Book Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Book Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey CoulthurstOf Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Series: Of Fire and Stars #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on November 22, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

Book Review:

Every so often I read a book I love so much that it’s hard for me to review because I love it so much. OF FIRE AND STARS is one of those books.

I’ve been looking forward to OF FIRE AND STARS since February 2016, if not longer. I try not to develop too many expectations for a book, but: princesses! magic! horses! fantasy! princess loving princess!

Princess Dennaleia is sent to Mynaria as a bride for its prince, to cement the treaty between her country and his. She’s been preparing for this her entire life, but lessons haven’t included how to hide her Affinity for fire, which could get her killed because Mynaria doesn’t like magic. Princess Amaranthine, or Mare as she prefers to be known, is the prince’s thorny sister, who bucks against authority and expectations at every possible chance. She’d rather be training horses than at a royal dinner.

When Dennaleia needs to learn how to ride — horses are woven through Mynaria’s culture, even in court ceremonies — Mare’s assigned to teach her. Which results in an enemies-to-friends-and-then-more relationship. Denna’s in awe of Mare and wants Mare to like her. Mare’s not so impressed by Denna, but over time, she can’t help but change her mind.

OF FIRE AND STARS reminded me a bit of a Tamora Pierce book, or at least the nostalgia I have for those books. I liked the prickly banter between Denna and Mare, the slow melting of Mare’s dislike as she learned more about Denna, and that ending. Oh man, that ending. Let’s just say I can’t wait for the next book in the series. Also, I know I’ll be rereading OF OF FIRE AND STARS when I need a pick-me up or when I’m in a reading slump.

Okay, I give up. I’m meandering all over the place in this review, because all I really want to say is: I ♥♥♥ OF FIRE AND STARS. This is the princess loving princess, with magic and horses, fantasy book I’ve always wanted. The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking “Is this real? Am I really reading this book I’ve wanted forever?” And yes, yes I was.

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Audrey Coulthurst:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Glitter by Aprilynne Pike

Book Review: Glitter by Aprilynne PikeGlitter by Aprilynne Pike
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on October 25, 2016
Genres: Romance, Science Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Outside the palace of Versailles, it’s modern day. Inside, the people dress, eat, and act like it’s the eighteenth century—with the added bonus of technology to make court life lavish, privileged, and frivolous. The palace has every indulgence, but for one pretty young thing, it’s about to become a very beautiful prison.

When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play . . . blackmailing the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny. Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates.

Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Addicted to a drug Dani can sell for more money than she ever dreamed.

But in Versailles, secrets are impossible to keep. And the most dangerous secret—falling for a drug dealer outside the palace walls—is one risk she has to take.

Book Review:

I have to stop falling for books with eye-catching covers and intriguing premises. I thought GLITTER sounded kinda cool, different from a lot of what’s out there. Drug dealing in a futuristic but era-appropriate Versailles setting? Unfortunately, GLITTER didn’t hold my attention and I had to force myself to finish.

Only to be disappointed by the massive cliffhanger. Honestly, I’m really miffed. Based on that ending, I assume GLITTER is the first in a series, but at this time, I don’t know if there’s a second book or not.

So, very annoying cliffhanger aside, what else about GLITTER turned me off? Danica’s supposed to be a drug dealer, selling Glitter to make enough money for her escape. But she doesn’t start selling until after page 100. The beginning of the book was super slow and confusing for me, more about fancy dresses and Sonoman-Versailles customs. I still don’t entirely understand the whole Sonoman-Versailles thing. I also don’t know why the King needed Danica’s votes so badly — why did the board want to oust him from his kingdom?

I also didn’t get the whole Saber/Danica relationship. It would’ve worked much better for me if they’d gone from “I dislike you” to friends rather than falling in love. Because the moment when their relationship changed from frosty to hot was, well, it didn’t ring true to me. If I was a guy, and I saw a girl threatened and hurt by her fiance, I wouldn’t think kissing her would be the best move. But that’s just me, and I’m usually critical of romances.

