Saturday, 26 December 2015

Backlist Holiday Shopping

Recently, I've been forced to realize that I'm old. I mean, technically, I'm not. But as a blogger, this place has been up and running since 2008 and I've been here since 2009 - I'll have been posting for 7 years come February. And a lot of bloggers in the community these days have not been here that long and therefore may have missed some QUALITY older YA. As the holiday season winds down and we're all looking at gift cards and post-holiday sales, I thought I'd throw down some recs of pre-2012 releases. Links will go to my review if there is one, but otherwise, it'll go to Goodreads. (As a warning, I was 15-16 when most of these were written. They aren't particularly good and somethings I said are downright cringe worthy, but they get the job done.)

Retellings
Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Jane by April Lindner
Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman
A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn
Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Contemp.
The Beautiful Between by Alyssa Sheinmel
Sea by Heidi Kling
Just One Wish by Janette Rallison
Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
Purity by Jackson Pearce
The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain

Historical
Eva Ibbotson
The Musician's Daughter by Susane Dunlap
Anastasia's Secret by Susane Dunlap
The King's Rose by Alisa Libby
The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
The Season by Sarah MacLean
The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry
Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl
The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliott 
Vixen by Jillian Larkin

Fantasy and Paranormal
As You Wish by Jackson Pearce
Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble
The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus
Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
Keturah and the Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach
Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore 
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
Aurelia by Anna Osterlund

The In-Between Books (For the books that don't quite fit in one of the above categories)
XVI by Julia Karr
Fateful by Claudia Gray
Darker Still by Leanna Renee Heiber 

Requests
"All the fluff please!" -  Enthusiasm, Prada & Prejudice, anything by Elizabeth Eulberg, Between the Sea and Sky, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark SideAll-American Girl, The Season

Also, apparently I did a (very short) series called Books Without Buzz in 2012, so pretty much every book in those posts was published...before-2012. Contemporary and Books That Are Pretty Popular

Since just going through a bunch of links can be daunting, if there's anything in particular that you're looking for, feel free to ask here or on twitter! Besides this list, I also have Goodreads shelves for 2010 and 2011 releases, plus, there's hundreds of reviews on this blog from 2012 or earlier! We can help get you started in the right direction if need be.

--Julie

Monday, 21 December 2015

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood
by Ruth Ware


Summary: Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s bachelorette party arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room…

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.
This book is not the kind of book I normally read, thriller/mystery isn't really my genre of choice unless it's got romance in it, but this book may have helped change that. I was craving something along the lines of Gone Girl -- something twisty and addictive and this book definitely delivered on both fronts.

I really loved it while I was reading and it's one of those ones that had me hooked from the start and was rattling around in my head for a good few days after I finished it. I'm in the midst of a major reading slump and it still managed to hold my attention and read it in one sitting.

I loved the characters. I loved that the female ones were written to be interesting instead of written to be liked. I loved that at the root of the story there were toxic friendships, and it showed really well how easy it is to get caught in them and not see them for what they are, how hard it is to get out of them, and how difficult it can be to shake the damage they can have on us even years later.

The plot was really predictable but no less enjoyable because of it. It was easy to guess what was going to happen long before it did--the red herrings, the twists, the back story--but it didn't make it any less addictive to read, I still couldn't stop turning the pages just to get to the specifics of how the things would go down and make sure my guesses were right.

My only issue with the book was that I kind of wish that events from Nora's past had either been more recent or took place over a longer period of time, because it was sometimes hard to empathise with her still being so hung up on this thing to the extent that she was (it's very difficult to explain the part that I mean without spoilers -- the Clare part made sense, it was the rest of it).

Anyway, to sum up: Like I said, I've not read much of the genre so I don't have much to measure it up against, or to pick up on genre cliches, but I really enjoyed it and it was an excellent read for a thriller newbie like me. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.

Later.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

First and Then by Emma Mills

First and Then
by Emma Mills


Summary: Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.
This is one of those books that is really excellent while you're reading it, but then in hindsight you notice issues with it and your positive feelings start to dim a bit. At least, that's how it was for me. Still a good book, just not as amazing as I initially thought.

But honestly, isn't it that initial burst of feelings that matter more? The way I feel about a book in the days or weeks after reading it are normally the deciding factor of whether or not it's a Favourite Book or not, but just loving a book while reading it is great, even if the feelings don't linger.

Anyway, I just wanted to explain that because I am going to talk about the negative things but I want to be clear that the majority didn't bug me much while I was actually reading the story.

I really loved the characters in the book. They were flawed, and I like that. Devon could be infuriatingly judgey (like coining the term "prostitots" for the younger girls who dress a certain way)...but her attitude was proven to be wrong in a subtle way that I liked. Nowadays books that try to talk about certain issues (like sexism or slut shaming or feminism) can get a bit Tumblr Social Justice Warrior...which isn't inherently a bad thing, but the dialogue can seem forced when it's done in that style. It didn't really come across that way in this and it felt more realistic for it.

The romance was really cute, definitely gave me Pride & Prejudice feels with it being a sort of Elizabeth/Darcy retelling. And I loved Foster (her cousin), he was adorable and the relationships she and Ezra had with him were adorable -- that was definitely one of my favourite parts.

I was kind of indifferent to the football stuff. I'm very fussy with sports and I've never quite understood the American love for "football" -- but the fact that I didn't hate the football stuff given my general opinion of it is a good thing.

As for the negatives... This first one actually did bug me a bit while reading, but not too much:

The Jane Austen stuff. Now, I get that the character is an Austen fan and I get that this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling, sort of, but I didn't like the way she'd go off on tangents about Austen or her novels and then awkwardly try to tie it in to the plot. Partly because I'm still working my way through Austen's books and this book spoiled Sense and Sensibility for me (yes, I have actually managed to go all these years without that happening), it would've been more fun going into it not knowing what would happen. But yeah, even ignoring that, I just wasn't fond of that aspect of it, it felt very contrived.

