Book Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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

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

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

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

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

So, I’m not going to lie to you: I liked Gemina soooooo much more than I liked Illuminae.  Not that Illuminae was bad, but I think that I really identified more with the Captain’s daughter with a naughty streak and her attraction to the bad boy with a golden heart. Hanna is sarcastic, a bit rebellious, maybe a little callus, but it masks her soft spots for her father and for her boyfriend.  Plus, what is more bad ass than a girl who has utilized her stranding on a remote waystation in space to get extremely strong and fast in a dojo?

Really, I mostly am just a giant Hanna fan, because she seems to continually prove to herself that she can do whatever she needs to survive in this situation.  Plus, when she doesn’t understand something scientifically, she just accepts that something needs to be done and gets it DONE. Nik, on the other hand, I was prepared to dislike a bit, if only because he was set up to seem like a guy who tried to hard. So it took a while for me to really grow to like him as a character.  Basically it was the scene with the cow that sold him to me.  I won’t spoil that for you, but you definitely should check that out.

Is it a stereotypical love connection? Probably.  BUT, the circumstances of everything that happens within this world is what makes it so much more fun to read.

Exactly like Illuminae, the story of Hanna and Nik is told through the style of dossiers, a case file that has redacted statements, etc.  However, I think that part of the reason I did enjoy this one more was the inclusion of hand drawn illustrations, which were provided by Marie Lu, and the ever growing bloodstain on the pages.

I think that one reason I’m really drawn to this series, and one that I’ll use as a suggestion for those looking for a Holiday gift for a Doctor Who fan, is that I really connected with these books on a Whovian level.

While neither are exact replicas of storylines on Who, both remind me of very specific episodes (See my Illuminae review for the episode comparison for that book).  Gemina is almost the story of Pete’s World or Doomsday from Season 2 of the new series with Rose and the Tenth Doctor.  *SPOILER ALERT* There are duplicate outcomes with different circumstances and in two different realities.  Death plays a role in both those episodes and the novel, and I really admire the scientific research that Kaufman and Kristoff did for the book to make it…easier to understand than it would have been normally.

I’m giving this one 4.5 Bards and recommend it as a Christmas gift!

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

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Release Date: February 7, 2017

Empress
Rhee, better known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a holo-vision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

 

 

 

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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.

This book.

I don’t even know where to start.

I guess I’ll start with the formatting.

I’ve never read a book that is formatted the way this one is.  In all honesty, when I received the Advanced Reading Copy last year, I was so excited to read it until I opened it.  I saw that it was done in a series of redacted documents, instant message conversations, made up memos, etc, and I just put it aside and didn’t pick it up again until a few weeks before the release of the second installment.

Boy, do I regret the decision to put off reading this for so long.

Not only did the formatting only make the novel more exquisite as what I predict will become a novel to be taught in college young adult/adolescent literature courses, but also as an example in creative writing and how the standard novel format doesn’t necessarily have to be followed in order to tell an in depth story within it’s own story world. In fact, I’ve convinced a Graduate School friend of mine to possibly teach this novel to her class this upcoming Spring, and I really hope it inspires a whole generation of writers that want to do something outside of the box.

So, the love story seemed a bit extra to me in this story.  Honestly, they could have just made Kady, this super strong protagonist with all of these talents with the computer and her intelligence and I would have been a happy girl.  Ezra just kind of felt like a plot device to make the story more sellable to young adult readers.  Which isn’t a problem, I just think he was an extraneous part of the story.

AIDEN, on the other hand, was a more fruitful character than Ezra at every turn. Never have I ever thought that I could enjoy a computer generated and moderated program as much as AIDEN.  Sure, it has it’s faults and it isn’t exactly an ideal companion in a lot of ways, but it genuinely develops a rapport with Kady and *SPOILER ALERT* saves her life!

Now, I think that any reader that enjoyed Illuminae and is thinking about gifting it to someone who hasn’t read it yet should consider all of their Whovian friends.  Illuminae reminds me of one of my absolute favorite David Tennant episodes, The Waters of Mars.  Now, in most obvious ways it involves a disease that spreads easily and quickly throughout the crew and poses a great threat to those who haven’t been involved yet.  However, I think the part that reminds me the most of it is at the end, when the Doctor (AIDEN, people!!!) thinks that he is doing the right thing by saving those who may not have meant to be saved.

Either way, this book is one that should be gifted and discussed, for sure.

4 Bards

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

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Release Date: January 10, 2017

Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It s a miserable life, but being a visha kanya a poison maiden is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.

Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she s really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose.

