Review: Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty

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33344380Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Heartseeker Series

Date Published: June 5th, 2018

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Pages: 336 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A vibrant fantasy-adventure debut about a girl who can see lies.

You’re a Fallow of the Orchard. You’re as tough as a green apple in summer . . . 

Only Fallow was just six harvests old when she realized that not everyone sees lies. For Only, seeing lies is as beautiful as looking through a kaleidoscope, but telling them is as painful as gnawing on cut glass. Only’s family warns her to keep her cunning hidden, but secrets are seldom content to stay secret. 

When word of Only’s ability makes its way to the King, she’s plucked from her home at the orchard and brought to the castle at Bellskeep. There she learns that the kingdom is plagued by traitors, and that her task is to help the King distinguish between friend and foe. But being able to see lies doesn’t necessarily mean that others aren’t able to disguise their dishonesty with cunnings of their own.

In the duplicitous, power-hungry court, the truth is Only’s greatest weapon . . . and her greatest weakness.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Heartseeker is one of those novels that makes me even more glad that I am given the opportunity to read and review books, especially those for younger audiences. Reading has always been such an important part of my life ever since I was a kid, and it is something that has led me to find my other biggest passion of writing. I get such joy out of encouraging people of any age to read, and discovering a middle grade gem like this that I can so highly recommend is always wonderful. This novel reminds me of the fantasy stories I adored when I was younger, that piqued my imagination and creativity and solidified my love of reading. It is a beautiful tale full of love, magic, and strength that will captivate readers of any age.

In this novel, we follow a young girl named Only Fallow, who has the ability to see lies. When people lie, she sees them ringed in a whole variety of colors, each connected to the type of lie and intentions of the person. However, this power comes with the curse of not being able to tell a lie without experiencing physical pain. As magic, or “cunning”, is not accepted among her people, she is forced to keep these things a secret—but sometimes secrets have a life of their own.

When Only’s powers are discovered by the King, he takes her from her home to live and work in his castle at Bellskeep. The King’s intentions are to have her assist him in determining deceit among those of his kingdom, as there are many traitors about. But this plan is not foolproof, as the potential cunning of others is not taken into account. Now, Only must navigate her new circumstances, where her greatest power can also be her greatest weakness.

This is such a unique and interesting story that I found myself immediately swept up into. The idea of seeing lies as colors—as well as the meanings given to each one—is not only an inventive way to portray this power, it is also truly and utterly magical. Readers are given the chance to fall into a vibrant world and an epic adventure that captures and carries the imagination into new realms. As a whole, this narrative is something that I believe will spark the creativity of all of its readers—I know it definitely did that for me.

Beatty has crafted every component of this novel beautifully. Her writing is incredibly easy to get caught up in, and fluidly carries the reader over the pages. The style in which she writes is very distinctive and fitting for the setting—this adds further dimension to the novel as a whole. The world is carefully constructed and vividly described. It unfolds and builds up around you as you fall into Only’s life. Beatty’s writing breathes life into her narrative and fully immerses the reader in every aspect of the story.

Only is an incredibly strong heroine. She is brave, intelligent, and extremely loyal—a very admirable female lead. Beatty does a great job of filling out her character, taking the time to really build her a three-dimensional personality. I had a quick and easy time connecting with her and coming to love her. The characterization as a whole is very solid, as Beatty fills this work with a cast of memorable characters. My particular favorites were Non, Jon, and Gareth. The relationships between everyone in this novel are very well-portrayed, and everyone plays a massive role in driving the narrative.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in this heartwarming and exciting adventure, and was very reluctant to leave. The escapades of these characters continue to replay in my mind, and will surely stay with me for a long time. It is a story that I can see being universally accessible among readers of all ages. Heartseeker is a charming and wholesome read that I would highly encourage younger readers to pick up, and that I would recommend to everyone in general.

