Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3)

⇒An exhilarating journey is about to end, but before it does, new heroes and new dangers emerge. Battle lines are drawn and the die is cast.⇐


Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

(4.58 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: YA / Science Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 615 (Hardcover)

#Obsidio #Illuminae #Illuminaefiles


I am clarity, I am necessity. I am inevitability. But am I evil?

AIDAN

If you are a series reader, and if you enjoy some YA sci-fi tossed into your reading list, then do not skip this series. It is clever, inventive, fresh, and masterfully written. I read a lot of series – some that have gone on past their Use By date – but the Illuminae Files is one that I wouldn’t mind starting over again (if I ever get to a point in my life when my TBR pile isn’t so massive.

Obsidio is the third book in the Illuminae series and it is as intense and exciting as both the first and second releases. More characters, a different spaceship, but the same dark, evil threat looming over them all: BeiTech. Here’s the Goodreads blurb…

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion? 
Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. 
With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.


Before I launch into a glowing review of how good I think Obsidio is, Here are links to my reviews on both Illuminae and Gemina just in case you’re curious about the series and haven’t quite committed to checking it out yet. Hint: You should. Seriously.

I should say first, do NOT let the size of these books scare you off. They are actually really quick reads. There are pages that read like comics. So even if your regular reading material is closer to the 200-250 page range, you’ll feel comfortable with this even though Obsidio‘s page count is 615. Trust me on that.

The book is written in a series of Audio Visual transcripts and Instant Message screenshots — there are even some personal scribbled notes tossed in there too — and fascinating illustrations that put you right in the thick of the action. The layout of these books is one of the best things about the series. Any time I find myself turning a book in circles in order to read it, I know the author has me hooked and could do basically anything on those pages. And Kaufman and Kristoff do just that.

Live a life worth dying for.

Kady Grant

Obsidio plays out on the page like a movie plays out on the screen. One hundred moving parts and yet all of them gel into a violent, deadly, animated, touching story of resilience and grit. Sure, it’s teenagers running around doing amazing things to save their part of the universe, but I feel sucked into their world and I don’t want to know anything other than their reality — it’s just that compelling.

The two “stars” in Obsidio are girl-next-door Asha Grant and her ex-boyfriend (now turned to the dark side), BeiTech soldier Rhys Lindstrom. Both of them are in situations that they didn’t choose, but to survive they have to learn to trust each other all over again. And that’s not easy to do in the midst of a forced enemy occupation that leads to a space war right over your head.

Every story needs its monster. <error> And the monster is me.

AIDAN

One thing that kept pulling me into this serious is the presence of the mad/mad genius AI supercomputer, AIDAN. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with this thing (entity?). Is it that AIDAN has no conscience? Or is that he has more conscience than a computer should have, and therefore creates chaos? Read the books and you decide. But one thing is sure, AIDAN is the catalyst for most of the action in all three books. And if action is what you like in your reading (along with questionable moral decisions and awkward computer romance), then this is the series for you.

I’m sad that it ends with Obsidio, but I feel that this book wrapped everything up nicely – no pretty bows or shiny paper here, but a solid ending that puts a bold period where the previous two books left question marks. I’m satisfied after this series, and that’s not something that I get to say a lot when reviewing other books in a series. The Illuminae Files does not disappoint.


Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Kaufman Website

Kristoff Blog


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Station Eleven

⇒A review of the book that will make you look at your entire life – and the flu – a lot differently. I will never take electricity (or Acetaminophen) for granted again.⇐

by Emily St. John Mandel

SmellRating4

(4.03 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published: September 9, 2014, by Knopf

Genre: Fiction / Apocalyptic Thriller / Science Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Pages: 336 pages (Hardcover)

#StationEleven

Station ElevenBecause Survival is Insufficient

The day before yesterday, I caught a cold. Yes, in the middle of a very hot summer, I caught a cold. Leave it to me. Normally, it wouldn’t be a big deal: Some hot tea, a box of tissue, and some soup and crackers = a time-tested remedy (and a great excuse for some extra reading time).

The only problem is that I had just read Station Eleven. So my minor sniffles ballooned into an anxiety-riddled plague of epic proportions that would, no doubt, have me wallowing on a gurney in some Godforsaken corner of a quarantined hospital ward within the next 24 hours. Thank you, anxiety. You’re such a friend.

