Tag Archives: knopf books for young readers

ARC Review – Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

23395680Title:  Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)

Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2 /  ★★★★

Synopsis: 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.

Huge thank you to  Knopf Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

 

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for this ARC!

I feel like Illuminae the book that all the bloggers are raving about, and I’m going to be real here: I merely liked it. When you’ve played enough science fiction video games, or watched or read enough classic science fiction, the plot in this story is far from original. Illuminae at times reads like a love letter to old school science fiction, but it also has the problem of style over substance.

I’m going to be real here, I don’t mind books that use an abstract style to tell its story. There’s books that for me did an amazing job such as Blood & Guts in High School and others where I hated every second of it (see House of Leaves). Since the story is told through dossiers, it’s an interesting concept because the story has all this tension and you start to see the growth of the crisis that exists aboard the ship. I’d even argue that the portrayal of space madness through the use of the dossiers is one the best I’ve seen in a long time, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the world building in Illuminae is sadly paper thin.

The reader is forced to accept so much at face value because of the style of the story, but there’s all these larger holes that don’t get filled in, leaving the reader to guess how or why aspects of this story are happening. That’s the main issue here: the use of abstractions in the story don’t allow for real world building to be provided. The format also is somewhat problematic if only because you get pulled into the narrative and then immediately sucked out of it when there’s a picture or a random advertisement. Again, I get why it’s being done, but truthfully I didn’t enjoy it nor did I find it successful.

The first 1/3 of this book for me was just very bland and boring. It took me awhile to get into the story and once the space madness started to hit the ships I found myself on board and the book became a page-turner. I think the way in which Kaufman and Kristoff show tension and anxiety in space is so spot on, and I like the way that through the dossiers you get this sense that everything has gone sour. I also appreciate the two classic science fiction plot twists that were thrown into the story, even if they were predictable both times. I still like that specific plot twist, and I do think it works well here.

I also wanted a bit more characterization. Kady in particular gets so much development, and I adored her character. I loved how sassy, strong-willed and reckless she is, but I found Ezra to be lacking in the character department. I didn’t see what was so great about him, nor did I feel the connection of him as the love interest. There was no pull for me at all. I will say, I LOVED Byron, and I thought he was far better developed than Ezra was. But let’s be real here, there’s not a lot of character development and the stylistic choice is a major part of why it’s lacking.

Here’s the deal: I liked and enjoyed my time with Illuminae. Once I got 1/3 of the way through the story, I couldn’t stop turning the pages and I had to see how it ended. I actually adored the ending, but overall Illuminae is a story I’ve read and seen numerous times before and sadly done better. However, I do think this book is worth checking out, especially if you aren’t the biggest science fiction fan, because I think those are the people who will get the most out of the big reveals and surprises within the story. Still, Illuminae is a fun read, and I will be checking out its sequel, but admittedly I wanted more from it.

River’s Review:

I am SO happy that I didn’t have to read this on my iPad. The format of this book is amazing and I loved it. To be honest the story wasn’t really THAT amazing, and I would have liked a lot more background and world building, but the format blew me away. And that is what I loved about this book. Pages with casualty names. Cute children’s posters with horrific graffiti scrawled over it. Swoops of text illustrating missiles or fights in space. I love some of the empty pages or pages with one word on them best. I did get a little tired of reading chats between characters, but thankfully they were broken up with enough other things. And I did appreciate that there WERE sections that were in more traditional novel formats. The whole mix of everything just worked so well for me.

I did see a few… idk if they were allusions or shout-outs or what, to other popular scifi work. I didn’t mind this, but for some reason I kept picturing this taking place in the Battlestar Gallactica world with a dash of Firefly thrown in. Thus I would have liked some more unique world building.

I really liked the ending and I didn’t see it coming and I can’t wait for the next one now (whenever that will be hahahah).

ARC Review – Another Day (Every Day #2) by David Levithan

23923007Title:  Another Day (Every Day #2)

Author: David Levithan

Rating:  ★★

Synopsis: In this enthralling companion to his New York Times bestseller Every Day, David Levithan (co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green) tells Rhiannon’s side of the story as she seeks to discover the truth about love and how it can change you.

Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person . . . wasn’t Justin at all.

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am going to be in the minority here, but I didn’t want to see a Rhiannon story made. I thought Every Day was such a unique enough experience and that A’s perspective worked so well given it was about transformation. Still, I was curious about this and requested it any ways. As expected, it didn’t add very much toEvery Day, and while I get that it’s a companion, I didn’t feel like having events told from Rhiannon’s perspective were at all interesting, nor difference really.

I liked Rhiannon in Every Day, but in this novel she read so flatly, de-voided of any personality or any way to make a reader’s connection. I wanted to feel connected to her, but I couldn’t make it. Furthermore, I disliked her group of friends, and Justin once again drove me up the wall, but I feel like she stays with these people for really stupid reasons. These characters just lacked any sort of spark, and it made for such a tough reading experience because I feel like Rhiannon’s side of this story feels so empty and dull. There needs to be something that grabs the reader’s attention, and Rhiannon is just too shallow and bland a character for the story to feel like it has legs to stand on.

When the book was about her relationship with A and her meetings, those were still fascinating to read about. I still enjoyed the e-mail exchanges and the scene where A begs Rhiannon to come and help out this one girl still got me the way it did in Every Day. But I needed more of this and less about Rhiannon’s boring school adventures with crummy and uninteresting people, and that weighed more heavily than what I was wanting or expecting. At the end of the day even if I didn’t want this story, there’s a part of me that wishes it had been better than what I actually read — I didn’t want to be disappointed, just proven wrong.

Another Day was such a miss for me — it lacked the charm and presentation of Every Day that kept that book’s perspective unique and interesting to read. I generally love David Levithan’s stories, but Another Day was such a boring experience, and when it had highs of interesting moments, they were completely few and far between.

River & Sam’s Fave Books of November

It’s time to pick our favourite book(s) of the month! November was a stressful month, and the only thing that keep us both de-stressed? Reading! Reading fixes everything. I know for me personal, November was test and assignment hell, to the point where life was library school and reading to keep myself sane. Social life? I miss you, we should hang out some time.

On to the favourites!

River’s PIck:

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All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

After she finished reading it, River gushed about this book to me, so much so that it is what I will be reading for this month’s SIT DOWN! SHUT UP! READ THIS! (and including it in my reading challenge somehow!). Check out River’s Full Review where she tells you why you need this book on your TBR, and check in with me at the end of the month for my review in SIT DOWN! SHUT UP! READ THIS!

Sam’s Pick:

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Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks

I am so glad River made me read this. SO SO SO GLAD! This book was just wonderful, magical and so damn poetic. River knows how much I adore thoughtful middle grade, and she also knew it had an awesome dog side kick, so no wonder this book stole my heart. This book definitely needs to be read, especially when it releases in North America in February.

What was your favourite book you read in November? Let us know in the comments.

ARC Review- All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

23350066Title: All the Bright Places

Author: Jennifer Niven

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review:

My god. This book is amazing. Put it on your TBR shelves people. You want this. It’s smart, funny, heartbreaking, lyrical, poignant, edgy, and so fucking real.

I can’t say too much about this because I don’t want to spoil it, but the story of Violet and Finch is beautiful. I love how they love, I love how they grow. It’s also a story of too little too late. And that made my heart hurt. I cried in this book multiple times. I read all the way to the end (author’s note, acknowledgements, etc.).

Both Violet and Finch were strong characters. They’re people we know, people we grew up with. That weird boy, that tragic girl. I love stories where unlikely misfits fall in love, and this just tugged at all the right strings and gave me all the feels.

I also really like how the incredibly strong message this book has doesn’t come across as preachy at all. It’s smooth and natural and at the same time jarring and shocking and really makes you think about life and the way mental illness is treated and the stigmas that are attached to them.

Just read this book you guys. Just read it.

ARC Review – The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

17157466Title:  The Tyrant’s Daughter

Author: J.C. Carleson

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations? 

