Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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Illuminae
Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Series or Standalone: Illuminae Files #1
ISBN: 0553499114
Links:
AmazonBarnes and NobleGoodreadsBook Depository
Rating: 5 Stars


Illuminae is one of those books where I just want to scream “THIS BOOK IS AWESOME! BUY IT NOW! K BYE!” However, that doesn’t really tell you much about anything.

With so many YA books out there, Illuminae stands out from the crowd. The story starts out with a BANG and the action doesn’t let up until the last page. This is a fat book, but I found myself engrossed and flying through it. You want to keep turning pages to see how much worse things can get for these poor characters – and, boy, do things get pretty bad.

In this book, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Not only are the character running for their lives on damaged spaceships because their planet was destroyed, they are also dealing with a crazy artificial intelligence called AIDAN while being forced to deal with an deadly outbreak of a new disease called Phobos. Kaufman and Kristoff managed to artfully juggling all this without overwhelming the reader and the story. Never did I feel like there was too much going on or that the book was getting cheesy with all these disaster happening. I relished what horrible and painful thing would come next.

One aspect that I really loved about Illuminae is the format of this book. I didn’t know going into it that it was an epistolary novel, or for those of you who don’t have an English degree, a novel told through a collection of documents. That’s not something you see in Young Adult fiction too often.

At first I wasn’t sure if I would like reading 600 page novel told through a collection of documents such as emails, chat messages, ship memos and surveillance reports. However, I don’t think there is any other way to successfully tell this story. The format made the story feel human and relatable, despite the fact that this book takes place on a spaceship. You feel like you are a part of the story, a helpless observer to events that you know won’t have a happy ending. That’s a very powerful thing to be able to accomplish.

I ended up falling in love with every character in this book. From the main character all the way down to the secondary characters, I couldn’t help but feel for them. They all felt like they were real people and seeing the things they had to go through was painful. Even if a character was introduced for a short time, I couldn’t help but sympathize with them.

The character arcs in this novel blew me away. Kady and Ezra are the main characters and I really enjoyed seeing how tragedy affected them differently. They hated each other in the beginning, but by the end, they realized the pointless of their arguments in the past and that they truly needed each other to get through everything that happened.

However, by the end of the book, my favorite character ended up not being a person, but rather AIDAN, Artificial Intelligence Defense Analytics Network on board the battlecarrier Alexander. Don’t get me wrong, AIDAN was bat-shit crazy, but by the end I couldn’t help but sympathize with the AI. Without giving too much away, its progression through the story was one that touched me the most, despite all the horrible things it ended up doing.

There are so many things I haven’t even touched upon that made this book so amazing. I could write a novel about why Illuminae will knock your socks off, but no one wants to read that.

Illuminae is one of the best books I’ve read of 2015. It’s a stunningly unique novel that will take you on a roller-coaster of a ride, leaving you an emotional mess by the end of it. It packs a powerful punch with its non-stop action and heartbreak. I cannot wait to see what Kaufman and Kristoff think up for the next book in this series.

Bump this up to the top of your reading list as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed.

*Shout out to Gail from Ticket to Anywhere for lending me her ARC*

Dani (2)

Review: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Fixer Cover

The Fixer
Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Bloomsbury USA Children
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Series or Standalone: The Fixer #1
ISBN: 1619635941
Links:
AmazonBarnes and NobleGoodreadsBook Depository
Rating: 


Hellooooo to The Fixer. Jennifer Lynn Barnes newest book sucks you in and takes you on one of hell of a ride. This is one one fun and entertaining book, and I’m addicted.

The Fixer is dubbed as Scandal meets Veronica Mars…and that’s pretty damn accurate. Throw in some Pretty Little Liars or Gossip Girl as well to really round it out. If you are at all familiar with any of those shows (and hello, you probably are), be ready to be entertained.

Our main character, Tess Kendrick, is forced to move to DC with her estranged sister Ivy and gets wrapped up in some pretty serious political intrigue. Ivy is essentially Olivia Pope. If someone has a problem, they call Ivy Kendrick to fix it. Tess accidentally ends up taking on much the same rule among her high school peers. In the words of Olivia Pope, the Kendrick girls have got it handled.