Thankfully, I am not hospitalized, and my cold is just that – a minor inconvenience. But if anybody or any book could put the fear of a pandemic into you, it would be Emily St. John Mandel and Station Eleven.

Hell is the absence of the people you long for.

So, no, this isn’t a new book by any means; it has been around since September of 2014, but I had never heard of it. I know, I know. Shame on me. Yada, yada, I get it. Moving on.

I found out about Station Eleven through Anne Bogel’s podcast, What Should I Read Next. If you haven’t ever heard this podcast, you should definitely check it out. She matches readers with book suggestions based on their preferred genres and lists of faves and not-so faves. Anne mentioned that Station Eleven was one of her favorite books and she gave a short synopsis of it. I immediately knew that this book was in my wheelhouse. I was not wrong, and I have Anne to thank for pointing me towards an intense and captivating read.

The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?

So here’s a blurb from Goodreads about the plot:

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

The more we know about the former world, the better we’ll understand what happened when it fell.

I found this to be a thrilling apocalyptic novel that tells the story of the dismantling of society through the POVs of several main characters who are all connected in random ways after having survived the pandemic of the Georgia Flu (Georgia as in former republic of the Soviet Union, not Georgia the Peach State). Through their “I survived the Apocalypse” stories in the pre-collapse and post-collapse world, we realize what was lost and what was gained when most of the planet’s people died.

I love a well done apocalyptic novel and this one checked all of my boxes. I was totally invested and very disappointed when it ended, mostly because this wasn’t just a fight-or-flight, kill to survive, beat back the zombies sort of story. This book had heart and it made me really appreciate a lot of the things – and people – I casually take for granted every day.

Plus, this might be a great book to pull out when you think that everything is going to hell in a hand basket because it will make you realize that as long as we don’t have to poop in the woods or steal sheets from long-dead people we’re doing pretty well.

4 strong, bright stars and why isn’t this a movie yet?

Read an excerpt of Station Eleven (courtesy of NPR) here: EXCERPT


About the Author

Emily St. John MandelEmily St. John Mandel

Website

Twitter

Instagram

Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband.



 

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The President Is Missing

by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
SmellRating4
(3.98 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published July 4, 2018, by Hachette Audio

Genre: Fiction / Political Thriller

Format: Audible Audiobook

Narrators: Dennis Quaid, January LaVoy, Peter Ganim, Jeremy Davidson, and Mozhan Marnò

#ThePresidentismissing

The President Is Missing by Bill ClintonTake out the leader, and the rest of the pack panics.

Back in 2001, a little show called 24 hit the small screen. Jack Bauer, expertly played by Kiefer Sutherland, as a member of LA’s Counter-Terrorist Unit (CTU) “raced against the clock to subvert terrorist plots and save his nation from ultimate disaster” – as IMDb puts it. And I was there for every second of it!

There were plots and sub-plots, bad guys, good guys, bad guys who became good guys, good guys who became bad guys, good women, bad women, and worse women… and in the middle of it all, there was Jack Bauer just trying to save the country from destruction over and over again. It was easily one of my favorite shows.

So it was no surprise when, later, another little show called Scandal rocked my world. Once again, it was a highly skilled team (lead by one amazing person) rescuing us from devastation. This time Olivia Pope, played dynamically by Kerry Washington, advised the hell out of everybody in the White House and beyond, managing crises that threatened all sorts of highly ranked officials, including the president himself.

So why wasn’t I into reading this book at first?

Primarily, I think that I assumed that it wouldn’t be any good. #Truth. I mean, really – a fiction novel written by a former president? Pass. I was initially less than interested. It didn’t even tickle my reading radar at all.

Then, one morning while I was dressing to go spend a day of vacation on the beach in Hilton Head, I watched an interview with Bill Clinton and James Patterson about the book, its storyline, and why they wanted to write it. By the end of the interview, I was sold.

They both spoke about including authentic action in response to real-life scenarios that are very genuine threats to national and international security. And Patterson mentioned that he consulted with Bill Clinton specifically to make it as detailed as possible and to get all the facts right. I love authenticity in books. It says to me that even though a story may be fictional, the author cares enough about it to get it right.

After reading this book, I am glad that I saw the interview and totally satisfied with my decision to change my mind and check it out. It is – at its essence – a James Patterson book. If you’re familiar with his writing style, you will feel his touches and patterns throughout the story.

