Second Look: GEMINA: THE ILLUMINAE FILES_02 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

gemina

I have been eagerly awaiting Gemina since I finished Illuminae over the summer. Illuminae was so intense and amazing that I couldn’t imagine how Gemina could be as good, and was afraid I was going to experience what I call “The Hunger Games Effect.” You know, where book two of a trilogy only acts as a bridge to the series finale? I’m going to come right out and say it was NOT the case.

Gemina isn’t a continuation of Kady and Ezra’s story from Illuminae, but more a companion story of what is happening to Hanna and Nik at the Heimdall Jump Station. But don’t worry, we still hear from our favorite out-of-this-world couple (pun-intended). They’re not primary characters, but they do make appearances.

Here’s the official synopsis, via Goodreads:

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 Illuminae continues 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 after I was done, I gently closed the book, calmly hugged it to my chest, and then held it in my lap and quietly stared with my mouth hanging open as I tried to digest what I just read. I emailed Ashley a little bit later to try to explain my feels, and this was all I could muster:

Much like Illuminae, this book has EVERYTHING you could ever want: excitement, betrayal, epic fight scenes, bad ass heroines, swoonworthy guys, hateful villains, scary-ass worms with four mouths that paralyze you, astrophysics…

Ok, so maybe not everyone is a nerd-girl like me who thinks astrophysics is fascinating. And I think my interest in it was one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much. If you’re not a science geek, some of the plot twists in Gemina will either blow your mind, or confuse you into paralysis (much like the four-mouthed worms). To Kaufman and Kristoff’s credit, they do a great job of breaking down the stuff that some may find difficult to understand.

This book is such a fun wild ride. The writing is superb, and I love one of the quotes so much that I’m considering it for my next tattoo. It’s non-stop action, and you can never guess what awaits Hanna and Nik around the next corner. And speaking of Hanna and Nik, these characters are amazing and just as fun and likable as Kady and Ezra. I didn’t think I could find a book crush I love more than Ezra, but Nik is definitely in my Top 5.

Gemina is a little longer than Illuminae by about 50 pages (weighing it at a whopping 659), but the epistolary format (a word which here means “a work of fiction written in the form of documents, such as letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, etc.”) makes it fly by. Plus it’s so freaking addicting you won’t want to put it down.

A five star rating doesn’t even seem like enough stars for this book. I’d give it 15 stars if I could. But since I suppose we have to draw the line somewhere or we’d get REALLY out of control with our ratings, I’ll behave. But I’m just going to put this out there… The Illuminae Files is absolutely one of my most favorite series of all time EVER I absolutely cannot wait for Book 3.

OFFICIAL RATING: 10/10

P.S. Ya’ll can thank me later for teaching you a new word. I expect you all to go out and use “epistolary” in as many every day situations as possible. Maybe you can start by telling everyone you know about Illuminae and Gemina.

 

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Second Look: THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR by Katherine McGee

Have you ever wondered what it might be like if all the streets, skyscrapers, monuments, and parks in NYC were stacked on top of each other instead of sprawled out across the island of Manhattan? It would probably be, like, a thousand stories high.

That’s exactly the setting Katharine McGee has created. And it’s ridiculously amazing.

It’s the year 2118, and the Tower dominates the skyline. The Tower is 1,000 stories high and contains homes, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, arenas, churches, playgrounds, aquariums… you name it, it’s there. Your status is dictated by the floor on which you live and the higher up you go, the more you have to lose.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of five main characters: Leda, Eris, Watt, Rylin, and Avery.

Leda has a prescription drug problem and is hiding a recent stint in rehab from everyone, including best friend Avery. She also has a secret crush that, if revealed, could tear their friendship apart.

Eris is a highlier (a term used for the wealthy who live on the upper floors) whose life is shattered when her family falls apart, costing her the status and lifestyle to which she is so accustomed.

