Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

All I’ve ever heard about this book is how cool the format is, with all the mixed media and unusual-ness. Theory: Due to the format, no one sees how DULL the plot is. Seriously, this was a slog of a read. It used every science fiction cliche in the book. I was just waiting for the ‘We’re running out of oxygen!’ trope, but no dice. (There are still two books to go, so can someone else tell me if this happens? I’m sure as heck not continuing on with the series.)

Kady and Ezra were so 2-D. I’ve seen both of their characters before, in similar scenarios but executed so much better (see ‘Soldier Girls’ by Michael Grant). Oh, and Kady has pink hair, by the way. Just in case you didn’t get that she was a badass and could star in her own anime. *rolls eyes*

The romance was a limp slice of cheese. I couldn’t buy into it at all, as most of the romance happened before the novel began and what did they really connect to each other over? Just saying ‘I love you’ over and over again isn’t enough to convince me. And then we get the most contrived ‘sike, we got you’ ending that destroyed any speck of emotional resonance all for the sake of a sequel.

Let me run through some MORE of the worst moments:
1. Over 500 years into the future and people still use ‘:P’ instead of emojis? C’mon.
2. why why why would anything EVER be justified to the centre?? It’s hard to read and should be preserved for middle grade poetry ONLY.
3. The boys use the phrase ‘chum’ to refer to each other in the beginning and then this is quickly dropped and everyone acts like they didn’t just try and make chum a thing. It’s not a thing.
4. People are still amazed by keyboard art. Well, just wait until they realise if you type in 01134 into a calculator and turn it upside down it spells ‘hello’
5. The AI has a poetic voice? I think this just made the centre justification even worse and I know this is supposed to be quirky and different – wow, a none robotic AI – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t odd.
6. Kady’s humour was one note.
7. Ezra’s humour was one note.
8. I know they’d been in a relationship before but why is no one screaming ‘insta-love’?
9. Is it just me that finds white writing on a black background kind of difficult to read?
10. Unipedia pages? REALLY? This is the most obvious info dump I’ve ever seen! And it’s not even disguised!

This has just solidified that sci-fi is not for me. At least not like this.

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Review: Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I wish I’d paid more attention to the Goodreads page before diving head first into the story, because that would have a) cleared up the genre and b) told me that this was the first in a series. Nemesis starts off as an unassuming contemporary with a mystery twist where Min finds herself being murdered every other year and waking up in the forest the next day like nothing happened. There’s also a thread about a potential apocalypse with asteroids threatening to wipe out the planet. Then things get a little crazy when Min starts to get the feeling that this is all a government conspiracy. (Hm, I wonder how she worked that out? Was it the psychiatric evaluations every other year or…?) Suddenly, Nemesis turns fill-on Lord of the Flies and logic is thrown out the window.

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Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

This book completely took my by surprise, and it is easily one of the best contemporaries I’ve read all year. Actually, let’s be honest: one of the best contemporaries I’ve read ever. I haven’t been touched this much by friendship, family and faith since the Clearwater Crossing series, which is an old one from the 90s but one of my all time favourites due to it’s absolutely beautiful complex characters and range of emotion. Emery Lord managed to pack the punch of a 20 book series into 380 glorious pages. The Names They Gave Us has a beating heart at its core and I was fully blown away.

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Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

After really enjoying Seven Ways We Lie, we were excited to see what the super talented Riley Redgate had up her sleeve next! Noteworthy is the perfect mix of fun and series and it should 110% be on your radar.

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Jordan Sun is trying to get parts in her school’s musical theatre productions, but her range isn’t what anyone is looking for. Then Jordan sees an ‘member’s needed’ sign for The Sharpshooters, an all-male a cappella band, and knows that this is her change. So, she cuts her hair, adjusts her regular speaking voice and slips into the audition with no one suspecting a thing!

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Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Queens of Geek is the story of three Australian teens: Charlie, Taylor and Jamie, who travel across the world to attend SupaCon. Charlie is a Youtuber with 3 million subscribers, and she’s recently starred in a movie that everyone is obsessed with even though it’s only recently been released (so I’m a little confused by the timeline of this). Taylor has Aspergers but is conquering her anxiety so she can meet the author of her favourite book series. And Jamie’s basically just along for the ride so that Taylor can have some sort of love story.

I don’t want to say I have a problem with YA contempora

ries because that’s a sweeping statement and certainly not true, but quite a few ‘hyped’ books have severely disappointed me recently. And you know what aspect of the stories is letting me down? THE WRITING.

I honestly don’t want to get super negative, because it’s clear that Queens of Geek was Jen Wilde’s passion project but for me, the diversity was heavy-handed, the pacing was off, and the dialogue was really cringey and unrealistic. It felt like this book was trying to do too much.

The characters would lecture each other about intersectional feminism, handling anxiety, consensual sex, autism, leaving home, whether or not to go to university, being bisexual, slut shaming and body shaming (yep, all of these issues were talked about) even though everyone was on the same page with it anyway? They didn’t feel like real conversations the characters would be having, but rather conversations the author wanted the reader to contemplate. But the actually effect was that because it was trying to do ALL of them, none of them were done well. It was a classic case of spreading out too thin, resulting in everything being bad. If just two or three of these things had been the main focus then that would’ve been plenty, especially for a book under 300 pages.

