The Illuminae Files: Illuminae

Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have just broken up – badly. As if that wasn’t enough, the day of their break up is the day their planet is attacked and they become refugees. What else could go wrong?


The first of the Illuminae Files series, Illuminae is the story of Kady and Ezra as they try to maneuver their new lives after their planet is destroyed by the BeiTech corporation and their warship, the Lincoln. Now aboard to separate space ships and having lost all of their family (except for Ezra’s estranged mother and Kady’s father, who might or might not be dead aboard the Heimdall space station), they have no one else but themselves. During the six months they are aboard the Alexander and Hypatia making their way towards Heimdall, the two teens are soon thrust into a war they didn’t originally intend to be a part of.

Kady, aboard the science vessel Hypatia, is becoming a proficient computer hacker. Certain that the military personnel on the Alexander is keeping secrets, she becomes acquainted with the known hacker Byron Zhang and attempts to find out what it happening. She learns that there is a virus aboard a third ship, the Copernicus, and that the virus is mutating. She also learns that the AI unit known as AIDAN on the Alexander might have gone insane and is trying to kill them all. The only person who can help her uncover the truth is Ezra. But she’s not talking to him…or is she?

Ezra, having shown proficiency in all physical aspects, is recruited as a Cyclone pilot on the Alexander. Things don’t seem quite right when his first official mission is to destroy the escape pods that evade the destruction of the Copernicus – which may have been caused by the Alexander. Since Kady is aboard the Hypatia, her hacker skills are limited unless she can get a foothold on the Alexandar. Ezra is that foothold, and he will do anything for Kady.

Things come to a head when the pursuing Lincoln makes its way closer to the retreating Alexander and the mutating Phobos Beta virus is released onto the Alexander. As if things weren’t complicated enough, the reactivated AIDAN has threatened to destroy the Hypatia if she tries to run from the crippled Alexander.

How are two lovesick teens supposed to stop it all?

Illuminae is a unique novel written as a series of interviews, reports, dossiers, schematics, and transcribed footage. I thought because of its unique writing style that it would be a difficult novel to dive into, but it is the opposite; the writing style just sucks you in. It’s a very quick read because of this style (I finished all 600 pages in a single day). There are a number of pages that contain very little words, some written in phrases that mimic the movement of missiles, others are a single word or phrase repeated and creating a picture. Some pages contain nothing but a single word or two. One would think such a style would have difficulty conveying emotion, but again it is the opposite. I found the style very gripping, noticing my heart race at certain scenes or my breath catch in others. There is not a lot of prose in Illuminae which means few descriptions of characters beyond certain features, but that’s fine. Your imagination tends to fill in the rest.

I found myself comparing the afflicted – those who had succumbed to Phobos Beta – similar to the Reavers in Firefly. The one distinct difference is the afflicted still have their mental capability and wits, but the feeling of fear when Kady is barricaded in a room with no exits was the same as watching the crew of the Serenity trapped at the end of the same titled movie.

There are many questions still left unanswered at the end of the novel. What is BeiTech? Why did they attack a planet harvesting hermium and what do they want with it? What happened to Kady’s father and the Heimdall? I suppose these questions will be answered in the sequels, which I’m looking forward to reading.

Note: author Laini Taylor is mentioned briefly in this novel. See if you can find where. đŸ˜‰

My rating: 4.5/5

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Throne of Glass series: Crown of Midnight

Crown of Midnight is the second volume in Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series and takes places two months after the events that end the first volume. We continue the adventures of Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan’s Assassin and newly appointed King’s Champion.


In the two months she has been employed, Celaena has been sent on four missions to assassinate four of the king’s so-called enemies. Celaena successfully returns from her latest mission with a decapitated head and the signet ring of her latest assignment. However, Celaena – despite her reputation – hasn’t killed anyone and has instead faked the death of all of her targets, a secret she must keep with her to keep her friends safe and alive from the king.