However, I was also distinctly aware of President Clinton’s experienced voice weaving within the narrative, especially (and not surprisingly) in the character of President Duncan. Duncan is the president that Clinton aspired to be and that I wish we had today. Strong, but flawed; brave, but cautious; powerful, but compassionate. The story shows us all these sides of a heroic leader who is battling threats to his command on both foreign and domestic fronts.

When the mountains and molehills all look the same, campaigns and governments devote too little time and energy debating the issues that matter most to our people. Even when we try to do that, we’re often drowned out by the passion of the day.

Here’s a little of the plot without spoilers: President Duncan faces one of the most difficult weeks in his life. He is asked to attend a congressional hearing that will decide if he is to be impeached, he is also notified that a cyber terrorist is planning to detonate an Armageddon-level attack on the United States, and a chronic infirmity of his is once again rearing its deadly head. Duncan knows there is a mole within the White House, and it’s one of his most trusted Circle of Eight. He must figure out who he can trust before the cyber-terrorist strikes and plunges the entire nation back into the Dark Ages.

The Wild, Wild West, this cyberterrorism. This new, scary frontier. Anyone sitting on a couch in his underwear could undermine the security of a nation.

It’s set in real time over the course of 4-5 days with a large cast of sufficiently fleshed-out characters. There’s a lot of political instruction (not the most enjoyable), a lot of misdirection (entirely enjoyable), and multiple points of view which keeps the action interesting and fluid.

The President is Missing is heavy on the patriotism, equally involved with explanations of certain key members of all three branches of government and their duties, and reverently appreciative of how indispensable the secret service is to the protection of our nation’s leaders – none of which I ended up minding even though it seemed to slow the action down significantly at times. I could really feel Clinton’s expertise and admiration in those chapters and it made me appreciate his in-depth contributions.

Despite an epilogue that came across as a bit long-winded and too patriotically “preachy” (but on its face was meant to inspire and unite us – I could practically hear Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” playing in the background during the president’s speech), I enjoyed this book and have already recommended it to others who also enjoy James Patterson, political fiction, and a few select friends who really enjoy a good thriller with a stealthy terrorist plot!

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook here.

Buy it here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play


About the Authors

Image result for james patterson and bill clintonBill Clinton and James Patterson

JP Website

Clinton’s Twitter

Patterson’s Twitter

William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe III) was the forty-second President of the United States, serving from 1993 to 2001. Since leaving office, Clinton has been involved in public speaking and humanitarian work. He created the William J. Clinton Foundation to promote and address international causes, such as treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS and global warming. In 2004, he released a personal autobiography, My Life.

James Patterson has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today, with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. As of January 2016, he has sold over 375 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, he also writes children’s, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction and is the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestseller lists.


 

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Vox

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Berkley Publishing, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Christina Dalcher

SmellRating3

(3.81 stars – Goodreads rating)

Expected Publication: August 21, 2018, by Berkley Publishing Group

Genre: Dystopian Fiction / Sci-Fi

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 336

#Vox  #NetGalley

VoxThink about where you’ll be — where your daughters will be — when the courts turn back the clock… Think about waking up one morning and finding you don’t have a voice in anything.

Let me get this out of the way first, and then you won’t have to hear anything else about my comparisons of Vox to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, because they really, really do have a lot in common: 

  • the oppression of women including the banning of reading, writing, and free speech
  • the vilification of Christianity
  • programming/reprogramming of the children
  • classification of women in terms of social standing & “virtue”
  • violent deaths for opposers
  • a mother attempting/considering escape for the sake of her daughter(s)
  • and an underground resistance movement

In addition, Dalcher also uses the flashback method (as Atwood did with Handmaid) to take us back to life before the new government created this new “Pure movement”.

Dalcher doesn’t shy away from the Atwood association though, and she lists her as a literary influence on Goodreads (along with Shirley Jackson and Stephen King). So, there!

Ok, so the two books are a lot alike; HOWEVER, there are also some key differences that made me view The Handmaid as scary but empowering, and Vox – not so much.

Monsters aren’t born, ever. They’re made, piece by piece and limb by limb, artificial creations of madmen who, like the misguided Frankenstein, always think they know better.

So here’s the plot summary: Dr. Jean McClellan used to be one of the foremost neurolinguistic scientists in the United States. Past tense, because ever since the new president took office and set up the loquacious Reverend Carl Corbin as a White House advisor, women aren’t allowed to speak, let alone work as scientists – or anything – anymore.

