the first transmission, leaving this book feeling incomplete in a sense, like not all the questions were answered. It does end on a cliffhanger though, and I know the Starset Society has more books planned for release in the future. 

I thought the plot was the strongest part of this book as neither the characters nor the setting were very fleshed out. There was only the tiniest bit of backstory given to Stephen, but everyone else felt rather two-dimensional to me. Unfortunately, every female in this book is described as “beautiful” in a way that is cliched and over-sexualized, not to mention that the word “sensuous” is used as a synonym for “female” in one instance. 

My biggest complaint, however, was that this novel badly needs a copyeditor. There are typos on nearly every page: incorrectly used punctuation, misspelled words, poor grammar choices, inconsistent word usage, and even some words cut off due to poor layout choices. Did I mention improper punctuation? The biggest offenders are missing quotation marks and missing hyphens, which made for a few confusing sentences as my brain was trying to figure out the intended meaning. As an editor, I could feel my eyes burning as I read this book. But if you can get past all that, then the story is actually worth reading if you’re a Starset fan. 

I would recommend this book only to hardcore fans of Starset who want to know more about the lore behind the band. There are a handful of references to lyrics and other things related to Starset lore, such as mentions of “Carnivores” and the “BMI” and the “Everything Machine,” among others. Any regular sci-fi reader would be able to understand this novel just fine, but I don’t think it would be as enjoyable or meaningful if you aren’t familiar with the band because you wouldn’t understand the references, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you aren’t a fan—and frankly, there are better sci-fi novels out there to read instead. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Review: SWITCHED by Amanda Hocking


Rating: 2/5 stars

This book—in fact, this whole trilogy—has been sitting unread on my shelf for over a decade, and 2023 is finally the year I get to remove it from my TBR. 

The first thing I noticed while reading is that this book has very plain writing. It’s certainly fast-paced and entertaining, but it’s also full of overused tropes (although they probably weren’t as overused when this book was originally published). You have the girl who’s not like other girls who’s also secretly a princess soon-to-be-Queen over a whole kingdom, and let’s not forget she has a hidden special ability that’s going to help save her people. And of course, there’s also the hot guy who’s not like other guys who she falls in love with. We have all read this story many times before. The difference here is that she secretly belongs to a tribe of trolls called the Trylle. I don’t think I’ve read a troll book before. 

Switched is extremely insta-lovey. Like I’ve never read a book with more overt and quick insta-love than this one, and I’ve read a lot of books. Wendy chooses to leave her family and follow Finn, whom she hasn’t had more than three interactions with, into Trylle, and she comments how she’s happy she can spend her life with him. Like girl, get to know him first. 

I probably would have enjoyed this book a decade ago when I actually acquired the book, but now as a twenty-something adult with a lot more books under my belt, Switched just feels amateurish and cliche to me. It also doesn’t really hold up in today’s market as I encountered a handful of phrases and descriptions that would be deemed either offensive or outdated in today’s society. 

Overall, I can’t really recommend this book. It sounds like I’m bashing it pretty hard, but it’s not a bad book for its time, and I’m sure I would have loved it had I read it back in high school when it was published. However, it doesn’t hold up in 2023, nor does it align with my current reading tastes. I’m glad I at least read Switched though because I felt like I would be doing a disservice to my sixteen-year-old self if I didn’t read it after having owned it for so long; however, I will not be continuing with this series. 

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Review: THE UNMAKING OF JUNE FARROW by Adrienne Young


Rating: 5/5 stars

After being pleasantly surprised by Adrienne Young’s Spells for Forgetting, I wanted to give The Unmaking of June Farrow, her newest adult novel, a try. And I’m so glad I did because I liked this one even more! It was incredible. 

June is the last of the Farrow woman, an ancestral line that has been cursed with madness. June’s mother went mad and left her alone as a baby, and June just witnessed her grandmother’s death after she fully succumbed to the madness. And now June is next. She knows what’s in store for her, but that doesn’t make her any more prepared when she starts seeing objects that aren’t real and hearing people talk who were never there. 

