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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Top 5 Wednesday – May 3rd, 2017

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey at Gingerreadslainey and is now hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Every week, book reviewers all over the world are given a bookish topic and respond with their top 5 books (or elements of books) that relate to that topic. Click here for the Goodreads group if you would like to learn more about Top 5 Wednesday and join in!

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is your top five favorite science fiction and fantasy cover art. This topic is pretty similar to my Top 10 Tuesday topic yesterday, but for this list, I did not reuse any of the covers from the other. So this will be a rather short and sweet post today. Here are some of my favorite SFF covers! 🙂

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

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Spellslinger by Sebastian de Castell

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Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastian de Castell

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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

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Which SFF books have some of your favorite cover designs? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: A Chosen War by Carly Eldridge

achosenwarA Chosen War by Carly Eldridge

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: A Chosen War #1

Date Published: April 25th, 2017

Publisher: REUTS Publications

Pages: 500 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website

Synopsis: Nineteen-year-old Maia has spent her life haunted by dreams of a man with uniquely brilliant blue eyes. She never expected she’d actually come face-to-face with him, or that he’d be the harbinger of a chaotic new life. But as shocking as meeting Blake is, it’s less unsettling than her sudden ability to adversely affect electronics and seemingly control—even heal—plants.  

Before she can figure out what’s happening, Blake’s cryptic warning about the impending approach of something big manifests as a freak earthquake, destroying Maia’s home and killing her parents. Devastated, Maia has no choice but to turn to Blake, where she learns that the earthquake was not as natural as it seemed. The reigning Terra guardian, or Mother Earth, has gone rogue, wiping out her replacements in a series of orchestrated natural disasters around the world—and Maia is next.

Worse, she’s the only one who can stop the Terra guardian from destroying not just Earth, but the fabric of the universe itself. Now, thrust into a world of celestial beings charged with the protection of the universe, Maia must come to terms with her new powers, and the idea that her destiny was shaped long ago. And she must do it all before she faces off with the woman who controls nature itself.

Intelligent and thought-provoking, A Chosen War takes the idea that everything is connected and wraps it in globe-spanning adventure with just a tinge of romance.

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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.

Sadly, I have to admit that I did not end up enjoying this novel as much as I thought I would. I tried so hard to get into this story—to connect with the characters—but I had absolutely no luck. This was quite a struggle to get through, and there were many times where I wished to put it down. There was very little that motivated me to keep coming back to this story—to this world—and continue on, because it felt like a battle I was losing. The more I pushed through it, the more confusing it became, and the less rewarding it was to my attempts to carry on.

The pacing is incredibly slow, not helped by the extremely confusing plotline and under-explained elements, which are the key to the understanding that the reader desperately needs. In a story like this that is so character driven and centered around such fantastical beings and powers, the pace becomes bogged down when the reader cannot mentally connect with any aspect of the narrative.

There were so many instances of info-dumping in this novel, and yet I felt that they did not make anything clearer, at least not anything of importance to what was transpiring in the plot. This slowed down what could have been a fast paced story immensely. I had to go back and review parts over and over again because I felt that I was missing the main point the author was attempting to convey.  But in my frustration, I eventually reached a point where I just had to push on through these moments and give up any hope of trying to truly understand what was happening.

This is a third person narrative that follows a young woman named Maia as she attempts to navigate a whole new way of life, as well as come to terms with who she is. After a morning of inexplicable events—some of which include the sudden healing of dying plants and explosions of electronic devices—the day turns worse as Maia loses her family to an earthquake that seemingly comes out of nowhere.

Maia is thrust into a world that has been existing silently among humans for years, intervening in many aspects of the life—even the planet—she thought she new. There is a whole other life that has been waiting for her, lingering in the depths of her thoughts as she grew up. In a world of celestial beings that guard Earth with their unique powers, Maia has to come to terms with her own power, while simultaneous taking on the role of being the strongest and only one of her newfound group of friends that can stop the destruction of the universe caused by the reigning Terra guardian.

I wanted so badly to love this novel. I thought the synopsis sounded very intriguing—I am totally a sucker for any story that involves a unique magic or power system. However, this may have just been me, but I found it impossible to understand what was going on from one page to the next. As I said, even the information dumps that regularly occurred throughout the story served only to make things more confusing for me.