5.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

16179801Melinda Beatty has had years of practice trying to explain to others why she was just having an imaginary conversation between two people that don’t exist, so becoming a writer seemed like the best way to stop everyone looking at her funny. After years of narrowboat living on the English canals, she and her British husband are now back on dry land in Maryland where by day, she’s a mild-mannered Indie bookseller, and by night, she wrangles words, craft projects, a Labrador and two fierce mini-women. Heartseeker is her debut novel.

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HEARTSEEKER BLOG TOUR

WEEK ONE

May 28 – @Book_Ventures – Book Asethetics

May 29 – RhythmicBooktrovert – Review

May 30 – GladiatorGlory – Review + Playlist + Moodboard

May 31 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Review 

June 1 – Bookopolis – Great Adventure Heroines in contemporary and classic books

Review: The Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

theboyfromtomorrowThe Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: May 8th, 2018

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Pages: 268 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Josie and Alec both live at 444 Sparrow Street. They sleep in the same room, but they’ve never laid eyes on each other. They are twelve years old but a hundred years apart.

The children meet through a handpainted spirit board—Josie in 1915, Alec in 2015—and form a friendship across the century that separates them. But a chain of events leave Josie and her little sister Cass trapped in the house and afraid for their safety, and Alec must find out what’s going to happen to them. Can he help them change their future when it’s already past? 

The Boy from Tomorrow is a tribute to classic English fantasy novels like Tom’s Midnight Garden and A Traveller in Time. Through their impossible friendship, Alec and Josie learn that life can offer only what they ask of it.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Ever since I finished reading this novel, I have been searching for the right words to describe it—words that encompass every topic, every emotion, in the best way possible. Words like “charming”, “adorable”, and “sweet” are fitting to certain aspects, but somehow still feel wrong. However, darker words do not have a place here either, just as the characters do not allow darkness to remain in their lives. This is a novel of an endearing and vital friendship that defies the most impossible of circumstances. Of a life-changing connection bridging a century’s distance. To really pinpoint those words that I need, let’s dive into the story itself.

In this novel, we follow the lives of two young children—Josie and Alec—and their blossoming friendship. They both live in the same room of the same house on Sparrow Street. The twist? Josie is living in 1915, while Alec is in 2015. The pair meet across this one-hundred-year gap through the use of a hand painted spirit board belonging to Josie’s mother—who works as a psychic—and left in the house for Alec to find.

The two, along with Josie’s sister Cassie and their tutor Emily, form a deep connection, one that they rely on to cope with the difficult circumstances they are all in. However, the safety of Josie and her little sister is torn apart as events on their side quickly escalate to dangerous and life-threatening. Learning of this, Alec realizes he must do everything he possibly can to help bring them to safety and protect these people he has come to love.

I thought the main characters were very well portrayed, and were very much the driving force of the narrative. Josie, Alec, Cassie, and Emily are beautiful and utterly lovable. It is impossible not to get swept up into their lives, to feel every emotion they feel, and root for them all the way. We are given much insight into their points-of view, an intimate look at their situations, and a detailed depiction of their personalities. The three-dimensional quality of these characters magnifies the realism, connects the reader on a personal level, and sets a solid base for a powerful story.

There is a bit lacking when it comes to many of the side characters, however. Though some of them play very important roles in the plot, they still remain fairly two-dimensional. We never get to see particularly far into their stories, which I think would have expanded and deepened the plot further—it would have made the message of the novel even more poignant.

While I had a few issues with Camille DeAngelis’ writing, overall, I do believe it fits the narrative and the book’s target age range pretty well. Her writing style is easy to fall into and her words flow nicely at a reasonable pace. DeAngelis is very descriptive, in terms of both physical and emotional details. The tone and atmosphere of every scene is very vivid, pulling the reader deeper into the lives and struggles of her lovable characters. It is easy to feel the wonder of the children, the joy and excitement of their friendship, the fear and pain in the darkest moments.

