Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

30258320Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James

Published by: Del Rey Books

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Dystopian

Pages: 368 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

*Click on cover for Goodreads

I’d like to thank Del Rey Books, Netgalley, and Vic James for providing a eGalley of Gilded Cage in exchange for an honest review.

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Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

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Gilded Cage is a dystopian Fantasy set in an alternate England where all (no matter the color of your skin or your financial status) are expected to complete 10 years of slave life at a time of their choosing. The people are governed by the Equals who have Skill, abilities they are born with that for the most part only the wielder knows it’s full potential. Skill isn’t something spoken about freely & most among the Equals consider it taboo to discuss at all. The Equals control the Skill-less by imposing  Slave Days which are typically carried out in slave towns monitored closely. Life in these slave towns proves to be very difficult due to 6 day work weeks, small food rations, and often beatings from the patrolling security guards. We are introduced to a family of five: Mom, Dad, Oldest Daughter Abi (medical student), Son Luke (middle child), and 10 year old Daisy. The parents have been convinced by their eldest daughter Abi to submit an application to carry out their slave days at the Kyneston estate belonging to one of the top most powerful family of Equals. She is absolutely certain that they each can offer up a service that would make them ideal to be accepted at the estate as opposed to the slave towns. What Abi never expected was for the application to be accepted for all except her brother Luke. The family is immediately picked up & separated from Luke who is taken to the slave towns. From this point on Abi & Luke’s paths are divided and their experiences vastly differ from one another. Told in third person narrative, each character gets a chapter and we the reader get a dose of life through Luke and Abi’s eyes as well as the Equals. Luke is recruited by a small group of characters that are determined to bring an end to slave days. through a series of “jobs” they slowly begin to tear at the seams of injustice. One thing is for certain…the revolution has just begun.

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Luke may have entered the slave town a teenager but he is quickly gaining wisdom and perspective that provide him with a purpose. The friends he makes are characters who just like him, have been cherry picked for their knowledge and skill-less abilities. I enjoyed seeing the character development with Luke since I didn’t think he had it in him to survive in the slave town. I also enjoyed Reenie, the first friend Luke makes and also his recruiter into this rag tag team of misfits. Reenie is described as a POC not much older than 13 years of age who appears to have been in the slave town’s for way longer than laws permit. There’s still a lot to learn about this character, I got the feeling we’ll get her background later on in the series. On Abi’s end we get the sense that she has regret over ever applying to have their days carried out at the estate. She blames herself for Luke’s predicament & sets out on a mission to gather information to get him brought to the estate. Abi has potential to grow into a strong character & her development was nice to see as well. I definitely like the Abi we see in the end better than the one we meet in the beginning.  On the other side of the spectrum we have the Equals who we get to follow & get to know individually in each of their chapters. The Jardine’s: Lord Whittam Jardine, Gavar Jardine, Jenner Jardine, and Silyen Jardine are owners of the Kyneston estate and also one of the most powerful families of Equals. Lord Whittam is a power hungry man who doesn’t deem any of his sons fit to inherit his estate. Gavar Jardine is said to have uncontrollable skill, a great amount difficult to harness. This is made all the more difficult by his temper, he is not the nicest of the bunch lol. Jenner is my favorite, he also happens to be skill-less. I enjoyed this character the most because of all the Jardines, he was sympathetic to Abi & her family making sure they stayed out of harms way. Last but not least we have Silyen, he is an oddball and I haven’t decided whether to like him or not. He also has immense power behind his skill but what his intentions are, it’s too soon to tell. Silyen plays his cards close to his chest and I can’t wait to discover more of what he’s up to. There are also some power players in the story like Gavar’s soon wife-to-be Bhouda. This character has every intention of one day sitting in a position of power & can talk politics with the best of them. She’s also colder than ice and someone to keep an eye on at all times. With many pieces on the board, I  commend Vic James for giving each of these characters their own distinct voice in each chapter. I was never confused and found their stories easy to follow which is alway good in a fantasy series with many players. Also, in case some readers are wondering some of the Equals in power were described as people of color. In this world, you were either born with skill or not. The color of your skin did not determine your fate.