This novel was also sort of hovering slightly toward the heavy side of the romance spectrum. Though I am not the biggest romance fan in the world, I do enjoy a little bit of it on the side in a story. I am usually very tolerant of it, and I absolutely do not mind reading a bit of it. I have no problem when it begins to become particularly intense, or even very graphic. However, this novel not only made the romances feel really uncomfortable to read about, it also took up a huge part of the beginning and middle of the story.

Romance took center stage instead of an explanation of just what on earth was happening and how we had gotten to this point. While still confused about the plot, I had to sit there and read page after page of people hanging onto and pawing all over each other. Aspects of it could have been sweet if only they had taken the chance to answer some questions first. Maia sometimes seemed equally as confused as I was, but somehow fell into her new role with ease. She seemed to know exactly what to do, even as she groused at everyone about not giving her any helpful answers. I definitely connected with her on the latter.

The characters were actually one of the best parts of this story, in my opinion. They were interesting and engaging, and they helped to drive the narrative forward a bit better. Eldridge’s characterization was very three-dimensional, and she really brought the characters to life. They all had a unique personality that was clearly defined right from the start. I did end up feeling moderately invested in some of them, and one of the only reasons I continued on with this story was my urge to see what their fates would be in the end.

Another one of the high points in this novel was Eldridge’s writing. She very clearly has a wonderful talent for stringing words together and painting detailed mental pictures for her readers. Her descriptions and the language she used were beautiful, and her words flowed well despite the slow pace of the novel. She has a very lyrical style of writing, which suited the atmosphere and setting of the story quite well.

The only complaint that I had about the writing style and the text itself was something that I have been mentioning all throughout this review. Info dumps. Very long, very confusing info dumps. Despite this, the writing was still very engaging, which only added to my conflicting feelings about the novel as a whole.

As always, I enjoyed the reading experience even though this turned out to be a book that was not really my cup of tea. Though these opinions are my own and clearly may not reflect the general feelings of other readers, I personally cannot recommend this novel. However, this is only based on my experience with the novel, so yours may be very different. I would definitely encourage anyone who thinks the synopsis sounds interesting to give it a try. For me, at this point, I do not think I will be picking up any of the upcoming books in this series.

2.0 TARDISes

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Top Ten Tuesday – April 18th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is the top ten things that will make you instantly want to read a book. It was a little tough thinking up ten things that turn me on to a book, which is odd considering I will read just about anything I can get my hands on. I guess that goes to show that I will give any book a try, but I somewhat rarely feel that need to instantly pick up a novel. However, there are a few cases where this is true.

Time Travel or Parallel Universes – Anyone who knows me knows that I am absolutely addicted to books about time travel and/or parallel universes. Honestly, this is one of the only cases where there is practically no hesitation on my part. I will literally read anything I find that involves either time travel, parallel worlds, or (preferably) both!

DeLorean_Arrival

Books About Books – I think many book lovers out there can relate to this one! I love reading books in which reading and literature plays a huge part. This can come in the form of the characters being book nerds like myself, the setting being somewhere like a bookstore or library, or a storyline that is shaped around either a real or fictional book within the book.

Recommendations – I’m not one who typically gives into major hype about books—I have been disappointed many times when I get sucked into that. However, if a friend that I trust and share a similar reading taste with highly recommends something, I will pick it up straight away. People like my best friend Lizzie, and my awesome blogger besties Heather and Anna, are to blame for much of my ever increasing TBR pile!

Retellings – I am a complete sucker for retellings. Whether it’s a retelling of a classic novel, folklore, or fairytale, that’s pretty much all I need to know before I pick it up. This can occasionally amount to me reading a really crappy version of a story I love. But many times I have discovered some absolutely wonderfully crafted retellings with their own unique twist.

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Interesting Magic System – I love love love fantasy novels! This is the primary genre that I read, but I do get a bit picky with them, at least in recent years. There are a lot of novels that deal with the same subjects over and over again, and those don’t make for the best reading experience. However, any fantasy novel with a unique-sounding magic system will instantly pique my interest.

Modern Fairytale – As I mentioned, I love fairytales and folklore, and I love present-day novels that give off that fairytale or folklore feeling. I find those types of stories to be absolutely beautiful and captivating. I really hope I can write a story like that one day.

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Highly Praised Classic – I am a huge fan of classic literature—I was always that weird kid in English class that loved almost every book they made us read! So if a classic is highly praised, either by people I know or just in general, I will most likely pick it up. I won’t say I always like them, but I’ll at least give them a try!

