Gemina Book Review

geminaTitle: Gemina
Series: Illuminae Files #2
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Illustrator: Marie Lu
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: October 18, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Science Fiction
Pages: 659
Format: Hardcover

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminaecontinues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Guys.

Guys.

I LOVED this sequel. I can’t believe I waited so long to pick it up because I remember loving the first book so much that I couldn’t wait for this one to come out.

Well, here I am, sobbing into the void that is Gemina because wow, was it amazing. As this is a sequel there might be minor spoilers, but I’ll give you my general thoughts about a few things, but just know that you should definitely read this book to find out all of the things that happen!

Okay, let’s talk about the aesthetics of the book before I jump into anything else. Like the first book, Illuminae, Gemina‘s pages were filled with files and chats and pictures that encompassed the story from different points of view, and I think that that really helps you to get into the story. Seriously, the format with which the pages are in just bring this storytelling to a whole new level. I especially loved toward the end of the book the dual perspectives. That’s all I’m going to say about that because I thought it was SO cool and very well done.

Now, for the main characters we have Hanna, the Commander’s daughter, the “Princess” of the ship, if you will, and Nik, a criminal who lives with a family of criminals. Hanna, I thought, was actually not like I was expecting her to be as the story progressed. I was expecting a sex-driven, gets-what-she-wants, piss-poor attitude of a girl, but instead what I got was a sassy, funny, strong, unafraid-to-kick-ass girl with military and martial arts training, who did have a sex drive, but it wasn’t the focal point of her character. Many times I was surprised by her wit and comebacks and I loved that about her. As the story progressed, I could see her struggle with the situation unfolding around her, but that never stopped her from trying to do what needed to be done.

Nik was also not what I was expecting, either. Yeah, he was kind of a smartass like I was expecting, but even through his sexual flirting he had a heart of gold, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love that in the “bad boy?” I wasn’t as surprised with his character and his development, but I still found that his family-oriented pride was really in the right place, and that he was willing to do anything for those that he deemed family or those he deemed close.

There were also important side characters, too, such as Dr. Grant, Ella, Jackson, and the BeiTech SpecOps people, and I found each of their character unique and compelling and hiding so many facets that I wanted to see uncovered throughout the story – especially those of Ella and Jackson, and I was not disappointed.

Ella, especially, was my favorite side character. She’s a 15-year-old hacker genius who was disabled due to a plague, but her dad spent a fortune on the best medicine and medical treatment he could to save her (she’s Nik’s cousin, so the family thing is also on her side). She’s super sassy and smart and so not putting up with anyone’s bullshit when it comes down to it, and I love that about her.

The story was action packed from pretty much beginning to end. Not only were there human threats and space-type threats, but there were also parasitic threats. Like. Creepy parasitic threats that will give you the creeps kind. Honestly, I thought that was a nice touch and really expanded upon this being a science fiction novel. Plus the way they were written was believable for the setting that they were in, which I thought really sold it. They also just added to the atmosphere of “oh shit we really need to save these people now.”

We get some surprises throughout the story that I had to dig into my memory banks to remember because it’s been forever and a day since I read Illuminae, but OMG THE PLOT TWISTS. When I read certain scenes, I felt myself confused and trying to click what exactly happened when I read it, and then something happened later and it clicked and I was mind blown. Seriously. This book had so many twists and turns, and I’m usually pretty good at catching onto those things early on in books, but this one? Not so much, which I thought was executed really well.

I was on the edge of my seat reading this book to the point where when I reached a certain scene in the book, I literally couldn’t stop reading. I finished this in practically one day and I have no regrets about it. It was fast paced, heart wrenching, mind blowing, fun, and there is so much to look forward to in the final book of this trilogy that I cannot wait to start reading it.

Overall, I highly recommend this second book and I rate it 5/5 stars.

The Lightning Thief Book Review

thelightningthiefTitle: The Lightning Thief
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publish Date: May 5, 2009
Genre: Young Reader – Fantasy/Adventure, Mythology
Pages: 396
Format: Kindle Books

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse-Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him.

Alright, this is my first time reading this book – ever. I’ve always heard good things about this series and I gotta say – I have to agree! This first book in this series was so fun and a super fast read for me. I immediately bought the second book on my kindle so I can keep reading the series.

So we have Percy, a troubled boy who has been bouncing around from school to school for years, and this time he thinks he may have a chance to stay – until one day on a field trip he’s attacked by his math teacher who’s actually a Fury from the Underworld. He’s unsure if what actually happens after that was real, but after several events that take place he does, in fact, learn that he is a demigod.

I found Percy to be a very typical kid, but also he’s willing to do whatever it takes to prove his innocence and gets his mom back. I found that he accepted a lot of the circumstances surrounding him pretty easily, which I think wasn’t entirely realistic, but at the same time how would I react if I were thrown into that situation? I did, however, enjoy the group dynamic between him, Annabeth, and Grover. I think that the three of them work really well together.