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The world building in Gilded Cage was impressive on the slave town side of the story. I did however, wish to have seen a bit more on the skill of each of the Equals we were introduced to. I’m not sure if the author purposely chose to leave that obscure til the next book or not but there were hints of this throughout the book. In the next book I hope to gain some clarity on the Jardine brothers Skill. This being book 1 in a series, I felt that it set down a solid foundation. The writing itself was enjoyable and never boring, I always found myself wanting to pick this book back up. With a plethora of characters, I enjoyed the short chapters and felt that it carried the story along at steady pace. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the Dark Gifts series & returning to these characters lives.

Are any of my bookish peeps planning on reading Gilded Cage? For those who already have, link that review down below & I’ll swing by 😉

Review:The Education Of Margot Sanchez

margotThe Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: February 21st 2017

Format: eGalley

Genre: YA Contemporary

Page Count: 304 pgs

Rating: ★★★★ (4.5 STARS)

I’d like to thank Simon & Schuster for approving me to receive an eGalley of The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

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Ok Guys & Gals, the time has come for me to review this awesome book & I cannot tell you how excited I am to do so! the Goodreads synopsis more than covers the plot so I won’t repeat what’s already up above, instead i’ll touch on some of my fave plot points. The Education Of Margot Sanchez is first & foremost a Own Voices book about a Puerto-Rican family living in the Bronx, New York. Margot’s dad is the owner of two Grocery Stores from which he provides for his wife, son, and daughter. Margot attends a prep school in Manhattan along with the children of wealthy families. Her brother Junior works with their father in the grocery in hopes to one day take over the family business. We start off with Margot getting caught stealing her fathers credit card to order clothes online. Her punishment is to work off the debt in one of the grocery stores throughout the summer. This does not bode well for Margot who has a social life to maintain back in the city if she ever wants to “fit in” with the wealthy kids in her school. We follow Margot’s daily routine as she fulfills her duties in the grocery store by stocking shelves, working in the deli with the meat, and basically handling all of the grunt work. Her dad has every intention of teaching her a lesson but also utilizing her knowledge of social platforms to possibly give the store a new edge. The neighborhood is experiencing Gentrification and the family business is feeling the side effects. Situated next to a college and a new and upcoming food market, the family business can either benefit or be hurt by the change in demographics in their neighborhood. Margot however, could NOT be bothered with these things. Her thoughts are occupied by that guy back in her prep school who may or may not be interested in her and the “friends” she’s made by appearing to be someone she’s not. Margot is pretty much living a double life, something she has learned to do in one way or another by her own family. When Margot meets a guy while working in the grocery store, who is the complete opposite of the guy she’s had her eyes on in prep school…everything she worked so hard to create starts to fall apart. Moises represents everything her family does not want for her & yet he seems so right. This story is about Margot & how certain events lead to her growing up & learning some hard lessons from those she loves most.

characters-bannerI’ll start off with saying what I’ve seen many readers say about Margot…she’s not the nicest, she’s self-absorbed, selfish, deceitful, and ultimately an unlikeable protagonist. However, I understood this to be the whole point in educating her. Margot hasn’t had the best examples at home. Yes, her dad does pay for her to attend a pricey prep school in Manhattan but her values are all screwed up. Her parents marriage is not all that it seems and her brother is going through substance abuse issues. The problem is, there is no communication whatsoever between any of these family members. All is solved by simply not talking about it. On the surface this family appears to have it all but underneath they are hurting and divided. As a Latina woman, my childhood/family set up looked a lot like Margot’s. I experienced first hand what it’s like to look towards Papi (dad) as the bread winner and more than anything wanting to please him with success in school. Both Margot & Junior (son) want to succeed but get lost while trying to please a man who himself was failing. Mami (mom) was pretty much a silent figure in the background but you could feel her pain through her compulsion to keep everything extremely clean & tidy all day every day. I took this as her way of keeping control over something in her life when underneath it was all a giant mess. This family touched me because I was able to relate to their experiences, culture, and pain. This after all is the beauty of reading books by Own voice authors. I still think about this family & wonder whether these fictional characters are ok now…

