Book Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffGemina by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #2
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 18, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 659
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
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 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 pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair 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 station residents 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 the known universe—is in their hands.

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

Book Review:

I don’t usually write short reviews, but I’m sitting here in the dark ready to cry because of GEMINA.

And I don’t cry, but GEMINA has me so full of emotion I could burst for two reasons:

1) This book is █████ fantastic. I said ILLUMINAE was out of this world, but GEMINA is out of the solar system. I really just want to faceroll my keyboard, because I don’t have the words for the depth of the reading experience in GEMINA. It’s just so, so, SO GOOD. (I very rarely flail over books, so it’s rare for me to be so emotional.)

2) I have to wait until 2017 for the next volume in The Illuminae Files. With how much I love this series, that’s cruel and unusual punishment.

I really planned to write more about GEMINA, but I ended up sticking with this short mess because, hey, it really illustrates my feelings about the book.

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Amie Kaufman:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffIlluminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 599
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations 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, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has 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’s really 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.

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.

Book Review:

Ready for the shortest review ever?

ILLUMINAE is █████ out of this world.

That about covers it, but here’s a longer version:

ILLUMINAE is the sort of book I’ve wanted to read for a long time.

First, the format: It’s composed entirely of interviews, emails, IM convos, recovered video footage, conversations with Artificial Intelligence, and other neat stuff like ship schematics and casualty lists. I geek out over that type of stuff, because it makes me feel like I’m the book’s world. I know the non-traditional format might be off-putting for some readers, but the authors did an amazing job. That kind of format can go wrong, but here, it was perfect. The emails and IMs and other content really worked to develop the characters. I knew Kady and Ezra within pages, and everyone else, too. Rarely do I tear up when bad stuff happens, especially to minor characters, but here I did, because I knew these guys and I was rooting for them.

Second, the story: After the Kerenza colony is attacked by BeiTech, Kady and Ezra and the other thousands of survivors are in a deadly race for their lives. They have to outrun the Lincoln, a ship bent on their destruction so there aren’t any living witnesses of the atrocities at Kerenza. But they also have to survive the fleet’s AI, which has gone… a little crazy. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s a new plague no one has seen before.

Third: the experience: reading ILLUMINAE really is an experience. Don’t let the length put you off. Yes, it’s over 600 pages, but it goes by quickly. I was actually trying to drag it out because I loved the experience of reading this book. There’s dark humor, references to classic sci-fi, great characters, moral dilemmas to puzzle over, and tons more. The formatting is well done too, which really adds to the experience. For example, I’ve never read a battle scene the way it’s shown in ILLUMINAE, and now I can’t imagine how I’ll go back to normal blocks of text. This is great YA sci-fi, folks.

ILLUMINAE is a book with a lot of hype behind it. Very rarely do hyped up books meet my expectations, but this one did. ILLUMINAE vaporized the hype monster. I need the rest of this series so badly that waiting is going to be painful… has anyone invented a jump gate generator yet?

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– leeanna

Book Review: Raging Sea by Michael Buckley

Book Review: Raging Sea by Michael BuckleyRaging Sea by Michael Buckley
Series: Undertow #2
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on February 2, 2016
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
In the first book of Michael Buckley’s Undertow trilogy, the Alpha arrived and the world was never the same. At the start of the second book, most of south Brooklyn is in ruins and the nation is terrified. Nearly everyone that Lyric Walker loves is either missing or presumed dead, including the mesmerizing prince Fathom. It’s up to Lyric to unite the Alpha before the second wave of a cataclysmic invasion wipes out mankind for good. The Undertow trilogy is an unforgettable reading experience that author E. Lockhart calls, "Allegorical and romantic, the book nevertheless reads like an action movie with especially awesome CGI."

Book Review:

Last year, I quite liked UNDERTOW, the first in Michael Buckley’s series on the Alpha. The Alpha, a race of sea people, had camped on the shore of Coney Island. When their enemies the Rusalka showed up, New York was nearly destroyed.

