Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Title: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Publishing Date: October 22nd 2015
Length: 608 pages
Keywords: YA, sci-fi, thriller, conspiracy, space travel, romance
Source: Publisher

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.

Summary by Goodreads

In the beginning there is destruction. Kady and Ezra are on the run while their planet is bombed and invaded by two duelling mega-corporations. They need to evacuate and make it on one of the space ships that are fleeing their enemies. But will they make it out alive in the end? That's what you'll have to find out by reading the Illuminae files, all analysed and supplied by the Illuminae Group. They share about six hundred pages of visual, audio and written data collected from battle carrier Alexander and science vessel Hypathia where the action of ILLUMINAE takes place.

So Kady and Ezra are the two protagonists whose story we get to follow in ILLUMINAE. We learn that Kady just broke up with Ezra and now they are thrown into this horrifying scenario where their entire planet is destroyed. No time to be vindictive. In order to survive Kady and Ezra have to find a way to beat the enemy together. You can imagine that this scenario was pretty intriguing. In the face of death, new hardships and more catastrophes on board almost constantly dare them to get back together and admit their true feelings for each other. Even though they never even narrate one chapter of the book themselves, we still learn more about the development of their relationship through the hacked files.

So what are those files? Videos by surveillance cameras, military documents, chat communications, interviews, emails, diary entries and other forms of data. The collection is splendid!
   When I first dove into the Illuminae files I didn't really know how to read them best. I'm used to personal narrations that bring a reader close to the character's thoughts and emotions. So I was concerned I wouldn't care about Kady and Ezra as much as maybe other characters. And actually it took me some time to get used to the documentary and informative narration of ILLUMINAE but after about one hundred pages I was deeply immersed in the story. Just give yourself a little time to acclimate to the new style of narration.

Never have I read a book where its page design was as important to the story as in ILLUMINAE. It keeps up the authentic character of storytelling and offers a completely new and riveting reading experience. A few basic page designs run throughout the entire story, like chats, military reports, audio files. But there are countless pages that got their very own special design with great love to detail. I bow to the art department for supplying ILLUMINAE with its own authentic style that makes up a huge part of the stunning reading experience Amie and Jay's novel offers to readers.

Part of the narrating scheme reminded me of chapters from THESE BROKEN STARS, where a military investigation is under way, too. I have never read anything like ILLUMINAE and now I'm more than curious about its sequel, if it's told in the same manner as the first book and if there will be more hints or parallels to Amie's THESE BROKEN STARS series. 

As to the story's course of action, that is one gigantic struggle for survival. Imagine bad things happening to Kady, Ezra and an entire planet's population. Then prepare again for the worst! There are epic space battles, explosions, conspiracies, hacking attacks and a dangerous artificial intelligence that overtakes an entire ship. Further you can add a deadly plague that turns humans into brutal zombies and ILLUMINAE into a slasher and horror story. That one was literally a killer move of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This book is definitely not for the faint-hearted, but for the thrill seekers! Thought you booked a romantic cruise on a space liner? With ILLUMINAE you'll receive the gore galore adventure!
   Constant countdown alerts until "the end" and updated numbers on the current death toll (yep, these are totally justified) make the reading experience even more nerve-racking and dramatic.

With about 600 pages ILLUMINAE is a pretty big book. So I suggest you reserve a weekend to enjoy Kady and Ezra's unique space adventure to the fullest!

4/5 **** ILLUMINAE - Simply mind-blowing!  Best book design award 2015 goes to ILLUMINAE!

Conspiracies, space chases, gigantic explosions, terrifying enemies, sly artificial intelligence, emotional losses and a subtle yet sublime love story. Sci-fi, horror, thriller, romance, ILLUMINAE has it all. This book is the full package, a space adventure promising to blow your mind. I can guarantee you haven't read anything like it before!

"I only know one thing for sure. Whatever they don't want me to see, that's where I'm digging. I need to be where the secrets are.
 I'm more interested in ensuring I have a future than they think." – p. 124

ILLUMINAE you might enjoy THESE BROKEN STARS by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, A THOUSAND OF YOU by Claudia Gray and ALL OUR YESTERDAYS by Cristin Terrill. Only the first title is set in space like ILLUMINAE but they all have one thing in common: thrilling adventures, mean conspiracies and stunning romances.