Huge thank you to Random House Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for the advance reader copy.

River’s Review (4.5 Stars)

Wow this book was good. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect when I went into it, but I’m so glad that I read it. Sadly, I’m not really that up-to-date with everything that is going on in the middle east (I blame living in Japan, but it’s mostly my own apathy towards keeping up to date with world news), but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this book. I especially loved reading the authors note at the end and seeing how she used parallel events in her novel.

As a non-native living in a foreign country (American living in Japan) I could totally connect with Laila and her family on their exile to the US. I know what it’s like to move to a new country and be faced with having to explain and defend your own culture while trying to navigate, understand, and even accept the new culture that you’re in. I really loved how this was done. All of Laila’s stereotypes about the USA are ones that I hear from Japanese people ALL of the time. Everything is big, loud, noisy, too fast. At first it bothered me and I felt like the author was perpetuating the American stereotype, but the more I thought about it, the more honest it was. I find that A LOT of people outside of the USA are more-or-less trained to think that the USA IS this loud, fat, superficial nation. And the same goes for people in the USA. Laila’s friends were quick to judge her and her culture, and they often didn’t accept her culture. I loved it when she told the Cinderella story and the way everyone reacted. I can honestly say that I’ve also had similar reactions to Japanese culture. I try to understand, and have come to accept A LOT of it, but there are just some things that I cannot. But UNDERSTANDING is the key. So I really clicked with this aspect of the book and enjoyed the hell out of it.

I really loved Laila’s voice. She was such a strong character and so regal all through the story. She had her moments of weakness, anger, recklessness. She was able to rebel in more ways than a typical teenager, and she went all out at times. I’m glad that she stepped out of her comfort zone and tried new things. I liked her friends and the way she handled her choices. I loved watching her navigate her new life and deal with the freedoms she was suddenly handed.

I also loved the descriptions of the middle east. One of the BIGGEST issues I have with books set in foreign countries is that a lot of the time the author has no idea about the REAL LIFE stuff that happens. Anyone can watch the news and google about foreign countries, but if you haven’t spent a GOOD amount of time in a place, you wont really understand the way things work, the customs, the people. The author was spot on with the details though and I never felt the need to question what she was showing us. Credibility is important with books set in foreign countries, and this was full of it.

I was really surprised by the ending though! I didn’t see it moving in that direction and thought it was a brave choice.

And can I say how freaking COOL it is that the author was a legit CIA operative? One of my childhood dreams!!! Ah, so cool. Def check this book out guys!

Sam’s Review (4.5 Stars)

I went into the Tyrant’s Daughter with zero expectations. Truthfully, the story didn’t entirely sound like something I’d enjoy. Colour me shocked when I devoured 50% of the book in a day. Carleson’s book has these amazing powers of just sucking reader’s into Laila’s world and making you feel like you understand her hostility and aggression.

While I’m not always paying attention to current events, I found that the story Carleson told was surprisingly accessible. There’s a lot happening and for the most part (up until the end) it was easy to follow and Laila, for all her frustration and anger was a very easy protagonist to follow. Actually, I quite loved her. Being in her head was so fascinating, from her prejudice to her understanding. I liked that she wasn’t white washed — her culture is explicitly important to her, and even when she tries to be understanding or trying to fit in, her struggles are something that one can easily understand.

I think what I loved the most was just how real the story felt. Seeing how her mother and brother attempted to adapt was both interesting and heartbreaking. You get a sense that while their could be light at the end of the tunnel for everyone… not all the characters necessary want it. I also loved all the additional material at the end of the book that showed what inspired the story or the events that were rooted into the tale. I love having that extra bit of knowledge because I always find it helps me appreciate a story just a bit more.

The Tyrant’s Daughter is a very deep and layered story. It’s a great page-turner, but it’s not necessarily the easiest book to read. Laila is just such a great story teller, and that a lone is really what sold me on the entire novel. The writing is equally tight and fast-paced, and what I loved is the amount of realism. This book is definitely worth checking out, even if it’s something you might not think is your cup of tea — you’ll be pleasantly surprised.