2019, Books, reviews

The Illuminae Files Trilogy

Title: Illuminae
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Published: 2015
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Synopsis: Kady and Ezra’s home planet and illegal mining colony, Kerenza IV, was invaded by the BeiTech Corporation, an industrial rival. Fleeing aboard different ships, they must evade an enemy warship and survive long enough to report the attack and hopefully get help before a rogue AI, a zombie virus, or both take them out too.

Title: Gemina
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Published: 2016
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Synopsis: Hanna and Nik are aboard Jumpstation Heimdall when their home is attacked and taken over by BeiTech Industry soldiers. Without knowledge of the attack on Kerenza IV, they must try to stop a wormhole from ripping apart time and space while saving their space station and everyone on it.

Title: Obsidio
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Published: 2018
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Synopsis: Asha and Rhys, working for the underground resistance against BeiTech on Kerenza IV, hope to signal anyone for help to save the survivors. Meanwhile, the survivors of the Kerenza IV and Heimdall attacks return to Kerenza IV in hopes of finding survivors.

The format is unique and told through a dossier of hacked files, voice chats, memorandums, internal communications, and video surveillance footage. It drives the story and makes it a quick read, even though each book is 600 pages. There are pictures, images, diagrams, and journal entries that give the story a realistic feel and form a unique reading experience. Many also laud the audio books for the sound effects and full cast of characters that make the story come alive and even more fun to experience.

Each story is focused on different characters but they all connect and take place around the same time. Illuminae follows the invasion of Kerenza IV and the journey of those who were able to escape from the planet and are heading toward Jumpstation Heimdall. Gemina takes place shortly after the events of Illuminae, as the survivors from book one journey toward Heimdall (I think it was a 6 month journey but am not entirely certain). The two cross and come together at the end. Obsidio takes place after the attack on Kerenza IV and tells the story of those who survived the initial assault and are under military rule from their invaders. The three converge and tie the stories together.

What I liked: I personally enjoyed the idea of the story and the potential it had for an interesting plot. I found the entire journey intriguing and was compelled enough to continue through the story to find out who the Illuminae Group is, what happened on Kerenza IV, Heimdall, and the warships, and why BeiTech Industries invaded in the first place. The unique format kept the story moving and brought different perspectives from all the characters and situations that were simultaneously occurring. Had this been told in a different format, it might’ve lost some of the suspense and excitement.

What I didn’t like: Each story, while following different characters, read and felt the exact same. You could interchange Kady, Hanna and Asha and I wouldn’t have known the difference. Same for the main male characters. Even the story format and dossier documents felt the same. My biggest problem I had was the incredibly cringey and annoying dialogue with almost every single character interaction. I understand this is YA but the amount of violence, sexual content and language (although blacked out but still there) implies this would be a bit on the older YA range spectrum. However, the writing was so immature and frustrating that I literally skimmed books 2 and 3 because I didn’t care. The characters bored me and all I enjoyed were the action scenes and the overall plot. It honestly felt like 2 adults trying to be the cool parents and using slang, phrases and other manners of speaking to relate to kids and failing miserably. The story could’ve easily moved along with better writing and still provided the same sense of excitement, fear, frustration and anger that the characters experienced.

Overall, I am disappointed that I didn’t like the books as much as I’d hoped. Were they bad? No – and I can see why so many people love them. Did they work for me? No – because I just couldn’t deal with the content. The plot and ideas were awesome but how it was presented just didn’t jive with me and ultimately led me to being bored and just skimming through to get the major plot points and finish the story.

2019, Books, reading, reviews

The Illuminae Files #1

Title: Illuminae
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Published: 2015
Country: United States
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Synopsis: An illegal mining colony is destroyed, so the survivors aboard three space vessels must fight a virus, an industrial nemesis, and an AI system gone rogue.

Sequel: Gemina

The story was interesting and the format was intriguing. I had no problem with the overall way the book is presented, since it’s supposed to be a dossier given by someone named Ghost to some Executive Director. The intentions behind this wouldn’t make any sense if the story was written in a traditional format so this was fun to experience. It felt like a real investigative file someone would obtain about an event that happened.

I also listened to the audio book because everyone won’t stop raving about how it’s got a full cast and sound effects. While it made it more entertaining to experience, the audio book was more annoying than anything for 90% of the time. The sound effects were cool and enhanced battle scenes and some of the more intense events going on, however, the voice actors were annoying. The accents seemed super fake and in the end it sounded like 4 people doing every voice with variations. It was too slow to listen to on 1.5 speed but sounded stupid on 2 speed. But if you don’t follow along with the physical book, you get less of a visual effect, which is the whole intention of the story. It’s a conundrum.

My biggest gripe with this was the content itself. The dialogue was extra cringey and over the top. The chats were so annoying that I skipped over some of them because I couldn’t handle it. I know it’s YA, I know there’s a teen romance at the center, but it was tiresome and made me roll my eyes so hard. I think my favorite parts were the surveillance analyses because it gave us an idea of what was happening with some snarky commentary. The AI’s thoughts were interesting as it struggled with consciousness and understanding humanity versus it’s programmed code as a machine. But it was way too long and got old real quick.