Women have been stripped of their careers outside of the home, all their bank accounts, cell phones, laptops, access to birth control, and – most invasively – their voices. According to the new government, the female population is only allowed 100 words a day. Any more than this and a band on their wrists administers a painful electric shock that increases in intensity with every additional word. The ultimate goal is to force women back into “more traditional” roles within the home: cooking, cleaning, and raising families – whether they want to or not.

Jean inwardly rails against the establishment, but she does so silently, until the day an opportunity presents itself that may offer a way for her and her daughter to buck the system and get to speak again. But will the cost be too heavy a price to pay? And is her husband truly being supportive or just secretive?

I’ve become a woman of few words.

OK, so I’ll review first and rant later.

This is a hard review to write. I have to separate how I feel about the subject matter from how I feel about the writing/plot development/characters/etc., and if you’ve ever reviewed any type of controversial book before, you know that is not an easy thing to do.

As dystopian novels go, this one was packed full of frustrating circumstances, despair, oppression, and all the negative emotions you can imagine a dystopian novel would contain. No, all the characters aren’t likable (even, surprisingly, the main character), and most of them aren’t given a whole lot of backstory, so don’t expect a lot of character development here. It’s a quick read and most of the true action is stuffed into the final few chapters.

But the premise is extremely compelling and it does draw you into the story easily. I did read this mostly in one sitting because I was so interested to see how it all played out in the end.

Vox certainly serves as a cautionary tale reminding us that evil ideas prevail when good people do nothing – especially when we don’t go out and vote! You know that totally “woke” friend who is always pushing everyone to call their congresspeople and to oppose this cause and that cause? Listen to her. If nothing else, this book taught me that much.

Did I love it? No. Was it worth a read? Sure. Of course, there are plot points that are infuriating and potentially dangerous in the wrong hands, but isn’t that almost a requirement for good dystopian fiction? This book made me angry, sad, frustrated and – at times confused,  but I left it knowing that someone’s words caused all those feelings in me, and isn’t that kind of the point of reading?

I wonder what the other women do. How they cope. Do they still find something to enjoy? Do they love their husbands in the same way? Do they hate them, just a little bit?

Now for the rant – and, don’t worry, I’ll keep it short. I’ll just put it right out there: I’m a Christian. I NEVER push my beliefs down anyone’s throat nor do I devalue anyone else’s faith. So, it was VERY painful to read this book and see all the many, many, many times the main character maligned Christianity as a religion and its followers as a whole. There was no separation of “these certain religious fanatics” or “a specific group of extremists”. No. It was the entire religion and everyone who believes in it. That made me angry and it separated me from the story. I couldn’t relate to the characters, who were obviously suffering and deserved my sympathy, because of that gross and blatant injustice.

And I’m personally astounded by all the times Christianity is portrayed as the villain in mainstream media without anyone condemning that practice. We will defend the rights of Islamic Muslims to not be categorized as terrorists and the rights of Catholic men to not be pigeonholed as pedophiles, etc., but with Christians, hey! it’s free game! I take issue with that.

You obviously don’t need to be told that all Christians are not extremists. All Christians are not judgmental separatists who dream of a controlled society where diversity is non-existent. Most Christians are just hardworking, God-loving people who are just trying to live good, compassionate, charitable lives. To lump us all with the images of a few power-hungry radical individuals was a gross misrepresentation, and I take exception to that.

OK, rant over. But know, that while I did harbor that resentment throughout the book, I did not rate the book based on my personal feelings about the subject matter. And I’m not attacking the author either for the opinions of her main character!

Phew, I feel better getting that out of my system!

According to my personal rating scale, I gave Vox 3 stars: “This book was alright. Might be worth reading for most, but there are several things about it that will keep me from recommending it to all.” Three stars is not necessarily a bad rating from me. Lots of what I read ends up in this category. It was a solid book and will appeal to a vast majority of readers. If you pick this one up, here’s my two-cent advice: Read it for what it is, try hard not to compare it to other stories, and find at least one character you can relate to. Good luck!