* Have you read THESE BROKEN STARS?

* Click here to read an excerpt of ILLUMINAE.

* For more information about Amie visit And here's Jay's website

* Thanks to Oneworld Publications for sending me a copy of ILLUMINAE for review!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mini Reviews #30

Today I'm reviewing three YA contemporaries that deal with growing up, finding your identity and learning to trust in yourself. FUTURE PERFECT by Jen Larsen, DUMPLIN' by Julie Murphy and INFINITE IN BETWEEN by Carolyn Mackler are all fall 2105 releases. Have you read any of them yet?

Future Perfect by Jen Larsen

"Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother—a card that always contains a promise: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness." 
   Ashley has never accepted her grandmother's offer...until now. This year is different when her grandmother offers tuition to Harvard if Ashley only accepts to undergo weight loss surgery. Well, doesn't this sound nice? It really wasn't. Ashley's family story was prominently on the annoying side. It's no wonder Ashley doesn't really feel content with her situation when her family is falling apart. I never saw them as a unit, but more as a bunch of ignorant people living under the same roof. Unfortunately, I never liked any of them enough to fully engage in Ashely's story or really care about the outcome. 
   I hoped FUTURE PERFECT would be a book about personal development and defying social conventions. Does your weight really change your identity? Or does the shape of your body influence your happiness? Yet, Ashley's story doesn't really offer that much insight into the topic or even her opinion. She loses herself in crazy adventures rather than facing her true feelings and her strict grandmother.

2/5 ** FUTURE PERFECT - Lightweight YA contemporary!

When I picked up FUTURE PERFECT I was very curious about the story's concept and Ashley's emotional world. There's a lot of talking going on but dialogues or inner reflections never really went deep enough to present readers with the bigger meaning to FUTURE PERFECT they've been anticipating from the beginning.

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publishing Date: October 6th 2015
Length: 320 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary, love, friendship, family, body image
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads Summary  

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Self-appointed fat girl Willowdean is confident about her body. Until her crush, popular beautiful Bo, surprisingly reciprocates her feelings and she starts to doubt everything. To prove herself and regain confidence she enters the local beauty pageant. 
   Willow is a strong protagonist who is very aware of her body and how people always tend to think she's nothing more than the fat girl. But she's happy and likes her body the way other people will never be able to accept themselves. I loved that about her! Will's romance with Bo wasn't my favourite part of DUMPLIN' but Will's relationship with her best friend and her passion for Dolly Parton and her music. I admired Willow for entering a beauty pageant together with a few other people to show off their less than beauty-queen-perfect bodies. In the end that's how DUMPLIN' conveys a very strong message!

3/5 *** DUMPLIN' - A smart, ironic and funny YA with a strong message regarding body image! 

If you ever feel insecure about yourself and need a push to be more confident, you should pick up a copy of DUMPLIN'. Willowdean with her hilarious and powerful character should definitely give you a feel-good reading experience!

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publishing Date: September 15th 2015
Length: 375 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary, love, friendship, beauty pageant, body image
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads Summary  

Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler

"Zoe, Jake, Mia, Gregor, and Whitney meet at freshman orientation. At the end of that first day, they make a promise to reunite after graduation. So much can happen in those in-between years….".
Carolyn Mackler's INFINITE IN BETWEEN offers a pretty great concept to readers who enjoy multiple narrators in a novel. Zoe, Jake, Mia, Gregor and Whitney are all very different characters and have their own voices who become very familiar after only a short reading time.
What I liked most about INFINITE IN BETWEEN is that a few key scenes resonated through all of our five teen's narration. Since the day they met their lives are intertwined. Every teen has something special about him or her. Identity, sexual orientation, love and friendship all play an important role at some point in their stories. Their stories of growing up.
   Since the story concentrates on these five teens from the beginning of freshman year til graduation every character gets to tell his story on  roughly about one hundred pages only. Therefore Carolyn Mackler had to be very considerate when choosing which character got to tell which part of their story. INFINITE IN BETWEEN is a collection of very short chapters of all five protagonists, making it a pretty quick read. We never really learn everything about them, but just dip into their lives for a short period of time. I prefer a story that focuses on one protagonist and allows a more intimate relationship between character and reader. Nevertheless INFINITE IN BETWEEN was still a quick read and a nice change from other YA contemporaries.  