After such a cliffhanger, I was excited to continue the series. RAGING SEA is a decent second book. There wasn’t a lot of rehashing of book one, some important stuff happened, and there was lots of action. There’s another cliffhanger, but I’m okay with that, because after the last quarter of RAGING SEA, I’m even more excited for the last book in the trilogy.

In RAGING SEA, Lyric’s very happy to unleash her superpower whenever possible. I liked that side of her — I mean, who wouldn’t be excited and maybe a bit vengeful if you suddenly had a superpower at your fingertips? She makes a couple of stupid decisions, and even though I cringed, her decisions are realistic for the circumstances. I also liked the friendship between her and Bex. I can’t remember the last time I saw two besties be so stubborn and support each other. And Lyric’s devotion to saving her family is great.

The first half of RAGING SEA is a little slower than the second half. There’s a lot of time spent in Tempest, the secret Alpha and human prison. Let’s just say, the author strongly believes in hurting his darlings. A lot. There’s some meta in the book too, a few sly instances of the author poking fun at common YA tropes. I liked it. And while I’m still not on the Fathom/Lyric bandwagon, I did like what Fathom said to Lyric about how he expects her to be who she is, that he won’t coddle her.

After finishing RAGING SEA, I’m again looking forward to more of Lyric and the Alpha.

Socialize with the author:

Michael Buckley:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Arena by Holly Jennings

Book Review: Arena by Holly JenningsArena by Holly Jennings
Published by Ace on April 5, 2016
Genres: New Adult, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming...

Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She’s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier...


The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.

The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside...

Book Review:

I’m a long time gamer, so my review of ARENA might be a bit biased. But if you’re a gamer and/or have always wanted to check out the virtual world, this might be the book for you. The idea behind ARENA is super fun, the execution is good, and there are just enough pop culture references to classic games to add to the geeky atmosphere.

Kali Ling is a warrior. Every week she fights to the death in the RAGE tournaments, watched by millions around the world. Move over, football and soccer and basketball. Gamers have taken over as the star athletes in 2054. Games have evolved as well, to the point where gamers plug into pods and play with their entire bodies in an immersive world.

There’s virtual sports, racing, RPGs and more. The RAGE games are a classic example of capture the tower PVP, played by teams of five. This season, Kali is making history — she’s the first female team captain in RAGE. But Kali’s not so sure she’s up to the challenge. She’s dealing with the death of a teammate, melding his replacement into the team, the expectations of the team’s owner and the media, and her own increasing frustration at being a cog in the virtual machine. It’s a lot to juggle, and Kali has to keep the team from losing anymore games while dealing with all of that, because if they lose one more time, they’re out of the tournament.

As a gamer who would love to set foot in World of Warcraft, I loved the idea of Kali and her team playing in virtual reality. Fighting the other team and defending their tower to the death. Death doesn’t kill them in real life, but real life injuries transfer to the game. I especially liked that the gamers had to be skilled in real life at martial arts and weaponry — if you can’t swing a sword in real life, you aren’t killing anyone in the game. It’s logical. The evolution from watching gamers stream on Twitch to watching them play in Super Bowl like matches makes sense, too.

I liked that ARENA detailed a lot of the team’s training and matches. I geek out over that sort of stuff, and I also enjoyed Kali’s efforts at team bonding with classic games like Mario Kart. I could tell the author had really thought about how virtual sports would work, such as regular athletes not being able to cross over successfully, because they don’t have gaming experience. Jennings also considered how celebrity status could impact the gamers, talking about drug abuse, anxiety and depression, and virtual reality addiction. There’s even some dialogue on women in gaming, Kali’s Chinese background, and finding a balance between virtual life and real life.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance between Kali and Rooke in ARENA. At least it wasn’t the dreaded insta-love, but something about it just felt a little off. To me, it would have made more sense if they stayed friends, but then I’m usually critical of romances.

