Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Can we talk about how no one hit me over the head with this brilliant book when it first came out to get me to read it? With the upcoming release in March of Obsidio, the third book in the Illuminae Files series, I had to get into this series.

Wow, Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman lives up to all the hype and more.

23395680.jpgThis 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.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Illuminae is unlike any other reading experience I’ve ever had. The story is told in recovered documents and correspondence from an incident deep in the galaxy involving a fleet of ships ferrying refugees after an attack on a faraway planet, a pursuing battleship and an out-of-its-mind Artificial Intelligence. I thought the removed perspective from the main characters would make it difficult to get into the story and feel what the characters feel, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I can’t get over the way these authors used text, graphics and white space to tell one of the most compelling in-space battle scenes I’ve ever read. The text was arranged in a way that it looked like fighter ships flying around shooting each other. You guys, I CRIED. I had big ol’ tears pouring down my face from the death throes and last words of fighter pilots, which was only made worse – or more impactful – by the way the text was arranged. It was heart-wrenching. My heart wouldn’t stop pounding and it was just so. Frickin. Good.

In addition to all the feels, including the gut-punching terror, soul-crushing why-god-why events and edge-of-your-seat anticipation, this book was also hilarious. The main characters, Kady and Ezra, were so funny – the kind of sarcastic people that love gallows humor and can lighten any life-or-death situation with a well-timed joke.

If you like YA Sci-fi at all, this is the book for you. My mind is completely blown. There is brain matter dripping down my walls as we speak. YOU HAVE TO READ THIS!

STARS: 5 out of 5

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Wild Card by Rachel Vincent

I’m a huge fan of Rachel Vincent’s Shifter series so I’m loving her Wildcats spinoff, and Wild Card is the third book and its Kaci’s story!

Wild Card (Wildcats, #3)Kaci Dillon is a man-eater.

She’s grown up on the fringes of shifter society, hearing the whispers. One desperate act as a starving, terrified child has made her the first tabby in history with no romantic prospects. But whatever. Eighteen is too young to get married anyway. Still, when she stumbles upon an opportunity to get away for a few days, who could blame her for seizing it?

Justus Alexander is screwed.

Confined to the South-Central territory, awaiting trial for crimes he committed as a traumatized, newly infected stray, Justus has discovered that the tribunal already intends to vote for the death penalty. He has no choice but to run. Too young to touch the trust fund that could finance his escape, he’s betting on a big win at the poker tables—until Kaci, his secret crush, catches him sneaking out and demands that he take her with him to Las Vegas

After a wild night she can’t remember, Kaci wakes up with a ring on her finger, next to a young billionaire who can’t access his fortune until he turns twenty-five—or ties the knot. If she can keep her hands off her hot, charismatic new groom, she can have their unconsummated marriage annulled. But can she really abandon Justus to his death sentence, just to undo her own mistake?

It took me a minute to remind myself of who was who in the original shifter world, but once I was in, I was back in. It was so nice to see Faythe and Marc and others again. It was great to see Kaci all grown up and to meet Justus.

I loved being back in Vincent’s shifter world – the struggles of being a wildcat, the challenges of being a female, and all the shifter politics! I loved that Kaci had a mind for strategy and played a major role in council politics with this story. She’s beauty AND brains!

I’m a huge fan of the “waking up in Vegas married” trope and this has got to be one of the most unique with the added complexity of being shifters. This story was romantic with Kaci and Justus falling for each other but it was a little more PG-13 than her other Wildcat novels since the protagonist is only 18. It’s a bit of a YA shifter story. Wild Card was also action packed – death-defying escapes, car chases and fighting. I wish there was more fighting in cat form or spending more time in cat form in general.

If you’re a fan of Vincent’s Shifter series, this spinoff series is a must-read. I believe she self-publishes it so it doesn’t get out there as much as her other series, but it deserves all the recognition.

STARS: 4 out of 5

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted By Meagan Spooner hit me like a cupid’s arrow straight to the heart. I tried to resist, but ultimately, I fell in love with this story and it left a permanent mark.

24485589 (1)Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

This is the third book I’ve ever read from Meagan Spooner. The first book, Skylark,hated. The second book was These Broken Stars, which I loved, but it was written with another author so I wan’t sure how much of it I liked was Spooner. So when uppercase box (monthly YA book subscription) sent me Hunted, I groaned and set it on my shelf to collect dust. Plus, Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses will be, forevermore, the best Beauty and the Beast retelling *cue inner Kanye* OF ALL TIME!