Not a big fan of the way her relationship with her best friend was handled. The funny banter they had going on was cute, but it just never really clicked why they were friends or why she would feel the way she does.

I also wasn't a fan of some of the side characters. Well, not so much the characters themselves but more the way they were written (and this aspect didn't start to annoy me until after I was finished).

The book is pretty short, so you'd expect that if an author makes the point of introducing a character in a certain way that they are going to have some significance...but there's two characters in this who are introduced and at the end it's just a bit "WTF?" because their stories literally go nowhere and just seem out of place because nothing was done with them. One of them just doesn't seem to fit into the story at all (and yet he shows up in the middle of a significant scene and takes it off on a tangent that felt unnecessary) and the other felt like her story should've had more to do with the plot than it actually ended up having.

There's even this bit in the story where you think (at least, I thought) that that was going to be the point that tied into one of the characters stories but it wasn't...it was just this random thing that happened. It led to some cute Foster/Devon and Ezra/Devon moments but beyond that... and then the way it does end it up tying into the main plot of the story, again, felt quite forced.

...It's really hard to explain without spoilers, but that's the best I can do. Basically, I just didn't like the way those two characters were written, and in such a short book it felt like one or even both of them could've been removed from the story without it having any real impact on the book overall.

Anyway, when I first finished the book it was a 4.5 story, then after a few days my feelings had dimmed bringing it to a 3.5...so lets go somewhere in between and say I rate the book 4 stars out of 5. It was a really addictive story and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing whatever Emma Mills releases next.

Later.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Harry Potter Reread -- Audiobook & Illustrated Editions

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone
by J.K. Rowling


Summary: Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley--a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry--and anyone who reads about him---will find unforgettable.
This isn't going to be a review of Harry Potter (plot, characters, etc.) because at this point, I think everyone and their mother knows what Harry Potter is about and most of you probably love it. It's one of those stories that so many of us grew up with. Instead, it's going to be a review of specific editions of the book -- the illustrated and the audio.

I haven't reread the first book since I was in my early teens, but I've wanted to reread the series for quite a while now (I've only ever reread book 3, 4, and 5)...but considering how big my TBR is, I couldn't justify rereading them. Instead, I decided to listen to the audiobook (the Stephen Fry narration) while I was ill because I was laying in bed and couldn't focus on reading a physical book anyway.

As far as audiobooks go, Harry Potter is definitely my favourite so far. The narration was wonderful and something about this story in particular really works as an audiobook -- perhaps it's because it's a childhood favourite, so there's something comforting about having it read to you as opposed to just reading it yourself.

Listening to it really captured the, well, magic of the story perfectly. I've always been worried that I wouldn't love it the same if I reread it now that I'm older, but I worried for nothing, I loved it just as much as I did when I was a kid. Perhaps even more because of nostalgia. Actually, no, not even nostalgia -- something about this book has that Coming Home sort of feeling that I can't quite put into words but it's the feeling I'd get around Christmas when I was little and my family was there and it was such a warm, safe, content sort of feeling.

Basically, I loved it. The story is still a favourite, but the audiobook gets 5 out of 5 stars too.

As for the illustrated book... Honestly, I don't think I'd buy it for someone who wasn't already a fan of the series. It's not the easiest copy to read because of the layout and size, but it is beautiful and it's a great addition to a Harry Potter fans library.

I didn't read this edition, instead I just flipped through it and looked at the illustrations while listening to the audiobook (awesome, would recommend). The illustrations were stunning -- seriously, I'd happily decorate by bedroom walls with that sort of beautiful. I particularly loved that the illustrations based on the book descriptions instead of just being based on the visuals created for the movies because it would've been so easy to be influenced by that.

To sum up: I had a lot of fun rereading this old favourite and would definitely recommend these editions. I'd recommend the audiobook to anyone, whether they've read the series or not and I'd recommend the illustrated version to fans of the series (if you're buying it for a child and intend to read it to/with them, it'd be nice to be able to show them the pictures though).

Later.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Wrap Up (43)

Lanna:
So... It's been a really quiet month or so on the blog (which is why I haven't even bothered with the On The Blog part of the wrap up). I've been in a bit of a reading slump lately, probably because other stuff has been happening making it hard to focus, but I'm going to aim for getting more posts/reviews up in the next few weeks.

Anyway... I wanted to do a book haul, purely to give some attention to to the books I've gotten recently seeing as it might be a while before I get to reviewing them.

Keep in mind, this is about two and a half months worth of books  and my birthday was at the end of October too...so it's a lot of books, but most of them were because I'd gotten gift cards (all pictures are from my instagram).

Books for review:


The Complete Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie - Already reviewed
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly - Loved it, reviewed it.
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit - It sounds great, it showed up wrapped up all lovely.
What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
Front Lines by Michael Grant

Other books:


Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre - I got both of these old Folio Society editions for only £2.75 (with free postage)
Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer - Because I had to?

Books I got while wandering the highlands:



The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe - My best friend got me this for my birthday and it is beautiful (she gave me my present while we were away).
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell - We went into a book shop while we were in Fort William (after going to see the Harry Potter bridge) and I had my friends hunting all over the shop for this.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff  - Got this in Inverness when we went to Waterstones (they had a buy one, get one half price thing on so my best friend and I both got a book)
Scottish Myths and Legends - Annnd I got this one in Fort Augustus when we stopped to see Loch Ness.