Little to No Romance – I’ve talked about this many times before, that, despite being a hopeless romantic, I actually really do not like reading about romance in novels. Sometimes a little bit is nice, bit I find that there are so many instances where it completely overshadows the actual plot. So if a novel boasts little to no romance, that’s definitely a plus for me.

Noir or Gothic – I love noir and gothic everything! Books, movies—you name it, I love it! So of course, these are major turn-ons for me when it comes to finding books. If it has a noir or gothic setting, I’m getting my read on! 😛

Sounds Like Sherlock Holmes – And finally, the most embarrassing book turn-on I have to admit. I typically don’t go for books that are compared to other books I love because ninety percent of the time, I end up feeling disappointed in a book that may have been great if I weren’t holding it to the highest possible standard. However, the one thing that gets me every time is when a novel (or a character in a novel) is compared to Sherlock Holmes…or Doctor Who (hence my love of the Jackaby series!).

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Honorable Mentions

Gillian Flynn, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Ness, Victoria Schwab – …Enough said… 🙂

What are some things that make you instantly want to read a book? Let me know in the comments, and stay tuned for next Tuesday when I talk about my book turn-offs!

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Top 5 Wednesday – April 5th, 2017

topfivewednesday

Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey at Gingerreadslainey and is now hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Every week, book reviewers all over the world are given a bookish topic and respond with their top 5 books (or elements of books) that relate to that topic. Click here for the Goodreads group if you would like to learn more about Top 5 Wednesday and join in!

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is the top five science fiction and/or fantasy books you want to read ASAP! As always, this sort of topic is fantastic for me and my embarrassingly large TBR pile. Science fiction and fantasy are my absolute favorite genres, and there are so many books that I am completely ashamed about still having on my “to read” list. So, join me on my mini book guilt trip as I pick out the top five SFF books I am the most eager to read! 🙂

5. The Martian by Andy Weir

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I got this for my dad fairly soon after it came out—back before it got super popular, and before the movie (…yes, I am just hipster like that…). Originally, it wasn’t something I was really looking at to read myself, but after all the amazing things I’ve heard about it, I definitely want to give it a go!

4. The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

thealchemistsofloom

This is actually the least embarrassing book on my list since I only discovered it a couple of weeks ago. But I am so excited to read this book! I’ll admit, part of this excitement comes from the fact that one of the main characters is named Ari…but everything else about this book sounds so awesome as well! Anyone who knows me knows I love some good steampunk in my life!

3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

readyplayerone

It seems like everyone but me has read this book by now! And I can’t even count the number of times it’s been recommended to me. This is another one that I got for my dad, this time with the intention of doing a buddy read. However, he has read it and I have once again failed to pick up a book I am dying to read!

2. The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

thefinalempire

Yep…still on my list. Still sitting next to my bed, calling to me. I know I’m going to love this book. I want to read this so badly—there’s no good excuse as to why I haven’t yet. This is just another example of how freaked out I can get by big fantasy books sometimes. But mark my words—I will pick this up before 2017 is over!

1. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

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And finally, the most embarrassing TBR book in my pile. Yes, even after talking about wanting to read it for almost two years, I still have yet to start the series! Not only do I just want to get going on these books in general, but my parents got me the lovely and beautiful illustrated edition for Christmas (it is insanely gorgeous!). I’m really hoping this will be the year that I finally stop talking and start reading! 😛

What are some science fiction and fantasy novels that you are most eager to read? Do we have any in common? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

wolfbywolfWolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Wolf by Wolf #1

Date Published: October 20th, 2015

Publisher: Little, Brown Books

Pages: 388 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I had an absolutely fantastic time reading this in a buddy read with my good friend Anna from My Bookish Dream. Please make sure to take some time to head over and check out her amazing blog!

When I first discovered this novel, the premise immediately intrigued me, but I had no idea what an incredible ride I was in for. I have never read anything quite like this before. Historical fiction—with an emphasis on the fiction—it is, by far, one of the most unique and compelling plots I have ever come across.

Taking the history we know to be true, it asks, “what if?”. What if World War II had not turned out the way that it did? How would this have affected the lives of millions of people? Where would society—where would the entire world—be? Add in a dose of genetic modifications, super human abilities, and a twenty-thousand kilometer motorcycle race and you’ve got an unpredictable story that pushes the boundaries of the young adult genre and of the mind.

Alternate history with elements of science fiction. Now of course, this is not a completely new and unheard of style of writing. I’m sure there are many works using this very captivating combination of genres. This, however, is my first experience with it—and it absolutely blew me away.