Now I may have spoken too soon, because unlike ACOTAR, Hunted is a closer retelling but with a unique, magical twist. And dare I say, I now love them both.

“Fire cannot hurt us. And yet, when we light her a lantern, there is a moment as we watch the wick flare in the darkness-a moment in which I want to touch the flame. Just to see if I can still be burned.”

Hunted was a beautiful story. The writing was excellent, the descriptions awe-inspiring and it was so heartbreakingly romantic. I loved the slow burn between Beauty and Beast. Typically I hate “verbatim” retellings, but I loved this one because the plot was very similar but the world building was outstanding. The magical forest, the believable secondary characters, and the coming of age confusion that makes YA so fun to read had me devouring this book quickly.

“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

The overall theme and message by the end caught me by surprise and made my heart soar. It was so beautiful and it truly struck me in the heart dead center. I think this book changed me somehow. Or at least changed my outlook. Gah! It’s just so freaking beautiful!

“There’s no such thing as living happily ever after — there’s only living. We make the choice to do it happily.”

Hunted was romantic, magical and hauntingly mesmerizing. If you like YA fairytale retellings, this book is for you.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Devils Within by S.F. Henson

I didn’t know what to expect with Devils Within by S.F. Henson but it blew all my expectations out of the water.

31213050.jpgKilling isn’t supposed to be easy. But it is. It’s the after that’s hard to deal with. 

Nate was eight the first time he stabbed someone; he was eleven when he earned his red laces—a prize for spilling blood for “the cause.” And he was fourteen when he murdered his father (and the leader of The Fort, a notorious white supremacist compound) in self-defense, landing in a treatment center while the state searched for his next of kin. Now, in the custody of an uncle he never knew existed, who wants nothing to do with him, Nate just wants to disappear.

Enrolled in a new school under a false name, so no one from The Fort can find him, he struggles to forge a new life, trying to learn how to navigate a world where people of different races interact without enmity. But he can’t stop awful thoughts from popping into his head, or help the way he shivers with a desire to commit violence. He wants to be different—he just doesn’t know where to start.

Then he meets Brandon, a person The Fort conditioned Nate to despise on sight. But Brandon’s also the first person to treat him like a human instead of a monster. Brandon could never understand Nate’s dark past, so Nate keeps quiet. And it works for a while. But all too soon, Nate’s worlds crash together, and he must decide between his own survival and standing for what’s right, even if it isn’t easy. Even if society will never be able to forgive him for his sins.

Like a teen American History X, S.F. Henson’s Devils Within is gut-wrenching, thought-provoking, no-holds-barred look at the plague of white supremacy in contemporary American culture that may have you examining your own soul.

I fell in love with Nate from the very first page. I loved being in his head and reading about his inner thought process. It was both fascinating and bizarre, familiar and foreign. Nate had such a strong voice and perspective.

This story takes on a very hot topic right now — racism. And not just normal racism (although I could argue that the author calls that out as well), but radical racism. The kind of racism where people carry tiki torches and participate in lynchings. It’s sad to say, but this story is so relevant today. I felt like Henson executed this story in such a great way because her protagonist was so believable. I felt his pain. I felt his confusion about what was right and wrong. I felt the way he fought through the brainwashing of his childhood. The fear. The desire for approval from a horrible parent. The desire to be normal, have friends. Gah, this story was just so good!

I usually require some kind of love story in the books I read, and even though there was a hint at a potential romance, I didn’t miss that element of the story at all. The way the story unravels with his unlikely friendship with Brandon and his difficult relationship with his guardian left me turning pages faster and faster.

All I can say is read it. There’s a reason it’s been named Book of the Year, and I wholeheartedly agree.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross by Marie Lu was everything I hoped it would be but it got a little confusing at the end. Luckily, this is just book one, so I have time to figure it out.

29385546For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I’m not much of a gamer, but I know enough gamers and am aware of pop culture to truly enjoy Lu’s latest masterpiece. She created a colorful, dynamic world, where it felt like I was in a game. I’ve played some MarioKart in my day, and I even caught the “Leeeerooooy Jeeeenkiins!” shoutout.