She also does a great job of switching between the two sides of the story, alternating between Josie’s and Alec’s stories every chapter. Her transitions over the space of a century are seamless. DeAngelis builds both children’s worlds skillfully, including plenty of historically accurate details that bring even more dimension into the setting. On top of that, she creates her own historical elements, centering around Josie and her family. I absolutely loved that she included this—it is such an interesting addition to the plot.

I only have a few issues with aspects of this novel. The biggest one is the style of writing within the chapters themselves. It felt as though every event, every day, completely ran together due to a lack of placing breaks between these parts. The fact that the narrative jumped around so much with absolutely no warning made things feel a bit jarring and choppy. This is something that could potentially make the story difficult for readers to follow.

The only other minor complaint I have is with the backgrounds of Josie and Alec. I feel like we are given very little insight into other parts of their lives. For instance, I would have liked to see some of the side characters, such as their parents, fleshed out a bit more. There is so much that is just hinted at, particularly on Alec’s side, and it left me feeling a bit unsatisfied. It is as if these aspects are multiple loose ends that were never tied up.

So, as we come back around to the beginning of this review, I feel as though I have a bit more clarity. Heartwarming. At its roots, this is a depiction of two lost souls finding one another. Bittersweet. This is a story of a beautiful friendship, but it is not by any means purely fluff. It deals with some heavy and incredibly important topics—DeAngelis does not shy away from showing the horrific and heart-wrenching aspects of neglect and abuse. Family. Family is not made up solely of those related to you by blood. Family is made up of those who make you feel whole, who love you deeply, who protect and always support you. And above all—this novel is unreservedly powerful.

4.0 TARDISes

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Reviews: The Heart is Improvisational by Various and Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

theheartisimprovisationalThe Heart is Improvisational by Various

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: September 1st, 2017

Publisher: Guernica Editions

Pages: 130 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Poets attribute an array of roles and capacities to the involuntary muscle. The heart becomes a repository of erotic and familial love, and a sanctuary for memory. The poets explore the flux of the heart’s responses and instigations: the heart’s tender overtures, its joyous pulse, its mating call for the other, its changeable temperament, its final tick in freeze-frame. Among the poets featured: Kenneth Sherman, Lorna Crozier, Marilyn Bowering, Roo Borson, Patrick Lane, Charles Bukowski, Eugénio de Andrade, John Barton, Robyn Sarah, and Mary di Michele.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a poetry collection featuring works from a wide variety of authors, all giving their unique perspectives on the most important part of human life—the heart. It was an extremely hit or miss collection for me, and I found it very hard to get into. In general, I tended to prefer the poems that focused on the less tangible, more emotional views of the heart, rather than the technical and clinical depictions. To me, the poems that spoke from essentially a medical perspective felt like reading a biology textbook—albeit a lyrical one—rather than a poetry collection.

All of the writers who contributed are extremely talented; all of the writing was strong and skilled. In my opinion, however, the flow of the writing—both individually and as a whole—was definitely broken up by the ones that focused more on fact than feeling. Of course, not all poetry needs to be abstract and romantic. The freedom to be whatever the writer wants it to be is one of the reasons why this is such a wonderful vehicle for creativity and expression. But for me, I think I just prefer poems that creatively expand on the emotional rather than the physical.

3.0 TARDISes

depressionandothermagictricksDepression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 22nd, 2017

Publisher: Button Poetry

Pages: 80 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Depression & Other Magic Tricks is the debut book by Sabrina Benaim, one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time, whose poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” has become a cultural phenomenon with over 5,000,000 views.

Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. It is a documentation of struggle and triumph, a celebration of daily life and of living. Benaim’s wit, empathy, and gift for language produce a work of endless wonder.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This collection was all right, but I found it to be just a bit disappointing. I had heard a little bit about Sabrina Benaim prior to picking this up, so I was quite eager to experience her work. However, though I did enjoy it to some extent, this collection wasn’t quite as good I was expecting it to be. The poems themselves were quality—Benaim has quite a talent for expressing herself in a vivid way, and speaks intelligently on many subjects that can be difficult to fully comprehend. However, while I did enjoy this collection, it did not click with me in the way I would have liked. Her writing style did not flow overly well for me so I never quite got fully into it.