Books I (mostly) got with birthday gift cards:



The Illustrated Harry Potter & the Philosophers Stone 
Unnaturally Green by Felicia Ricci
The Martian by Andy Weir
Night Owls by Jenn Bennett
In the Flesh by Sylvia Day
Twilight Graphic Novel Volume 2
A Thousand Nights by A K Johnston
First & Then by Emma Mills
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Emma by Jane Austen
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
The Night Before Christmas by Scarlett Bailey
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

And I think that's all... I'm not going to include e-books because the list is ridiculously long as it is.

What've you all been reading/been up to recently?

Later.

Friday, 4 December 2015

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

What We Left Behind
by Robin Talley


Summary: Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They're deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they're sure they'll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.

The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won't understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni's life. As distance and Toni's shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?
This book was... Well. I don't know where to begin really. I enjoyed it, and I kind of loved it in a way. This review will probably be quite long, so I apologize in advance for my rambling.

I've been wanting to read more LGBTQ+ books this past year but the problem was, nearly all of the ones I could find either didn't appeal to me beyond that aspect of them...or they were focussed on the Coming Out part of the story. Coming out stories are so, so important, but it's equally important for there to be LGBTQ+ books that go beyond that. Books where that isn't the focus, books where the characters are past that point and are content with who they are -- books that can give teens in similar positions hope that things can and will be okay even if they're struggling right now.

This book was a mix of both. There were characters who were out and proud, characters who were out to some people in their lives but not everyone, and characters who were just figuring things out -- and they were scattered all over the LGBTQ+ spectrum. It really succeeded in showing how complex sexuality and gender identity can be, and that society has a weird tendency to simultaneously oversimplify it and overcomplicate it.

My favourite part of the book was that it makes you realise that it's okay to not have it all figured out. Whether that's relating to your own gender identity or your sexuality, or even just understanding those things in general and how they work for other people who are different to you. It's okay to have questions because that's how we learn and it's okay to be questioning things about yourself. It's okay for it to be a process and for your journey not to mirror how it is for other people. And I love how the book showed that.

I also appreciated the fact that it showed that the LGBTQ+ community isn't perfect and that just being a part of the community doesn't mean you're going to know everything and that you won't ever say the wrong thing or make ignorant or offensive comments about other groups that are different to you. I love that it acknowledged that, and the fact that everyone is different and has their own story -- there's multiple transgender characters in the story, for example, but the labels they use and the pronouns they're comfortable with aren't necessarily going to be the same and we shouldn't project our own comfort zone onto others.

As for just the story itself and the characters... I loved that Toni could be selfish and self-involved and infuriatingly judgemental and said problematic things (like implying girls can't be "girly" and feminist or that posting pictures of themselves in bikinis somehow negates their feminism). I loved that Gretchen was blind to the flaws of their relationship and that she made mistakes and was kind to a fault at times. I loved that they were flawed and their relationship was flawed. Half the time, I couldn't even figure out what Gretchen saw in Toni because it seemed like their relationship was kind of toxic for her, one that she'd lose herself in but not in a good way, and that it seemed to be a pattern for her that she had to get out of.

It probably seems weird for me to love those things that should be negative, but I loved it because it was realistic. My main issue was that I wish we'd gotten to see more of why they were together in the first place -- we get a few flashbacks, but even in those it's hard to see why Gretchen loved Toni so much. That made reading the book feel kind of like when your friend is dating someone who is no good for them and you're just waiting for them to figure that out.

I've seen some reviews criticise the way lines are blurred between transgender and being genderqueer, or how there's not enough clarity between the labels and their meanings, but I was okay with that because it didn't come across like the author was ignorant about them, it was more like she was intentionally writing a character who was trying to figure out which box they fit in to, a character who was still learning and was still ignorant about certain things too. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's just how it came across to me -- I guess we all interpret books in our own way.

And I think that's enough rambling for one review.*

To sum up: I really enjoyed reading the book. I'd rate the book 3.5 stars out of 5 (would have been 4 if I'd felt more invested in their relationship, because while it seemed to be intentionally written as flawed it also felt like we were still meant to be rooting for them in the end).

Later.

*This was written at about 5am while sleep deprived, with a headache and a sore throat so if it's an incoherent mess, I apologize. =P

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Morally Complicated YA Recommendations

I'm sure some of you have seen all of the Scott Bergstrom nonsense all over twitter the past few days, but for those that haven't, I'm just going to briefly sum it up:

Debut author dude gets impressive publishing deal for his previously self published YA book. Fair enough. But the article announcing it and interviews he's done have him saying some things that are incredibly ignorant, sort of arrogant and a bit on the narrow minded side?


I have other issues with his book, but I'm trying to reserve judgement on that for if I actually read it (for now, it's sounding an awful lot like a man trying to write from the perspective of a teenage girl without actually understanding teenage girls -- and all the bits of it I have read from the self published version support that and have been awful on multiple levels)...

So this post isn't going to be about that. It's going to be about the fact that in the interviews and articles he kind of trash talks the YA that is already out there, and implies he's bringing something new to the table (he actually goes as far as to insult YA dystopia in the book itself -- well, in the self published version at least).

That -- no. That's not cool. You don't write for a category, and use its audience for your own gain, while trash talking your peers (and sort of being unintentionally insulting towards its readers in the process). He claims that most of the YA out there isn't morally complicated and he's dismissive of genres in YA that aren't his own (which sort of read like "well, those ones are morally complicated but they don't count because they're X genre and they're just a metaphor for high school, so...").

I could get so ranty about this, but to be honest, I can't be bothered. Other people have already said what I would've said anyway... What I do want to do is recommend some morally complicated YA books.

And, just to clarify before I begin, these will be a variety of different types of moral complexity.