Everyone says how this book is amazing and unique. It’s definitely different and I give the authors props for playing with a new format and trying something different. This could definitely make for a fun TV show, if done correctly. In the end though, I was incredibly underwhelmed and almost put it down. I watched/read some reviews that stated the first half was slow, which it was. I guess the build up was needed? I think there could’ve been less but since the format is unique, it goes by quickly, even though it’s 600 pages. In reality, it’s closer to 300 because of the way it’s presented.

Will I continue on with Gemina? Yes. I am curious as to where it will go and what happens next. Do I have high hopes? No. Will I listen to the audio? Yes, only because it made it more entertaining, although it didn’t add any value to it so I will likely skip parts.

Final verdict: An average story with a unique format that everyone has over-hyped and touted as this amazing book that is a must-read.

2019, Books, reading, reviews

Artemis Review

Title: Artemis
Author: Andy Weir
Published: 2017
Country: USA
Genre: Science Fiction

Synopsis: Set in the not-too-distant future, Jazz is recruited to plan and carry out an act of sabotage on the Moon city, Artemis. When things don’t go as planned, the heist turns deadly.

What I liked: The idea of living on the Moon is pretty cool. The setup and atmosphere felt plausible and the story was engaging and fast-paced.

What I didn’t like: The main character, Jazz, is a 26 year old smuggler but she reads like a 15 year old wanna-be rebel. While there are some deeper and underlying issues, the author tried too hard to make her relatable and many of the snarky comments were directed at the audience to make us think she is cool. Her sass was annoying and not funny, although I think some of it was supposed to be. It just made her really obnoxious and irritating to me.

I hate to say this because I don’t know if it’s me or on the author, but the way she was written is so obviously done by a man that it was almost too much. I am all for being shameless and admitting faults and being open about sexuality but some of the phrases and scenes were so cringey. I don’t know what the author was trying to do, but his depiction of a young woman was so far off that it really annoyed me. Some of the things she said or thought to herself just appeared as a man trying to think what a woman might say but it just came off as something you’d instead hear in a porno. It was unnecessary and ridiculous.

Many people complained about the book being too science focused and while it was definitely heavy and could get complicated, that didn’t seem to bother me as much. Additionally, the side characters weren’t too bad and added to the story.

I also liked the email exchanges between Jazz and Kelvin because it gave us backstory without having to build it into the story dialogue, which I appreciated. It also brought a little more insight into who Jazz was and how she got to where she is when we first meet her in the beginning of the book.

Verdict: Overall, it wasn’t bad and it wasn’t mind blowing. It could make for a cool movie and I could definitely imagine the scenes as they were happening but the overall character depiction really bothered me. The story would’ve been fine without all the sexually explicit stuff that was so over the top that it just got annoying and eye-roll inducing.

2017, 2018, 2019, Books, Favorites, reading, reviews

Warcross Duology Review

Title: Warcross
Author: Marie Lu
Published: 2017
Country: USA
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Synopsis: Emika Chen, a skilled hacker, accidentally glitches herself into the opening championship of Warcross. Impressed with her skill, the owner of Warcoss, Hideo Tanaka, offers Emika a job to track down a mysterious figure that could jeopardize the entire company.

Title: Wildcard
Author: Marie Lu
Published: 2018
Country: USA
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Synopsis: Taking place right after the end of the Warcross Championship, Emika is embroiled with a secret organization. With a price on her head, she now fights for survival and what she believes in.

Many have compared this to Ready Player One and while it’s similar in the Virtual Reality aspect, I think this is more modern and fun. The NeuroLink technology they use in this book not only allows for VR gaming, it overlays and affects the world outside of the game as well. The characters are fun and Emika isn’t an annoying heroine like your typical YA novel. Of course she’s smitten with Hideo, the young and handsome genius billionaire, but she’s also smart and driven.

Images by https://twitter.com/thenocturnalfey/status/1000032678614192129

Most of the first book takes place in Tokyo and the Warcross Championship world, as we learn about the technology, the game, and the players. Emika is part of the Phoenix Riders and is helping them defend their honor and title.

Team Phoenix Riders by Marie Lu

The second book definitely increases the action level and world as we move beyond the game and more into the underground world of Tokyo and the Dark Net equivalent of Warcross. I found it very entertaining and thought the world was described well. There are cool artifacts and power ups that would make for a cool visual if this was ever adapted to a movie.

While the story was action packed, it also dealt with a lot of great issues like immortality, the limits and breaches of technology and personal ethics. Additionally, there are lots of betrayals, double crossings and action happen and the game scenes become even more intense! Also, there is a corgi, so she automatically won my heart! I love these types of stories and while this is a duology, the ending set the tone for a continuation! Go read it now!!!