Release day for Vox is August 21st so pre-order now! Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


About the Author

Christina DalcherChristina Dalcher

Website

Twitter

Instagram

Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specializes in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects and has taught at universities in the United States, England, and the United Arab Emirates.
Her short stories and flash fiction appear in over one hundred journals worldwide. Recognitions include the Bath Flash Award’s Short List; nominations for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions; and multiple other awards. She teaches flash fiction as a member of the faculty at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency represents Dalcher’s novels.
After spending several years abroad, most recently in Sri Lanka, Dalcher and her husband now split their time between the American South and Naples, Italy.
Her debut novel, VOX, will be published in August 2018 by Berkley (an imprint of Penguin Random House).

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)


 

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Ace of Shades

by Amanda Foody
SmellRating3
(3.87 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published April 10, 2018, by Harlequin Teen (Owlcrate Exclusive Edition)

Genre: Fiction / YA / Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 408 pages

Triggers: Drug use, mild sexual references, altered profanity, pedophilia, and violence

#Ace of Shades  #Owlcrate

Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1)Some say the City of Sin is a game, so before you arrive – ask yourself, dear reader, how much are you prepared to lose?

-The City of Sin, a Guidebook:
Where to Go and Where Not To

Tropps is the game of choice in New Reynes, otherwise known as the City of Sin. The players begin with 3 cards. Here are yours: A gangster, a schoolgirl, and a mystery? That’s a questionable hand, for sure. If this were a typical round of Tropps, I’d advise you to fold. However, the game you are playing is far grander and deadlier than your standard casino offerings. To win is to become a legend. To lose is to die.  -Amanda Foody

Ace of Shades is the story of Enne Salta, a proper, disciplined young school-girl whose virtue is tested in New Reynes, the City of Sin when her mother, Lourdes, goes missing for months. Enne meets Levi Glaisyer, one of New Reynes’ resident gang leaders, and together they try to solve the mystery of Lourdes’ disappearance.

Image result for ace of spadesTo be frank, reader, you’d be better off not visiting the city at all.

Hey, nice quote. Maybe that was good advice because Ace of Shades did not wow me. Sorry! (Not sorry.)

New Reynes is a bad place. It’s deceitful, dangerous, and everyone inside of it is evil. We are reminded of this over and over again. Maybe if we had been introduced to a kinder, gentler city first – like Bellamy, Enne’s hometown – for contrast, we’d be able to tell the difference for ourselves instead of being reminded of it over and over again.

Enne only enters New Reynes to find her missing mother, Lourdes. She does not intend to stay because she needs to return to Bellamy in order to graduate and finally become a true and proper lady. But once New Reynes has its grip on you, corruption is inevitable (or so we keep getting told).

Image result for ace of spadesIn the City of Sin, secrets are their own sort of currency, and reputation holds more power than fortune.

This is going to read like a non-sequitur, but you know what I like best about Star Wars and The Hunger Games? You win the hand if you said, “Not the politics!

Although politics is central to each story, keeping track of affairs of state becomes tedious in the middle of an otherwise great action tale. However, just like in those blockbusters, politics is an essential part of this story too and it’s part of the world-building strategy Amanda Foody uses to furnish all the characters with motivations for surviving in the City of Sin. With several different street gangs, Mafia families, and blood-thirsty ruling governments – each with their own powerful leader, there are a lot of moving parts in this story and you’re not sure who Enne and Levi should fear the most.

The inclusion of politics did, however, give AoS the perfect vehicle to introduce some pretty important themes: The Dangers of Classism, How Power Corrupts, and The Individual vs. Society. Important? Yes. Interesting? Marginally.

Avarice, pride and lust — these are all modest desires. What the City of Sin truly Image result for ace of spadescraves is destruction.

Foody drops us into the City of Sin in this dual-perspective (Enne’s and Levi’s) YA fantasy laced with gang wars, dark magic, and a deadly card game that won’t be denied a soul or two. 

There’s a lot of backstory vital to Enne’s self-discovery that doesn’t become clear. Ever. (Like, what made Lourdes leave Bellamy in the first place? What made the Mizers so hated? How did Enne escape the House of Shadows as a baby? Etc.) And while there is a good amount of world-building, a lot of it feels initially like a big info-dump with several strings that are left hanging even after the epilogue’s last period.

Three stars because the book wasn’t un-enjoyable, but I was left with questions that shouldn’t require a series to resolve.

But for people that rated this one higher than I did, the epilogue was good enough to yank them right into the next book of the series, King of Fools, due April 30, 2019.

Not sure if I will be interested in traveling back to the City of Sin. Ask me again in April next year (if my TBR hasn’t stretched into infinity by then!)