Perhaps the main characters aren't transforming themselves into lean ninjas and traipsing on a killing spree through the dark corners of Europe (à la Taken)...but let's be honest, that isn't the kind of moral complexity that young adults are likely to face on a daily basis, it's not the kind that many (or any) are likely to actually relate to in a real way. The moral complexity that we see more often in YA books? It's subtle and it's more realistic than his book is likely to be and that's why it matters.

Book Recommendations

1. Basically anything that Courtney Summers writes - All of her books are raw and gritty, they have fierce female characters who aren't likeable but you can't help but like them in spite of that. Her characters make mistakes, big ones -- they say and do things that should make it difficult to sympathise with them but you do anyway because they're well written, because they're complex, because they're human.

2. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - I can't get into specifics about the moral complexities of this book without spoiling it, but it's about two best friends during WW2 and let's just say they have difficult choices to make. Elizabeth's other books are good for moral complexity too.

3. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - This is the story of two siblings, twins, and the time leading up to and after a big loss in their lives. There's so much moral complexity in this book, with the characters doing things they regret that they can't ever take back, with them having to decide if it's better to be stay quiet or tell a truth that will hurt people they care about. The book has romance in it, but even that is complicated (with issues like sexuality and age differences playing a part in them). 

4. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma - This one...it's kind of the epitome of morally complicated. It's about the consensual incest between two siblings. It's about their absentee father and their negligent, barely present mother and the choices they have to make every day to keep their family together. It's about mental illness and kids making decisions in the heat of the moment that have ripple effects they'll regret for the rest of their lives. It's, well, complicated. 

5. Stolen by Lucy Christopher - This is a story about Stockholm Syndrome. A girl is kidnapped by a man and taken to the Australian outback. It's often easier to feel sympathy for the kidnapper in many parts than it is with the girl...because it's complicated, very emotionally and morally complicated. And the reader is left trying to untangle their feelings at the end because what we feel and what we know to be true get all knotted up while reading. This is the book that made me really get what Stockholm Syndrome was all about in a way that hadn't quite clicked before. 

6. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - This is the story about a young girl who was raped and the impact it has had on her life. She didn't report it, but then she sees her rapist at school and she has to make a decision -- say nothing, move on, or risk speaking up and facing all the backlash of that. Risk not being believed. But if she says nothing, what if he does it again? That'd be on him, but she'd feel like she should've tried to do something to stop it. That's a moral dilemma that way too many girls have to face. 

7. Entangled by Cat Clarke - This is a story about grief and mental illness and relationships that are wrong and unhealthy. The main character isn't always the easiest person to like and the characters that seem good sometimes do awful things because good people are capable of bad things. (Really trying not to spoil the story, which is why I'm keeping it vague.) Actually, quite a few of the Cat Clarke books I've read have been pretty dark and morally complex -- tackling bullying, suicide, sexuality...even manslaughter/murder in one of them, if I recall correctly. 

8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - He was pretty dismissive of this genre, and this series in particular, but I completely disagree. There is a lot of moral complexity in this book -- for one thing Katniss isn't always a good person but I wouldn't say she's a bad person either, she is a reluctant face of a revolution...she never set out to change the world she was in, all she wanted was to save her sisters life. Even when the revolution was already in motion, she didn't want to be a part of it until it was having a direct impact on the people or things she cared about. If you look to the past or even the present, The Hunger Games isn't all that far fetched -- the specifics of it may be, but people rising up against a corrupt government? And the way we can be so desensitized to violence and compartmentalize it until it's impacting us directly? That's reflected very much in our reality. 

9. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly - A historical novel about a girl who has to choose between the life she feels she should have and the one she actually wants. Where she has to decide whether pursuing the truth is important enough to risk her life and the lives of others. Where she has to decide if justice is worth ruining the lives of people she cares about, if it's worth throwing away her money and social status and everything she's ever known. She has to choose between her own happiness and the happiness of her family. 

10. Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre - This is a book about a girl who is bullied. It's a book about a girl who has an unhappy home life. It's a book about a girl who has a romantic relationship with her teacher. That is pretty morally complex. The teacher, he's not a bad guy, he's not vilified in the book...but it doesn't condone his actions either. They're not a bad couple if you ignore the age difference and the fact that he's her teacher -- except those facts can't be ignored. This is one of those books that really highlights what is wrong with those sorts of relationships. A lot of young girls find themselves in that sort of position -- perhaps not with a teacher specifically, but with a guy that is older and he's interested in them and making them feel loved and wanted, except the power dynamics of those relationships are wrong and they can be so damaging. 

11. The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta - All of her books really, she writes the most excellent characters, but if you're looking for moral complexity then this series takes the cake for so many reasons that I don't even know where to begin. And yes, it's an epic fantasy series but that doesn't mean it should be dismissed -- the world may be vastly different to our own, but the characters and their emotional struggles are still universally human.

12. All Fall Down by Ally Carter - I can't explain the big moral grey area in this book because it would spoil the ending, but trust me, it's way more morally complicated than a girl killing bad guys to save her dad. (Also, Heist Society and Gallagher girls too -- realistic? No, but it has teen criminals and teen spies, so... Plus, the books don't treat strength and being stereotypically feminine as if they're mutually exclusive traits).

13. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas - The main character in this is an assassin. And she's one of those reluctant heroes too, which I appreciate. It's easy to root for someone who is all about overthrowing the corrupt leader no matter the cost, but someone who is a little bit selfish, someone who has to grow as a character to reach that point where they want to fight for the greater good? Those are the ones I like best. And the witches and characters like Chaol? A whole lotta moral complexity right there.