I thought Benaim’s way of tapping into and clearly conveying her feelings was very good, and it was easy to connect to her and feel her emotions on a deep level. Despite my feelings on the collection overall, I could definitely see how raw and poignant her words were. These poems deal with many of Benaim’s personal experiences in her life so far, and sheds some light on her experience with depression—a great way to help open minds on the subject of mental illness. I wish I had enjoyed it a bit more, but overall, I think this is a beautiful collection that many readers will love and relate to.

3.0 TARDISes

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Review: What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

whatileavebehindWhat I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: May 15th, 2018

Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Pages: 208 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each.

Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father’s famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house.

When Will learns Playa was raped at a party—a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn’t left early—it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I desperately wanted to love this book, and thought that I would, but I ended up feeling pretty lukewarm about it overall. Don’t get me wrong, what is contained in these pages is absolutely beautiful—there are so many touching moments between the very endearing characters. Every page made me fall more and more in love with every single aspect of the narrative—but then it just stopped. I was simply left wanting so much more out of it, and an expansion of the captivating plot and characters.

In this novel, we follow a sixteen-year-old boy named Will, who is attempting to deal with and process his emotions that resulted from his father’s suicide. His days have become repetitive, going from working at the Dollar Only store, walking all over the streets of his neighborhood in Los Angeles, and desperately trying—to no avail—to replicate his father’s famous cornbread recipe.

However, there are certain ties to his father that he cannot seem to face, particularly the blessings store that contains the chest of one-hundred Chinese blessings, his old best friend Playa’s house, and the Fourth Street bridge. After learning the Playa was raped at a party he had attended but left early, he shakes himself out of the sadness that has been controlling his every move.

Wanting to spread some happiness and make a positive impact in the world, he starts to leave small presents for many of the important people in his life: The Little Butterfly Dude, a child he passes on his way home every day; Superman, the homeless man who lives on a street he travels on as he walks to work; and Playa. Through these anonymous acts of kindness and selflessness, he finds that he is able to cope with his own suffering, and continue on with his life in a way that would make his father incredibly proud.

The format that this story is written in is wonderfully unique and adds to the poignancy of the narrative itself. Told in small sections and few words—one-hundred pages, each containing one-hundred words—the style felt so meaningful. On top of this, the writing is lovely and flows incredibly well. McGhee shows a huge amount of talent for creating a well-written and vividly emotional narrative. It is clear that every part of it is meticulously crafted.

Honestly, my main complaint—really my only complaint—is that this story is far too short, and deserved so much more time. The length and format is inventive; however it is nowhere near enough to take this story to the levels it should have gone. Everything about this novel is deeply touching and just plain gorgeous. I adored every second I spent in this world and with these characters.

I not only craved more, I also unfortunately felt like there really should have been more. The brevity of the narrative adds to the depth, but it ended up being a bit too brief, finishing quite abruptly. Though I clearly enjoyed it, I was left feeling unsatisfied. I wanted so badly to spend more time with these characters—to get to know them better. I wish McGhee would have kept that short vignette format, but extended the length of the novel itself, and delved further into the relationships, intense emotions, and Will’s recovery process.

I cannot fully express how beautiful and optimistic this novel is—the world needs more of this positivity and urging to spread kindness. Though it needed more to it, it was such a sweet story, and I do highly recommend giving it a read.

3.0 TARDISes

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Review: I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

ihateeveryonebutyouI Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: September 5th, 2017

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 352 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Dear Best Friend,

I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.

Sincerely,

Ava Helmer

(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.

Stop crying.