Danica annoyed me for a lot of GLITTER. I get that she’s supposed to be an anti-heroine, more concerned with her own survival than anyone else. That’s fine with me. But I didn’t feel like I got to know her, and because of her first-person POV, I didn’t get to know anyone else, either.

I rated GLITTER two stars because there were a few twists I didn’t anticipate, and I appreciated that bad stuff happened to Danica. But would I check out a sequel? Probably not.

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Aprilynne Pike:
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– leeanna

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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– leeanna

Book Review: Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts

Book Review: Zac and Mia by A.J. BettsZac and Mia by AJ Betts
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on September 2, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 289
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
"When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics."

So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia. A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.

Winner of the 2012 Australian Text Prize.

Book Review:

Where to start with ZAC AND MIA? Yeah, it’s a book about teenagers with cancer. Is it comparable to THE FAULT IN OUR STARS? I have no idea, because I haven’t read John Green’s book. So I won’t be making any comparisons to that or any other teen cancer book.

THE GOOD:

ZAC AND MIA is set in Australia, and I loved that! There’s not yet a ton of diversity in where YA fiction is set, so it was really great to see a book set somewhere other than America.

Zac and Mia both have different ways of coping (or not coping) with cancer. Zac uses statistics and says the time he spends in the hospital is really a small portion of his life, so he’s not going to get upset. Mia is angry and keeps it a secret, then runs away from home after her mother commits a horrible betrayal. Both are valid (as are others), and while I didn’t always understand Mia’s actions, I appreciated that she wasn’t a saint about it. Not everyone is.

THE BAD:

–Here’s where I have trouble. There’s nothing bad about ZAC AND MIA, but it wasn’t a book that blew me away. It was just okay. I enjoyed the book while reading it, but it’s not one that will stick with me.

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– leeanna

Book Review: The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

Book Review: The Call by Peadar O’GuilinThe Call by Peadar O'Guilin
Published by Scholastic on August 30, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
You have three minutes to save your life...

THREE MINUTES

You wake up alone in a horrible land. A horn sounds. The Call has begun.

TWO MINUTES

The Sidhe are close. They're the most beautiful and terrible people you've ever seen. And they've seen you.

ONE MINUTE

Nessa will be Called soon. No one thinks she has any chance to survive. But she's determined to prove them wrong.

TIME'S UP

Could you survive the Call?

Book Review:

I tend to enjoy books where the Sidhe are as creepy as they are in the old legends. Wicked, magical, and ruthless, the Sidhe in THE CALL have isolated Ireland and turned it into their own personal hunting ground. Only 1 in 10 teenagers survive the Call, when they are sucked into the Grey Land for a day, or three minutes and four seconds on Earth.

But THE CALL wasn’t a book for me. It was one I struggled to finish. The biggest reason the book didn’t work for me is that I’m a character driven reader, and I just didn’t care about any of the characters at all. I can barely remember most of their names. Nessa did stand out slightly, because she has polio but didn’t let it stop her even though everyone else thought she was useless. Everyone else, though, meh. I have to care about the people I’m reading about, but the author didn’t succeed in making me worry about anyone or care about them. Even when a character was killed, I just wanted to see what new gruesome way they’d die.

I also really disliked the whole Conor obsessing/wanting to hurt Nessa thing, because I am so sick of guys wanting to do horrible things to girls because their obsession isn’t returned. I also didn’t like how Nessa just kinda sat back and let her life be in danger from Conor because she wanted to see another boy she was crushing on. For a girl who wanted to survive so badly, it felt like she just sat back for a lot of the book.

The writing style in THE CALL also contributed to my lackluster feelings about it. It’s written present tense, third person, with some head jumping. Sometimes I wasn’t sure whose perspective I was in, so I’d have to go back and reread. Head jumping like that is a big peeve of mine.

