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