G

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

I Hate Everyone But You, the debut novel by two emerging major talents in YA, Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn, is a story about new beginnings, love and heartbreak, and ultimately about the power of friendship.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I have put off writing my review of this novel for quite a while now for a few reasons. First of all, it has been a long time since I disliked a book as much as I disliked this one, therefore, I have a lot to say. So many aspects annoyed, frustrated, and completely enraged me due to how close to home they hit. However, I absolutely despise writing rant-filled reviews—I like to be as fair as possible—and immediately after I finished reading, I didn’t think I was capable of being calm.

Another aspect that is still causing me to be hesitant is my lack of real-life, firsthand knowledge of the situation that one of the girls was experiencing. Even though I was not able to fully connect to what she was dealing with, I still found that I had a lot of opinions on the way it was handled and presented from a bit of an “outsider’s” point-of-view. It’s about time that I gave this a try though, so I will do my best to explain my feelings as well as I can. Please remember, this is all just my personal opinion and interpretation of the novel.

In this novel, we follow two best friends—Ava and Gen—as they navigate their first year of college on opposite sides of the country. This is the first time they have had to deal with a separation this huge, and understandably, the new experiences ahead feel incredibly daunting without the other by their side. In lieu of seeing each other in person, they keep up a correspondence every day, discussing all the aspects of their new lives and trying to maintain their strong friendship.

Admittedly, this is not something that I would have normally been interested in reading. However, the format that the story is told in is originally what caught my eye, and my attention. The entire novel is told through texts and emails sent between Ava and Gen as they support each other while trying to bridge the distance between them. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved stories told through messages—I’m not sure why, but they have always been so much fun for me. Unfortunately, that was not the case this time around.

Let me begin by talking about Ava, as the themes used in her storyline are ones that I have the most personal experience with. These main themes are anxiety/social anxiety and OCD, and the obstacles mental illness can throw in your way—or at least that is what it is trying to portray. Instead, it ends up coming across as a very stereotypical and downright inaccurate caricature of serious mental illnesses, used many times for comedic purposes.

So, I may be overreacting to this as I do on occasion when it comes to the depiction of mental illness. And I completely understand that all mental illnesses manifest in unique ways for every single person dealing with them. But, as someone who has dealt with severe anxiety/social anxiety and OCD all their life, I am incredibly upset by the way it is shown here. Believe me, I am someone who truly values the medicinal effects of humor, and I do enjoy poking fun at the strangeness of my anxiety plenty of the time. However, here, every aspect is treated as a complete joke.

The absolute biggest problem I have with it is that a huge part of the time, her actions show the exact opposite of the severe social anxiety she claims to have—no, joining a sorority and throwing yourself at men is not a good example. As I said before, her anxiety only pops up when it can make a situation into a joke, and it is written in that clichéd “oh, I’m so ‘hashtag relatable’” kind of way. I apologize for the way I’m coming across here. I’m just absolutely fed up with the way people belittle the incredible amount of pain that this type of mental illness inflicts on those of us who have to deal with it on a daily basis.

Then we have our other main character, Gen. The main themes in her storyline are exploring one’s sexuality, experimenting and discovering what is right for you, and how one’s sexuality does not need to conform to a strict label. However, this is not the message that I feel her actions conveyed. It comes across more like she is very sure of herself and is just using people, manipulating their emotions, and putting herself at risk.

Granted, maybe this is my interpretation because of my own personal experiences, or lack of experience. I connect with her on what it’s like to learn about one’s sexuality and that desire to break away from society’s habit of labeling it. I am unable to connect with her actions though, as my journey, purely due to my personality, has been much less active. All in all, I am fairly irritated because I do not feel like her plotline positively or realistically portrays the queer community, particularly what it is like for those of us who find that we attracted to both genders.

Now, on to Ava and Gen’s friendship in general. Things started out well at the beginning of the novel—they are shown to have a rather sweet relationship and are incredibly close to each other. It’s very easy to relate to the sadness of having to be separated from your best friend whom you’ve always had by your side to face the challenges of life—I have been going through the exact same thing in the last few years. They are faithfully there to support each other through the changes that come with college living. However, somewhat quickly, things begin to take a turn for the worse, and by the halfway point of the novel, their friendship has proven itself to be horrendously toxic.