Meanwhile, Dorian finds himself struggling with the feelings he has for Celaena even though their romantic relationship has been brought to an end. But his feelings aren’t the only thing he struggles with as he slowly finds himself capable of magic – something that is expressly banned by his father. Chaol also struggles with his growing feelings for Celaena (who, by the way, feels the same way) and his loyalty to his position as Captain of the Guard and to the royal family.

As if our main three characters aren’t the only ones keeping secrets! Princess Nehemia herself is keeping information from Celaena, who has been sent out my Queen Elena on yet another mysterious mission involving the king. But Nehemia’s secrets are deadly, and more than figuratively so.

I found Crown of Midnight a much more enjoyable read that Throne of Glass. While Throne of Glass introduced us to the world and the characters, Crown of Midnight gives us more character development. Each character is more than they seem, each carrying secrets that they know by keeping them is dangerous to their companions – but so is revealing them. As the story progresses, only the reader knows everyone’s secret; the other characters know things are being kept from them but they don’t know what and oftentimes the climate doesn’t allow them to discover until later.

While I still find Celaena a vain, spoiled, and somewhat arrogant girl, I’ve come to appreciate these traits as part of her character. They are traits she has and is well aware that she possesses, but they are also traits that hide her past and the struggles she has had to endure to get where she is. All the characters are so much more than they appear and I like the fact that this second volume allows them to develop more.

The story itself starts off a bit slow at first, but I believe that is done to give the reader time to acquaint themselves with the changes in the characters. It does pick up in the second half when some of the secrets are revealed. There are still a few secrets that aren’t fully explained, but this is a six book series so there’s plenty of time for that. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next volume as it will take place (at least partially) away from Adarlan.

My rating: 4/5

Book Formats: Which Do You Prefer?

Hey guys! Instead of a book review (which I actually posted a day early, oops!), how about a question for you all?

What format do you prefer your books in? Paper copy, ebook, or audio book?

I’ve watched a number of Booktubers who have discussed the ups and downs of each format. Most seem to like all three, but many of them largely prefer paper copies to the other two. I’ve read/listened for all three formats; they each have their pros and cons, which I want to discuss before delving into my personal favorite.

Paper copy: the tried and true form of a book, the one everyone is probably the most familiar with. Everyone has held a book in their hands at least once in their life. From textbooks, to paperback copies, to the hard cover copies with either their set in covers or slip covers. Pages these days can be standard, thin, glossy, illustrated, edged in colored paint, have gilded edges, or made to look like old manuscript pages. Paperbacks can be the small, mass produced ones (which many do not love, myself included) or the larger “floppier” versions that nearly mimic hard covers except for their flexibility. The two major downsides to books is the manufacturing (the poor trees!) and the sheer weight of carrying more than one tome around.

ebooks: the digital, more versatile version of books. Whether you use a Kindle, iBooks, a Nook, or something else, all you need is one device that can connect to the internet to download a purchased book. You don’t even have to leave home to get a book and it only takes seconds from the time you buy to the time you read. Depending on your device’s capacity, you can store thousands upon thousands of books. Overall, ebooks can also be less pricey than paper books, but this isn’t always the case; I have found some books on Amazon where the paperback copy is less expensive than the digital ebook. There’s also the need to charge your device, especially if it’s a separate device like the Nook or Kindle. But they are far less cumbersome for lengthier trips where you can carry one ereader versus 4-5 books.

Audio books: the spoken version of books, an audio book merely requires a device that can play sound. Some audio books still come in CD format so you can play them with a disc reader; others can be downloaded from the internet. There are even some apps, such as Audible, that act must like an ereader and store books in the audio version. Audio books are beneficially for individuals who are on the go but don’t always have time to actually site and read. It allows for one to multitask while still enjoying a book. You can exercise, cook, clean, drive, do all manner of tasks while still enjoying a book.