To be honest, I have not read a young adult novel so refreshing in quite some time. It was new. It was exciting. And all without relying on many of the tropes that have become so abundant in the genre as of late. The premise itself is one of the most fascinating I have ever come across. Admittedly, it is not a perfect novel, but it truly grabbed a hold of me on so many levels, and I personally had a wonderful experience with it.

Set in a nightmarish scenario where Hitler still holds power and the outrageous cruelty of the Nazis during World War II has continued long after, the world is in an unpleasant state, to say the least. Many innocent people suffer greatly in an unfair world focused on creating “a superior race” through any means necessary. To celebrate their victory during the war—and demonstrate their very tenuous alliance—Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host a yearly, cross-continental motorcycle race followed by a lavish ball in Tokyo.

In this novel, we follow Yael, a former death camp prisoner and current resistance member with a painful and unusual past. As a result of genetic experimentation, Yael has been left with the remarkable powers of a skinshift—someone who can change their appearance at will. After intense training and preparation, and with these incredible abilities at her disposal, she transforms herself into the race’s previous winner, Adele Wolf, and enters in an attempt to reach Hitler and end his life.

The element of this novel that I am, by far, most impressed by is the writing itself. I completely loved Ryan Graudin’s lyrical prose, and it lent itself well to the overall atmosphere of the novel. Told through a mixture of flashbacks to Yael’s time in and escape from the death camp, and her present participation in the motorcycle race, we are given a slowly unraveling yet extremely fast-paced story. As we travel through the events of the race, bit by bit we learn more of her past—what brought her to this point and who had the biggest impact on her life, shaping her into who she is today.

This type of writing, when done well, can be quite suspenseful and generate an atmosphere of mystery that unfailingly keeps a reader turning pages. Ryan Graudin absolutely nails this technique in her novel. She also manages to form a very distinct tone for each side of the dual narrative. I found that the flashbacks felt intensely emotional, which matched perfectly with the grief and struggle of Yael’s early life.

On the other hand, the present day narrative feels much more suppressed and reserved emotion-wise. This not only fits with her harnessing of her powers for the good of the resistance, but also with her unrest over her true identity—something which she is clearly trying to quell. As the plot moves forward and more of her past is revealed to the reader, more of the emotion found in the flashbacks steadily begins to seep into the present.

Graudin’s characterization is another extremely memorable aspect of this novel. Yael is an exceptionally strong, beautiful, and complex heroine with an utterly mesmerizing story—one of the inner turmoil caused by a loss of identity. She can confidently take on the appearances and lives of others, and has fashioned a face that has become her own. But she has lost the physical image of the real Yael, and struggles deeply with the concept of her true identity. Filled with the perfect balance of courage, fierce determination, and natural human vulnerability, she is not only a wonderfully well-crafted character, but one who is easy to connect with.

We spend a lot of time one-on-one with Yael due to the nature of the plot, and Graudin did a fantastic job of making a character that fluidly drives the story forward. However, the other characters and her relationships with them are equally as vividly portrayed and well-developed. I truly enjoyed seeing the roles that Felix and Luka played in Yael’s life, and I am looking forward to finding out what their involvement in the next novel will be.

Though they only appear briefly in the flashbacks, the “wolves” are quite three-dimensional, and their importance in Yael’s life is quite literally etched into the present day plot. The slow unfolding of their individual roles in their part of this dual narrative worked brilliantly to create mystery and anticipation in both storylines, since it very much enriched many aspects of the present portion.

Challenging what readers know in terms of World War II-based historical fiction, Ryan Graudin creates an intriguing tale of alternate history and extraordinary power. She exhibits a very imaginative mind with the many inventive elements of the narrative, such as the aspect of skinshifting, which is something I absolutely loved. The juxtaposition of Yael’s flashbacks and her actions in the present allows two storylines to slowly weave together, producing emotional suspense as well as an ultimately well-rounded story containing many riveting twists and surprises.

With her beautiful, lyrical writing style, multidimensional characters, and unique plot ideas, Ryan Graudin proves herself to be a very talented writer. Fast-paced and gripping, with vividly developed characters and an enthralling narrative, I absolutely devoured every page. Despite knowing things could not possibly end as flawlessly as desired by the characters, I could never have imagined it ending the way that it did. I am incredibly eager to not only get my hands on a copy of the sequel, but also to read more of her work in general.