First of all, Ava is constantly acting relatively homophobic in many of her conversations with Gen when Gen shares things about her sexuality. And again, this is used as another tactic to create humor in the plot, which I think is atrocious. But the most major issue with their friendship is how they support and strongly encourage each other to make terrible, dangerous, and damaging decisions. It is so over-the-top, it’s extremely hard to believe that either of these girls actually cares about the other. Their relationship feels manipulative and destructive more than anything.

Suffice it to say, I think we can conclude that I Hate Everyone But You was clearly not for me. I of course applaud any authors committing themselves to helping diversify literature. Diversity is something we need so much more of, and sexuality, gender labels, and mental illness are all wonderful topics to choose. And I did love the format of the book—it made for a very fast read, and was the only really enjoyable part. The overall story itself just did not come across in the right way at all. Personally, I cannot, in good conscious, recommend giving this a read.

1.0 TARDIS

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Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

illuminaeIlluminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Illuminae Files #1

Date Published: October 20th, 2015

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Pages: 602 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

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.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

Illuminae is a masterpiece—an absolute work of art in so many ways. It is one of the most captivating and utterly addictive books I’ve read in a long time. I’m always wary when it comes to books that have extreme amounts of hype surrounding them, but now, I can’t believe it took me so long to pick it up. I feel like I have so much I want to talk about, so many thoughts, and yet I have absolutely no idea where to even begin. Suffice it to say, this book absolutely blew my mind and has easily become one of my all-time favorites. It was everything I love in a science fiction novel and so much more—it completely exceeded my expectations.

We are thrown into the action right from page one. At the start of the novel, a small, ice-covered planet called Kerenza is attacked by a corporation named Beitech. The planet is completely destroyed, resulting in the deaths of many of its citizens. However, three ships are able to evacuate those lucky enough to reach them in time. The refugees begin a long journey to safety, pursued by the only surviving Beitech ship, which is intent on wiping out all witnesses of the Kerenza attack.

But the danger is not limited to their attackers—there are darker forces at work among the survivors as well. Internal conflict, a mutating virus, and a massive amount of deceit are at play. Not to mention a rogue and potentially deadly AI system controlling one of the main ships. The principal characters, Kady and Ezra, are thrust into the middle of the conflict, and must reconcile in order to work together to separate truth from lies and ensure the safety of their people.

The novel is told entirely through documents such as transcripts, emails, instant messages, and official files, all compiled together into one dossier. I’ve always had a huge issue when it comes to concentrating on things like textbooks that are set up with a bunch of extra boxes of information scattered all over the pages, and I was worried that this would be structured in the same way. Thankfully, this is absolutely nothing like that—it is incredibly easy to follow and maintains a very smooth reading experience throughout.

The style and art of the files is wonderful, and this was definitely the most unique book I’ve ever read. Everything is meticulously put together and highly detailed, adding to the realism of the format. This pulled me so deeply in and completely absorbed me into the world, making every moment even more heart-pounding and tense—it suits the narrative perfectly and truly enhances the reading experience.

Character creation and portrayal is a bit unconventional compared to the most common presentation in many novels. Here, we follow a huge cast of characters, but since the entire story is told through documents, the reader doesn’t get a chance to connect with them on a first-hand or very personal level. I’ll admit I was pretty wary about this going in, thinking there would be too much of a disconnect to actually feel for and become attached to any of the characters. However, I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the way it ended up coming across.

For me personally, I had absolutely no trouble feeling the intense emotions prevalent throughout the narrative. This is a testament to the incredibly strong writing of Kaufman and Kristoff. No matter how well or for how long I knew a character, their struggle and their emotions touched me deeply.