Overall, I had a ton of fun reading ARENA. It’s a fun book, with lots of gaming action, but it also delves into a few deeper topics. I believe this is a standalone, but I’d enjoy seeing more of Kali. Based on her journey during ARENA and the ending, I think she has a lot more story to tell.

ARENA’s over 9000!

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Holly Jennings:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Book Review: Armada by Ernest ClineArmada by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishing on July 14, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 349
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging For Books
Goodreads
4 Stars
Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

Book Review:

ARMADA is one of those books that’s just fun to read. I think most gamers and sci-fi fans have dreamed of the day their esoteric knowledge will save the world. Zach Lightman actually gets that opportunity, when his top 10 standing in the Armada video game makes him eligible to join the Earth Defense Alliance and save the planet from aliens bent on Earth’s destruction. From start to finish, ARMADA is a fun, geeky ride through space.

The beginning of ARMADA is a little rough, especially if you’re not up on all the cultural references. The author overloads the first part of the book with those references, and while it’s fun, it’s also something that could lose readers that aren’t familiar with every single movie or game mentioned. The author doesn’t give a lot of context for his references, so when he uses them as a description for something else, it gets confusing. However, the plethora of cultural references does even out after a while, and if you’re a super nerd, you’ll probably enjoy all of them.

Zach is also a bit bland, but I didn’t mind that in ARMADA. Because he didn’t have a lot of personality, I was able to imagine myself in the action. I won’t spoil the story itself, but I did really like the idea of using a video game as secret government training, as well as the gaming technology the author adapted for war against the aliens.

Even though I have some complaints about ARMADA, mostly I enjoyed the book. It was the perfect read for me at the time — I recommend it for when you want something fun and geeky.

Socialize with the author:

Ernest Cline:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Undertow by Michael Buckley

Book Review: Undertow by Michael BuckleyUndertow by Michael Buckley
Series: Undertow #1
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 5, 2015
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 376
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other. When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.

Action, suspense, and romance whirlpool dangerously in this cinematic saga, a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders.

Book Review:

Just when you think you’ve read everything in YA, along comes something different. Different doesn’t always work, but UNDERTOW worked for me, and I’m eager to read the rest of the series.

Lyric lives in the middle of a war zone, a Coney Island divided by humans and the Alpha. What are the Alpha? A new race of sea people. Thirty thousand of them are camped on the beach, and now some of the kids are about to integrate a school. It’s the 1960s all over again, but with a new species. And it goes about as well as you might expect.

Lyric is in a unique position to sympathize with the Alpha, but really, she just wants to lay low. Avoid attention. Maybe leave town when her family. But when she’s strong-armed into giving Fathom, the Alpha heir, private lessons, she’s thrust into the middle of a clash of the cultures.

I enjoyed UNDERTOW. The Alpha are wicked cool, and I really want to learn more about them. I also liked that Lyric had migraines, because I can’t recall many characters having headaches. It’s a little thing, but it turns out to be more important than you think, and it’s nice to see a character suffer the same sorts of things you do.

I wasn’t totally sold on the romance between Lyric and Fathom. Lyric acknowledged to herself that she shouldn’t love him, couldn’t love him, but she did anyway. I’m not quite sure where their attraction and feelings for each other came from, and would have liked more development on their relationship for me to believe it. I also had a hard time imagining the final battle scenes, maybe because they felt a bit rushed after so much focus on the tense school integration.

But otherwise, I thought UNDERTOW was a good start to a new series, and I would check out the next book.

Socialize with the author:

Michael Buckley:
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– leeanna

Book Review: All We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder

Book Review: All We Have Is Now by Lisa SchroederAll We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder
Published by Scholastic on July 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
What do you do with your last day on earth?

Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn't leave, the world will end. But Emerson's world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city's quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people's wishes -- and gives them his wallet full of money.

Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in one last day -- maybe even their own.

all we have is now by lisa schroeder blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for ALL WE HAVE IS NOW by Lisa Schroeder. This tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway, and also my answer for Make-A-Wish-for-the-Apocalypse.