But my main issue was suspension of disbelief:
1. I was ejected from the story the minute Charlie, who has 3 millionsubs, was acting as if no one knew her name. I’m sorry, but this is the kind of number where you’d be pulled over on the street to take pictures with your subscribers.

2. One part of the plot relies on Charlie not uploading a video, and instead asking her manager to upload it for her. The manager then uploads a different video which has some…consequences. HOW CAN YOU ULPOAD THE WRONG VIDEO? Charlie would have had to export only one video, turning it into a file that would probably save on her desktop?? But instead the manager goes into her editing software, exports clearly unedited footage (which would probably be like 40 minutes long and would take a long time on hotel wifi anyway so the consequences wouldn’t be as immediate as they are in the book), and then upload it to Youtube. She’d be waiting half a day if she had to export, upload and process herself! NO. The logical thing would’ve been for Charlie to upload and use the scheduling option for her own video. Does Charlie know how to Youtube???

I know, this is really nit-picking, but you can’t just jump hoops to make your logic work. This was stupid and contrived. I really dislike when things this are skipped over, because it just wouldn’t happen.

3. Taylor’s tumblr posts were never tagged with #personal, which is just completely unrealistic. Again, it’s a small thing, but show a lack of research. I’ve never seen someone use tumblr as an actual blog before all ‘Hi guys, so this is what I’m currently doing…’ Wouldn’t twitter have worked better for this kind of update?

So, that was a sort of rant, I guess. The only thing I’d ever heard anyone say about this was how ‘cute’ it was and that’s totally fine. But I’m not the kind of reader that just reads ‘for fun.’ Studying creative writing at uni and reading a ton of YA has resulted in my being highly critical (and probably a bit salty). We all get something different out of reading, and this book might have helped you with your own identity, but for me, it was very laboured and tried too hard to tick all the boxes, which didn’t make a successful story.

If you’re looking for a glowing review, I’d recommend Natalie’s. She goes into more detail about what good rep this book has, and picks up some issues it talks about that I didn’t mention. (Even though, do we really need more??)
And if you want to see a more balanced review, then check out Cait’sbecause she makes some really good points about how unnatural the speech is, but again comments on how good the diversity is.

Review: Legion by Julie Kagawa

Series: Talon (#1) | Rogue (#2) | Soldier (#3)
Note: We received the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

This is the fourth book in the Talon series, and it picks up immediately after the events of Soldier. I was pumped to pick this instalment up because, honestly, I just wanted to see what else Talon had up their sleeves. We have been building up to something big, I know that this book was going to be an explosion.

I feel like it’s also funny to mention that I’ve been thinking this whole time about dragons transforming into humans and how awkward that must be, and how does it work an all that, THEN I realised that that’s literally the premise to the old Disney channel show ‘American Dragon.’ I completely forgot that they turned into dragons in that too, so as soon as I started imagining Legion as a YA version of ‘American Dragon’ I was golden.

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Review: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

28226839Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Romance
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 300
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★

I really love Victoria Scott’s ‘Fire & Flood’ series, so when I saw her most recent release pop up on Netgalley, I absolutely had to request it! There were also a ton of 5 and 4 star reviews on Goodreads, so I thought there was a high probability that I would love it, however, I’m definitely in the minority when I say I really didn’t enjoy this book. There are multiple reasons, but I think the most important one is this book lost focus.The new season RuPaul’s Drag Race has started and that always means getting out your editing eye and seeing how the Queens could cut back, and I think this really transferred to my reading of Violet Grenade. 

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Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Grey

33154647Defy The Stars by Claudia Grey
Genre: Sci-fi
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 420
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★★

I feel the same way about Defy the Stars as I do the Star Wars franchiseI thought it was a fun romp through space but I wasn’t invested much more than that. I will say that Defy the Stars is probably the best sci-fi YA I’ve read, and it’s not normally my genre, so to even say I enjoyed it means a lot.

I’m also not a fan of ‘love is the ultimate rebellion’ as the tag line, because I don’t think this story is primarily a romance, and thank goodness! That being said, let’s get onto the review.

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Review: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

34373364Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Published: Macmillan
Pages: 320
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★.5

When you write about someone winning the lottery, there are certain places that your mind goes. The winner spends frivolously on a yacht and a robot butler, runs into trouble with credit card companies, and after losing a significant chunk of cash, realises that they should channel their inner Ellen and pay it forward to the deserving public.

That’s pretty much what happens to Teddy. ‘Windfall’ does nothing new with the plot of rags to riches. More dramatic things could have happened in regards to his big spends, but in the end, it works out fine for him. He’s got tons of cash. The end.

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Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

33393824Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: Titan
Pages: 508
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★
Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

So, I buddy read this with my girl Lea, and I would highly recommend reading her review because she picks apart issues with consent, and being German she has A+ critique on the use of language. I will also mention now that had I not been reading his with her then I would’ve DNF around page 70. Her sass was literally the only thing keeping me going. (Example: one of the best things Lea said in our discussion was that this is more ‘Fifty Shades of Goblin’ than a Labyrinth retelling. (Go an commend her on that pun because I died.))

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