Knowing every little detail about their lives and who they are isn’t important—the focus is on connecting with them and the situation on a basic and relatable level. The universal and instinctual human reaction to the profound suffering, pain, and fear of others is relied upon to create the powerful story that is found within these pages.

In terms of primary characters, Kady, Ezra, and AIDAN are the main focus of the narrative. Kady is an extremely strong, intelligent, and badass heroine. She demonstrates such bravery through all her actions and commitment to saving the lives of others. Overall, I felt as though I connected with her pretty well, especially toward the end, and I really loved her. And AIDAN—AIDAN is utterly brilliant. AIDAN definitely ended up being the most intriguing and three-dimensional character, in my opinion.

I had the most trouble connecting with Ezra, though he also does not have as much of a part in the novel as the others do. He honestly doesn’t do a whole lot, though I was actually really glad that there was more of a focus on Kady anyway. Some of Ezra’s humor was a bit off-putting to me at times, but he did grow on me the further I got into the story. He is a very kind and caring person, and obviously loves Kady very much. I wasn’t thrilled with the romance—it didn’t really stand out to me and the way it’s presented is a bit awkward. However, I got enough of a sense of their feelings for each other that I still rooted for the pair.

Returning to the writing itself, it is absolutely fantastic and enthralling. At no point in the novel do you get any sense that it has been written by more than one author—the entire story is one fluid piece. I loved the combined storytelling style of Kaufman and Kristoff—they are clearly both incredibly talented authors and they work wonderfully together as a pair. Every aspect of the plot is spectacularly vivid. I was able to visualize everything so well, and I distinctly felt all the emotions the events of the story evoked.

So basically, I’m sort of completely obsessed with this novel—I already want to go back and read it again. It was action-packed and riveting from start to finish, and I found that I could barely put it down. I have been thinking about it non-stop since I began reading, and I am still so excited by every aspect. I am currently trying my hardest to be responsible and avoid picking up Gemina until after I’ve caught up on some review books, but the temptation is intense. Just in case it’s not obvious enough already, I very highly recommend reading Illuminae.

5.0 TARDISes

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Review: Spin the Golden Light Bulb by Jackie Yeager

spinthegoldenlightbulbSpin the Golden Light Bulb by Jackie Yeager

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Crimson Five #1

Date Published: January 9th, 2018

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Pages: 280 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: It’s the year 2071 and eleven year-old Kia Krumpet is determined to build her 67 inventions, but she won’t have the opportunity to unless she earns a spot at PIPS, the Piedmont Inventor’s Prep School. Kia, who has trouble making friends at school, has dreamed of winning the Piedmont Challenge and attending PIPS ever since she learned that her Grandma Kitty won the very first Piedmont Challenge. After she and four of her classmates are selected to compete for a spot at PIPS, they travel by aero-bus to Camp Piedmont to solve a task against forty-nine other state teams to earn their place at the best inventor’s school in the country.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The first part of this review is completely spoiler-free. There are very minor and vague spoilers in the second part of this review.

Spin the Golden Light Bulb is a debut middle grade novel centering around the brilliant minds of a group of young inventors. It touches on topics such as teamwork, forgiveness, and loyalty, and how to include those values in the achievement of personal goals in the area of one’s passion. It encourages having a mind that is open to all possibilities and to the acceptance of other people. Images of strong relationships—both with friends and family—and learning to come together to achieve a goal in a fair and inclusive way emanate from every page. This is a delightfully wholesome novel for young readers that stresses some incredibly important and positive messages.

In this novel, we are transported to the year 2071, and follow an eleven-year-old girl named Kia Krumpet. Kia is desperate to earn a spot at Piedmont Inventor’s Prep School—or PIPS—so she can begin working on her sixty-seven inventions. But in order to secure her place at PIPS, she must first win a Golden Light Bulb in the Piedmont Challenge, a feat that has not yet been accomplished by any student at Crimson Elementary. If she doesn’t, she will have to choose one category of study to dedicate the next six years of her schooling to, none of which would allow her to achieve her dreams.