3/5 *** INFINITE IN BETWEEN - A diverse tale of growing up!

Witness their most painful embarrassments and their greatest achievements. All their teen angst and their happiness. Carolyn Mackler's INFINITE IN BETWEEN is a story of growing up everyone can relate to.

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publishing Date: September 1st 2015
Length: 480 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary, love, friendship, school, growing up
Source: Publisher
Goodreads Summary  

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cover Costume Candy 2015

Happy Halloween! Are you having fun? I've got three pretty YA cover costumes for you on this very scary day. I haven't read SIX OF CROWS yet but thought it'd be fun to put together a dark and sexy costume for Leigh Bardugos latest book release. A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU is one of my favourite books and I really loved creating a costume for Marguerite's artsy character. I would definitely wear this outfit myself! RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard was a stunning YA debut! I couldn't resist to create a costume based on its beautiful cover. Which of these costumes would you like to wear this year? 

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone... A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him. 

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.
To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teen

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

ARC Giveaway: Soundless by Richelle Mead

I got two ARCs of SOUNDLESS by Richelle Mead at Frankfurt Book Fair 2015 and want to give away one of these copies to one of my readers. This is your chance to read Richelle's newest book before its official publication date on November 10th 2015. The giveaway is open to international entrants and ends November 3rd 2015. Please enter the giveaway widget below. Good luck!

Soundless by Richelle Mead

From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore.

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever...

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Frankfurt Book Fair 2015 - New Books On My Shelf

Frankfurt Book Fair 2015 was a blast! I met many wonderful people, lovely authors Kiera Cass and Victoria Aveyard and of course I got some great books, too. Here they are:

Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone
Boys Like You by Juliana StoneThe Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally

Penguin Random House 
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Summerlost by Ally Condie
Soundless by Richelle Mead
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Eternal City by Paula Morris

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Harper Collins
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch

It doesn't happen every year that YA US authors visit Frankfurt Book Fair, but this year I was lucky enough to meet two authors. Kiera Cass signed her THE SELECTION books on Saturday and Victoria Aveyard signed THE RED QUEEN on Sunday.  

Aaand luckily I've managed to grab a few copies for you, too! The copy of RED QUEEN is signed! So you can expect new giveaways over the next months. Which one of these books would you like to win most? 


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Ireland Road Trip

In September two of my best friends and I spent two weeks in heaven: IRELAND! I'd been dreaming about travelling to Ireland for about ten years and the country as its people were everything I'd imagined them to be. Wild, beautiful, warm-hearted, stunning, adventurous, peaceful, cosy, windy, miraculous, funny

After almost missing our plane to Dublin (almost...whew!) we set out to explore Ireland's capital. We stayed at a very central hostel and could easily walk the city centre. Dublin Castle, Trinity College and St. Patrick's Cathedral were our favourite sights. The sun was shining and we even got a glimpse at the filming of Penny Dreadful Season 3. At Costa Coffee we fell in love with their triple layered lemon cake and hot chocolate. They definitely need to open up stores in Germany, too!

Then it was time to pick up our rental car and drive cross-country to Lahinch. We stayed at the lovely bed and breakfast Craglea Lodge and had a cosy room with an amazing breakfast. Our host Edel recommended to drive about five miles to Liscannor and walk to the Cliffs of Moher from there instead of parking at the official visitor centre. It turned out to be an invaluable tip! We spent the entire day exploring the coastal walking route, about 10 km to the visitor centre and back to Liscannor. The Cliffs of Moher were one of the very special highlights of our Ireland trip!

After our stay in Lahinch we drove on to Galway, the radio playing "The Galway Girl" by Steve Earle. In Galway we shopped a lot, dined in atmospheric pubs and enjoyed some relaxing sightseeing.