14. Bleeding Violet and Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves - More the latter than the former, all you need to do is read the summary to figure out why... It's about two sisters, the daughters of an infamous serial killer, who follow in their fathers footsteps and go on a killing spree of their own and amongst all that it's about family, it's about growing up and growing apart and figuring out who they want to be on their own and out of their fathers shadow.

15. Pretty Little Liars and The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard - This one probably received some eye rolls from some people, but... The books are full of teacher/student relationships, murder, stalking, bullying, characters lying to the police, their parents, each other, mental illness. These books are those fun, entertaining reads but even they are full of morally complex situations and characters.

And those are just a few of the morally complex YA books out there. I've read more than I can count (nearly every YA book I've read this year alone could make this list) -- the only way anyone could argue that YA books aren't morally complex is if they have a very narrow minded view of what constitutes moral complexity.

This isn't intended as a personal attack on Scott Bergstrom, the reason I wanted to make this post was because this isn't the first time I've seen those sorts of comments. They crop up way too often -- people being dismissive of YA, of it's readers, people oversimplifying the category or making it out to be lacking in depth or merit... And what's worse is, these comments are too often coming from people trying to write YA.

I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't try to write something without first understanding it. That goes for men writing female characters or white people writing non-white characters or slim people writing overweight characters... Just, anything outside your own realm of experience, research it first. The same goes for YA -- don't write for a category without first exploring what already exists in that category, especially if you're going to claim you're doing something new.

Assuming anyone read my rambling to this point: Are there any YA books you'd recommend that are morally complicated?

Later.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves
by Jennifer Donnelly


Summary: Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.
Do you ever read a book and when you finish it, you just hug it because you loved it so much and you're not ready to be separated from it just yet? Or is that just me? Either way, this was one of those books for me.

I loved the first Jennifer Donnelly book I read (Revolution) and I loved the second book of hers that I read (A Gathering Light) -- I went into this book hoping it would live up to the expectations those ones set, and it did. I expected it to be just as good as them, but it wasn't... It was even better.

It was well written, just like the others, with an awesome, independent, fierce female character. Jo was the main reason I loved the book and I loved her pretty much from the start, she's one of those characters I'd love to be friends with if only she were real. The other characters were great too (I adored Fey so much, and Eddie and Oscar), but Jo was my favourite.

And, the book was so wonderfully feminist -- within the first 100 pages of the book, there were so many "omg, yes!" moments whenever Jo was talking about what it was like to be a girl (although, it is a little saddening to realise that those things are still sort of relevant today, although to a lesser extent, even more than a century after the story was set and it makes you realise that we've come a long way as far as equality goes but we're not quite there yet). And, she totally shoots down one of those "you're not like other girls" lines that bugs me so much.

The plot was predictable but incredibly addictive in spite of that and even when I'd guessed where it was going long before it got to the point where the characters knew, I still loved reading the mystery play out. Sometimes it's frustrating waiting for characters to figure out things that feel obvious, but it wasn't in this, I happily enjoyed the journey even when I knew the destination.

And the romance? The romance was so cute -- it was one of those ones that felt really genuine, like they brought out the best versions of themselves when they were together and helped each other be the people they wanted to be and reach/realise their potential. I loved that the romance was a subplot, not the focus and I really loved that it felt like Jo would be okay...like, even if things didn't work out for her romantically, she'd be okay, because her future and happiness didn't hinge on romance and that was really refreshing to read. Basically, I loved Eddie and Jo together, but I also just appreciated the way the romance was written in general.

I'd rate the book 5 stars out of 5. I thought I loved Jennifer Donnelly's books before, but this one is my favourite so far -- this one has left me with that "I need to read every book this author has ever written" kind of feelings.

Later.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Top Ten Authors/Books I'm Thankful For

This weeks topic is a Thanksgiving themed Freebie. I'm not American, and we don't do the whole Thanksgiving thing here in Scotland but I like the sentiment of this, so I'm going to go with ten books and/or authors I'm thankful for.

These books/authors are going to be for vastly different reasons and in no particular order.

J K Rowling/Harry Potter - Kicking off the list with an obvious one. I don't think I even need to go into all the reasons I'm thankful to J K Rowling. I grew up with Harry Potter, like so many people did. I'm thankful for the impact it had on my life and the lives of so many other people. And, just... the world/reading in general really.

Melina Marchetta - For being probably my favourite author...like, if I had to choose, I think she might win. She's writes beautifully -- from the actual writing to the complex characters she creates, and the relationships, and worlds and stories. She's incredible. She's written about grief and she's written about depression and growing up, and she's written contemporary and high fantasy -- worlds I can find myself in and ones I can lose myself in. She's the kind of writer I wish I could be. 

Bram Stoker/Dracula - For being the first classic I remember falling in love with. The first one I remember picking up and reading on my own, not for school. I read this when I was about 12 and I remember I'd stay up late reading it. I haven't reread it since then, partially because I worry I won't love it as much as 12 year old me did, but it'll always be special to me for being my first classic.

Roald Dahl/Matilda - Again, like with J K Rowling, I grew up with his stories. Matilda in particular is a favourite -- this beautiful story about a little girl who loves to read, who hasn't had the best experiences or been surrounded by the best people but she still manages to see the beauty in life. It was one of those stories that gave child-Lanna a tiny spark of hope that magic exists... I'm thankful for having a character like that be a part of my childhood. Not only did Roald Dahl write stories that I grew up reading/had read to me, but my nephew read them too, and now my niece. 

John Green/Looking for Alaska - John Green is like...a household name in the YA community, but he earned a place on this list back in 2007, back before all the Youtube fame and movies and stuff. I stumbled across Looking for Alaska on someone's Myspace roleplay page and I was intrigued and I read it and...you know when you read a book at just the right time in your life? That happened with this one. I was going through stuff, the book sort of helped me make sense of some of the stuff and I'm thankful for that. 