Book Review:

ALL WE HAVE IS NOW asks one important question: what would you do with your last day on earth? What if you knew an asteroid was going to wipe out North America — would you spend your last day with loved ones, righting wrongs, or hiding? Or would you do something else?

Emerson and Vince, two homeless teenagers, don’t want to wait the last few hours until the end. They’re about to take their end into their own hands when they meet Carl, who has spent his time granting wishes to people. Helping them do something they’d always wanted to, but hadn’t for one reason or another. Carl grants Vince’s wish of having money, and asks that the two pay it forward if possible.

Emerson and Vince have been concerned with surviving on the streets for so long that they’ve forgotten how to really live, how to enjoy themselves. But as they grant wishes and help people, their own wounds start to heal. ALL WE HAVE IS NOW is a hopeful story about the end of the world, one that shows how important human connections can be at the end. I like that the book tries to remind the reader that it’s important to live in the moment and enjoy yourself, rather than always looking to the future.

ALL WE HAVE IS NOW also follows Carl, and I liked that while the book is young adult, we also get the perspective of an adult. It was good to see how he felt about events compared to how Emerson and Vince felt. I was a little let down by the ending, which was too open for me, but overall I liked the message and tone of the book. I think it’s hard for a book about the impending end of North America to be uplifting, but the author accomplished it.

Make-A-Wish-for-the-Apocalypse

Make-A-Wish-for-the-Apocalypse- There’s just a little over 24 hours until a meteor is scheduled to hit the US. What do you wish for?

Okay, so I wish I could say I’d go out and do something like Emerson and Vince. Or that I’d grant some wish of my own, of things I’ve always wanted to do but never did. But in reality? I’d probably just stay in my house all day. Maybe read some of those books on my TBR pile that I’ve always wanted to read, but haven’t. Or maybe I’d read old favorites, so I’d be assured of enjoying a good book before the end. Or maybe I’d take a nap so I wouldn’t have to count down the hours. Yeah, I’m exciting, aren’t I?

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author:

all we have is now author lisa schroederLisa Schroeder is the author of over a dozen books for kids and teens, including the YA novels I Heart You, You Haunt Me and The Bridge From Me to You. She loves tea and cookies, flowers, family hikes, books and movies that make her laugh and cry, and sunshine. Living in Oregon, she doesn’t get nearly enough sunshine, but the hikes are amazing.

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Buy links: Amazon | B&N

– leeanna

Book Review: Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

Book Review: Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie GoldenDark Disciple by Christie Golden
Series: Star Wars
Published by LucasBooks on July 7, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Based on unproduced scripts from the blockbuster TV show Star Wars: The Clone Wars!

The only way to bring down the dark side's most dangerous warrior may be for Jedi and Sith to join forces.

In the war for control of the galaxy between the armies of the dark side and the Republic, former Jedi Master turned ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku has grown ever more brutal in his tactics. Despite the powers of the Jedi and the military prowess of their clone army, the sheer number of fatalities is taking a terrible toll. And when Dooku orders the massacre of a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council feels it has no choice but to take drastic action: targeting the man responsible for so many war atrocities, Count Dooku himself.

But the ever-elusive Dooku is dangerous prey for even the most skilled hunter. So the Council makes the bold decision to bring both sides of the Force's power to bear—pairing brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. Though Jedi distrust for the cunning killer who once served at Dooku's side still runs deep, Ventress's hatred for her former master runs deeper. She's more than willing to lend her copious talents as a bounty hunter—and assassin—to Vos's quest.

Together, Ventress and Vos are the best hope for eliminating Dooku—as long as the emerging feelings between them don't compromise their mission. But Ventress is determined to have her retribution and at last let go of her dark Sith past. Balancing the complicated emotions she feels for Vos with the fury of her warrior's spirit, she resolves to claim victory on all fronts—a vow that will be mercilessly tested by her deadly enemy . . . and her own doubt.

