Book Review – The Library of Fates

Title: Library of Fates
Author: Aditi Khorana
Published: July 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Goodreads

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like It

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Synopsis:

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn.

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

“All I had now were stories, words, and hope” (p. 185)

Thank you Penguin Random House for an eARC of The Library of Fates.

This story is unlike one I’ve ever read before and I absolutely love that fact. Khorana writes an #ownvoice story about Indian folklore that completely dunks you into this awesomely beautiful culture and storytelling. The descriptions are colorful and vivid, evoking a subconscious sense of wanderlust, presenting a world that you will want to reach out to touch, taste, feel, and can’t get enough. Who wouldn’t want to explore a place like this: “Blue and silver minarets rose above the walled city of Shalingar’s capital—Ananta. A layer of marine fog settled over Chanakya Lake, revealing miniature houseboats wearing elaborate gardens on their roofs like soft, mossy hats. They sailed placidly across the flat, misty surface of the basin” (p. 7)?

Amrita is the daughter of an emperor who has kept her primarily contained within the palace walls her whole life. Honestly, the palace has so much for her, it’s not surprising that she doesn’t have huge dreams to leave. She has a great relationship with her father, a best friend from childhood who recently revealed his feelings for her, and a handmaiden-type woman who is basically a mother figure. While she can be a bit of a brat when she doesn’t get what she wants (Can you blame her, though? Everything is generally given to her usually.), she respects her dad and his leadership of their lands.

But everything gets flipped upside down when her father’s old friend comes to visit. Sikander is a sexist, entitled jerk who wants to own and rule over everything. Soon into his visit, he reveals his plan to take over the kingdom and wreak destruction to make it happen. Amrita is encouraged to flee to warn her people. She then is sent on a great journey with her new friend Thala, learning about the world outside her doorstep, about how to take risks and fight for the people she loves, about sacrifice, and that the folklore stories she grew up hearing had more truth than she ever dreamed and she played a big role in them.

While the writing was absolutely gorgeous and the adventure exciting, there were some slower parts that I just wanted to rush through. Plus, there were actually a couple love triangles and I’m not really about that life. However, even with those things, I cannot recommend this book enough!

The Library of Fates is an enchanting story that heavily focuses on love and sacrifice. The amount of sacrifices made throughout this story make you want to be a better person and love your people harder. And while there is quite a lot lost on the journey, the fight is worth it and the end is inspirational. So I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“And we cried because I think we both understood that there was no life without loss.”
(p. 301)

Book Review – Vinyl

Title: Vinyl (The Vinyl Trilogy #1)
Author: Sophia Elaine Hanson
Published: November 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Steampunk
Goodreads

Rating: 5 Stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

Ronja staggered back and forth across the room half a dozen times, rolling the kinks from her neck and kneading her shoulders. The exercise worked the hitches from her mind. For the first time in her life, her thoughts were bitingly clear. Everything that had happened over the course of the last few days was impossible. A shiny without a Singer. A makeshift hospital underground. A symbol invisible to an entire city that she alone could see. Her Singer, ripped from her skull just before The Quiet Song could drag her under. Ronja halted, her heart writhing in her ribs. The Conductor tried to kill me, she thought dimly. Why?

All citizens within the soaring black walls of Revinia have metal Singers grafted into their skulls at birth. The parasitic machines issue a form of auditory hypnosis called The Music, which keeps their minds malleable and emotions flat. All artistic expression—especially real music—is strictly prohibited. On the edge of the city, nineteen-year-old Ronja struggles to support her cousins and disabled mother. A chance meeting leads to her kidnapping by an underground resistance striving to preserve the human spirit. Violently severed from her Singer by the brash young agent Roark, Ronja revels in her newfound freedom until the consequences of her disappearance begin to unfold.

“Uncaged ideas can be dangerous, even deadly” (p. 56).

An emotionally investing dystopian story set in a steampunk society with characters worth fighting for. Vinyl is immersive, dunking the readers right into this futuristic world.