J M Barrie/Peter Pan - For worming its way into my heart when I was little and being a story I can always go back to when I need to be reminded of a time when life was still beautiful and innocent and hadn't been broken by pain or grief or reality of growing up and being grown up.

Stephenie Meyer/Twilight - Judge me for this one all you like. Talk of Twilight's flaws, I'll probably wholeheartedly agree -- doesn't change the fact that it'll forever be a problematic fave of mine. I'm thankful for this because it made me realise that I'm content to like what I like, even if other people trash it. It's the reason this blog exists -- or at least, the reason it still exists and made it past the first year (Julie and I met through the Twilight fandom). It's also one of the first books that made me want to write a novel...I've always loved making up stories, but this one made it click with me that I want to write novels, that I want to be published someday if I write something I like enough. It also had weird, unexpected ripple effects on my life too -- my best friend met her husband because I wrote funny TwiFics for a while (long-ish story).

Eloisa James - For being the first regency romance author to make me love the genre. A lot of people have this pretentious kind of view of this genre and it really irritates me. Books are allowed to just be entertaining, they're allowed to be fun, they're allowed just to be an escape. Regency romance books can normally cheer me up no matter what mood I'm in, they're also really good at snapping me out of reading slumps. I'm so glad I realised I love this genre, and I'm not sure I would have had it not been for Eloisa's fairytale retelling's. 

Jandy Nelson and Stephen Chbosky - I'm grouping these two together because while their books are wildly different my reasons for being thankful for them are the same. They've written books that have put into words things I've thought or felt but couldn't find a way to explain on my own, they helped me make sense of things I've experienced. Their books are fantastic in general, but I'm thankful for them for being those books that make you realise that you're really not alone in your thoughts or feelings, that there are people who understand and that maybe you're actually normal in your brokenness or your sadness.

Khaled Hosseini/A Thousand Splendid Suns - For writing beautiful stories about Afghanistan, particularly the women of Afghanistan. For making my eyes open a little wider than before, for making me realise my own ignorance about certain things, for sparking a desire in me to read more stories like the ones he writes -- stories from a different perspective of history. People like me grow up and we learn about the wars our countries have fought, but only through the eyes of people like us...but the other sides of the story are important and just as valid as ours and those stories matter too and it's so important that we learn them.

So maybe the reasons weren't so different after all -- it all comes back to the fact that each of these authors has had an impact on me somehow.

What books/authors are you thankful for? :)

Later.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Classics Review: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride & Prejudice
by Jane Austen


Summary: When Elizabeth Bennet meets Mr. Darcy she is repelled by his overbearing pride, and prejudice towards her family. But the Bennet girls are in need of financial security in the shape of husbands, so when Darcy's friend, the affable Mr. Bingley, forms an attachment to Jane, Darcy becomes increasingly hard to avoid. Polite society will be turned upside down in this witty drama of friendship, rivalry, and love—Jane Austen's classic romance novel.
Ever had one of those books that you've just seen so many adaptations and read so many retelling's of it that you've become so familiar with the characters and the plot and it just feels kind of redundant to read the actual book? Or is that just me?

Anyway... This has always been one of those books for me -- and I'm happy to say that I was wrong. I've always loved the story of Pride and Prejudice and now I'm glad to say I can include the source material in with that too, whereas before it was just retelling's/adaptations of it.

I'm fussy with classics. I usually feel like reading classics--even if I loved the story and characters--is more of a chore because of the writing style. The way classics are written (at least the majority of the ones I've read/attempted) is often so still and formal and wordy, to the point where the book feels bogged down by it...and I was convinced Pride and Prejudice would be one of those classics. And it was. But it also wasn't?

The writing style took some getting used to, but I got into it much easier than I thought I would. And the characters...they had so much personality -- I always liked Mr Bennett in other adaptations but I adored him in the novel (especially the fact that it acknowledges his flaws) and Jane Austen has this pleasantly subtle humour. I hadn't expected the book to be funny/witty, but it was and I enjoyed it very much.

Basically, the writing style was, as expected, quite formal and wordy...but it wasn't a chore to read because it had all these other elements that hooked me. I'd sit down intending to read one chapter and end up reading 50-100 pages in one sitting. The only complaint I have about the writing style is that Austen (in this book at least) has this awful habit of writing the most long and mundane conversations out in full, stuff that isn't always particularly relevant to the plot...but then she'll just sum up, in a paragraph/sentence, conversations that are actually important or interesting (like scenes with Elizabeth and Darcy). That, I admit, got really frustrating.

I don't think I need to go into any more detail about the book than that -- it's one of those stories that nearly everyone and their mother is familiar with.

To sum up: I loved the story before I read the book and surprisingly loved it even more after. And I'm surprised I enjoyed it so much when I expected it to be one of those books that are dated and dull in spite of their literary merit. I thought it was one of those books worthy of being remembered and being studied because of the impact it has had on the world and literature, but not the kind of book you'd pick up for fun.

...I'm rambling. The point of the review is really this: I was wrong. Not all classics are like that -- they can be fun and totally engrossing, they don't have to be difficult to get through or something we only pick up for assigned reading. Like with modern novels, it seems, it's just a case of finding the right classics. And Austen? Totally the right author for me. And now I want to read all of the Austen. Or all of the classics, because she can't be the only author whose work I click with.