Olivia Pope: It's handled GIF
Source: http://scandalmoments.tumblr.com/

While it might seem a little far-fetched that a sixteen year-old high school student would get involved in a high profile political conspiracy involving murder, suicide, blackmail and cover-ups, Barnes makes its work. I liked that Tess didn’t go seeking out this big mystery, but ended up involved because she was trying to help a friend. Since her school is filled with the offspring of political bigwigs, it made sense that Tess could get wrapped up in something much bigger than her. The progression and escalation of the drama ends up seeming plausible.

The plot is what really drives this novel. I loved, loved, loved the mystery that Tess got wrapped up in. I definitely was not able to predict the outcome of this story. Barnes throws in twists and turns that were unexpected, but make totally sense once you see the whole picture. It got pretty intense by the end and I WAS NOT EXPECTING THAT. I loved it! It’s an expertly crafted political thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.

I really liked that their was no romance for Tess in this book. Romance, especially in a book like this, would get in the way of everything else going on. Instead, the narrative focused on Tess’s relationship with her family and friends. Tess and her sister don’t get along, but it was great to see that relationship develop and understand why Ivy made the choices she did that originally created the wedge between.

I cannot wait to pick up the next installment of this series. The first book was so entertaining and I found myself flipping pages as fast as I could. The ending was definitely a kicker that will stir up a lot more drama in book 2 and I cannot wait to see how Tess, Ivy and the whole gang handle it (haha more Scandal puns). The Fixer is definitely book crack and I cannot wait for my next hit. Pick this up if you are looking for something that will keep you entertained from the front to the back!

Dani (2)

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Cover of Red Queen

Red Queen
Victoria Aveyard
HarperTeen
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Series or Standalone: Red Queen #1
ISBN: 0062310631
Links:
AmazonBarnes and NobleGoodreadsBook Depository
Rating: 3 Stars


MY REVIEW:

I really wanted to love this one, I really did. It’s got a gorgeous cover and an intriguing concept, but about 75% through, I almost put it down.

Red Queen suffers from an identity issue. The marketing of the book bills it as “Graceling meet The Selection,” and they aren’t wrong. This book is what you would get if you threw the “hot YA” novels into a blender to get the perfect book. It never seemed to be able to commit to a genre. Was it fantasy? Was it dystopian? Was it supernatural? I can’t say it was unoriginal, but it blended so many common tropes from hit novels that I couldn’t help but be left a little disappointed.

In the Red Queen, Mare Barrow lives in a world segregated by the color of your blood. Those with Silver blood have special abilities and hold all the power over the subservient, non-magical people with Red blood. Mare, a Red blood, ends up in the royal court, where an accident ends up giving her the abilities of a Silver. She must give up all she knows when she’s order by the King to play the part of a Silver. Mare experiences as a Red makes her dislike the Silvers, and despite the fact that’s she masquerading as one, she gets drawn into the workings of the Scarlet Guard, an organization of Reds leading a rebellion against the Silvers.

The identity issue in this book affected my ability to really understand this world that Mare lives in. Was it more a dystopian society with a totalitarian government that punished the Red and raises up the Silvers, or was it a kingdom with magic that was ruled by a corrupt King? There was so much potential, but too much was going on. It was as if Mare’s world was supposed to be this perfect blend of all the dystopian and oppressive governments in YA fiction.

I wish I could say that characters were what redeemed this book for me, but unfortunately, they never felt fully developed. Mare Barrow wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before, and her character never really seemed to grow based on what happens to her. I really liked her in the beginning and the very, very end, but for the whole middle she was very blah. It felt as if Victoria Aveyard only just scratched the surface of who Mare really is rather than fully fleshed her out. Also, I never felt as if I really understood her motivations; the ones provided felt superficial at best. The other character also suffered from a lack of development, fading into the background even when they were fairly prominent player. I just wish each character was a bit more fleshed out and had a bit more oomph to their personalities.

As expected, there is romance in this book and yes, there are multiple love interests. But, it is not so much a love triangle as a love square in this book. I didn’t buy much of the romance, but I think that stems from my issues with the character development. I’m actually really interested to see what happens with the romance in the next book, as the ending of this book changes Mare’s perception of a lot of the guys. Hopefully, the next book does something interesting with this development and actually makes me feel something of romantic sparks between Mare and one of the guys.