2018, Books, Favorites, reviews

Arc of a Scythe Trilogy Review

Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: 2016
Country: USA
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Synopsis: In a perfect world with no death, some are chosen and trained in the art of taking a life to keep the balance of the world.

Title: Thunderhead
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: 2018
Country: USA
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Synopsis: Citra and Rowan come to understand the complexity of this world and have their own ideas on how to fix it.

Book #3: COMING SEPTEMBER 2019

There is a ton of political intrigue, mixed with our own history that make this world really interesting and possible. Many questions on what is ethical, how our society might be if we no longer experienced natural death, and how to navigate a society that has seemingly everything, are explored and analyzed.

In book one, we are introduced to Rowan and Citra, two teenagers chosen to become apprentices to Scythe Faraday, in a futuristic and seemingly Utopian world centuries after our time. Having discovered immortality, death is no longer something to fear in this world. This is where the Scythes come in: they are chosen to glean people to keep the population balances through statistics or past events that would have eliminated people via natural selection. However, some don’t follow this rule.

VERDICT ON BOOK #1: I loved this story. The ideas and historical knowledge that appear and are intertwined within the story give it a rich and totally possibly future we could experience, which I think enhances the story and makes it feel that more involved. We deal with love, friendship, loyalty, pain, immortality, ethics and a society trying to make the best of their situation (as well as some of those who take advantage of said situations). Highly recommend!

In book two, we follow multiple points of view – Scythes Anastasia & Curie, Rowan, the Thunderhead, and Grayson, with an additional few sprinkled throughout. We pick up shortly after the end of book 1 and learn more about the world of the Scythes, the workings and thoughts of the Thunderhead and a lot of conspiracies and troubles that plague our main characters. There are tons of plot twists, surprises, great character development and the cliffhanger was intense!! I want to know what happens next, as I have my theories.

VERDICT ON BOOK #2: While I also loved this one, I felt it was a tad bit long and some of the parts were dragging for me. While I understand the need for world building and learning about all of the characters and their impact on the world, there was a few times I was bored and just wanted the story to move along. But overall, I really enjoyed the story and am looking forward to the next book!

There is no cover for book three yet, but I am looking forward to it!

2019, 2019 unhaul challenge, Books, reviews

2019 Unhaul Challenge – Red Queen Series

To see the books I’ve been working through and my thoughts on them, please select the “2019 Unhaul Challenge” category at the top of this post. For a review of all my books, please select “Book Reviews” from the tabs on the menu bar.

Author: Victoria Aveyard
Title: Red Queen
Published: 2015
Country: USA
Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Synopsis: Mare Barrow, a Red, becomes entangled in the world of the elites, the Silvers, after an accident reveals she has powerful abilities that Reds are not supposed to have.

VERDICT: Oh man. You guys…I really enjoyed this one! I read this book exactly two years ago and did not care for it (I gave it 2 stars on Goodreads) and was torn on whether or not to continue the series. But somehow I had this nagging feeling that I should try it again. So I did and it’s like I read a completely different book!! I don’t know if it’s because my reading tastes have changed so much and this is more along the lines of things I like now, but somehow I feel completely different about it. See, the challenge is working!

This could be considered Science Fiction or Fantasy since there are magical powers, etc but the world feels more Science Fiction/Dystopian than Fantasy. There are Reds, who are basic humans and indentured servants to the Silvers. The Silvers have powers, ranging from readings minds to blasting fire, or controlling metal. It’s very X-Men like, except that they are the ones in power, not hunted.

Images from MORGANA0ANAGROM https://twitter.com/13nakahara13/media

In the background is a century-long war between the different countries in the world and we see bits and pieces of how it affects the world but we mainly focus on the setting of the Great Hall in Harbor Bay and then the capital of Archeon. There is also the Scarlet Guard, a revolutionary group fighting for freedom and equality of the Reds.

Norta, the land the story takes place in (from Red Queen Wiki)
The World of Red Queen (from Epic Reads)

Mare is working at a Silver tournament and the booth she is at falls apart after a Silver blasts it accidentally. She falls and lights up in a ball of energy and lightening. Because she is a Red, the king and queen quickly step in and claim her as a lost silver heiress and betroth her to the younger prince, Maven. Her secret must be kept since Reds don’t have powers and she is now challenging everything the world knows.

Images from MORGANA0ANAGROMhttps://twitter.com/13nakahara13/media

Of course there are some issues. There’s a cringey love pentagon (you heard that right) and Mare is really pitiful. She’s constantly whining and putting herself down, but it does get better as the book progresses and she stops feeling sorry for herself. There were a couple of times the writing tripped me up, but that’s expected from a debut. I suspect the others will get better. But overall, I think it was pretty good and there are 3 more books (yay) and some novellas that I will be digging into.

There may also be a movie someday. The book was adapted and Elizabeth Banks is rumored to be directing. However, this is news from 2015 and I haven’t found any updates. I think it would be pretty cool on screen, if done right. Here’s the story: https://www.slashfilm.com/elizabeth-banks-red-queen-movie/