Later.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Twenty Love Poems & A Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

Twenty Love Poems & A Song of Despair
by Pablo Neruda


Summary: The Chilean Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was probably the greatest and certainly the most prolific of twentieth-century Latin American poets. He brought out his first collection at the age of seventeen, and quickly developed an assured and distinctive poetic voice. His third book, Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Cancion Desesperada - Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair- was published in 1924 and attracted international acclaim. It remains one of the most celebrated and admired books of erotic poetry published in the last hundred years, with over a million copies sold worldwide. Neruda was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1971.
This book was...well, a major disappointment.

So, here's the thing about me and poetry: when I love it, I really, really love it. I adore it obsessively with every fibre of my being and the words of my favourites get stuck rattling around in my head and I can't seem to shake them. Poetry... It can be so amazingly beautiful, but when I dislike it? I sort of dislike it with that same intense passion.

Unfortunately, this was one of the times where I found myself passionately disliking it. That surprised me to be honest, because I've heard a lot of praise for Neruda and I've seen quotes from his work floating around on the internet and liked them...that's why I picked this book up (that, and a minor case of cover lust -- not sure why really, but I adore this cover).

His poems were kind of -- mediocre? They were repetitive and annoying, they used way too many similes (often bad similes and ones that just don't go well together). The poems were more cringe-worthy than romantic, and they often seemed more about his admiration and obsession with breasts than about love. None of the poems struck a cord with me or made me feel anything.

Okay, that's a lie. One of them did. The one at the end called "Tonight I Can Write" -- the problem with that is, the quotes I've seen on the internet and liked were from that and it gave me these expectations for what his poetry would be like...but it was the odd one out, one jewel in a pile of grey rocks (it's the one that goes "I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.").

I think part of the problem is that some of his poems just don't translate well/the translation was bad. I mean, his writing isn't really my cup of tea in general, but I do think that a lot was lost in translation making the poems seem worse than they were and had I been able to read them in the original language, perhaps I'd have found more beauty in them.

(For example, there's this line in one of them where he compares a woman's breasts to white snails. Yes, snails. That's just -- I admit, I laughed when I read it. Then I googled it, because lolwhut? But, apparently in the original version, the word he used translated more accurately to "shells" -- shells are a bit more of a romantic comparison than snails are, right?)

So...yeah, this book disappointed me a lot. I can acknowledge the literary merit in Neruda's works, but they're just not my kind of thing at all and I think the translation snuffed out any potential spark I might've found in his words. I'd rate this 1 star out of 5 (the 1 star being for "Tonight I Can Write").

Later.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Alma Classics: The Complete Peter Pan (& Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

I'm going to do this review a little differently than I normally would, because I've already reviewed Peter Pan before (the short version is: I absolutely adore it, it is so magical and beautiful and is one of my all time favourite stories). So... This is going to be less of a review and more of an Alma Classics appreciation post where I talk a little about what I love about these specific editions.

The thing about classics, for me, is that there are so many different editions of them out there that I can never decide which ones I want to collect. I mean, I want them to be good reading copies (not too heavy or bulky, reasonably sized text, well edited, etc.) and not be too expensive, but I also want them to look pretty on my shelves because as much as I love reading books, I guess I sort of love collecting them too. 

The Alma Classics, so far, have ticked all those boxes and more for me. I only own two so far that I was sent to review a while ago and I love them. I love the cover designs -- they're simple and lovely, they're very distinctive and suit the stories really well but they also look good when you put them side-by-side.

The Complete Peter Pan has cute little illustrations scattered throughout the book and it includes the novel, Peter Pan and Wendy, plus Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (a prequel novel), and also the play -- the latter two I hadn't actually read before I got this book. And, it also has a lot of extra stuff at the back for younger readers (notes, a glossary, a test, etc.) so I've decided to get my niece this version for Christmas too.

Now, Alice in Wonderland... I've never actually reviewed the story of this one, so I'll start with a min-review of the story itself: all I'm going to say about it is that it's one of those stories that people will either love or hate. Personally, I loved it. I love the nonsense of it all and I love that amongst all the bizarreness and nonsense there are little quotes that jump out and seem to be dripping with deeper meaning...the kind of quotes that stick with you.

This is the Alma edition for the 150th anniversary. Again, it includes the novel and sequel and lovely illustrations. But, it also includes a copy of Lewis Carroll's handwritten Alice's Adventures Underground manuscript with his original illustrations (this is the manuscript which later became Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland)... Again, something I hadn't read before I got this edition.

Basically, I just really love these editions -- they're everything I wanted them to be, with a little something extra. 

Currently pining for these ones too so I can expand my collection (definitely going on my Christmas list):


How awesome are those covers?! I love them dfjvdk! 

Later.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Welcome to Night Vale
by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor


Summary: Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked "King City" by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can't seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.

Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton's son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane's started to see her son's father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane's search to reconnect with her son and Jackie's search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: "King City". It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures...if they can ever find it.
I don't often review books that I could not finish but I really wanted to with this one. Sometimes I can't finish books because I just don't like them, because something about them is just bad in my opinion, but this one... This one is unusual, because there wasn't anything inherently bad about this book, it just wasn't my cup of tea really.

So... Just to be clear: I could not finish this book. I could only get about a third of the way into it before giving up. But I also think it's a good book and I would recommend it to other people -- which is why I'm reviewing it anyway.

This was one of the books I've been most anticipating this year. I'm not a fan of the podcast, but that's purely because I'm not a fan of podcasts in general (I lack the attention span required to listen without zoning out/getting distracted)... I tried listening to some of it and I'd seen so many amazing quotes and edits on tumblr for it and found myself wishing it were a book instead. And then it was and I was so, so, so excited for it.

The book...it kind of left me a wee bit disappointed but in a lot of ways it did actually live up to the high expectations I had for it.

It was wonderfully weird, it had a really awesomely distinctive writing style, and the story and the characters were really original. And, perhaps my favourite part, was that amongst all that quirk and oddness there were moments and quotes that were actually really poignant.