Book Review:

I’ve been a fan of the Star Wars Expanded Universe books for years, but I never got into the comics or Star Wars: The Clone Wars. So I didn’t have a lot of knowledge on Asajj Ventress or Quinlan Vos that I had to ignore, now that the EU is considered “Legends.” After finishing DARK DISCIPLE, I did go to Wookiepedia and read about both characters; if you are a huge fan of either, be prepared. There’s some definite changes.

DARK DISCIPLE was a mixed bag for me. I think Golden does a good job of developing Ventress and Vos and growing the relationship between them. The author also explores the consequences of the Jedi sending Vos on a mission to assassinate Count Dooku — is preserving one life worth the millions he’s killed? Lastly, I liked that Ventress shows Vos how there’s more than one aspect to the Dark Side.

But by the middle and especially the end, DARK DISCIPLE started slowing down for me. The characters flip flop allegiances without a lot of explanation, and the book drags. Ventress faded into the background, which I didn’t like. She’s the kind of character — morally ambiguous, flawed, powerful — that I want to see more of. I feel like Vos got way more page time, which I didn’t enjoy, since some of the important stuff that happened with him we didn’t get to see. I hate being told about important events — I want to read them for myself!

I really did not like the ending. I can’t say why, because that would be a huge spoiler, but it verged into a bad trope. I’m not sure if the ending was decided by the author, or written in the unproduced scripts the book is based on.

Socialize with the author:

Christie Golden:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp

Book Review: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. KempLords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp
Series: Star Wars
Published by Del Rey on April 28, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.

“It appears things are as you suspected, Lord Vader. We are indeed hunted.”

Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, is just a memory. Darth Vader, newly anointed Sith Lord, is ascendant. The Emperor’s chosen apprentice has swiftly proven his loyalty to the dark side. Still, the history of the Sith Order is one of duplicity, betrayal, and acolytes violently usurping their Masters—and the truest measure of Vader’s allegiance has yet to be taken. Until now.

On Ryloth, a planet crucial to the growing Empire as a source of slave labor and the narcotic known as “spice,” an aggressive resistance movement has arisen, led by Cham Syndulla, an idealistic freedom fighter, and Isval, a vengeful former slave. But Emperor Palpatine means to control the embattled world and its precious resources—by political power or firepower—and he will be neither intimidated nor denied. Accompanied by his merciless disciple, Darth Vader, he sets out on a rare personal mission to ensure his will is done.

For Syndulla and Isval, it’s the opportunity to strike at the very heart of the ruthless dictatorship sweeping the galaxy. And for the Emperor and Darth Vader, Ryloth becomes more than just a matter of putting down an insurrection: When an ambush sends them crashing to the planet’s surface, where inhospitable terrain and an army of resistance fighters await them, they will find their relationship tested as never before. With only their lightsabers, the dark side of the Force, and each other to depend on, the two Sith must decide if the brutal bond they share will make them victorious allies or lethal adversaries.

Book Review:

Paul S. Kemp is one of my favorite authors, so when I saw he had another Star Wars book in the works, I couldn’t wait to read it. LORDS OF THE SITH is the best Star Wars book I’ve read in at least a year. If you like Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine being the badasses they are, you’ve got to check this out.

Eight years after the Clone Wars, most of the galaxy is used to Imperial rule. But on Ryloth, Cham Syndulla leads the Free Ryloth movement. He’s a freedom fighter, determined to free his planet from Imperial tyranny. When he gets word that Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine are coming to Ryloth to punish the planet’s Moff, he sees it as the chance of a lifetime. It’s the best opportunity they’ll ever have to free Ryloth and its citizens. But will Vader and Palpatine fall to Free Ryloth’s well-laid plans? Or are they playing an even deeper game?

Paul S. Kemp is such a skillful writer at creating tension and plot twists, that, for a while, I thought the Twi’leks would succeed. Do they? Maybe. There’s a good level of action in LORDS OF THE SITH. Events keep building and building until you think there’s nothing else that can happen, but then WHAM! There’s more. There are also some great action scenes, lots of lightsaber fun and Force-assisted fighting.