Watt is a computer genius who is hiding a very brilliant, but very illegal device, somewhere no one would think to look. He has insight into everything and everyone in The Tower, which puts him in a very tough position when he’s hired as a spy for a highlier.

Rylin lives in poverty near the lowest floors, and struggles to keep her and her sister afloat after the death of her parents. But when rich and handsome Cord Anderton hires her to be his maid, she may find a way to leave her old life behind.

Avery lives at the literal top of the world on the 1,000th floor. Her parents genetically designed her to be flawless, and she lives the lavish, perfect life her parents dreamed for her. She never wants for anything, except the one secret thing she can never have. If that secret ever gets out, it will no doubt destroy her.

COULD THIS BE MORE INTRIGUING?!

Oh, yes. It can. The prologue kicks the story off with an unnamed girl plummeting from the 1,000th floor of the Tower. It takes her three full minutes to fall the two miles to her death… the first time anyone has fallen from the Tower in its 20+ year history. The story then goes back two months and chronicles the events that led up to her death. It’s mysterious, intriguing, and the uncertainty of who is or isn’t going to survive is always lingering in the back of readers’ minds.

One of the things I really loved was the futuristic technology McGee created. Do these teens have social media and texting/instant communication? Of course! Do they use phones, computers, and tablets to do it? Only if you’re the poorest of the poor. The rich kids have CONTACTS. That’s right. A legit gadget to monitor social media feeds and call/email your friends that you operate by TWITCHING YOUR EYE.

Dude, seriously. I can’t even pull myself away from my phone. If I had texting and social media in my eyeballs, there’d be no end to my madness.

This is very much a Gossip Girl-esque novel, as it is primarily about the exploits of uber-rich teenagers. So if you’re a fan of those types of antics, this novel is definitely for you. McGee’s writing is great, and the story is well paced and steadily keeps moving.

I was a huge fan of this one and I was very excited to see that a sequel is in the works. It doesn’t have a true cliffhanger ending (i.e. you’re not left thinking, “OMG WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?!”) It’s a solid ending and the mysterious death we see in the prologue is fully explained, but the story absolutely will continue. I thoroughly enjoyed The Thousandth Floor and am eagerly awaiting the next one.

OFFICIAL RATING: 8.5/10

*One thing I have to mention . I’ve read a handful of other reviews on The Thousandth Floor and many of them describe this novel as dystopian. I feel this novel is NOT a dystopia. A dystopian story features a government or other ruling body that asserts a seemingly perfect society by oppressing its people (think the Capitol and Panem in The Hunger Games).

This book doesn’t feature a corrupt ruling body or government. There is no oppression or illusion of a perfect society. There is no rebellion when one of the main characters discovers how shady everything is. IMHO, The Thousandth Floor could best be described somewhat as light science fiction about teens living in a futuristic setting in which class systems are still the norm.

And with that, I’ll get off my soap box. And, with my luck, I’ll probably trip over my own feet on my way down.

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Second Look: ILLUMINAE by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

*cracks knuckles* *stretches neck* *hunches over keyboard*

Katie here, and hot damn do I miss this blog.

I’ve been somewhat blog-lazy, and I’ve also doing a crazy amount of blog and social media posts for work, so my mind has been a little preoccupied with library summer reading promos.

But before I regale you with the mind-blowing amazingness that was ILLUMINAE, let’s all slow-clap it out for Ash for bringing her book review A-game to pick up my slack.

And I also want to formally welcome Jessie to the AtLP team!!! Woohooo!!

Alright then. Let’s get down to business!

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This magical book just might be my favorite of 2016 (at least so far… it’s only July, after all).

What it’s about:

When their home planet of Kerenza is attacked, Kady and Ezra (who broke up the morning of the invasion) are evacuated to two separate ships and headed to the far reaches of the universe to escape an enemy ship right on their tail. However, a plague on board one of the ships and a malfunctioning artificial intelligence may kill them before the enemy does.