The giant twist in this book didn’t shock me at all; it was all very predictable and you could see it coming from a mile away. Mare, however, couldn’t, and I literally yelled at the book calling her an idiot at one point because she was so blindsided. However, despite that fact, I did end up loving the ending. This was one of those books where a bunch of stuff happened in the beginning and the end, but nothing noteworthy in the middle. Despite that, the end sequence really redeemed this book for me; I just wished that the whole book could have been like the last 80 pages. The ending was fast-paced, action-packed, and filled with Mare being pretty badass. I’ll probably check out the next book because of that ending.

I’m intrigued enough to check out the next book, but this book ultimately fell flat for me. This book doesn’t stand out. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either. If you want a book that takes some of the best parts from The Selection, the Hunger Games and Graceling, then you will love this book. But, I just wished for something a bit more new.

Dani (2)

Hello Again!

It has been awhile since I have taking up the pen – well, keyboard – here at Overflowing Shelf. A lot of factors have been the cause of this over the years, but I’m at the point in my life where I can get back to blogging.

When I first started Overflowing Shelf in 2010 over on Blogspot, I was at a completely different point in my life. I was just about to graduate high school and ready to move onto the next stage of my life at Boston University.

Fast-forward five years (really FIVE?!?) and so much has changed. I’ve been out of college for over a year and working full-time doing public relations at an agency I love in a city I love.

Over the years, I have had less time to spend writing here. Overflowing Shelf got pushed aside as an afterthought amidst papers, multiple jobs, college hockey games, and even *gasp* naps.

While I’ve had a great time over the last five years. Something has been missing.

And that something is this blog.

I miss sharing my opinions on books I have read with others. I miss the community of other book-loving people. I miss gushing about the books I love and forcing them on other people. I even miss the drama in the blogosphere.

It’s time to start up again. Set realistic expectations for myself. Slowly fall back into my old blogger habits.

I can’t promise much right away as I know me. It will take time for me to have a lot of content on this blog. And that’s okay! I need to remember that and continue telling myself that. It’s okay to take it slow.

To my readers, old and new alike, hello! I hope you will join me on this journey as I start to get Overflowing Shelf back up and running again.

Look out for more posts soon!

Dani (2)

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

The Art of Lainey
Paula Stokes
HarperTeen
Release Date: May 20, 2014
Series or Standalone: Standalone
ISBN: 9780062238429
Websites:

Rating: 5 Stars

The Art of Lainey was one of those books that had been on my radar for a long time, but I never had a reason or excuse to read it, as other books always ended up getting in the way. One night, I needed a fun, light-heart, cute read to distract my mind from focusing more serious matters, and Gail over at Ticket to Anywhere suggested Lainey and it was the perfect fit.

The concept of The Art of Lainey is relatively simple, but that simplicity is part of its charm. Lainey Mitchell planned on spending the summer with her perfect boyfriend Jason, until he suddenly dumps her in the middle of her family’s coffee shop. Lainey does what any teenager would do — uses her copy of The Art of War by Sun Tzu to come up with a fool-proof plan to win her boyfriend back. Using her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous, what could possibly go wrong?

Going into this book, you know how it is going to end. The formula of the plot is one that has appeared many times, but it’s the journey of getting to that ending that makes the Art of Lainey so much fun. The slow trajectory of Lainey and Micah’s relationship was perfect. Paula Stokes did a great job building up their feelings; the arc of their relationship really tugged on my heartstrings. Micah and Lainey gave me so many feels. Their banter was perfect and they just worked together. And again, SO MANY FEELS. 

Watching Lainey’s grow through out the story was one of the things that I really enjoyed. When she was with Jason, she was defined by that relationship and this ideal high school romance she built up in her head. Lainey wasn’t all that likable at first, and I really, really hated her friend Kendall. While trying to win her ex back, Lainey realizes that what she had with Jason wasn’t perfect and wasn’t the person she wanted to be. Watching her come to that realization was a lot of fun and I really ended up liking Lainey as a character. 

I have to say this: Micah is my new book boyfriend. He’s a little rough around the edges, but you can’t help but fall for him, as Lainey does. You see past his mohawk and standoffishnish and get to see a genuinely good guy who really ends up caring for Lainey. I would love to see more Micahs in books and real life!

I really loved how The Art of War was the springboard for Lainey’s plan. Most people might not have ever read The Art of War, but this book does a good job showing how Sun Tzu’s ideas are one that can be applied in many, many different situations. I consider this just a fun little bonus to the plot. 