I wanted to know more about the other characters, to take a look into their past and really get to know them, but I also know that since it was from Percy’s point of view that he may not actually be interested in that sort of thing, but I also have the feeling more will be introduced in later books.

I also knew who the traitor was as soon as the gift was given and I’m like, “It’s going to be ____.” I was right, which is fine, but I think getting to that point was what really drew me into the story.

There were so many different gods and goddesses, creatures and mythical beings, and I loved how they were incorporated into the story. Sometimes I felt like it was kind of mushed together, like almost too many were introduced, but it also makes sense if they’re traveling across the country; of course they’d see as many as they did.

I felt like there was a decent amount of action and that as the story progressed Percy learned a lot about himself and some bits of his family’s history. I think that was really well done in terms of introducing that kind of thing to the reader.

Overall, I felt like it was a very fast-pace book, which sometimes felt like things were rushed, but also a kid wouldn’t always dwell on some of the things that I feel older teens or adults might dwell on, which was good. Sometimes the plot was pretty predictable, but I didn’t find myself annoyed by that like I would in other books I’ve read; rather, I found myself wanting to know how Percy was going to figure it out himself. I found the characters to really represent the traits of their god/dess parent in different ways, and I found that the plot was really driven forward constantly the whole time.

I seriously had a great time reading this book and I’m very excited to start the next one soon. I give this first book 4/5 stars.

Leah On the Offbeat Review

leahontheoffbeatTitle: Leah On the Offbeat
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Pages: 343
Format: Hardcover

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

Well, let me tell you: this is the first actual novel I’ve read TO COMPLETION in… months. Many months. I still can’t believe it. It took me around probably six to eight hours to read the thing. And I really enjoyed it!

It was great jumping back into the world of Creekwood and it was great getting a story from Leah’s perspective, while also still seeing Simon and Blue (even though they weren’t the main focus). I loved her voice and how she really talks like a young adult – swearing, sarcasm, tumblr posts. She was such a fun character that really cared not only for her body as a plus sized young woman, but also as a bisexual person. Though she was only out to her mom (which is still awesome that her mom accepted her regardless), it only really start to make things difficult as time progressed in the story.

I found that the romance aspect of the book was done well, though sometimes it did feel like a little hiccup here and there with how it went. I overall thought that it was fairly realistic as to how it turned out, but I kind of wish I got a better feel for the love interest. I understand the strain on the friendship, but it still felt to me like I was missing some of the love interest’s personality.

I also didn’t really get a feel for just how tight knit the friendship between Leah, Anna, and Morgan were, despite it supposedly being so strong in the beginning. Although, if it were my friend, I would be very pissed about the comment that was made, too, but I don’t know if I would continue to be mad even after an apology. I don’t know, that felt rocky at best and I don’t really know how the friendships would have lasted after the end of the book.

Other than that, I felt like it was a fun, light hearted story, with dashes of drama inside. I like how Leah was both proud of her body, but also self conscious, because that really does show the two sides of the coin (as a plus sized woman, myself, I can speak to this very feeling). I think that the book overall was a great read, though I feel like I am missing out on a few threads that weren’t completely tied at the end (I don’t want to ask them here for fear of spoilers).

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, light-hearted story about a teen girl who’s trying to come to terms with her emotions as well as figure out who she is as a person, and the relationships she has around her, then definitely pick up this book! I hope that you’ll like Leah as much as I did.

I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Radiance Book Review

radianceTitle: Radiance
Series: Wraith Kings #1
Author: Grace Draven
Publisher: Grace Draven
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 297
Format: Kindle eBook

THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE

Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined. 

THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE 

Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light. 

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.

I initially didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book. I had seen the cover pop up on Amazon and I thought it was going to be another cheesy, trashy romance novel. I didn’t even bother reading the synopsis before jumping into reading a sample – and immediately being hooked to the story.

This story features two races: the Gauris, who are human, and the Kai, an ancient non-human race with gray skin, black claws, and lamplight yellow eyes. A Gauri girl – one raised in a noblewoman’s position but one of little importance – is married off to one of the Kai – the second born prince, one who is unimportant as his older brother has already secured his place for the throne and has several sons to rule after him. The two are repulsed that they have to marry the other as each race finds the other revolting in looks and customs alike, but when Ildiko and Brishen meet unsuspectingly that they were to later wed, the two have a connection of sorts that later comes into play in a great way.

Ildiko and Brishen have a very slow burn romance as they don’t expect anything from each other at first, and instead find good friends in each other at first, talking to one another, picking on each other as friends do, and I think that was so sweet to see at first. As time passed and the two faced different kinds of trials together (such as dinner with Brishen’s mother), their feelings for each other grew into more than just friends, and eventually those first opinions they had on one another’s appearance – of Ildiko think Brishen looked like an eel, and Brishen thinking Ildiko looked like a hag – changed and they saw the beauty in each other physically, yes, but mostly through their personalities and morals and I thought that was a breath of fresh air to read about. It felt natural and progressive and I highly appreciated it.