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The Education Of Margot Sanchez was a light read that I flew through in just under two days. I enjoyed reading from the perspective of a Puerto-Rican family since it truly is rare to come across. This family felt familiar and relatable making this read one that I devoured all the while making comparisons to my own experiences growing up Puerto-Rican. I was pleasantly surprised to see the topic of gentrification play a role in this neighborhood since it’s one that i’ve personally seen have an affect on local mom & pop stores. There are other more serious topics covered in this book however, I feel that mentioning them is very spoilery since when I came across them I was taken aback and was moved by them. Although I know that at it’s core the story is about Margot and her family, I would’ve enjoyed seeing her take on a more hands on approach with the issues & concerns affecting her community as a symptom of gentrification. I do however appreciate how Lilliam Rivera explored the morals and values of this family in a very realistic sense. These characters were deeply flawed and were all weathering internal battles that seeped into their relationships with one another. Sometimes parents don’t always have it right themselves. A lot of times the kids get caught up in the unspoken. Such is the story of Margot & her brother Junior.

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14358410Originally from the Bronx, NYC, Lilliam Rivera is a 2016 Pushcart Prize winner and a 2015 Clarion graduate. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from PEN Center USA, Elizabeth George Foundation, and A Room of Her Own Foundation. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Bellevue Literary Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Latina, among others. She hosts the Los Angeles-based radio show Literary Soundtrack on Radio Sombra and lives in Los Angeles with her family. Visit her at LilliamRivera.com.

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

25489134The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Published by: Del Rey

Publication Date: January 10th 2017

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Pages: 336 pages

Format: Physical ARC (Bookcon) 

Rating: ★★★★★

HUGE thanks to Del Rey & Katherine Arden for the ARC copy of The Bear and the Nightingale at Bookcon.

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At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

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The Bear and the Nightingale weaves the tale of Vasilisa, a child who grew up listening to the Russian Fairy Tales told by her nurse every night. Tales of the blue-eyed demon and the belief that honoring the house spirits would offer protection from the demon were taken seriously. Everyone in the village would leave out milk & bread to the house spirits in hopes to ward away the evil. The difference between everyone else & Vasilisa however, is that these tales were true and she is known as what is called a seer. Vasilisa’s mother who died in childbirth knew that she was leaving behind a very special girl. A girl that one day would be needed & as such she asked that her husband take much care of Vasilisa. When the tales/demons of Vasilisa’s childhood begin to come to life and threaten her village, she is the only one who could fight the impending war. Many years later, Vasilisa’s father is advised to re-marry in order to provide his daughter with a woman to guide her in life. Her father who was still very much devoted to the memory of his late wife, decided to take this advice and travel to Moscow where he was to find a wife…and here is where all of Vasilisa’s troubles begin…In a village where she is viewed as a witch and the people are easily swayed to convert to christianity, Vasilisa herself must be weary of a witch hunt while trying to protect the entire village.