While staying in Galway we decided to drive to Connemara Nationalpark (about 1 1/2 hours). And even the drive through winding roads, mountain landscapes and lakes was simply beautiful. Sheeps were scattered over the hills and merrily walked over the streets when they felt like it. Be ready to brake! In Connemara Nationalpark we hiked up Diamond Hill (1,450 ft). I'd never hiked before and it was a small challenge for us to climb the steep rocks. In the end we were rewarded with a breath-taking view! If you ever get the chance to go to Connemara, don't hestitate. This part of Ireland is stunning!
We also drove by Kylemore Abbey, saw many rainbows and visited Martin and his Atlantic Sheepdogs in Streedagh. Martin was very kind when we called him spontaneously on the day of our departure in Galway. He welcomed us to his sheep farm and showed us how his dogs worked and told us a lot about different sheep breeds, competitions and about life on a sheep farm in general. Martin with his pet sheep Molly was one of the most warm-hearted and friendliest people I've met so far on my travels. Thank you!

After about one week it was time to explore Northern Ireland as well. It was different from Ireland but just as beautiful. One day we just drove along the Northern Coast, visited Dunluce Castle, Whiterock Beach and the Giant's Causeway which is said to be the windiest place in Northern Ireland. I LOVED the Giant's Causeway and it's wild and rough beauty!
We also did a little Game of Thrones locations tour by ourselves. Part of it was Mussenden Temple, Castle Ward and The Dark Hedges. We even drove by The Wall (yes, THE wall!). Not as impressive as one might think though as there were fences and security all around it.

We also spent a few days in Belfast. It wasn't our favourite city but we still had a good time there. The Titanic Museum was on top of our sightseeing list. I can highly recommend this interactive and very informative experience! Sunday aftertoon we went to the Lyric Theatre and saw Dancing at Lughnasa. Great performance!
From Belfast it's only a short drive to the Gobbins Path, a coastal walking route that first opened to  tourists back in the Victorian era. Futhermore we went to see a stone circle we originally hadn't imagined to be that impressive. It was located on a field and you had to walk a narrow and overgrown path to get there. And when we saw the stone circle for the first time the sun was setting and we were the only people there. It was kind of magical and really special.

Brú na Bóinne was a stop on our way back to Dublin. It's a mysterious site of a very old culture and there are guided tours only. You can choose between three different sites or combine them. We started at Knowth and our guide was very smart and so funny. Newgrange was really nice, too! 
If you are staying in Dublin for a few days I can highly recommend driving into the Wicklow Mountains. I loved the Wicklow scenery just as much as Connemara. There's the small town of Glendalough with a monastery that's definitely worth seeing. Back in Dublin we did some more shopping and enjoyed a last very nice sunset over Dublin.

So that was the route we travelled through Ireland and Northern Ireland. It was a unique and very rewarding experience. I can't wait to come back and travel the South of Ireland, too, and definitely come back to many beloved places from our trip this year

Q! These are the books I got in Belfast. Which should I read first? 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Travelling to Ireland - YA Books set in Ireland

I've been dreaming about travelling to Ireland for about ten years and this road trip is finally happening now! I'm leaving tomorrow with two friends and will be back in two weeks. Can't wait! Here's the route we are taking. Do you have tips? What should we do?



As I was planning the route I started wondering if there were any YA books set in Ireland. And I actually found four books. Can you think of another YA story set in Ireland or Northern Ireland? I'll add them to my list here.

YA set in Ireland


Their love was meant to be.

When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRÍs.

But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction.


THERE YOU'LL FIND ME by Jenny B. Jones

Grief brought Finley to Ireland. Love will lead her home.

Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She s witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.

She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will s travel journal. It s the place he felt closest to God, and she s hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.

Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She s the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.

Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?

Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she s been looking for has been with her all along?"


SHINE by Jeri Smith-Ready

In this dramatic conclusion to the Shade trilogy, Aura and Zachary’s relationship sizzles as the secrets of the Shift are revealed.

Life can change in an instant, and no one understands that better than Aura. It’s been almost a year since her boyfriend tragically died. She’s finally letting go of Logan’s violet-hued ghost, but not her search to uncover the truth about her past.

As the first in a generation that can see ghosts, Aura is convinced she has a connection to the Shift. She’s trusted Zachary, ever patient and ever by her side, with all that she knows. But when the government threatens his life in an attempt to learn Aura’s secrets, she will stop at nothing to protect herself and the one she loves...even if that means betraying her own heart.


And here's what I'm planning to read while on my trip in Ireland and Northern Ireland:

I've been wanting to read THE WHITE ROSE by Amy Ewing for a while and am very curious about BURNING GLASS, Kathryn Purdie's 2016 debut novel. Hope that I'll find the time to at least finish these two then.

Take care!