The Art of Lainey is one of those books I know I will go back and reread whenever I’m feeling down. I’ve already read it more than once, and each time I read it, I can’t help but smile. It’s the perfect quick read that will warm your heart — and sometimes that is all you need. 

Three Young Adult Authors Walk into a Book Store…and Come Out Managing a Publishing House

That’s very nearly what recently happened to young adult authors Shannon DelanyJudith Graves, and Jen Murgia  except there was no book store and they don’t live close enough to do much “in real life” together. “That’s the great thing about technology and social media,” Delany laughs. 

“This all began because I opened my mouth on Facebook and it earned me a phone call. I was toying with the idea of founding my own little publishing house and Judith Graves contacted me. After a few emails and one fateful phone call the ball was rolling!

Graves, a longtime Leap author (and a respected script writer and author with additional houses) suggested she and Delany team up and take over the SHINE e-novella line she was building through established small publisher Leap Books LLC

When owner Laurie Edwards heard about it, she suggested they take on the entire company. Not long after, Delany found herself the owner and publisher of the well-loved house with Graves as her very capable co-publisher.

But the duo knew it would take even more people to give Leap’s books and authors, both old and new, the attention they needed. Delany contacted author Jennifer Murgia and asked her to come aboard as Marketing Director. With the addition of William Gee as CFO and additional team members to bolster the services they provide authors, the new Leap management team feels certain they can each focus on the things they do best. 

Readers can look forward to edgy and memorable stories filled with characters who leap off the pages. Of special note is the new e-novella line, SHINE, headed up by Graves and specializing in YA and NA. 

Authors of all YA and NA genres can submit through their agents to any of Leap’s lines (submission details are HERE). And, this year to celebrate Delany’s birthday in mid-October, Leap will open its doors for unagented stories for a brief period.

For now Delany suggests readers and writers alike leap into the contest running until August 8 that http://leapbks.blogspot.ca/ and says if you’re serious about writing for a publisher, first give a few of their books a read.

Find Leap Books at all major online retailers and: 
http://leapbks.net
http://twitter.com/Leapbks
http://facebook.com/people/LeapBoks-Owner

Enter our Rafflecopter contest to win three Leap e-books of your choice: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Trailer Tuesday: Dororthy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Everyone knows the story of the Wizard of Oz. Danielle Paige’s novel offers a new twist on the classic tale. The graphics in this trailer are really cool, and I really think help to capture the darker, a bit more twisted atmosphere of the book. The voiceover does a great job of summing up the book. I liked Dorothy Must Die and I think this trailer is a good representation of the what the book is about.

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne + SIGNED COPY GIVEAWAY

Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief, #1)

Midnight Thief

Livia Blackburne
Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Series or Standalone: Midnight Thief #1
ISBN: 9781423176381
Websites:
Rating: 4 Stars
After reading Poison Dance, I couldn’t wait to read Midnight Thief. Midnight Thief did not disappoint. Livia Blackburne’s debut novel is a perfect addition to YA fantasy genre. 
I loved the world that Livia Blackburne created. The world that Kyra, Tristam and James occupy is as important as any character in the story. It’s a richly nuanced world that provides the perfect backdrop for this story. Forge is not a perfect place, its corrupt and has its fair share of issues, which makes it perfect for Kyra’s story. There is complex political atmosphere in Forge, but Blackburne makes it easy to understand everything that is happening in Forge. Blackburne has a much stronger grasp on establishing a detailed fantasy world than some veteran authors. Everything worked and the pieces fell in place perfectly within Forge which helped make the plot twists believable. 
Kyra was a great main character. She was extremely loyal to those she cared about and willing to do what it took to survive and to provide for those around her. She’s an extremely impressive thief and I loved reading about her adventures. While she does get placed in some difficult situations, I enjoyed seeing her struggle to remain true to herself and stick to her morals. I enjoyed that as the book went on, we got to learn more about Kyra and see her struggle to come to terms with who she was. Her background was a mystery to her and the reader at the beginning, but we slowly learn more about who she is. I’m excited to see her character grow even more in the second book in the series. 
Man, how wrong was I about James. He’s the focus of Poison Dance and an integral player in Midnight Thief. He really took me by surprise in this book. I did not expect his character to make the decisions that he did. He’s an extremely talented and charismatic leader of the assassin’s and I felt like he played me as well as he played everyone else. He’s extremely important to helping Kyra’s development as a character, and not because he’s “darkly attractive.” His actions are important to Kyra’s questioning of her own limits and identity. James really was such a great character, I loved the scenes with him in it. He really took me by surprise.
We also have Tristam, another character, who in many ways is the exact opposite of Kyra. Their situations in Forge couldn’t be more different, but when you threw them together, they worked. Their story lines overlapped and blended together perfectly. He’s a good ally for Kyra to have, and a deeply loyal friend and knight. He’s one of the good guys, and I’m excited to see how he deals with the incidents that occurred in this book. 
While there is romance in Midnight Thief, it does not take center stage. Romantic tensions run high in some scenes, and I enjoyed them, but was really glad that they were not the most important thing. I enjoyed that Blackburne let the relationships and the romance build throughout the book, leaving more room for it in the sequel. Sometimes, less is more in the romance department. 
The plot twist in this book was not what I was expecting. I loved every minute of reading this. Everything from the assassins, to the demon riders; it was great. The pacing was perfect, with the action scenes happening at the right times. Their were so many secrets and lies in this book that you did not know who to trust or what to expect next. The second half of the novel flew by as the story really got into its grove. I’m so excited to see what happens next.
Midnight Thief is a must read for anyone who loves fantasy. It’s a story of twists and turns set against a fabulous world. I loved reading about Kyra and her adventures and am hungry for more. I also really love that Midnight Thief is a duo logy (I’m so sick of trilogies). Fans of Kristina Cashore and Tamora Pierce should definitely pick this book up. Livia Blackburne’s debut is a solid YA fantasy that has provided the perfect groundworks for a sequel. I highly recommend you pick this one up sooner rather than later. 


