Interview with Shaila Patel

TODAY IS THE OFFICIAL RELEASE OF SOULMATED, BOOK #1 IN THE JOINING OF THE SOULS SERIES!

I’m excited. Are you excited? You need to get your hands on this fun book ASAP. To feed my own excitement (and yours!) the author, Shaila Patel, agreed to do an interview with me because she spoils me rotten. *wink* Shaila is such a sweet, spunky soul who makes everyone around her feel loved. It only makes sense that she likes to write about love when she’s so good at showing it. She also is insanely creative and silly—I accidentally left my umbrella with her last I saw her, and she’s named it and probably developed some backstory to go with it.

Want to know more about the book? Check out my review here!
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

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Two souls. One Fate.

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?


Without further ado, I give you Shaila Patel!

Are there areas that you see yourself in Lucky? 

Most definitely. It would be next to impossible not to slip snippets of my younger life into Lucky (Laxshmi’s nickname)—being that we’re both first generation Indian-American. While our exact experiences are nothing alike, I grew up in a strict household where I didn’t feel I had any choices. That’s pretty much a hallmark of young adult fiction, though, isn’t it? And it’s also a theme that runs through Soulmated: craving the freedom to make your own choices in life and accepting the consequences when you do.

How did your own experiences as an Indian American shape how you wrote Lucky?

It became a well of inspiration to be honest. Thinking of (maybe even dredging up!) my own experiences and those of my friends’ wasn’t always easy because I had to understand and empathize with both Lucky and her mom to do their characters justice. Lucky wouldn’t be Lucky without her mother’s influence, after all. The funny thing is, I feel there’s a lot of my current self in Moira in this book and in book 2.

What kind of research did you have to do for Liam’s character and his family’s heritage? How did you manage to make him so swoon-worthy?

Whenever you write outside your own experience, it takes a lot of research to get it even close to being right. I’ve made two trips to Ireland, and while that’s hardly enough to capture the Irish culture and heritage, my focus in writing Liam remained on capturing the emotional authenticity of someone his age while plagued with familial and cultural expectations. I did a lot of research in the Irish-English syntax and grammar and even hired an Irish editor to help with that. I suspect writing from Liam’s point of view will be a challenge throughout the series, and so the research will continue. And as with any culture, a monolithic representation never does it justice. Irish culture, like Indian culture, can vary from region to region, and I hope to keep learning as the series progresses.

As for making him swoon-worthy, I’m not sure how I managed that! Lol! I know that during revisions I had to pay a lot of attention to his character growth and development. An early editor had beat it into my brain (in a good way!) that I had to settle on what type of hero he was going to be before I continued. She was right. He was a hot mess at first, and when I sat down with my characterization goals for him, I realized I didn’t want to make him perfect—that was too easy and too boring—but I did want him to be relatable. (And it doesn’t hurt that I personally think he’s gorgeous! Lol!)

How did writing from two perspectives differ than writing from one narrative?

Good question! I had to pay a TON of attention to voice—and Liam’s Irish-English did not make that any easier. Sometimes I had to re-read a previous chapter of Liam’s to get back into the cadence of his language. But voice isn’t just about word choice. It’s also about the gender of the character and how s/he thinks. It’s even about their external influences affecting their thought processes and reactions. It wasn’t always easy, but nothing hit that point home like when I had to change a chapter into the other character’s point of view. It was amazing how little things had to change to compensate for a new narrator.

So this next book – I know I’m waiting anxiously. Will Lucky and Liam have all their questions answered?

Ah! I can’t give that away, can I??? Let’s just say, I’m a firm believer in happily-ever-afters, but a resolved romance in book 2 of a 4 book series would kill the story! I can say this, however: their relationship takes a significant step forward and many little steps backward. I hate to be vague, but you’ll just have to wait for book 2!

Thanks for having me!


SHAILA PATEL

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As an unabashed lover of all things happily-ever- after, Shaila’s younger self would finish reading Cinderella and fling her copy across the room because it didn’t mention what happened next. Now she writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues. A member of the Romance Writers of America, she’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. She enjoys traveling, craft beer, and teas, and loves reading books—especially in cozy window seats. You might find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red light or connecting with other readers online at: http://www.shailapatelauthor.com
 
Find Shaila:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Book Review – Let it Snow

Title: Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances
Author: John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
Published: October 2008
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Short Stories 

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: It’s okay

51tqopkt70l-_sx332_bo1204203200_Synopsis:

An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. Over the next three days one girls takes a risky shortcut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House (and the hash brown spoils), and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick barista.