So, what’s my preferred format for books? I’m somewhat of a traditionalist so I prefer actual paper books. I like feeling the paper in my hands. Also, books are a physical comfort for me; having one in my hands is calming, something I don’t quite feel with ebooks or audio books. I did inherit my mother’s Kindle, but rarely use it; most of the time is sits uncharged on my table. I also have iBooks on my phone, but I just don’t feel the same connection as I do with a book.

As for audio books, while enjoyable I sometimes get lost in dialogue. While many of the individuals who read for the audio books do their best to do the voices of each character, it is difficult for me to discern the differences. I often get lost as to who is speaking what line. I wish audio books were more like radio dramas: each character has their own voice with a separate person as the narrator. This loses the purpose of an audio book, however. Also, I prefer to listen to music when I’m doing other tasks as music can become soothing to my mind; an audio book becomes one more thing I have to split my attention to. (In other words, despite my profession, I’m awful at multitasking.)

So, there you have it. When I say I’m a book lover, I mean it in the most literal sense. I love books. I can’t walking into a bookstore and not walk out with a book in my hands. I have more books than shelves so they often end up in stalks – and I pray that my cat doesn’t chew their corners off.

What is your preferred format for books?

The Raven Cycle: The Raven Boys

The Raven Cycle was a series that was recommended to me by one of my best friends late last year, just as I was beginning to get into the groove of reading. She recommended I wait until the fourth novel had been released so I wouldn’t be waiting for the ending, but at the time she didn’t know the exact date.

Well, lo and behold, the last novel is released so here I am starting this series. (Also because Maggie Stiefvater will be at YALL Fest in November, and I have made a point of reading as much of this before then as I can.)


The Raven Boys tells the story of Blue Sargent, a non-psychic in a family of gifted psychic women. While not having any abilities herself, Blue seems to amplify the abilities of those around her and is often asked to sit in on various readings and rituals. It has also been prophesied that Blue’s true love will die if she ever kisses him. On St. Mark’s night, Blue accompanies her aunt Neeve to note down the names of those who appear in spirit form to Neeve – and will die in the next year. It is here that Blue sees the only spirit she has ever been able to see, that of a boy named Gansey.

In Blue’s little town of Henrietta is a prestigious all boys school, Aglionby. It is at this school that the living Gansey attends, along with Ronan Lynch and Adam Parrish. Gansey is obsessed with ley lines and an ancient Welsh king, Glendower, because of an incident during his youth. Ronan accompanies Gansey on his research but is himself a troubled youth who recently lost his father. Adam is a scholarship student who accompanies the pair but often feels insufficient because of his upbringing. Lastly is Noah, Gansey and Ronan’s quiet and mysterious roommate who likely holds the largest secret of them all.

The little group forms when Gansey seeks the aid of Blue’s mother regarding the ley lines. Although warned to stay away from “the raven boys” (Aglionby’s symbol is a raven), Blue finds herself getting sucked into the search for ley lines. As their search gets closer to answers they seek, events transpire that none had prepared for, and more questions arise.

I found The Raven Boys to be intriguing but a bit slow paced. It’s a nice blend of various aspects of magic and mysticism regarding the idea of ley lines and how things around them aren’t always what they seem. Each of the characters is distinct in their personalities and none of them are perfect – even the rich raven boys have their own secrets and shortcomings. I imagine the slow pace is due to this being the first in a series of four novels and is mostly focused in setting up the scene and the characters. The very last line of the novel has been intrigued and wanting to know what happens next.

Interestingly, I started this novel while traveling through parts of mountainous Virginia. Though Henrietta is fictional, it was still nice to be able to imagine what it might be like while traveling through small towns such as Bedford, Harper’s Ferry (West Virginia), and the outskirts of Charlottesville. It brought a real sense of the environment Blue and the raven boys might find themselves in.

Overall I liked this novel and am looking forward to continuing with the series.