As for the rest of the story, there were politics, some action scenes, and little hints of what was to come in the next novel, and I felt that the story was fast-paced, but not so fast-paced that we missed out on anything. I do, however, wish there were more action scenes and that some scenes had been expanded, but then maybe it would have taken away from the magic of it all.

I felt that both Ildiko’s and Brishen’s characters were mature, but I kind of wished to see more of them develop and whatnot. Ildiko was proper, quick-witted, and kind. She always was above the expectations of the Kai, much to their surprise, and I liked that about her. She was stubborn enough to always try and not give up, but not so stubborn that she made poor decisions in the heat of the moment. Brishen was so unlike his parents, which was nice because his parents aren’t the greatest, and had a sense of humor, and a caring compassion for his fellow Kai and Ildiko. I found that they melded well together and that I craved to see more interactions between them.

Though this book was sort of a quick read, I found that I could really dive into the world and really feel for the characters. I’m already reading the second book and let me tell you: I’m getting the action I craved from the first.

If you haven’t picked up Radiance yet, I highly recommend you do if you’re looking for a slow-burn romance set in a fantasy world.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars.

A Darker Shade of Magic Book Review

adsomTitle: A Darker Shade of Magic
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
Pages: 401
Format: Kindle

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. 

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

Now I understand what all the hype surrounding this book was about.

This book is full of magic and adventure, of power and control, of longing and desire, and of struggle and pain. There was so much happening in the book that I couldn’t helped be sucked into the story and really divulge myself into the characters’ stories. I found myself completely enraptured and wanted to know what was going to happen next.

I found Kell to be an awesome character. Though he didn’t show much emotion throughout the book (frowning, more frowning, a little bit of pain and annoyance, and a few tears, sure, but… okay, nevermind, he had emotion), I found his character to be one that was both curious and fun. I loved his magic as an Antari and how though he continued to say he had much stronger magic than those around him, he never really showed that off. Sure, he’d do little things here and there, but it wasn’t about showing off so much as knowing he had the ability, and also how his views on magic could potentially cause the outcome of how it’s used – or how it uses him. Throughout the book I found that his thirst for power from the stone later given to him was realistic enough that if someone had magic in their veins and touched it that they’d also crave it. I loved his character and how he continually fought for others – even though they would’ve been mad about it.

Lila, on the other hand, is quite the character and I freaking love her. If she were real, I’m pretty sure we’d be friends. I love her sense of humor and how stubborn she is and how she’s always fighting to get what she wants because in her world – in her London – she doesn’t exactly have anything. I loved how she on more than one occasion put Kell in his place when it came to his position versus hers or how he viewed his life versus how she’s lived. She was a spitfire, Lila Bard. The way she questions not only others, but herself, when they show even a bit of kindness or “charity” and how they don’t expect something of it (or if they do, they say to give it back over time) is something of an admirable quality about her given her circumstances.

Now what about Holland? He was the other Antari in this world and I felt like I just didn’t get enough about him. Like… I loved how he came in as an anti-hero leaning on villain, and I found myself wanting to just know more and have more of him in it, so I’m kind of sad that he wasn’t. I think it’s because there was a lot of mystery surrounding him, but I felt like his character could have been talked about more or something because he was just so interesting!

As far as other side characters go, such as the Dane Twins, Rhy, Barron, etc., I loved how each played such a big role in Kell’s and Lila’s lives without some of them really having to do much in them. I mean, the twins are the villains of this novel, so they kind of play a big part, but others have little pockets of significance with the two main characters and I loved how Schwab placed their chapters into the story and how the characters were written to add more depth to the others.

I thought that the plot itself was great, although sometimes I felt like it hopped a bit from one thing to another and it was kind of like, “Well why was this placed here?” And sometimes it would later catch up and it would make sense.

I thought that the chapters from other characters and other scenes added to the plot and showed just how alive the magic in this world(s) is and how it can really be clever in its own right. And the worlds themselves? How there are four Londons, all on top of another, and the concept of the doors and how you need a trinket from each to get to another? It’s so cool! I loved the concept and how it was dealt with and how each London has their own way of magic, how it’s like a trickle down effect and that it lessens the farther it goes (Black London being the strongest, then White, then Red, then Grey).

Towards the end, though, I felt like the climax to the end was really rushed. I felt myself wanting more from the chapters, whether it be descriptions or more magic or just something… I don’t really know how to describe it, but it just needed more. I mean, I guess it is the first book in the trilogy, so it kind of makes sense? But I felt that some parts were lacking and could have just used that little push to bring it to where it needed to be.

Overall, though, I highly enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced, charming, and it had me craving more. I can’t wait to continue on with the trilogy.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it.