Check out the first chapter of Ace of Shades for yourself courtesy of Amanda Foody HERE.


About the Author

Amanda FoodyWebsite

Twitter

Instagram

Tumblr

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

ACE OF SHADES is the first novel of THE SHADOW GAME series. Her debut, DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, released in July 2017.


 

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Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2)

by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
SmellRating4
(4.55 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 16, 2018, by Ember (first published October 18, 2016)

Genre: Fiction / Sci-Fi / YA

Format: Paperback

Page Count: 659 pages

#Gemina #IlluminaeFiles

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)Now, children, watch closely. Hold your breath. Listen. And I will show you the components of calamity.

I’ve decided that any sequel to a highly-rated series debut is like tofu – either you love it or you hate it. Knowing this, I went into reading Gemina with my tongue out and eyes squinted just waiting for it to start tasting bad.

It never did.

How? How is that possible? How could I love the dynamic between Kady and Ezra from Illuminae SO MUCH and then fall equally in love with Hanna and Niklas?

And how, also, can I be equally as interested in a story where the characters are literally just spinning in circles The.Entire.Time? It shouldn’t be possible. But, folks, I’m here to tell you that Kaufman and Kristoff pulled it off.

Gemina is the story of Hanna Donnelly trying to go to a party. No, seriously. That’s the initial premise. Hanna, daughter of the commander of the space station, Heimdall, just wants to attend the Terra Day celebration and get wasted with her friends and boyfriend after.

And Nik, local bad boy, drug dealer, and member of the intimidating House of Knives gang  (whose presence on the ship isn’t registered), just wants to deliver some “Dust” to Hanna (his crush), get his money, and have some fun of his own (after HoK duties are finished with, of course).

Is that too much to ask? Apparently so.

Just like they were taking a page from all the best (worst?) teen horror flicks, the party is prematurely interrupted by strange goings-on. And by “strange”, I mean that by the end of the night Hanna and Nik are battling both a team of highly-trained killers sent to annihilate everyone on their space station AND twenty or so slimy eel/squid-like multi-headed brain-sucking alien parasites. So there’s that.

They fan out across the room, swift and surgical, the steps of this brutal ballet known by heart.

So Hanna turns out to be much more than the pampered daughter of the commander. She is highly trained in self-defense, a strategist, extremely athletic and resourceful. And she’ll need every bit of those attributes to get her through the occupation by the BeiTech forces. Oh, did I not mention that they are the ones who let loose the killers-for-hire? Yep, it’s them, at it again.

BeiTech is trying to clean up its mess from the Karenza attack (from Illuminae). And by “clean up” I mean “eliminate all possible witnesses”. But Hanna, Nik, and Ella – Nik’s computer wiz of a cousin – will not go quietly into that dark night.

Their time is short for victory, however. The wormhole is acting crazy, the killers on board the station are closing in, and so are the Lamina (the brain-sucking alien parasites). And by this point in the book – all the drama starts pretty early on – my nails are chewed down and I’m turning the pages like a madperson!

Patience and Silence had one beautiful daughter. And her name was Vengeance.

Gemina is fast-paced, well-written, and it’s sufficiently sci-fi and sufficiently YA to please fans of both genres. It is definitely a fitting sequel to Illuminae and a suspenseful sci-fi novel all on its own. I would recommend reading Illuminae first so that you’ll be familiar with some of the supporting characters and how they fit into the matrix of the files, but if you refuse (your prerogative), this is a very good book all on its own. And the format of all of the books in this series (Illuminae, Gemina, and Obsidio) is so unique and compelling that you’ll be sucked into the story before the first 100 pages have passed.

So why not 5 stars? There was only one thing that this book lacked that I found I needed to make it 100 percent perfect: MORE AIDAN!!! Yes, he (it?) is a psychopathic, hyper-moral mass murdering AI, but I love him (it)! He makes cameo appearances throughout, but a little AIDAN is just not enough. Hopefully, Obsidio will set that right and I will be able to see if AIDAN can truly redeem him-(it) self in the end.

And please, please please don’t be intimidated by the size of these books! I know 600+ pages sounds like a lot but, trust me, the style of it (written like file docs, illustrations, and summaries of surveillance footage) will make the pages fly by. I am not the fastest reader, but I managed to get this read within two days. Plus, the fast pace will keep you turning pages to find out what happens next. That’s why, after I hit “save” on this blog entry, I’m headed out to pick up Obsidio. I have to know how the story ends!