Emika was the best kind of heroine. She was street smart and badass. I mean, she’s a bounty hunter for pete’s sake! I also loved that she was great with technology, hacking and all that awesome STEM stuff. Emika is the kind of heroine that will inspire young girls everywhere to pursue careers in technology.

This story faltered with Hideo. I loved him at first. He was the socially awkward billionaire creator of Warcross. I loved the push and pull of the relationship between him and Emika as they try to unravel the mystery of who’s messing with the Warcross games. Toward the end, Hideo as a character took a wrong turn and plunged into the abyss. I don’t understand how he went from point A to point B as a character. It was like whiplash for the reader. My difficulty understanding his motives made me dislike him and I don’t know if that was the author’s intent. I do know that it left a sour taste in my mouth and my overall enjoyment of the novel took a plunge by the end.

I did see the twist at the end coming, but I was still shocked and it left me with so many questions. Because of this, I’ll most likely read the next book to see what happens.

STARS: 3.5 out of 5 

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson is one of the best classic “fae” books I’ve ever read in a long time, where the fae are beautiful but dangerous, and humans are momentary and easily breakable.

30969741Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

This book surprised me. The story was enchanting; the writing was mesmerizing. I felt myself fall into the story and frolic between the pages until the very end, where I was rudely dropped back into the mortal world. The characters were intriguing and unique. I mean, the fact that Isobel has twin sisters that were originally baby goats until a fae turned them into humans is just so freaking different. I loved her bond with her aunt but I specifically loved that Isobel had such a strong disposition, where she didn’t waste her enchantments on frivolities but spent them on protection for her family and necessities like food. I respect the hell out of her.

My respect only grew as the story progressed because even though we know she’ll inevitably fall for the love interest, we don’t know when, and I was pleasantly surprised that she held out, kept her feelings to herself. She didn’t fall into Rook’s arms from the moment he showed her a bit of affection and declared her undying love. Their love was slow (although not really a slow burn, there was minimal burning but the heat was sweet and just enough to satisfy this reader) and she made logical decisions.

Isobel was such a self-aware narrator. I laughed out loud when she recognized that she was becoming one of those lovestruck girls but she had enough self-awareness about it to make her a lovable protagonist as opposed to just another dumb teen girl who loves too easily.

I’m having trouble putting into words what I loved about this book. It was entertaining. It had me on the edge of my seat, hoping against all odds their love would persevere the obstacles. The art was gorgeously depicted and I felt like I knew Isobel.

If you like tales of whimsy, magic and forbidden love, An Enchantment of Ravens is for you.

STARS: 4.5 out of 5

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

I have a confession. I’ve avoided reading Shatter Me for one reason and one reason only — the cover. I hate it. It’s that cliche teen fiction cover with the girl in a dress that looks nothing like the main character.

HOWEVER, since I gave it a chance. I was impressed and pleased by Shatter Me.

10429045.jpgI have a curse
I have a gift

I am a monster
I’m more than human

My touch is lethal
My touch is power

I am their weapon
I will fight back

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior

I gave this book a chance because it’s fandom is strong on Pinterest and I had a friend recently reach out and ask if I’ve read it. As a self-proclaimed YA lit connoisseur, it’s kind of ridiculous that I haven’t read it yet.

The writing popped off the page and smacked me with it’s beautiful, intriguing quality. I loved the way the author used the strikethrough technique, which surprised me because I thought it would be annoying.

Basically, this book didn’t meet any of my low expectations. It completely shattered them, revealing a beautifully written, exciting story that I couldn’t put down.

Juliette and Adam’s relationship was instantly steamy and intense but it surprisingly didn’t come off as lust or insta-love. It felt genuine and I was hanging on every scorching word. I loved the development of James and Kenji. They had the best personalities.

I honestly had no idea what to expect from the first page, but it wasn’t where it ended up. With every turn, I acclimated myself to the new situation thinking this would be the vibe for the rest of the novel but then something else would happen and Juliette would be thrust into a whole new reality. It made for a fast-paced read with unexpected turns.

The end of the novel took a turn that I didn’t see coming. I didn’t think it was going to be that kind of book. Had I known in the beginning it would turn into that kind of book, I may have avoided it, but now that I’ve fallen in love with Juliette and Adam and James and Kenji…I’m all in like flynn.

STARS: 4 out of 5