GIVEAWAY

Luckily, I was able to attend Livia Blackburne’s Boston launch of Midnight Thief. I’m giving away a signed copy to one lucky win. Open to US residents only (sorry!) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1)
These Broken Stars
Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Disney Hyperion
Release Date: December 10, 2013
Series or Standalone: Starbound #1
ISBN: 9781423171027
Websites:
Rating: 3 Stars
These Broken Stars seems to be a book that people either really loved or really hated. My feelings on this book fell somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed parts of the book, but other parts really lagged for me. This is one book I’m glad I got out of the library to read.
The premise of this book was more promising than its execution. I loved the idea of the spaceship crash that throws together two very different people in an unfamiliar environment. However, the plot dragged throughout the whole middle, and a book that really only has two characters faces its fare amount of challenges in holding the readers attention. 
The beginning and end of this book are the parts I really enjoyed. The story had such potential in the beginning. I loved Lilac and Tarver’s interactions while onboard the Icarus. They both had strong characteristics and good backstories. The crash of the Icarus was heartbreakingly beautiful — in many ways it reminded me of the sinking of the Titanic. I had high hopes with seeing how Tarver and Lilac dealt with being ship wrecked, hoping that it would making them stronger characters. 
However, the whole middle dragged. I did not like how the characters acted. Lilac became very weak and whiny. Even when forced to fend for herself, she still felt like she need Tarvers there to prop her up and support her. Her character during the middle of the book at times really annoyed me. Tarvers was the stronger of the two characters and the one I had a stronger connection with. I wanted to see what happened to his character more than Lilac. There were many times during the middle of the book that I wanted to put the book down because NOTHING was happening. The ending slightly redeemed the middle and was not what I expected. 
The romance between Tarver and Lilac fizzled. In the beginning, I could see the spark and the potential. But, as the story went on, it felt like the romance was their because it had to be there. They were the only two people on the planet, so of course that’s what had to happen. I wish that the same spark from the beginning was able to carry through the whole book. 
I did really like that their were snippets of Tarver’s interrogation from present day before chapters and eventually the storyline of the plot and interrogation overlapped. It was a nice structural device that was really interested to read. I think I liked the interrogation transcript more than the actual plot sometimes. 
Despite this book being written by two people, the two authors voices blend very well. It’s really hard to tell who is writing what parts. There were some really beautifully written scenes, including the ship crash, that I really enjoyed reading. I’m always intrigued by books written by two authors to see how well the two authors blend, and Spooner and Kaufman do an excellent job of that. 
Overall, These Broken Stars just didn’t cut it for me. I enjoyed parts of it, but a dragging plot really pulls the story down. I’m interested in the companion sequel This Shattered World because we will get new characters facing a new set of challenge. I still have some doubts about it, but I do plan on checking it out when it’s released.