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Besides the lush world building (see writing & thoughts) in The Bear and the Nightingale, the characters quickly turned out to be some of my favorites. Our female protagonist Vasilisa hasn’t had an easy life, losing her mom on the day she was born and her seer abilities have ensured a challenging road for her. I immediately loved Vasilisa, compared by many to a wood sprite, she loved running into the woods where she would lose track of time. Vasilisa was able to see the spirits in her home as well as in the woods and the water. She maintained a good relationship with them all, many times bringing them offerings to keep them peaceful and in high spirits. She refused to be treated like a maiden & opted instead to wear her brothers clothes. If given the opportunity, she would also carry daggers like her brothers. I loved her spirit and kindness, the warrior in her made me root for her and smile whenever she got her way. The sibling relationship between Vasilisa & her brothers and sisters was interesting & at times fun to read. Vasilisa was very fond of her siblings but i particularly enjoyed seeing her relationship with her brother Alyoshka. He absolutely knew that Vasilisa was not meant to be tied to a man bearing children. As much as he feared for her safety, he also respected her free spirit and was the only one to believe her no matter what. The witty banter between these two also got a few chuckles out of me. The relationship between Vasilisa & her father on the other hand is a bit more complex. He loves his daughter & doesn’t resent her for the death of her mother (the love of his life) but he also would like if she could conform to tradition & be wed. Of course, he knows each of his children and knows that Vasilisa settling down is a challenge he can’t see himself taking on by himself. This man is as old school Russian as they get, yet he himself realized that Vasilisa doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional wife. Some may say that he wasn’t a good dad because of certain scenes where he went old school on her with a “thrashing” whenever she would disappear for days into the woods. I saw the good & the bad in this man burdened by traditions and the fact that he is a Lord of the lands with a reputation to maintain. A widow with a house full of daughters & sons to raise and marry off to ensure their good futures. I didn’t enjoy certain scenes but I saw what the author was giving us… a complex man, flaws & all who loves all of his children and fears seeing any one of them alone. Dunya who is Vasilia’s nurse is hands down my new Grandma! not only can she spin a good tale by the oven in the middle of winter, but she loves all of the kids as hard as she loved their mother when she was her nurse. Last but not least we have the house spirits who all serve their own purpose. All of the different house & wood spirits take offerings whether it be food or blood. The Vazila, a  little old man that lives in the horse stables in essence is the soul of all horses and was my favorite of all the spirits. Add talking horses to these amazing characters & it just doesn’t get better than this cast ❤

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The Bear & The  Nightingale is the ultimate cozy read which I found ideal for this winter season. Every time I opened this book & entered the village and home of Vasilisa, I found it incredibly hard to leave. This book is atmospheric, lush in Russian folklore, culture, and language. The world building is insanely magical and transcending, from the scenes in the woods to the scenes in this families home. There’s plenty about this world to gush about but I really think that it would take away from your reading experience if I were to include it in this review. Some things are just better to discover on your own, I promise you will not be disappointed with all the interesting characters both alive & not so alive that you’ll encounter along the way 😉

I’ve never been to Russia, but this author has lived & studied in Moscow and it’s clear to me that she truly loves & appreciates its culture. The well fleshed out characters made me connect further with this story & that’s key for me whenever i’m reading no matter the genre. The cover for this book captures the heart of the story…Vasilia’s home which is what she chose to protect. The strong familial bonds between Vasilisa and each of her family members was a major focal point & made this into a Fairy Tale of its own. Lastly, I appreciated that nothing was rushed especially not the ending. Instead we see the framework set down for the continuation of Vasilia’s adventure since this is book 1 in an Adult Fantasy trilogy. I am BEYOND excited & READY to go back into this world…kind of hoping that we see book 2 this Fall *fingers crossed* 

Have any of my bookish peeps read The Bear & The Nightingale? if so, who was your favorite character/house or wood spirit? Looking forward to the sequel? if you’ve reviewed TBATNG, drop that link down below and i’ll swing by ❤ ❤ ❤

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

wintersongWintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Published by: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: February 7th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling/Romance

Pages: 448 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★ 1/2 (3.5 Stars)

I’d like to thank St. Martin’s Press, S. Jae-Jones, and NetGalley for the eGalley of Wintersong in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

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Wintersong weaves the tale of Leisl, a young woman who has more than her fair share of duties in her home. Kathe’s father is a fallen musician who is mostly inebriated, Mother is more of a partner in running the household, younger sister is seen as the beauty, and younger brother is a musical prodigy. Leisl herself is musically talented, specifically in composition but has set that aside in favor of helping her brother perfect his craft and one day gain notoriety. Besides the fact that she is running the household, her gender is one of the reasons for which her father discourages her from taking interest/composing music. As young children both Leisl & her young brother Josef would play their music in the Goblin Grove for the Goblin King, a mysterious figure who played music with them. As time passed & Kathe’s responsibilities grew, the Goblin King was slowly forgotten. That is until Leisl’s sister is taken by the Goblins into the Underworld by order of the Goblin King. Leisl finds her way into the Underworld and strikes a bargain with the King to release her sister…A life for a life…she will remain in the Underworld & marry the King and he will let her sister return to the land of the living. Although it may seem harsh at first, Leisl’s “selfless” deed is a bit selfish. She is tired of being unseen , unheard, not beautiful, and cast aside in the shadows of her younger brother’s musical genius. What Leisl didn’t know, was that her sacrifice was much heavier than at first it seems. Leisl & the Goblin King reconnect through their love for music & soon enough a love for each other. As long as her passion shines bright, the Underground will sustain and the land of the living will see Spring instead of being thrust into a deep dark never ending winter…she is essentially it’s life force all while she physically fades away…