One theme highlighted heavily in this story is one that is common with dystopian books: class structure. However, Hanson handles this with such grace that it doesn’t feel like we hear this theme over and over in this genre. The vivid writing connects the audience with the disparity those on the outer circle feel, like Ronja and her family. Ronja’s family has been genetically modified in order to serve the Conductor and suppress their emotions better. While they are the ultimate servant and citizens of this repressed society, they are the lowest of the low. No one wants to hire them, talk to them, or associate with them in any way. Ronja has to bust her butt working every job she can get her hands on in order to provide for her alcoholic mother and two young cousins. One of these jobs is how she met Roark and was thus thrust into a secret underground society with little to no choice.

The Anthem is a resistance group that is on the brink of demanding a revolution. As Ronja is introduced to this strange world without The Music controlling your thoughts and actions, and to the slew of dynamic and diverse characters, I couldn’t help feel the excitement she felt. There was this hope that she could’ve never even let herself dream of. There was joy in feeling emotions in a far more tangible way without the demands of the Conductor’s way of living blocking and dulling them. As Ronja encountered real music for the first time, as she encountered dancing and singing and rejoicing in freedom, it made me appreciate the privileges of this life I live so much more. We have freedom over our thoughts, over our emotions, over who we want to be. How amazing is that?

Ronja learns just how powerful ideas and thoughts are. They can change and shape the world. They are the very thing that scares those in power, the very thing that drives the resistance. Individual ideas and thoughts are the tools to create the reality we live in, which is why books like this are so important! I felt a pull in my gut to fight for the characters in the midst of all their dangerous situations, and I couldn’t let go! I can’t wait to see how the characters fight in book two, Radio.

Book Blitz/Review – The Animal Under the Fur

Title: The Animal Under the Fur
Author: E.J. Mellow
Published: March 30th 2017
Genre: Action, Adult, Romance

Rating: 5 stars
Cover: Love it

Synopsis:

From award-winning author E. J. Mellow comes an action romance dripping with vengeful delight.

Orphaned on the streets as a baby, Nashville Brown, a.k.a Kill Operative 3, knows better than to rely on anyone. With heightened senses and superhuman strength to survive, she’s been raised as the perfect assassin.

The trick to her success? Keeping everyone, even her best friend, at arm’s length.

Losing his entire family in the span of a year, Carter Smith left his ability to love buried deep in their graves. His only concerns now are completing his missions and effortlessly charming the next temptress to warm his bed.

The key to his accomplishments? Working alone mixed with a Casanova smile.

But when a deadly weapon needs to be stopped from falling into the wrong hands, the lone wolves find themselves thrown into an explosive partnership. Can Carter and 3 lower their guns aimed at one another long enough to succeed, or will their unwillingness to compromise end up destroying more than their perfect records? Whatever their differences, both agree on one thing—in the game of lies and deceit, the line between friend and foe is often blurred by blood splatter.

The Animal Under The Fur is a hate-to-loath-to-love standalone novel filled with savagery, secrets, and enough angst to wrinkle the pages you’ll find gripped in your hands.

“You know,” he says, “there’s other way to work through issues than with violence.” I cock my head to the side. “But so much less fun” (chapter 35)

Happy Book Birthday to The Animal Under the Fur! I had the privilege of receiving an Advanced Reader Copy from the author to give an honest review. This review is a part of TAUTF Book Blitz.

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How refreshing it is to read something completely badass and action-packed after reading a couple of YA Romance books. This book packs a punch! While being pitched as a hate-to-loath-to-love story makes some of the story arc predictable, there were so many twists that took me by surprise. I had no idea where E.J. Mellow was taking the story and I loved every second. Don’t put this book down; you don’t know what Carter and Nashville will get up to while you’re gone.

Cater Smith and Nashville Brown are assassins working for sister agencies. They both meet when accidentally assigned the same person to kill. Though their immediate hatred for each other causes their mission to go less than smoothly, both agencies decide to attempt to put them together purposefully to tackle a bigger mission as a team.

The characters are introduced with their flaws out on display almost instantly. Cater thinks with his dick always. His language and voice is characterized by phallic imagery and descriptions. He is vulgar and obsessed with sex. Nashville has such a deep sense of independence that she gives herself a superior persona. She distances herself from everyone, which lets her do her job better. Their hatred for each other is captivating, urging you to discover what they’ll do next. As you read, both Carter and Nashville’s strengths come to the surface and it’s charming as hell.