June’s slow descent into madness makes her quite the unreliable narrator—you can never be sure if what she’s experiencing is real or not. But I still loved her. I thought the characterization in this novel was done well. 

Magical realism doesn’t usually work for me: I want something either realistic or fantastical, not somewhere in between. Yet I have loved both of Adrienne Young’s magical realism novels that I’ve read. Her writing style is really suited to this subgenre, and the small town setting with a mysterious history and some soft magic makes her stories work rather well. It also probably helps that her stories lean more toward the magical side than the realism side, which I enjoy. 

I was really drawn into this narrative and had a hard time putting the book down. I found it easy to connect to the characters and fall in love with Jasper, North Carolina as I was drawn deeper and deeper into its history. I really can’t say any more about this novel, though, as I don’t want to spoil anything, and I feel like adding any other details about the setting or the characters or the madness would be a potential spoiler. I went into this book blind, having read only the words on the cover of the book before picking it up, and that’s what I would recommend. The more you know, the less exciting the reveals in the story will be, in my opinion. 

I’m a fan of Young’s adult novels and will read any she writes in the future. The Unmaking of June Farrow is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. It’s an excellent read for a cozy autumn day, and if you enjoyed Spells for Forgetting then you will likely enjoy this one as well. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

Review: MASTERS OF DEATH by Olivie Blake


Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Masters of Death hooked me with its very exciting synopsis: Viola is a vampire real estate agent trying to sell a haunted house. Tom, the ghost haunting the house, doesn’t want the house to sell so he scares away any potential buyers. So Viola enlists the help of a medium named Fox, who is a fraudulent medium but the real godson of Death, to help her rid the ghost from the house. However, Death has recently gone missing and the aforementioned characters must play a dangerous game to find Death and return him to the world. This mysterious game is one that only the immortals play and there is only one rule: don’t lose.

That sounds incredible, right??

Well, I found the story to be more convoluted than necessary at times and also longer than it should have been. The book really feels like a mashup of two separate plots: one where Viola is trying to sell the house, and one where the characters are playing the game. I didn’t enjoy reading anything about the game because it honestly made no sense to me. I still have no idea what the game is. The characters alluded to gambling, battling immortals, or actually having nothing to physically lose in order to win. But it is still quite unclear to me exactly what this dangerous game entails, which is why reading about it wasn’t enjoyable for me because I just felt lost.

I did enjoy the plot surrounding the house, which was more present at the beginning of the book, and I did like the characters. Olivie Blake is skilled at crafting fleshed out and likable characters in each of her novels and this one was no different.

I think Masters of Death is a novel that I will need to reread to fully grasp the whole story. I’m a little conflicted about my rating because there were parts that I really enjoyed but also parts that I didn’t enjoy at all. I definitely liked it better than Blake’s One for My Enemy, but I enjoyed The Atlas Six and Alone with You in the Ether more. Her books are really hit or miss for me and I can’t pinpoint why.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you think it sounds interesting to you with the caveat that there is a lot more going on in the story than the synopsis initially alludes to and you have to pay close attention to understand it all.

Sunday, September 10, 2023


Rating: 4.25/5 stars 

Pitched as a dark academia thriller, This Is How We End Things is a fast-paced murder mystery with lots of twists.
The story takes place at a university among a cohort of six PhD students who are studying the psychology of deception. Which means they are all very skilled at lying. And then one of them ends up murdered.
Even the most skilled liar can’t keep their darkest secrets from coming to light during the investigation, and each student has secrets they’re aiming to keep hidden.
I really enjoyed this novel, but I wouldn’t describe it as dark academia. It has an academic setting and there’s a murder, but I don’t feel like it has the right vibe to fit in with the dark academia subgenre. For one, the main POV in the novel is a detective, and I feel like in dark academia, there are no detectives right off the bat. The focus was less on the students’ POVs and actions and more on what the two detectives were discovering as they were investigating the case. We did get POVs from the six students as well as some other minor characters, but I did feel like the “main character” of this book was Detective Larson.
Overall, though, this book was a quick read that really captured my interest. I read it very quickly and had a great time trying to solve the mystery along with the characters.