A trio of today’s bestselling authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—brings all the magic of the holidays to life in three hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and kisses that will steal your breath away.

“Proximity doesn’t breed familiarity.” p. 3

Let it Snow is a short story collection of romance stories that take place in the fictional town of Gracetown, North Carolina (my home state – cue warm, happy feelings). The three stories intertwine as one, connecting characters and places. It makes me wonder how people are able to co-author books in what seems like such a seamless way. Seeing as the stories included are romance AND short, it doesn’t take long to figure out whom each character will end up with. Because of that, this review will be a little spoilery, so proceed with discretion.

Before I dive into each story, I just want to put them all under the umbrella of cute. All of them were sweet and filled me with holiday cheer (I know this review isn’t around the holidays, but I promise I actually read it around Christmas). Each was special in its own way.

The Jubilee Express – Maureen Johnson

This story was probably the sweetest of them all. Jubilee is handed one misfortunate situation after another, only to end up on a train that’s stuck in the snow on Christmas Eve. After trudging out to a nearby Waffle House, she unexpectedly befriends a boy whose family takes her in for the holidays. You have to remember you’re in the south, which will subside that urge to say, “STRANGER DANGER!” This family was so genuine and kind, caring for Jubilee by smothering her and giving her space at the appropriate times. Jubilee does this self-doubt thing that I think many of us are all too familiar with. I wanted to shake her and tell her to stop feeding herself obvious lies and open her eyes, at the same time knowing I’ve been in situations where I had to consciously make myself aware of the self-doubt lies I’d feed myself. I guess in this particular aspect, this story really hit the feels for me. The boy is so sweet and real with her, calling her out when she needs it, speaking encouragement into her life by looking back on his experiences. Gosh, we all need people like that! It definitely helps when they’re cute, too.

A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle – John Green

One thing I enjoyed about the first story that I didn’t see quite as much in this second one is character development. John Green dumps us into the world of these high school friends and proceeds to plot out an epic adventure. Since the story was so focused on this adventure, there was less room for character development—not that there wasn’t any! It’s hard to make two long-term best friends realize they like each other without some development of their individual characters. Where this story lacks in development, it sure doesn’t lack in the quirky, realistic aspects of these teenagers. They’re not perfectly structured. They don’t have overly common interests. They’re dorky, crude, normal teenagers, which is something I’ve always admired about Green’s writing.

This story made me feel all warm inside in it’s own way because, as I said before, it tells of a boy and girl who are close friends and their individual and mutual confusion at their developing feelings for each other. Why is this something I’m so fond of? That’s what happened to me—I remember those beginning feelings so clearly, even through two years of dating my best friend.

The Patron Saint of Pigs – Lauren Myracle

The last story is less of a journey to a romantic climax, though don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely romance in this. Instead, it’s a journey of the main character learning to see the world and people as they are. She learns that everything isn’t about her; she needs to open her world to those around her, think about things from their perspective, and learn to listen. I probably liked this story the least because I had to deal with the main character’s “what about me?!” lamenting and it was annoying. However, there’s something satisfying in seeing a selfish character get brought to an uncomfortable place that causes them to open up their worldview. There is also this great reunion at the end, which felt like an unnecessary reward for her for thinking about other people, but it brought happy tears to my eyes.

Book Review – Gemina

Title: Gemina: The Illuminae Files _02
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Published: October 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi

Rating: 5 Stars
Cover: Like It

51qhtzfrfgl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Synopsis:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the space station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station captain’s spoiled daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while they are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the crew one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum may be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival. The fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly in the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Briefing note: Told through a compelling dossier of found documents—and featuring guest journal illustrations by bestselling author Marie Lu—Gemina hurls readers into an enthralling new episode that will leave them breathless.

“You might get only one shot. So shoot.” p. 494

If you missed my review of the first book in the series, Illuminae, you can find it here.