Told entirely through interviews, IM conversations, incident reports, dossiers, email communications, surveillance reports, and the ship’s AI, Kady’s hacker skills begin to reveal a cover-up among the universe’s rival mega-corporations, with the Kerenza fleet caught right in the middle.

What I thought:

Simply put, this is an amazing book from start to finish. I admit, the format takes a little while to adjust to. But once you get a sense of the characters and which transmissions are coming from which characters, Illuminae becomes a page-turning thrill ride that keeps readers on the edge of their seats right up until the last page. The story moves along quickly and the different types of transmissions keep readers engaged.

The relationship between Ezra and Kady is a factor in the story, but this is not a “romance” in any way. Kady is a ball-busting hardass who thinks first and asks questions (and considers the consequences of her actions) later. Ezra is the kid you’d love to bring home to mom.

What I enjoyed the most was the way the authors took chances with their characters. I LOVE when authors are willing to put everything out there to really pull in the reader, and Kaufman and Kristoff deliver in a big way. The authors put these characters through the freaking ringer, and this story does not necessarily deliver a happy ending. Like, a lot of people die. A LOT.

I do have one super small criticism, but it’s a bit of a spoiler. If you don’t mind spoilers (like Ashley), highlight the next section. If you avoid spoilers at all costs (like me), jump down past the END SPOILER.

**SPOILER**

A major revelation in this story is the death of a main character. I was heartbroken, but appreciated that the authors needed to do that to strengthen the other characters. However, in the last 10 pages we learn that this character never actually died. I weirdly felt disappointed because I felt it was a cop-out by the authors. I loved that they took that chance, but hated that they took it back.

Even though I was let down by their tap-tap-take-back, I certainly understand that these characters obviously they need to survive if they are going to be featured in future installments.

WHY MUST JAY AND AMIE TOY WITH MY EMOTIONS THIS WAY?!

**END SPOILER**

As for the ending, it wrapped up to a satisfying conclusion while also setting up the rest of the trilogy in a way that makes me want to get right in there and help the Kerenza fleet kick some ass and take some names.

Who should read this:

Any sci-fi fan will get sucked in to this bad boy. There’s action-packed fight scenes, some espionage, a lot of illegal hacking… it’s basically an adventure-filled space opera.

Struggling readers might have a hard time with the format, however some readers who are used to reading “hybrid” novels might actually find it less daunting than a regular chapter book, despite its length. It looks a bit intimidating (weighing in at a whopping 599 pages), but the format actually makes it somewhat of a quick read.

As far as content, there’s lots of swearing but the actual words are blacked out (technically, they’re “redacted”) from the transmissions. There’s war-time violence (explosions, shootings, and whatnot), and a paranoia-inducing plague aboard one of the ships makes those infected embark on violent killing sprees. No on-screen sex, but there is flirting and innuendo in a few of the IM conversations.

My Rating: 10/10

I wasn’t kidding… literally the best book I’ve read so far this year.

If you’re as excited about this book as I am, then I’m sure you’ll also be just as excited for the sequel coming out in October!!!

Also recommended:

If you like Illuminae, consider the Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis. It’s a great series, especially if you enjoy suspenseful murder mysteries set in space.

   

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Second Look: SHADES OF EARTH by Beth Revis

In Across the Universe, Amy was violently awakened after being cryogenically frozen aboard Godspeed, a spaceship traveling millions of light years from Earth to a newly discovered inhabitable planet. In A Million Suns, Amy and Elder join forces to find out who has been sabotaging their mission to Centauri-Earth and discover an unimaginable secret just outside the spaceship’s door. So what did I think of Shades of Earth, the finale to the Across the Universe trilogy? MIND BLOWING.

Shades of EarthStory: Amy and Elder are finally free of the spaceship Godspeed and have made their way to their new home on Centauri-Earth. As they start to make this new Earth their new home, they encounter some new things they weren’t expecting, including plant life that temporarily paralyzes you and pterodactyl-like creatures that attack on sight.  Weirdest of all are structures that seem to have been built for humans… by humans. Which is odd since the passengers of Godspeed are supposed to be the first humans inhabiting the planet.