5.0 TARDISes

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Review: Doctor Who: The Stealers of Dreams by Steve Lyons

thestealersofdreamsDoctor Who: The Stealers of Dreams by Steve Lyons

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Doctor Who: New Series Adventures #6

Date Published: September 8th, 2005

Publisher: BBC Books

Pages: 254 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In the far future, the Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack find a world on which fiction has been outlawed. A world where it’s a crime to tell stories, a crime to lie, a crime to hope, and a crime to dream. But now somebody is challenging the status quo. A pirate TV station urges people to fight back, and the Doctor wants to help – until he sees how easily dreams can turn into nightmares. With one of his companions stalked by shadows and the other committed to an asylum, the Doctor is forced to admit that fiction can be dangerous after all. Though perhaps it is not as deadly as the truth…

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This is a spoiler-free review.

This is a particularly interesting review for me to do because my experience with this novel shifted back and forth between reading a physical edition and listening to an audiobook. I will say upfront that I am not a huge fan of audiobooks, feeling like they detract quite a bit from my personal reading experience. The quality of the audio, the style of the narrator, whether those aspects are good or not, audiobooks and I have never gotten along especially well. That being said, when I found this one, I decided, why not give it a go—and to be honest, I ended up relatively pleased with my choice.

In this novel, the Doctor, Rose, and Jack find themselves entering a world where fiction and fantasy has been made illegal. There are no writers or novels, and those who are caught engaging in the creation of stories—or something as simple as dreaming—are imprisoned in “The Big White House”, where they are meant to be “rehabilitated”. In this society, being found to be “fiction crazy” is as bad if not worse than the act of murder. However, an underground society of dreamers is rising up, taking to the airwaves on a pirated radio station and attempting to bring fiction back to the people. When the trio accidently get split up, they become deeply involved in the dangerous workings of this truth-obsessed city.

Out of all the Doctor Who novels I’ve read so far, this ended up being one of my favorites. The plot is not an incredibly new or unique topic in fiction, but it’s nevertheless always an interesting one. And of course, Lyons puts his own unique flair on this familiar concept. As a writer and reader, I find it both fascinating and terrifying to imagine what the world would be like if we were not allowed to create and fantasize. This theme is inherently captivating, and Lyons has formed it into a fast-paced novel. With plenty of suspense and mystery, as well as a twist ending I personally did not see coming, this is quite an enjoyable read.

I thought that Lyons did a rather solid job of portraying the ninth Doctor, Rose, and Jack. The three go their separate ways early on, so the majority of the narration switches between each person’s exploits every chapter or so. Jack was a particularly strong character in this story, and I really enjoyed his parts. Occasionally, the narrative felt a bit jumpy and jumbled because it switched around so frequently between each storyline, but this did not affect my experience too drastically.

The additional characters were also well crafted and fit nicely into the world they belonged to. We get to see people on either side of this society—those who enforce the eradication of fantasy and those who secretly defy the law. Their interactions with the main trio and their individual views added some great dimension to the plot. I liked that whether obsessed with truth or fiction, their interpretations of life were so limited and so dependent on clichés. It shows how desperately we need a proper balance of each in our lives.

The audiobook I listened to for part of my reading experience was the unabridged audio, narrated by Camille Coduri. This is not one of the slightly abridged ones, acted out by one of the cast members, though I would like to give one of those a try some day as they seem like they would be fun. When it came to this particular book, I actually did not mind the narration for once. I admit, I’m still not sold on audiobooks in general, but my experience with this novel was overall a positive one.

Coduri has a fairly pleasant voice to listen to, and her delivery—though quite unique and slightly unusual, in my opinion—was something I found to be very enjoyable. I feel as though her style might not be something that is everyone’s cup of tea, but it worked well enough for me. She gave each character a distinctive voice and did a respectable job of portraying the appropriate emotion in each scene. One of the major pitfalls of an audiobook can be adding too much or too little voice acting into the narration. Coduri’s performance was very three-dimensional, her acting complementing the story as a whole rather than distracting from it.

I’ve said before that I tend to hold novels from this series to a different standard than most. They are not inherently poor quality novels by any means—they feature a lot of strong writing and storytelling. However, they are much more along the lines of fun reads than great literature. That being said, this was one of the better ones, both in content and quality. The plot was intriguing and that, along with the portrayal of the characters, stayed very true to the beloved television show. It was a great addition to the series and I would highly recommend this novel to all Doctor Who fans out there.

4.0 TARDISes

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