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Peadar O’Guilin:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 20, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Book Review:

THREE DARK CROWNS is the first in a new dark fantasy series about three queens, only one of which will survive to take the throne. The queens are sisters, and after their sixteenth birthday, they have a year to kill each other. The last one standing wins the crown.

I was intrigued by THREE DARK CROWNS because I love me some dark and twisted fantasy. Sisters killing each other for the throne? Gimme. Each a user of a different type of magic? Gimme. Political factions scheming for power? Gimme.

THREE DARK CROWNS was a good series starter, but just a bit too slow for me. The majority of this first book is set up, introducing the sisters and their people, the different types of magic, and meandering along to the ceremony of Beltane. I think the author did a good job of describing the sisters’ current situations, but I was lost on the worldbuilding as a whole. For the longest time, I thought each sister was on a separate island, and I didn’t understand references to the mainland. Yes, I know there’s a map, but it was hard for me to make out land boundaries.

Because the pacing was slow, the middle of the book was a bit of a slog for me. I would’ve preferred more action and a less token romance. Each sister had her own romance subplot, and I’m not a romance fan, so that was a lot for me. Now, I should say I liked how Arsinoe handled her suitor. That was good. But her buddy Jules? Meh.

But the end of THREE DARK CROWNS redeemed that slow middle for me, and this is a series I’ll continue. With all the set up out of the way, I’m hoping the second book will be a lot darker. For a book about three queens who must murder each other, there was surprisingly little Bad Stuff happening.

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Kendare Blake:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Book Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan GraudinWolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Genres: Alternate Universe, Young Adult
Pages: 388
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

Book Review:

I was super excited to read WOLF BY WOLF. A young adult, alternate history imagining what might have happened if the Nazis won the war? What would Europe look like if Hitler and Emperor Hirohito controlled much of the world? What if Nazi medical experiments produced a human with supernatural powers? What if one of those humans fought back?

I love alternate history, especially alternate history of the WWII variety. I think author Ryan Graudin did a great job of creating a plausible post-war Third Reich and getting across her vision for a mostly Axis-controlled world. The Axis Tour, a motorcycle race over 20,000 kilometers, from Germania (Berlin) to Tokyo, is the center of WOLF BY WOLF. A race to show off the best of German and Japanese youth, it’s a fierce competition filled with sabotage and danger. Only open to boys, until Adele Wolfe stole her twin brother’s identity and won last year’s Axis Tour.

Enter Yael. She survived a death camp and medical experimentation to come out stronger, but cursed with the ability to skinshift. She can shift her features to impersonate anyone, which makes her perfect for the Resistance’s plans. This year she’ll enter the Axis Tour as Adele Wolfe, win, and assassinate Adolf Hitler.

All Yael has to do is fool Adele’s brother Felix and another racer she has history with, escape detection, deal with the sabotage attempts of the other competitors, and come out on top. Easy, right?

WOLF BY WOLF has an excellent balance of past and present events. Most of the book focuses on the race, and Yael’s efforts to impersonate Adele in the presence of Felix and Luka. But there are a few sections set in her past, showing the people most important to her, the people she’s lost. Yael isn’t entirely sure of who she is, but she remembers herself by remembering them. I quite liked the author’s writing style — it was perfect for developing Yael’s character and thoughts, as well as the world. Graudin has a unique way of describing things, and I also liked that she included Yael’s inner voice. Yael is a great character: she’s survived hell and found a way to fight back. She’s sure of her mission at first, but as she spends time with the other racers, she begins to question who they are. In the author’s note, Graudin says she wrote about identity — what makes people who they are — and I think she did a good job at exploring that, by showing the other racers through Yael’s eyes.

WOLF BY WOLF captivated me, from the author’s version of a world where Hitler still lives to the deadly Axis Tour. There were times when I wasn’t sure if Yael would be able to complete her mission, or even survive the race without getting her cover blown. I rated the book 4 stars instead of 5 because despite lots of action, it dragged a bit in the middle for me and I wanted things to move along. Otherwise, I’m eagerly waiting for the second book, and I’ll be recommending WOLF BY WOLF to anyone looking for a creative, fast-paced, unique YA book.