There is a moralistic element to this book that comes up in the second half and gives humanity to every character involved. Mellow consistently hits you in the gut through her imagery, the action-packed tension, the romance, and the humanity of people. The Animal Under the Fur is sexy, raw, and so freaking fun.

“There will be a tomorrow for you after it’s done” (chapter 55).

Purchase Links

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

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E.J. Mellow is the award-winning author of the contemporary fantasy trilogy The Dreamland Series and The Animal Under The Fur. With a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, E.J. Mellow splits her time between her two loves – visual design and writing. Residing in NYC, E.J. is a member of Romance Writers of America and their Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter. She has no animals but loves those who do.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

 

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Blog Tour/Review – Off the Ice

Title: Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1)
Author: Julie Cross
Published: February 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary, Romance
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

Off the Ice CoverSynopsis:

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

“I’m breathing hard, my pulse pounding. Dad snatches the puck from my glove and stares me down. I can’t tell if he’s pissed that I blocked his shot or surprised. All I know is that I want him to go back to the center ice and do it again. And again.” (chapter 23)

I have the privilege of being on Entangled Teen’s blog tour for Julie Cross’s new book, Off the Ice. When I first heard of this book, I got excited because I love stories that involve hockey. After all, The Mighty Ducks was one of the best movies to grow up on. The boyfriend and I are even planning on going to a hockey game next week – bring it on! The hockey element definitely added some fun and tension to this story, which I loved. Before I get started with my review, I would just like to point out that there are many other stops on this tour! Check the banner below for more reviews, interviews, and guest posts to get you excited about this book.

OffTheIceTour

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR HERE!


I went into this book thinking it would be a fluffy romance with some conflict on the ice, something that was easy to read and made me feel good. That impression was shot down almost immediately. This snow-covered town of Juniper Falls holds so many secrets and the drama they cause can sometimes be dark. I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire day and a half it took me to finish this book. The drama! To reiterate, this isn’t a fluffy romance; the plot includes sex, alcohol abuse, underage drinking, physical abuse, and language.

Juniper Falls is a small, fictional town in Minnesota that lives and breathes hockey. The boys are raised to be hockey players and the girls to cheer them on (ayyye, sexist much? Though, there is mention of a little girl taking hockey classes, so a point for equality.) Tate grew up in the shadow of his hockey star father, whose dream in life is to relive his glory through his son. During the first game of the season, the Otters’ goalie walks out, and Tate suddenly goes from being a benchwarmer second goalie to the star goalie for the season. But can he get out of his head for long enough to catch the pucks? And what is he supposed to do with all these secrets coming out of the woodwork, including his own? The thing about Juniper Falls is that they have this perfect picture of what their town should look like. Anyone who strays from these perfectly functioning idealisms is ostracized and shut out. Tate struggles with keeping his own secrets from coming out, while also figuring out how to respond to those that have had their life and choices put on display.

Claire was chasing her dreams of being an actress at college when her world got flipped upside down and she was called home to help with her father and his bar. She develops this strong, independent will that ultimately puts other’s needs before her own. Whether this means sabotaging her own dreams or pushing people away so that they can find their own, Claire constantly has a battle in her head about what she deserves and what other people need. Like Tate, she also struggles with the secrets she knows and how different people would respond to these.

Chasing dreams, making them your own, discovering the values of friendships, and finding a love worth fighting for, Off the Ice has such beautiful themes, which are diamonds in the darkness of the heavier themes found. The writing feels very much as if in a high schooler’s head, so it wasn’t exceptionally stimulating, but the plot definitely took my by surprise and gripped me until the very end. The climax(es) had my heart pounding, but the fight for love and dreams melted me to a puddle. Tate and Claire’s adventure is a rollercoaster you will need to buckle up your heart for, wrapping up smoothly with hopes for the future.

