Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee – Trans superhero MC, teens fighting for what’s right, and… confessing to your crush? (Yes please!)

Summary:

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

I received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My review:

In case you didn’t know, Not Your Sidekick was my favourite book of 2017, and remains to be one of my favourite books of all time. So, you can imagine how excited and ecstatic I was I was given the privilege to read its sequel, Not Your Villain! I adored Not Your Villain, and I cannot wait to tell you why.

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Golden Son by Pierce Brown – Middle-book syndrome what? This book takes the series to new heights

Summary:

Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

My review:

If you know my reviews and frequent ravings, you will probably know that I loved Red Rising. I loved it for its eloqent political and revolutionary narratives, I loved it for its epic and heartrending story, and I loved it for its grittiness and melodrama. And here, after finishing Golden Son, I’m pleased to say that I love this series still.

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The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu – At times emotional, at times heart-rendering, and at times horrifying, this book is Asian-inspired SFF at its best

Summary:

With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie. This mesmerizing collection features all of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

My review:

It took me months to read The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. Not because it was a bore – in fact, far from it. The Paper Menagerie is one of the most affecting books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Some of the stories hit me so close to home that I had to take long breaks, but it didn’t change how much I loved this short story collection.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is a collection of short stories that explore a plethora of unique and fascinating ideas. Some were speculative fiction, some were fantasy, some had elements of magical realism, but the best part was that most of the stories had Asian protagonists and were centered on Asian mythology and philosophy. There’s something so powerful and validating about reading something that feels important and familiar to me. In that sense, reading The Paper Menagerie was a personal and emotional experience; I have a feeling that, for years to come, The Paper Menagerie will be a book that I hold very close to me.

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Want by Cindy Pon – Great discourse, thrilling action, and characters you will love; this is THE YA sci-fi book of 2017

Summary:

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

My review:

We live in tumultuous times. Pollution and global warming are on the rise, the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer, and we live in a society where corporations have a startling amount of power over our own lives. It is for these reasons that we need more books that tackle social and political issues, and books that offer critique of our own society. It is important, now more than ever, that we read books like Pon’s Want. We need books that not only examine such issues, but books that do so well and with a critical lens. There are very few books that ever satisfy my sociologically-inclined and discoursing heart, but Want was such a book – and more.

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Exo by Fonda Lee – What if Earth was invaded and colonized by aliens? This sci-fi offers a fantastic, nuanced glimpse

Summary:

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip . But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .

My review:

While reading, Exo by Fonda Lee, I just kept thinking, ‘Finally. FINALLY.’

Finally, a young adult dystopian/science-fiction novel with a writer that understands the nuances and complexities of colonialism and oppression. Finally, a story that isn’t just about the suppression of individualistic expression and calling it oppression, but a story that understands that oppression is systemic, involves power, and is more than about teens spearheading a revolution for the sake of plot and action. Finally, a book that has delivered a very nuanced story that shows that systemic oppression and overcoming it is not simple, but can be morally grey.

For this reason alone, I loved Exo instantly.

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