As was completely expected, Gemina was a rollercoaster and I was hanging on tightly to discover the end. This second installment of the Illuminae Files takes place at the space station Heimdall that Hypatia and all the people aboard have been fighting to reach the whole last book. The story opens just before a station-wide celebration of a holiday. Cue Hanna, the spoiled station captain’s daughter who will stop at nothing to get her way. She’s planning the perfect expensive outfit for the perfect date with her boyfriend to the big celebration at the station. Until suddenly the station is ambushed by BeiTech. Suddenly people are dying left and right, and she is cut off from her boyfriend. The only people able to team up with Hanna to save their station are two cousins from a criminal gang. About two thirds of the way through the book, the crew on Hypatia are able to make contact with the space station and both discover themselves in a nearly impossible phenomenon that has caused two alternate universes to merge as one. Not only do Hanna and her team need to save their space station from their invaders, but now they also need to team up with the crew from Hypatia to save their universe from collapsing.

Of course the whole book is filled with strategic ass-kicking and grotesque deaths, because what else would you expect from Kaufman and Kristoff? A cool aspect that separates this book from the previous is the illustrations by Marie Lu. Hanna is a creative thinker and best processes things by doodling in her journal. Many of her journal pages throughout the invasion are included with the files and allow for the reader to connect with her and other characters on a deeper level. I love this addition to the storytelling. My favorite aspect of Gemina, though, was the amount of character growth developed throughout this intense reading experience. Each of the characters (at least the ones that outlived others longer) where fully fleshed out and came out the other end as a changed person. It made me root for the characters even more.

Gemina follows Illuminae as one of my favorite reads this year. Kaufman and Kristoff have this habit of ripping your beating heart out of your chest, crushing it, inflating it with a breath of hope, repeating this a couple times, and then shoving your heart back into your chest, filling you with every emotion in the book. Now dump some delightful romance into the madness that will warm up that very heart that is going through so much turmoil. I anxiously await the third and final installment with bated breath.

No Plain Rebel – Book Review

Title: No Plain Rebel (No Ordinary Star #2)
Author: M.C. Frank
Published: July 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia 

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like it

51jlw2ncnml-_sx326_bo1204203200_Synopsis:

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He had no idea what to do.

A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive.

A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.

The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.

The year is 2525.

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic novel is set in a world where Christmas—among other things—is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace.

Written in three installments, this is the breathtaking and sensual story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time.

In No Plain Rebel, Felix finds out the truth. Or so he thinks. He’s trying to come to terms with that, as well as with the fact that the Clockmaster’s shack has been discovered by his fellow-soldiers, but he can’t exactly concentrate. The match girl’s fiery curls appear before his eyes every ten seconds, distracting him, and then he starts talking to her in his head. Because she’s no longer there.

The Stadium is looming in the distance.

It’s ten heartbeats to midnight.

“Silence is not peace, Felix, my hope” (p. 188).

*I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review*

The truth is out there. *Cue “The X-Files” theme music.*

No Ordinary Star ended with a cliffhanger, so naturally I scrambled to continue the story with No Plain Rebel. (You can see my review for NOS here.) I love reading about Felix and Astra and watching them learn, and as they learn, their worlds grow so much bigger. I love how they learn about how humanity was before it was taken away from them, and watch them marvel at it: “They stand for a few more minutes there, absorbing all the newness of the Old World” (p. 25). Felix and Astra learn what knowledge, ideas, beauty, and love are when the world they live in is void of it. This continuation of their story was perfect.

All of the questions left in NOS are answered in the second installment. Felix learns the truth about who he is, who his family is, and where the world is headed. I think I could feel his mind blowing as his knowledge grew. Both characters learn who to extend a trusting hand to and who is perpetuating the bleak future of their world. There is a delightful part of NPR where Felix is forced to swallow a giant pill of humility and face reality in the fact that he can’t help change the problem without recognizing he’s part of the problem. Whoa! The character growth is through the roof!

Astra and Felix {finally} start realizing their feelings for each other, even with the knowledge that any sort of romantic relations is illegal. Heck, everything they do in this book is considered illegal. I can’t imagine living in a world where reading is treason! I was disappointed, though, that this story seemed to be mostly focused on Felix, and we don’t hear much from Astra in the second half of the book. I am a fan of that feisty red head.