The Low Down: I cannot say enough good things about Shades of Earth, and, in my humble opinion, this was the best installment in the trilogy. The world Revis created on Centauri-Earth is familiar enough to make us feel at home right along with the passengers of Godspeed, but had enough twists to make us feel just as uneasy as the characters. This genre-blending story is remarkably well-paced, and balances suspense, intrigue, and adventure with a fantastic sci-fi mystery.

After impatiently waiting to see her parents, Amy is finally reunited with her mom and dad. But now that her dad is the commanding officer of the mission, she finds herself at odds since all the “frozens” from Earth have been defrosted from their cryogenic chambers. There is an underlying conflict between the Shipborns (passengers born aboard Godspeed) and the Earthborns (frozen passengers who were brought to Centauri-Earth) that ultimately helps shape both Amy and Elder’s characters. And speaking of Elder, his and Amy’s relationship develops quite nicely in Shades of Earth, as well. Though the two trust and rely heavily on each other, they still maintain their independence, which is refreshing in a world filled with book characters who are unable to function without their betrothed by their sides.

Extra Goodies:

  • A kick-ass heroine: Amy had a knack for being strong willed and a bit headstrong throughout the series. But let me say that homegirl BROUGHT. IT. when it counted, and her behavior in the book’s conclusion might be enough to put her in my Top 5 Kick Ass Characters of All Time (yes, I really do keep the aforementioned list). She completely blew me away. 

The Bottom Line: Shades of Earth will definitely go down as one of my absolute favorites for 2013. Though the technical and scientific language may give some readers a hard time, it’s a fun ride even if you don’t understand all the tech talk. The intense twists and turns left me furiously turning pages to find out what would happen next, which led me to a brilliant and unexpected conclusion. In a nutshell, this book is amazing… go read it now.

OFFICIAL RATING: 9.5/10

Second Look: A Million Suns by Beth Revis

*SPOILER ALERT* *SPOILER ALERT*
Whether we like it or not, reviewing a sequel will most certainly give away the end of the book(s) that came before it. I apologize if I give away too much from Across the Universe. If you haven’t read AtU and don’t want to know what happens, I would recommend favoriting this post for later and coming back after you’ve finished the first book. Just sayin’.

That being said… on to the review!

The Story: In this sequel to Beth Revis’s Across the Universe, the ship Godspeed is chugging along to a livable, Earth-like planet called Centauri Earth. Some time has passed since the end of the last book and with Eldest dead, Elder has stepped up to become Eldest (though he refused to take the title of Eldest). His first orders of business are to remove the Phydus from the water system and try to find out what is wrong with the ship’s engines. Unfortunately, people are not coping well being off the drugs that kept them mindlessly happy. No one is working, food is running short, and people are banding together complaining about Elder’s leadership (or lack therof). Meanwhile, Amy is given a series of video clues left for her by Orion before he was frozen that has her hunting all over the ship, which will lead her to uncover an enormous secret and make an unbelievable discovery.

The Low Down: A Million Suns is a kick-ass continuation of Amy and Elder’s story. It is every bit as suspenseful and intriguing as AtU, and leaves you with enough of a cliff hanger to be eager to read the last book in the trilogy, but the ending isn’t so abrupt that the reader doesn’t feel satisfied. We see Amy and Elder’s relationship have it’s ups and downs, but the fact is the two go together like peanut butter and marshmallow fluff (yes, if you don’t know, they do go exceptionally well together. If you don’t believe me, go try it. Right now.)

Readability: Slow and Steady
A Million Suns is an intense story with lots of details. It’s well paced and not necessarily difficult, but the length and some of the scientific language may make this a slower read for some readers.

The Bottom Line: Revis hits another one out of the solar system (literally) with the sequel to Across the Universe. A Million Suns is a fantastic survivalist mystery and will appeal to most sci-fi readers.

OFFICIAL RATING: 8.5/10