Purchase Links:

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Amazon | Indies | B&N| Kobo | TBD | iBooks

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Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, and Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press). She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of her reading and writing credibilities, Julie Cross is a committed—but not talented—long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

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Lose Me. – Book Review

Title: Lose Me. (ARC)
Author: M.C. Frank
Published: April 11th, 2017
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance 

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like It

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Synopsis:

Jane Austen meets New Adult fiction in this compulsively readable romance.

“Today is not the day I die.”

Ari Demos starts every day with this thought. Fresh out of high school, she’s landed a coveted role as a stunt double in a new Pride and Prejudice adaptation starring the Hollywood phenomenon Weston Spencer. But this job isn’t going to be easy: Ari will be performing complicated water stunts and driving fast cars along the narrow cliffs of Corfu. One false step and she could lose not only her job, but her life.

And then Wes Spencer, Mr Darcy himself, arrives in Greece. He’s got dirty blonde hair, a mile-long yacht and a bored look on that gorgeous face. Ari wants nothing to do with the rich actor boy, but on the day she meets him, she has an accident. One that almost claims her life. And now she can’t hide from the truth any longer:
She might be much closer to losing everything than she thought. She might be dying. And the British actor is the last person she’d expect to save her life.

She’s a hard-working island girl. He’s adored by millions.
Falling in love was never supposed to be a part of the job.
Staying alive was never supposed to be a part of growing up.

Was this story ever meant for a happily ever after?

“The truth is, people don’t survive alone. And they certainly don’t thrive alone.” – p. 312

I recently received an advanced readers copy of Lose Me. from the author, M.C. Frank. I absolutely adored her No Ordinary Star series (reviews here and here), so I was pretty excited to hear that she had written something new and a little bit different. This is primarily why I picked up this book, whereas I would otherwise tend to stay away from NA Romance books. It seems that so many NA books out there have uncomfortable covers with shirtless guys, sometimes sensually grabbing onto a girl as if their life depended on it. What’s inside doesn’t get much more engaging. I’ve only read a couple books under this category, but the ones I have read or flipped through are filled with sex and sexual tension from beginning to end. Honestly, I’d rather not spend my time reading about the sex lives of flat characters. However, since I already know and love Frank’s writing, I decided to give it a shot. The first thing that told me this book would be different was the cover. Come on, guys—just look at that cover! It is way more inviting, creative, and well done than most novels in this genre. How could you skip over this beauty? Plus, the inside gets better! Once I picked it up to read, I cursed every distraction and responsibility that forced me to put it back down again.

Lose Me. is written in a carefree, conversational way as if Ari, our main girl, were sitting down with you, fingers curled around a mug of coffee, telling you all about her life. The story takes place primarily in Greece, with some appearances in New York and England. The descriptions of Greece are gorgeous and gave me a sense of wanderlust. I felt almost like I was there and had been there before, even though I’ve never even left the US in my life. The country’s beauty was captivating and felt like home. Frank, who is Greek herself, did a wonderful job of cultivating her sense of home and conveying that through her writing.

Without getting into spoilers, the middle of the book didn’t grab me as much as the as the rest, but I genuinely cared so much about the characters that I felt a sense of urgency to continue reading. I could feel the pain the characters were going through during some of the conflict and this pushed me on. I sometimes found myself wanting to yell at poor decisions made and tuck the characters in my pocket to keep them safe. Another disappointing aspect was that it felt like the book was rushed in the editing stages. Some scenes went on for a long time and were repetitive, and some of the edits just felt like they could’ve been better. Other than these two aspects, I loved this read.

A huge theme throughout this book is trust. Who should we trust our entire life with and when is it okay to not know? Everything Ari goes through boils down to this discovery: people need people. I absolutely love this and would smile (I’d say internally, but who knows what actually goes on with my face when I’m immersed in a book) every time Ari realized that she needed the support that the people around her are trying to freely give more than she needs to protect them and their emotions or to protect herself. You go, girl. Stop thinking so selfishly about yourself and let people love you. After all, how boring would life be if we didn’t have people near to our hearts to share it with, the joys and the trials? Life is much more rich when you have people to experience it with you, to encourage you, to challenge you, and to hold your hand when things get scary. “People don’t survive alone” (p. 312).

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.

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.