I also liked that the author brought up Vader’s past. I can’t recall seeing this very often, if at all, in other books. It was nice to see Vader remember life as Anakin. To see what he feels about his past, and to see how it now influences him. There’s also some … I’ll call it dark side bonding, between Vader and Palpatine, a look into their roles as Master and Apprentice, and how the roles impact their behavior and actions.

The Free Ryloth movement was interesting, as well. While I generally prefer Imperials and Sith, I do like seeing the other side. Imperial control of the planet has pushed Cham to better Ryloth and its people. But for Isval, it’s a quest for vengeance, with the side benefit of helping her people. It was fun reading to watch the Twi’leks maneuver and confuse the Imperials.

Lastly, LORDS OF THE SITH made news when it was announced the book would have a lesbian character. I’m a big fan of diversity and am always looking for it, so that only made me more excited. I think it was a long time coming — in a universe as big as Star Wars, it stands to reason that not all characters are heterosexual. But I’m mentioning this in my review to say that it’s not like the Moff is having sex on every page, or making a big deal out of her sexuality. It’s just part of who she is, which is how it should be. End soapbox.

Overall, LORDS OF THE SITH is a fantastic Star Wars book. It’s restored my faith in the series after a couple of subpar volumes.

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Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire?

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– leeanna

Book Review: Dove Arising by Karen Bao

Book Review: Dove Arising by Karen BaoDove Arising by Karen Bao
Series: Dove Chronicles #1
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on February 24, 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. She cultivates the plants in Greenhouse 22, lets her best friend talk for her, and stays off the government’s radar.

Then her mother is arrested.

The only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider.

Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom: that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble...

Suspenseful, intelligent, and hauntingly prescient, Dove Arising stands on the shoulders of our greatest tales of the future to tell a story that is all too relevant today.

Book Review:

DOVE ARISING is the first book in Karen Bao’s sci-fi/dystopian YA series, the Dove Chronicles. Phaet dreams of being a Bioengineer, to create something new. But when her mother is taken away, first to medical quarantine and then to jail, Phaet gives up her dreams and joins the Militia early. It’s the only way she can earn enough money to support her siblings, pay the bills, and pay her mother’s bail. But Phaet’s only fifteen — three years younger than everyone else and she has to rank first to get the needed money.

I was originally excited about DOVE ARISING because I thought, “Woot, YA sci-fi! A book set on the moon, awesome.” But while the book is set on the moon, the setting doesn’t really make that much impact, and the book focuses much more on its dystopian aspects. I do appreciate that the author described Phaet’s military training, because training can often be glossed over in books like this. But I found it unrealistic that she became a military genius in two months, able to outrun, outthink, and outdo trainees who had three years on her. And while I did like seeing the training described, I think it took over too much of the book. It reminded me of THE HUNGER GAMES or ENDER’S GAME, but without the same … oomph as those books.

DOVE ARISING did entertain me while I was reading, but then when I thought about it after, my opinion started going down. There’s a lot of the usual YA cliches, including the corrupt government, family secrets, and even a love triangle. Romance doesn’t play a huge part in this first book of the trilogy, but I can see how the author’s setting it up and ugh, it’s unnecessary. Plus there’s a character who lies a lot, and Phaet thinks, “Oh, it’s okay that he lied to me. He saved my life, so I’ll trust him.” The book makes her out to be smarter than that, but nope.

And then this bugged me: the characters all have handscreens. Think a cellphone screen implanted on your left hand, one that gives you the statistics of everyone you meet. The Committee supposedly uses the handscreens as a way to Big Brother citizens, but … sitting on your left hand can block them from listening. Really? Something so absurd kept pulling me out of the narrative anytime the characters would sit on or hide their left hand when they didn’t want a conversation to be recorded.

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Karen Bao:
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– leeanna