The only issue I had - and the reason I couldn't finish the book - was that while I did adore and appreciate the writing style, it also got a bit tedious. It's the kind of writing style that I love but in moderation. I'd find myself getting frustrated when I'd have to go through page after page of meandering narrative before it got to the point...and it's not so much that those parts were bad, the problem was that while it was well written, that style didn't lend itself very well to driving the plot forward.

It's like...you know that feeling when you're really excited about going somewhere and the driver takes the longest possible route, and sure the scenery is lovely but you just want to get there, you know? Reading this book felt that way to me. That feeling of impatience, and it was slowly driving me towards a reading slump because I wanted to be reading a book that would hook me, a book that was fast paced and this was not that book.

So yes. The book is incredibly original and I would really recommend it to fans of the podcast or anyone who likes their stories to be quirky and bursting with originality (especially if you prefer slower paced stories)... It just wasn't the book for me, because while I appreciated its strengths, it was just the wrong type of story at the wrong time.

Later.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Good Girls by Sara Shepard

The Good Girls
by Sara Shepard
Summary:  From Sara Shepard, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Pretty Little Liars series, comes the shocking sequel to The Perfectionists—with an ending you'll have to read to believe!

Mackenzie, Ava, Caitlin, Julie, and Parker have done some not-so-perfect things. Even though they all talked about killing rich bully Nolan Hotchkiss, they didn't actually go through with it. It's just a coincidence that Nolan died in exactly the way they planned . . . right? Except Nolan wasn't the only one they fantasized about killing. When someone else they named dies, the girls wonder if they're being framed. Or are they about to become the killer's next targets?
I'm going to try to keep this review short and to the point, because a lot of what I have to say about it will just be repeating things I loved about the first book. And I did love this one. I'm still surprised by how much I enjoy this series because it normally wouldn't be my kind of thing -- there's just something about it that I can't help but like.

I think it is probably the female characters and their relationships with each other in particular. There's these fierce female friendships and the girls are there for each other and even when they've had arguments, they're still there for each other and I just -- kjfdhgldj! I love that. I have read way too many books this year with terrible and toxic female relationships so it's really refreshing whenever I find one that doesn't do that (and I appreciated the diversity of the girls too, from their interests to ethnicities and their parents financial situations).

And the plot of this one? It started out a bit slower and took longer to get into than the first one did but then the last third of the book more than made up for it. I sort of guessed the twist, but then I dismissed it (after flipping back through the book to check), but then it happened and it was awesome. While I suspected the twist, I didn't actually expect to be right and it's rare for a book to surprise me like that and it made me want to go back to reread the first book to pick up on things I missed.

I kind of went into this book expecting it to be really drawn out the way the PLL series had been, but I was pleasantly surprised. This book wraps up the story nicely, while still leaving the door open for the series to continue (which I really appreciate because few things frustrate me as much as a series that gets dragged out and leaves you feeling obligated to continue just for some sense of closure).

I really want to recommend this book to fans of another book, but I can't because the comparison would hint too much at the twist and it's more fun not knowing... So I won't do that. I'd rate the book 4 stars out of 5. It's a really fun book and if you want to read a book with good female friendships and a murder mystery, I'd recommend this one.

Later.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Knopf Books for Young Readers
[October 20, 2015]
ARC from friend


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.

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.

I didn't know what to expect from this book. I wasn't really feeling it because I'm not a big fan of different formats of writing - it takes a lot for diary entries or letters or emails to work for me and this book was only gonna be non-straight-up-prose formats. But everyone wanted this damn books and Random House was giving out something absurd like 2,000 hardcover galleys at BEA (HARDCOVER GALLEYS) so clearly this had to be something amazing and I had to check it out. I'd decided to pick it up on one of the last days at BEA (because it's a 600 page hardcover), but a friend got a duplicate and offered to give me her extra so I took her up on that generous offer that meant not carrying it. Then I suffered a massive, massive reading slump all summer long. I couldn't finish a book, but everyone kept going on and on about how amazing this one was. So, shortly before leaving for London, I picked it up.

It was slow goings, at first. The format really didn't suit me and I just didn't feel invested in the plot. I sat and ready the first 150 pages in two sittings a couple days a part. Then something happened and I was hooked. I can't even remember what exactly it was or what changed, but suddenly I was sitting and reading the rest of the book - 450 pages - in one sitting.

The characters were all rich and full figured and remarkable. For the most part, there were no good or bad people. They were all just people. I fell in love with Kady and Ezra and the idea that they were very much regular teens when all this happened and no matter what happened, they didn't fully lose the fact that they were just teenagers. And honestly, even the AI wasn't all bad. It was just as full a character as Ezra and Kady were. These full characters made for really interesting relationships that were constantly changing among all the characters.

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff were also not afraid to pull any punches. They were willing to go in all kinds of directions you couldn't see coming, to kill off as many darlings as they felt necessary in any manner, and the ending? Oh man the ending was brutal, guys. Absolutely brutal. It's been quite a time since I finished, and I'm still not over it.

As a non-believer in the untraditional book formats, I also have to be clear that I was won over. Kaufman and Kristoff took untraditional to lengths I never could've predicted and it hurt a little bit to think about how they were formatted, honestly. It was intricate and complicated and I don't even know how they came up with it. And in this instance, it completely and totally worked.

Illuminae is going to hurt to read. Knowing book 2 is a year away is rather painful for me and it likely will be for you too. But I feel quite confident in saying that it lives up to the massive hype and the massive budget they put into it and it truly is unlike anything you've ever read and it will make you think quite a bit. Good luck reading it.

--Julie

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