My rating: 3.5/5

 

Throne of Glass series: The Assassin’s Blade

Before I started reading the Throne of Glass series, a cashier at Barnes and Noble recommended the series to me. She also recommended that I read the prequel, The Assassin’s Blade, after I read Throne of Glass but before I continued with the rest of the series. She reasoned that in doing so many of the events Celaena alluded to in ToG would make much more sense.

She was right.


The Assassin’s Blade is a set of 5 novellas that detail Celaena’s life before the events of Throne of Glass. The stories are, in chronological order:

-The Assassin and the Pirate Lord: the story of how Celaena, along with Sam Cortland, meets the Pirate Lord Rolfe and freed 200 slaves against the wishes of their master.

-The Assassin and the Healer: after Arobynn learns of Celaena’s betrayal, he sends her to the Red Desert to be trained by the Silent Assassins. On the way, she meets Yrene, a healer who lost her power when magic left the world.

-The Assassin and the Desert: when Celaena makes it to the Silent Assassins’ stronghold, she must convince the Mute Master to train her for one month before she can return to Rifthold. She meets Ansel, a fellow assassin, who wants more than to merely train.

-The Assassin and the Underworld: after Celaena returns to Rifthold, she finds Arobynn quite amicable and Sam less so. She begins to question how much she wants to remain with Arobynn and continue as his assassin.

-The Assassin and the Empire: a month after Celaena and Sam quit being part of Arobynn’s Assassin’s Guild, they decide to move away from Rifthold to lead new lives. However, they have to perform one more job to earn enough money for the move. But the jobs proves more deadly than they realize.

While a combination of five separate novellas, The Assassin’s Blade reads like a novel on its own. While I didn’t enjoy Throne of Glass much, I find that the prequel was a much more enjoyable read. Celaena is still a vain and self-centered teen (slightly younger in the prequel), but she seems to have gone through more character development than in the first novel proper. Her interactions with Yrene and the Mute Master, as well as Sam after her return, show how she changes through her experiences. Reading the prequel made me want to continue with the series to see how much more Celaena changes as what happens to and around her change.

I also want to see if characters – like Yrene, Ilias, and Ansel – return for more significant parts in the later novels.

My rating: 4/5

 

Divergent

Divergent came at a time when dystopian based stories were at its height in the YA world. However, this was also the time I wasn’t reading much so I didn’t get around to Divergent until this year. I picked up a copy while in Chicago (convenient, no?) and finished reading it in a few days.


During her sixteenth year, Beatrice Prior undergoes her Choosing Ceremony, as does every other sixteen year old within the five factions. Beatrice is from the Abnegation faction, one in which its members advocate selflessness above all else and, as such, are the leaders of the community. But although she has been raised to be selfless, Beatrice often feels out of place in her faction. During her aptitude test, it is discovered that she has traits from three factions – Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. Having traits from more than one faction is unheard of and such people are labelled Divergent. Beatrice is warned to keep her divergence a secret. Struggling with this new information, Beatrice chooses to leave Abnegation and join Dauntless.

Now known as Tris, she must undergo the initiation of Dauntless which comes in three stages. Those who rank in the top ten after all three stages are officially Dauntless members; the rest are factionless. Being one of the transfer initiates and being from Abnegation does not work in Tris’ favor during the first stage of initiation, but she makes it through; due to her divergence, she is able to successfully pass stages two and three and become the top ranking initiate. All the while, she struggles with her secret of being Divergent and also with the whispers that the Erudite faction is plotting to overthrow the Abnegation faction using the Dauntless. But how? Is Tris’ divergence a key in stopping the Erudite faction from succeeding? And what does it mean to be Divergent?

While I enjoyed the story, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have had I read it a few years ago. Many people compare dystopian stories to The Hunger Games, but Divergent is a different story though it shares the same first person perspective story telling. I really enjoyed the fact that most of the story is centered on Tris’ initiation and how she grows into a new person. But, in reading this story, I’ve come to realize that I simply do not lean towards the dystopian genre.