 

 

Book Review: How to be You by Jeffrey Marsh

An interactive experience, How to Be You invites you to make the book your own through activities such as coloring in charts, answering questions about how you do the things you do, and discovering patterns in your lives that may be holding you back. Through Jeffrey’s own story of “growing up fabulous in a small farming town”–along with the stories of hero/ines who have transcended the stereotypes of race, age, and gender–you will discover that you are not alone, can deepen your relationship with yourself, and find the courage to take a leap that will change your life.

So, first things first, if you haven’t heard of Jeffrey Marsh, please go check out their vines! I’ve been following them for a while now, and they’re always so inspirational. I was so excited when they announced their book.

I wish that I had actually read the full description and known that it was interactive ahead of time. As it is, I didn’t have time to sit down and actually interact with this book. But the beauty of this book, is that I can come back to it again and again and I can do the exercises every time I read it with different results.

This book is so great for anyone of any age. Even those of us who think we have it figured out. (Spoiler: we don’t.) Jeffrey Marsh does a great job of relating the their ideas of loving and being yourself to all people. The struggle of trying to find yourself is universal and they not only tell us you don’t have to “find yourself” but they also tell us the best ways to stop trying to find yourself and stop trying to fit into other people’s expectations of you. The best piece of advice in all of this, though, is that you can congratulate yourself just for trying. The goal is not to “complete” something, the goal is a journey of learning. And that journey doesn’t stop.

My favorite parts of the book are the Hero/ine segments. They talk about pioneers of equality throughout history and just people they regard as a hero/ine (including my future wife, Wonder Woman). The segments show that people are much happier just being themselves, even when it’s hard. He emphasizes that you shouldn’t try to BE those people, but rather use them as an example to be YOU.

A quick read (without the interactive parts) and really fun and inspirational. 4.5 bards.
four.fivebards

Book Review: Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

28698224Jazz Jennings is one of the youngest and most prominent voices in the national discussion about gender identity. At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to share her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview, aired at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. This groundbreaking interview was followed over the years by other high-profile interviews, a documentary, the launch of her YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series “I Am Jazz” making her one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults.

In her remarkable memoir, Jazz reflects on these very public experiences and how they have helped shape the mainstream attitude toward the transgender community. But it hasn t all been easy. Jazz has faced many challenges, bullying, discrimination, and rejection, yet she perseveres as she educates others about her life as a transgender teen. Through it all, her family has been beside her on this journey, standing together against those who don’t understand the true meaning of tolerance and unconditional love. Now Jazz must learn to navigate the physical, social, and emotional upheavals of adolescence particularly high school complicated by the unique challenges of being a transgender teen. Making the journey from girl to woman is never easy especially when you began your life in a boy s body.

So, I super enjoyed this book, even though you can tell it was written by a fifteen year old. At first, the writing style of speaking to the reader sort grated on my nerves (because it was teenager-speak and I am clearly old and crotchety). However, she has a lot of important and meaningful things to say, so eventually I got used to it and I just enjoyed the book. She’s funny and sincere and once I got over my original annoyance, I realized she does have a great voice (I mean, people have been listening to her tell her story since she was tiny).

I really appreciated how she always insisted that she lives a normal life. She also emphasizes that she is really lucky to live that normal life because of her family, and how they’ve supported her for her entire life. She uses her privilege and her platform to remind readers that not every trans person is that lucky. Multiple times throughout the book she throws statistics out there about the number of trans lives that are lost every year. She uses those statistics to remind herself that she is lucky, but also to remind herself of why she has this public platform: to save other trans folks and to educate others about trans issues.

I also really loved that she normalized her mental health issues, as well. She made sure to say they were separate from her dysphoria, but that they were still a part of her. I think it’s important to normalize mental health and getting help and emphasize the fact that it literally happens to anyone and there is no shame in getting help.

I think this is a great book for literally everyone, but most especially parents of trans kids who want to have some kind of perspective on what their child is going through, and for trans kids just so they can see that they’re not alone. Overall, I’d give it 4 bards.

fourbards




Blog Tour: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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New from Kiersten White, the author of the Paranormalcy series and the Mind Games duology, comes a novel reimaging the immensely cruel Vlad the Impaler.

Whit_9780553522310_jkt_all_r1.inddNO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

Release Date: June 28, 2016

Holy Crap.

This novel has so much going on and so much detail.  Now, unlike some novels that seem bogged down by seemingly useless details and flowery language (looking at you, Charles Dickens), And I Darken seems to be carved from a rich mahogany and it is done purposefully and necessarily.  Side note: it can be a little overwhelming to take in so much so quickly, but push through!

Not only does White immediately establish the tense atmosphere of this ruling family, but she properly exhibits the dichotomy between Lada and Radu.  It is definitely my favorite part of the novel, the sibling love and devotion despite their differences.  As someone who doesn’t always get along with my sibling, I even envied it a bit.  Which is odd considering this is a story about Vlad the Impaler….