About the Authors

Amie’s Twitter

Jay’s Website

Jay’s Twitter

Jay’s Blog

Amie Kaufman is a New York Times, USA Today and internationally bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy. Her multi-award winning work has been published in over 35 countries and is in development for film and TV. A couple of her career highlights so far include professional wolf-howling lessons, and working as a story consultant at NASA.

Jay Kristoff is the #1 international, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE, THE ILLUMINAE FILES, and THE LOTUS WAR. He is the winner of five Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, has over half a million books in print and is published in over thirty-five countries, most of which he has never visited.

(Bios courtesy of Goodreads)


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The Water Cure

by Sophie Mackintosh

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(3.9 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Re-Published January 8, 2019, by Doubleday

Genre: Fiction / Dystopian Science-Fiction

Format: Kindle Edition

Page Count: 256

#TheWaterCure  #NetGalley

The Water CureEven if it is a failed utopia, at least we tried.

Grace, Lia, and Sky live with their parents in a house beside a sandy beach. That sounds like the beginning of a wonderful story, doesn’t it? Who would have thought that such a benign beginning could result in such a tangled web of disappearances, deceit, and danger?

King believes he has rescued his family by secluding them in a home by the bay. He and their mother taught them to protect themselves from the toxicity of the world by performing rituals and ceremonies of cleansing. The three girls had to prove themselves strong, loyal, and loving – to their parents, to each other, to themselves. But not to men.

There were men who naturally caused great harm. It is built into them. You had warned us. You are one, though you would never admit it.

Men weren’t present in their lives. Only King. This was for their protection because men were the cause of all the harm and poison in the world. Being hidden away from them was the only way to survive.

But when King disappears during a routine supply run and is presumed dead, and Mother also does not return from her trip beyond the sea border, the sisters are stuck on their beach with three castaways. Men. And this changes everything.

… loss is a thing that build around you… what feels like safety is often just absence of current harm, and those two things are not the same.

Told through the POVs of the sisters, Sophie Mackintosh’s debut novel, The Water Cure is a palpably tense look through a dystopian window at a family’s search for a unique utopia, and what they end up finding instead.

This is The First Book of Calamity Leek meets The Handmaid’s Tale meets My Absolute Darling in all of each of their weird wackiness and horrifyingly resolute honesty about what makes society (and separation) so imperfect.

This is a stunning debut novel with writing that behaves like watercolors, painting each new page with dynamic emotion: angst, elation, peace, dread. It was unusual, confusing, and eerie in all the best ways. And I could easily see this playing out on the big screen, although it would take a master director to get it entirely right.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday, and the author for the opportunity to read and review a copy of this book.


About the Author

Image result for sophie mackintoshWebsite

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SOPHIE MACKINTOSH won the 2016 White Review Short Story Prize and the 2016 Virago/Stylist Short Story competition and has been published in Granta magazine and Tank magazine, among others. The Water Cure is her first novel.

(Bio courtesy of Google)


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Select Few

by Marit Weisenberg

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(3.95 stars – Goodreads rating)

To-Be Published October 9, 2018, by Charlesbridge Teen

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy/ Sci-Fi

Format: Kindle Edition

Page Count: 368 (Hardcover)

#SelectFew  #NetGalley

Select Few (Select, #2)I couldn’t shake the feeling of something pulling me down from this sunny world into a dark place waiting just beneath.

Select Few, Marit Wiesenberg’s 2nd book in the Select series, begins with Julia Jaynes essentially hiding from the world. She’s avoiding the FBI, avoiding the paparazzi, avoiding nosy neighbors, and – most of all – avoiding being discovered by her dangerous and powerful father, Novak. She’s also desperately trying to keep her boyfriend, John, and his newly discovered powers off of Novak’s radar. Julia’s doing a lot of hiding and all the while hoping to someday be able to live a normal life.

One of Julia’s problems is that she doesn’t have a clear idea of what “normal” looks like for her. Does it mean college and a future with John, or does it mean constantly running and staying undercover with Angus in order to keep John safe? These are the decisions that Julia waffles through keeping her conflicted throughout most of the story.

John’s point of view added depth to the narrative and helped cement the romantic undercurrent between Julia and John despite their intense conflicts and separation throughout the book.