Will I continue the series? Likely not; Divergent didn’t hold my attention enough to want to know what happens to the characters and the story. But that has nothing to do with how Veronica Roth writes the story, just how I personally don’t connect with the genre. What I really enjoyed was the scenery. There isn’t much backstory on how Chicago got to be so shattered (at least not in this volume), but the places that are described are well done. Having recently been to the city, it was a real treat to read those scenes and know exactly where they are.

My rating: 3/5

The Dark Artifices: Lady Midnight

Lady Midnight is the first book in Cassandra Clare’s new Shadowhunter series, The Dark Artifices. While much longer in length than most of her other first novels, the length was required in order to introduce a fair number of characters adequately. While it is not necessary to have read either The Mortal Instruments series or The Infernal Devices series before reading Lady Midnight, I do highly recommend that if you have the chance to read them first it will make everything much more coherent.


Five years have passed since the Dark War between Shadowhunters and faeries. Emma Carstairs has spent those years training as a Shadowhunter – one of the best of her generation – and trying to find her parents’ killer. Having been orphaned during the Dark War, Emma resides in the Los Angeles Institute with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, and his family. Emma is a risk taker, going to the Shadow Market frequented by Downworlders despite having been told not to my her tutor, Diana Wrayburn, going on patrol with her friend Cristina Mendoza Rosales even if it is dangerous, and having temporary flings with fellow Shadowhunter Cameron Ashdown. But all that makes for a very determined young woman who will do almost anything to find the person who killed her parents, because she has never believed they were merely victims of the Dark War.

Julian, on the other hand, has spent the years being a parent to his four younger siblings, and secretly running the Institute due to the mental instability of his uncle, Arthur Blackthorn. He has grown into a person with a gentle but ruthless soul, an adept liar who is able to spin stories if it means protecting and keeping his family safe and together.

When a faerie convoy attempts to strike a bargain with the Shadowhunters to discover the ritualistic murderer of both mundanes and faeries, Emma and Julian are reluctant to help due to the terms of the Cold Peace. However, the fairies bring with them an incentive the Shadowhunters cannot refuse – the return of Julian’s older half-faerie brother Mark Blackthorn. Aided by Cristina and warlock Malcolm Fade, Emma and the Blackthorns attempt to unravel the mystery behind the murders in an attempt to keep Mark – and also finally discover who killed Emma’s parents and why.

But the murderer isn’t someone they suspect and the reason is not as simple as they thought. To complicate matters further, Emma and Julian find themselves falling in love, something that is expressly forbidden between parabatai though no one knows the reason why.

Lady Midnight sports a huge cast of characters. What sets it apart from other first novels is that each character is given the time to allow the reader to fully appreciate their individual traits. From the twins Livvy and Ty, to Dru and little Tavvy, Mark who is readjusting to Shadowhunter life, mysterious Diana who cares for the group but has her own secrets, sweet Cristina who is on her travel year from the Mexico City Institute, to Perfect Diego. We are also reintroduced to well-known and beloved characters (this is where reading the other series becomes beneficial): Clary and Jace, now New York Institute heads, the fan favorite warlock Magnus Bane (and just a glimpse of Alec), Inquisitor Robert Lightwood, and (my personal favorites) the nearly eternal lovers Jem Carstairs and Tessa Gray.

Lady Midnight is a solid first volume to a new trilogy, but like any good series it both answers questions and reveals new ones. Who is Lady Midnight and what does she want? What secrets does Diana carry? Will Emma and Julian be able to overcome their love for each other or the constrains of the parabatai bond? And if they can’t, will it doom them forever?

I am looking forward to not only the continuation of The Dark Artifices but also to Clare’s other series, The Last Hours, which returns to the 1800s and ties in the stories. Of course, that just means more Will, Jem, and Tessa and I am entirely okay with that.

My rating: 4.5/5