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– leeanna

Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica CluessA Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on September 20, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
I am Henrietta Howel.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?


Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.

But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess's spellbinding fantasy introduces a powerful, unforgettably heroine, and a world filled with magic, romance, and betrayal. Hand to fans of Libba Bray, Sarah J. Maas, and Cassandra Clare.

Book Review:

The best description for A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING is in the Acknowledgments: Victorian Cthulu Harry Potter. I saw that when I finished the book, and yeah, that’s a great way to describe it.

Jessica Cluess takes a bunch of tropes and cliches and builds off them, turning tired old stuff into a fun, well-written series starter. I read A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING in a day, absorbed by the author’s besieged London and Henrietta.

Because a witch was partly responsible for summoning the Ancients who are trying to destroy England, female witches are now executed. Henrietta’s hidden her magic abilities her entire life, but when she saves her best friend’s life, a sorcerer sees it. But instead of being killed, Henrietta’s whisked away to be trained as a sorcerer. Female sorcerers don’t exist, but it’s prophesied that one will defeat the Ancients.

There’s only one problem: Henrietta’s living a lie. She knows she isn’t the Chosen One.

One of the things I liked the most about A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING is there’s not a lot of romance. There’s a little there, but I was really worried this book would slide into love triangle or even love quadrangle territory, given that Henrietta’s fellow students are all male. Sure, one of them tries, and the banter is fun, but I so, so appreciated that the author didn’t turn the book into a romance with a light side of fantasy. No, Henrietta remembers what’s at stake.

The book did lag a bit for me in the middle, and I was tired of the misogynistic attitude of some sorcerers. Not to mention the whole blaming all witches for the Ancients when a male magician was also responsible. I also don’t know why the Ancients are trying to take England for their own, but I’m guessing that will come up in the next book.

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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: Marked by Laura Williams McCaffrey

Book Review: Marked by  Laura Williams McCaffreyMarked by Laura Williams McCaffrey
Published by Clarion Books on February 16, 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Lyla lives in a bleak, controlling society where only the brightest and most favored students succeed. When she is caught buying cheats in an underground shadow market, she is tattooed—marked—as a criminal. Then she is offered redemption and she jumps at the chance . . . but it comes at a cost. Doing what is right means betraying the boy she has come to love, and, perhaps, losing even more than she thought possible. Graphic novel–style vignettes revealing the history of this world provide Lyla with guidance and clues to a possible way out of the double bind she finds herself in.

Book Review:

I finished MARKED about a few hours ago and I have almost no clue what I read. While the beginning is good, after Lyla’s Marking, the book meandered into “what the heck is going on here” territory for me.

To start, there’s a serious lack of worldbuilding. There are a few snippets of background information in the comic strip illustrations, but I had real trouble understanding Lyla’s world. Why do people live in primitive conditions, starving and freezing? What is Protean? I guess Protean was supposed to be some sort of energy superpower, but if society has it, why does most of the town not even have running water? It’s that sort of thing, especially when there’s no explanation, that keeps me from getting into a YA dystopia.

Second, there’s so much other confusing stuff. Much of the slang the characters use isn’t given any English equivalent. What’s slagging? Where did Merde come from? Miner’s Cough seemed like it would be important, but nothing came of it. There was a lack of a bigger plot. Lyla just kind of ran around with a pack of kids, trying to be a spy. Also, because of that lack of worldbuilding, I didn’t really know why the Red Fist was fighting against the establishment, or why it had become a gang of bullies.

Third, the ending was very open. I personally don’t like such open endings, especially with MARKED being a standalone. After so much buildup about Lyla deciding who to trust and what to do, I wanted to know what happened to her.

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Laura Williams McCaffrey:
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– leeanna