Ultimately, I think book one is my favorite of the two, specifically because of the world immersion rather than the overflow of information. However, as I said, this book didn’t disappoint – and of COURSE it ended on another cliffhanger. Where’s book three?

Love. Hurt. Betrayal. The story continues.

No Ordinary Star – Book Review


Title:
No Ordinary Star (No Ordinary Star #1)
Author: M.C. Frank
Published: November 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia 

Rating: 5 Stars
Cover: Like it51pe2yum8l-_sx324_bo1204203200_

Synopsis:

A soldier is summed to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do.

A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear life alive.

A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.

The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.

The year is 2525.

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic novel is set in a world where Christmas – among other things – is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace.

Written in three installments, this is the breathtaking and sensual story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time.

“How can such a small person cause so much chaos?” p. 74

*I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review*

In the beginning of No Ordinary Star, the author writes an introduction about how these books are inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury. When I saw this, I knew immediately that this was something I needed to read—Ray Bradbury is a genius. While M.C. Frank has her own unique voice, I can definitely see the influences from Bradbury. Frank does not disappoint.

NOS takes place a couple weeks before the turn of the New Year—2525. This futuristic, dystopian novel explores ideas that are not completely new, specifically creating a world of advancements that have lost touch with humanity and the beauty of the world around them. Though this concept, wrapped up in a dystopia, is becoming increasingly popular, M.C. Frank does an excellent job capturing the reader’s attention and describing something that feels completely new, creating vivid descriptions and wonder inducing images of things we consider the norm in our world today.

In this new world, people don’t have families and pills keep them alive. Each person is created, their personalities and characteristics are chosen, and their flaws basically eliminated. This is why it comes as a surprise when, one day, the soldier receives a message from his grandfather—a familial role he had never heard of. The people in this future have no need for sleep, no need to eat, and are just driven to keep moving. Food, vitamins, health maintenance including rest otherwise gained by sleep—all these necessities are rolled into pills taken every day. Food is just an excessive attempt to connect with the old times, and animals are far less populous. With no need to sleep, many of the men join the military and run drills and missions for 23 hours a day. Ideas are discouraged and the norm of society is to follow orders. Those who rebel are thrown into “the Box,” along with the women, who are punished for even being alive. Diversity, beauty, and love are non-existent. What a bleak, hopeless future. However, one man begins a new awakening that begins to blossom in this book, and, I’m assuming, will reach full bloom in the next two.

One of my favorite things about NOS is that Frank doesn’t take an extended period of time to build the world, but rather dunks you right in and explains the absolute necessary things as you go. This allows for more of an immersive experience that calls for collaboration with your imagination. This book does not explain the world, but shows it. Plus, let me tell you, the descriptions and writing are just so beautiful: “…he feels himself falling away from sight, sinking into the snow, its crystals parting to welcome his weight” (p. 6).

Frank uses this book as a commentary on society, much like her hero, Bradbury. If our world were to strive for perfection and order, would we lose our humanity? Our choices, uniqueness, ideas, and even our mistakes are the building blocks that create the rich world we live in. I look forward to see how Frank continues to weave this world, knowing I will struggle to put the next book down just as I did with this one.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Book Review

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts I & II
Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne
Published: July 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Play

Rating: 2 Stars
Cover: It’s okay

518vha3dh9l-_sx329_bo1204203200_Synopsis:

Nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts…

It was always difficult being Harry Potter, and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and a father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: Sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a new play by Jack Thorne. It is the eighth Harry Potter story and the first to be officially presented on stage. This special rehearsal edition of the script brings the continued journey of Harry Potter and his friends and family to readers everywhere immediately following the play’s world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

Harry: I’ve never asked you how you felt about me naming him after you, have I?
Dumbledore: Candidly, Harry, it seemed a great weight to place upon the poor boy.

Before I dove into this book, I felt I had to mentally prepare myself for the different formatted storytelling of the characters I’ve loved the majority of my life. This is not a book, but a play; therefore it should have different expectations. Even with this in mind, I felt the execution was less than expected. It felt like the writer didn’t know whether they were writing a play or a novel, often being excessively descriptive in the stage directions or using unnecessary details, such as the specific number a character dialed in the telephone booth entrance to the Ministry of Magic. An audience member is not going to be able to see what number is being dialed. It was a little confusing to keep going back and forth between mindsets – is this a script or a novel?