Anyway, I find the dual point of view format to be ridiculously helpful in this story, even if Radu’s parts in this are significantly shorter and more to the point.  I sort of wish that there was more of a first person narrative here, but third person limited is always a good alternative to this.

White did such an excellent job portraying the absolute brutal attitude of Lada and the Ottoman empire at this time.  I found it difficult to read at times, but in a challenging way not in a un-entertaining way.  It is something wholly unique to the young adult genre and I have a feeling it is going to inspire many more works not only from White (since this is a series), but from other authors as well.  I sincerely hope it challenges authors to look to new types of storytelling.  Plus, gender-bending classic stories is a huge thing on tumblr, so it isn’t like it would be unaccepted by the readers.

Unlike many heroines in young adult novels, Lada is set up almost immediately as an anti-heroine since we know exactly what the future holds for this brutal teen.  However, it is impossible to not sympathize with this leader born into such a patriarchal and backwards society.  (Does anyone else kind of think Lada would work really well alongside Amarantha and the King of Hybern in the Court of Thorns and Roses Series? )

This book will please you, make you uncomfortable, and make you root for the ultimate bad girl.

4.5 Bards

four.fivebards

 

 

 

 

Read Proud Listen Proud

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Jazz Jennings is one of the youngest and most prominent voices in the national discussion about gender identity. At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to share her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview, aired at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. This groundbreaking interview was followed over the years by other high-profile interviews, a documentary, the launch of her YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series—I Am Jazz—making her one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults.

In her remarkable memoir, Jazz reflects on these very public experiences and how they have helped shape the mainstream attitude toward the transgender community. But it hasn’t all been easy. Jazz has faced many challenges, bullying, discrimination, and rejection, yet she perseveres as she educates others about her life as a transgender teen. Through it all, her family has been beside her on this journey, standing together against those who don’t understand the true meaning of tolerance and unconditional love. Now Jazz must learn to navigate the physical, social, and emotional upheavals of adolescence—particularly high school—complicated by the unique challenges of being a transgender teen. Making the journey from girl to woman is never easy—especially when you began your life in a boy’s body.

In honor of her upcoming book release, Jazz Jennings has been named Penguin Random House’s Author Ambassador for Read Proud Listen Proud. Read Proud Listen Proud was introduced in June 2015 as an online resource for kids and teens, as well as their parents, teachers and librarians, to find LGBTQ literature that encourages understanding and acceptance, celebrating everyone for who they are through the power of storytelling. You can check out the newly revamped site here and check out Jazz herself in the video below.

Being Jazz doesn’t come out until June 7, 2016, until then here are some other great books to check out:
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephardt
Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki
She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Book Review: Captive Prince & Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat

51Ab+fJpUSL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the truthful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative and deadly, his new master Prince Laurent epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else..
_____________________________________________________________________________________
23398894With their countries on the brink of war, Damen and his new master, Prince Laurent, must exchange the intrigues of the palace for the sweeping might of the battlefield as they travel to the border to avert a lethal plot.

Forced to hide his identity, Damen finds himself increasingly drawn to the dangerous, charismatic Laurent. But as the fledgling trust between the two men deepens, the truth of secrets from both their pasts is poised to deal them the crowning death blow…

Normally, I wouldn’t do two books in one review, but I inhaled these books in about three days, specifically the second one in the span of 12 hours. I had no idea what I was getting into, other than LGBTQ romance. But while explicit it some parts, it wasn’t what I’d call a “typical” romance book (though I haven’t read one of those in a long time, so who knows, maybe the genre has changed a little).

The story surrounding Damen and Laurent is one of power, politics, and intrigue, and while it took a little bit to get into the first one, with the world-building, the last half of the Captive Prince, and really all of Prince’s Gambit were so captivating that I quite literally couldn’t put them down. In a world where human pets and slaves (and there is a clear distinction between the two) are the norm, Captive Prince Damen is betrayed and forced into servitude of rival Prince Laurent. The animosity between these two and their countries is so palpable it’s a wonder Laurent didn’t kill Damen just because he was Akielon, let alone if he had known who he was. I’ll be honest, the idea of humans as pets and slaves had me really skeptical at first, so it was slow to get into it, but other than that I really loved the world building. And I love the casual way she writes about an inter-racial romance and a same-sex romance without nullifying Damen’s past experiences with women.

Laurent has too much control, but finally lets himself go with Damen, begins to actually trust his opinion and eventually him. Now that Akielon forces have joined Laurent’s troops and have revealed Damen’s identity, what’s going to happen. Pacat builds up such a good story that I literally can’t wait to read what happens next, I’m itching to start it now.

Overall, if I’m rating the two together, I’d give them four bards.
fourbards

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: March 15, 2016

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

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