Although the resolution was fast-paced, the action of the main story was very slow. It seemed like most of the excitement came while reading the characters’ flashbacks to activities performed in the first book. And for a fantasy/sci-fi story, I expected a tad more fantasy and sci-fi.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Charlesbridge Teen, and the author for the opportunity to read and review an advance copy of this book.


About the Author

Marit WiesenbergWebsite

Twitter

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Facebook

Marit Weisenberg has a master’s degree from UCLA in Cinema and Media Studies and worked as a film and television executive for a number of years in Los Angeles. She currently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two daughters. SELECT is Marit’s debut novel for young adult readers.

(Bio courtesy of Teenreads.com)


 

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Warm Transfer

by Laura Holtz

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(4.33 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Published May 29, 2018, by Gatekeeper Press

Genre: Fiction / Women’s Lit

Format: Kindle Edition

Warm Transfer: A NovelThe problems in their marriage stemmed from something subtler, a toxicity that she couldn’t name. It was insidious and devastating, but it was also elusive and Tamsen struggled to put a label on it.

A few of my pet peeves: slow drivers, repeating myself, the improper use of “your” vs. “you’re”, and waiting on hold on the phone. Arrggghhhh! My blood pressure went up just by typing that! “On hold” means that time is wasting. “On hold” means that what you want isn’t happening yet. And “on hold” means that someone else is in charge of your time and is making decisions for you.

Tamsen Peel is on hold. She ended her career in order to marry and raise her children. She delayed any further commitments to work once her son was diagnosed with Doose Syndrome. And she buried her personal aspirations under duties to her family, her social clubs, and her controlling husband’s high-class clients. That is until Victor’s abusive tendencies toward her became more than she could bear.

Warm Transfer is one woman’s journey back to herself through queues of indecision, guilt, self-reproach, and something just a little darker niggling at her memories. Themes present are finding internal courage, combatting emotional and verbal abuse, and realizing self-worth in order to make positive life changes.

Tamsen has tried to take control of her situation more than once and only ended up getting disconnected – from her support systems, her financial backup, and her young children. She decides that what she needs is a warm transfer – someone to stay on the line with her until her transfer is made successfully. But ultimately it will be up to her to make the right connections.

Laura Holtz has written a story that could be played out in any social circle – not just in the high society of Chicago. It’s an encouragement to single mothers, divorcees, and women from all walks of life who are wondering, “What happens next?” The book is a fairly predictable slow-burn that had an overall theme to which I could relate and appreciate, and it was worth the read.

Ten percent of proceeds from this book will go to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

Many thanks to NetGalley, Gatekeeper Press, and the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.


About the Author

Laura Holtz

Website

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Laura graduated from Northwestern University back when applications were submitted in hard copy and Allison Hall was still a single-sex dorm. She spent her junior year studying in London where she developed an appreciation for Charles Dickens and clotted cream. She took a mid-career break from her job in sales promotion to accept a graduate teaching fellowship and earn a master’s degree in Special Education. When the head of the creative department at her former agency went on maternity leave, however, Laura could not refuse the offer to step into her dream job. She remained in the corporate world until she had children.

(Bio courtesy of Amazon)


 

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The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

by Stuart Turton

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(4.16 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Republished September 4, 2018, by Sourcebooks Landmark

Genre: Fiction / Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Page Count: 432 pages

I’d like to believe I’m a good man who came to help, but if that’s the case, I’m making a damn mess of things.

Every night, Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m. Every night. That is unless Aidan Bishop can solve the mystery of her murder and give her killer’s name to the one pulling all the strings – the Plague Doctor, therefore ending the loop.

I have to admit that this book didn’t grab me at first – there were so many characters, so many events to keep track of, and a lot of incongruous action that happens in and out of time. It was not easy to follow. However, as the truth of Aidan’s involvement becomes apparent, the intricacies of this clever mystery become fully appreciable.

I suddenly have the sense of taking part in a play in which everybody knows their lines but me.

Stuart Turton has written a suspenseful novel with charismatic characters that will at once charm you deeper into the story and baffle your tenuous understanding of it even more.

I recommend this book to lovers of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, as well as fans of suspenseful mysteries and whodunits. It’s Groundhog Day with a murder mystery twist.

I can see the breadcrumbs laid out ahead of me, but for all I know, they’re leading me toward a cliff edge.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Landmark, and the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.


 

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