First, let me give you a quick overview of the plot in non-spoilery fashion. Harry and Ginny’s son, Albus, and Draco’s son, Scorpius, become friends over their societal outcast—Albus’s being self-inflicted because of his apparent hatred of his relation to his father, and Scorpius because of persistent rumors that his father and mother used a special Time Turner to go back in time, resulting in Scorpius being Voldemort’s heir. For some reason, Albus becomes obsessed with Cedric Diggory’s death, and ropes Scorpius into running away from school in order to find this alleged special Time Turner, go back in time to save Cedric, and alter time, as well as Harry’s fame. They are encouraged and accompanied by Cedric’s cousin, Delphi.

The script starts off where the 7th book ended, the next generation of Potter’s, Wesley’s, and Malfoy’s boarding the Hogwarts train. However, we barely get to see Hogwarts, which was a surprise to me. For the first 20-ish% of the book, the new characters are being introduced in quick glimpses, flashing through years at a neck breaking speed without giving much of an in depth look at characters’ lives. This whole beginning was just a fast paced view of Albus getting moodier and more self-centered over the course of four years. When the pacing does slow down, we are then thrown back and forth in time without a moment to breathe. It was hard to get connected. On top of that, the dialogue is not natural and often awkward. I cringed several times when characters spoke to each other, particularly when Albus and Scorpius interact with the trolley lady on the train to Hogwarts. You know, the one that comes around and sells sweets? Apparently she is nuts. I would like to scrub that scene from my cranium.

My biggest complaint was the lack of depth to the characters. I’m not just talking about the fast forward introduction to the new ones, but also the characters that are iconic to the Harry Potter industry. Ginny’s character was completely flat and uninteresting (Flashback to the movies?), Ron is constantly trying to make awkward jokes and works at the Joke Shop now (What happened to George? I thought Ron was an Auror?), and Hermione’s intelligence isn’t anything special. Draco’s character was the only that seemed relatively close to what we would expect, and he brought some of those nostalgic feelings back. Three cheers for Draco! Oh, and of course we have a Dumbledore cameo. He appears through various picture frames as a painting in two scenes. I feel that his addition is completely unnecessary; his scenes could be cut out of the play completely and make no difference. The first scene in which he makes an appearance, he offers Harry advice that is promptly ignored, instead causing Harry to respond in the opposite direction. In the second, Dumbledore’s lines are extremely uncharacteristic and he proceeds to make an awkward and emotional apology to Harry for the way he’s treated him over the years. It feels that Dumbledore’s role was specifically to give fans some closure they felt they deserved, though uncharacteristic. This is completely unnecessary because we often don’t get closure in our real lives.

Hands down, beyond a doubt, Scorpius is by far the best character. His wit cuts through the awkward dialogue and brings humor to the angsty characters. He responds to situations with normal emotions and questions that one would expect. He is loyal, even when his best friend is caught up in his get-back-at-his-dad-for-being-famous schemes. He kept me going. *fist pump for the witty, strange Scorpius*

Some of the scenes were inconsistent with things readers know to be true of the Wizarding World. On many occasions, characters would come and go from Hogwarts grounds without any dancing around security spells. Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and Draco all come through Professor McGonagall’s chimney by Flu Powder and nothing is said about it other than Professor McGonagall’s complaint about the carpet getting dirty. Is anyone allowed to come onto school grounds now? Did security become lax after the Battle of Hogwarts? Isn’t this a little overzealous? One of the first things the new trio does in their vengeance scheme is use Polyjuice Potion to transform into Ministry of Magic employees AKA the parents. Did the author(s) forget that Polyjuice Potion takes a month to make? There is no way they could’ve whipped it up so fast! Apparently all Wizarding World rules are out the window though, since Time Turners play such a huge role in the story, even though they were all destroyed in the Battle of Ministries in the 5th book. However, these are special Time Turners that break all the rules because they are able to go back years instead of being limited to an hour or so. Who would’ve thought? To top it off, during one of their leaps through time in attempt to save Cedric, the three appear in the maze portion of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Somehow they are able to navigate the twists and enchantments of the maze, while remaining completely unseen by the scorekeepers, announcer, and crowds. There are a lot of things that don’t quite connect throughout.