After Kia and four of her classmates end up winning the chance to compete for enrollment in PIPS, they travel to Camp Piedmont, where the next phase of the challenge is to begin. There, everyone competing is split into groups and are given a task that they need to solve through the creation of a unique invention. Kia’s group—The Crimson Five—must contend with teams from forty-nine other states and build something that will prove that they have the talent necessary to earn a place at the best inventor’s school in the entire country.

Forming strong, healthy relationships with others is a key part of this narrative. There are many internal obstacles that Kia and the others must overcome in order to accept each other for the way they are. In addition, we are shown the importance of being one’s self and staying true to one’s values. There were times where I felt that Kia was maybe being a bit too immature compared to how she presents herself most of the time. However, this ended up highlighting how much she changes and matures throughout the course of the narrative.

Yeager’s writing itself is very strong and easy to read. Her voice is absolutely perfect for the age of the readers this novel is meant for. She does a brilliant job of vividly creating a fun and distinctive world that stimulates the imagination. The technology is very unique and exciting to envision—almost magical. Yeager’s characters are multi-dimensional and clearly evolve through all the obstacles they must face. The way she portrays the team gradually learning to work together as well as forming trust and, ultimately, close friendships is fantastic.

One problem that I had with the plot of the novel was with the believability of the team’s first approach to creating their major invention. These kids are supposed to be some of the brightest minds in the country, capable of not only building, but imagining all types of gadgets and groundbreaking technology that will power the advancement of society.

Kia’s previous ideas for her own personal inventions are complex and innovative, and they show off her natural skill and remarkable intellect. However, what the team eventual decides on for their major invention is honestly pretty disappointing. It just felt as if they were not showing much if any of the amazing talent that they all clearly possess. It’s hard to believe that their big idea would manifest in the form that it does.

Now, please bear with me for this next part. I do realize how silly this is going to sound since this is a middle grade novel, so I apologize in advance.

I’m left feeling conflicted over my biggest issue with the plot—the ultimate invention they create for the contest. At first it feels like a really neat idea, giving us a unique way to look into the past and learn in detail about any person in history. Being able to essentially bring the past back to life and explore any individual’s role in society would be incredible. However, the invention itself quickly takes a turn for the worse, feeling quite creepy and disturbing rather than uniquely fascinating.

There is a fine line between innocently gaining knowledge and invading privacy, and this quickly descends into the latter category. It becomes particularly concerning when Kia and the rest of the team use their invention multiple times to access records of things like private phone conversations and incredibly personal information.

Everyone’s right to privacy is a very topical discussion, and this novel is an eerily realistic potential future. This story raises the question of what parts of our lives are acceptable to be made public in a database and what parts should be kept out. It delves into an extremely morally gray area under the guise of a fun and innovative creation by a group of highly intelligent young minds.

On top of all this, they don’t actually come up with any of the real mechanics of the invention—they end up taking a previous team’s creation and dressing it up a little bit. That left me feeling very disappointed, as it completely wipes out the most important messages Yeager is trying to convey through this story. The importance of thinking outside the box, being creative, and achieving a goal through teamwork cannot possibly be shown through what they end up doing. Even the initial project they come up with at least demonstrated those themes much better.

Are these things that a young reader in this book’s target age range would notice? Most likely not. These thoughts are just a mixture of my typical over-thinking and my admittedly very cynical adult view of the world. I am definitely not the right audience for this particular novel and I completely realize that.

Overall, this is a good book for children in the range of maybe eight to eleven. It promotes topics that are essential to learn from a young age, and this story is an imaginative and entertaining way to encourage people to open their minds to all possibilities and understand that they all have the ability to do great things. This is not a novel that will necessarily be enjoyable to people of any age, but I would recommend this to young readers due to the positivity of most of the messages at the center of this story.

3.5 TARDISes

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