In an attempt to be spoiler-free, I have not talked about Delphi in depth, nor the big plot twists in the second half of the book. Please comment if you’ve read this so that we can talk about these things!

The suspension of belief required during this read is exceptional and the dialogue cringe-worthy. The most redeeming quality of The Cursed Child is the humor Scorpius and Draco bring to the table. If you are hoping to reconnect with the story and the familiar characters, you may be left wanting more.

Book Review – Illuminae

Title: Illuminae: The Illuminae Flies _01
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Published: January 2015
Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Rating: 5 Stars
Cover: Like it

51vpagsvayl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Synopsis:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do today. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, exes Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship is the least of their problems. A deadly plague bas broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results. The fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what the fuck is going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Briefing note: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

This is my first read by either of these authors, though I have the beautiful UK edition of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff on my shelf to read and I’ve already preordered the second book in the Illuminae series. After finishing this book, I will keep an even closer eye on these authors and their work.

Illuminae is the most engaging book I’ve read in a while. I thoroughly enjoyed the formatting of the text, using files, footage, and communications between ships. It felt like I was reading a real case file on an incident. Black pages are used for Kady’s diary entries and for the Artificial Intelligence’s, AIDIN, readings. Words dance across the pages in twists to illustrate the Cyclone ships flight paths, or to create a picture of the ships at war. Some words break to pieces to show a life lost during battle. I took extra long to read each page as the digital aspects through the illustrations mesmerized me, completely engaging me in the plot line. My only frustration with the format of the book was that I was constantly leaving fingerprint smudges on the black pages. When I complained about this to my boyfriend, he told me I should just buy two copies of every book—one to read and one to stay pretty looking. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Disclaimer as I move into the plot: PEOPLE DIE. So many people die. Three ships are able to escape the Kerenza colony when it is attacked by Bio-Tech. Though the ships suffer damages from the battle, they are able to save thousands of civilians and make headway as they escape the only Bio-Tech ship left standing, Lincoln. Before long, however, they are faced with troubles among their own fleet, including a plague that causes severe paranoia and their AI—which is programmed to protect them—suddenly and inexplicably killing their own people. The violence is not for the faint of heart. The hardest death for me in the whole book was the hardest one for Kady. I could almost hear the sound of my heart breaking and sinking into my stomach.

Kady is one of my favorite characters I’ve read. She is determined, feisty, and refuses to sit down and do nothing. Even AIDIN is charmed by her: “She tosses lank hair from her eyes. Eyes narrowed to knife cuts. Refusing to kneel. To break. To fall. I can see why they loved her” (p 548). She will not let the truth be hidden, but instead fights for knowledge through hacking into documents and even escaping one ship to help another. While rule-breaking never should be encouraged, Kady’s spunk and struggle for the truth to be known universally is admirable. We need more women like her in America today.

While Kady is primarily preoccupied in her illegal hunt, a part of her is preoccupied with her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Ezra. The morning before their home was invaded, she had broken up with him, much to his dismay. However, since he is on a separate ship than her, he has access to information she needs. She finally breaks the silence and starts to work with him. It is apparent he is still smitten by her when he continues to send her cheesy love poems in the shape of hearts and roses (insert eye roll) and tells her sweet encouragements like this (insert melting of my heart):

“Mason, E, LT 2nd: you have me
Mason, E, LT 2nd: until the last star in the galaxy dies
Mason, E, LT 2nd: you have me” (p 232).

While their relationship does not take up the whole plot line, it plays a big part. It’s encouraging to see people fight for each other in the midst of chaos, and to chose to work out their issues instead of ultimately running away.

The amount of twists revealed in Illuminae are innumerable. I constantly found myself gasping in shock at new information or even the shear brutality of everything. This book is well advertised by the line “Am I not merciful?” (p 307), but once I actually got to that part, I was completely horrified by what it meant. Once again, this book is not for the faint of heart. Every twist and turn provided more shocks, more horror, and hope was constantly handed to me and then ripped away. This book was so engaging, I’d think about it even when I wasn’t reading it. It is gripping and perfectly descriptive. I am counting down the days until book #2 hits the shelves.