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Our main protagonist Leisl isn’t your typical YA character & this was both a good and I wouldn’t say bad thing, but definitely someone to get used to lol. She is very much aware of her musical talent & oftentimes a bit of envy sneaks up when she is helping her brother Josef in composition. Josef is precise, he has been able to play the violin since the age of 5 while Kathe is wild passion and emotion in her composition. She also looks upon her younger sister’s beauty & is self-aware of what comes across as her own plain Jane appearance (nothing wrong with a plain Jane *winks*). Her sister is already betrothed to someone that Leisl also can’t stop herself from wanting for herself. It isn’t so hard for her to (at first) leave this life behind in favor of one where she is the center of the Goblin King’s attention & her musical abilities are praised. We get to see major character development with Leisl which I came to appreciate because it provided a better understanding of all her underlying emotions. Although her family were central to her story, they also weren’t the focus & were more in the background of the story. The Goblin King himself is actually perfectly suited for Leisl in many ways lol, he’s pretty arrogant and controlling which probably can be credited to being immortal & seeing many brides come and go. He’s also musically talented and although he comes off as having this jerk-like exterior, can actually be a decent guy…it’s a common trope, I know but it happens to work well in Wintersong. This is a a 448 page book and the author gives us full on character development & history. The Goblin King’s history is interesting and I can understand how his story and how he came to be the king of the Underworld, molded him into such a undesirable character. I wasn’t a fan of the Goblin King, particularly because of his selfishness which he fully owns up to. Also, certain parts regarding Leisl’s appearance & what he thought of her made me a bit squeamish. I appreciate however, that these characters weren’t your typical cookie cutter personalities found in YA. They were flawed & complex, which oftentimes led to me holding back judgement until I got more story. There were however, two characters that I ABSOLUTELY loved and couldn’t get enough of. Twig & Thistle are two Goblins who are tasked with the not so easy job of tending to Leisl’s needs & wants as Queen of the Underworld. Although all Goblins can’t be trusted, Twig came as close to a friend to Leisl as possible. Twig is the sweeter of the two Goblins. Thistle is Twigs opposite, sarcastic & not happy whatsoever with having to tend to Leisl. Twig is also very vocal about this and gets a kick out of withholding information from Leisl. Thistle’s mischief really added the Goblin touch & those scenes were very entertaining.

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The writing in Wintersong is beautiful, atmospheric, lyrical, and dark which managed to keep me enthralled whenever I picked this book up. However, there were two things that I struggled with just a bit. This is a slow paced book which typically I don’t have any problems with, however it may just be the dark mood and setting that made this one feel a bit too slow. The second issue I had isn’t really one that bothered me too much but it did affect the reading experience a bit, the heavy use of Classical music terminology. Its been years since I took the basics of Classical music in college but that didn’t help me much here. Although one can easily say that it’s not necessary to be knowledgable of the subject, because it was such a focal point & the author used a lot of terminology…I did feel left out of the story on more than one occasion. I won’t however, take away from the writing because it is seriously some of the most beautiful writing I have come across. I also couldn’t stop diving back into this world which leads me to the excellent world building. The Underground came to life through vivid description, the author left nothing out down to the Goblin furniture. I loved the attention to detail that was given in creating this world & can honestly say it played out like a movie for me. I will most definitely keep an eye out for this author’s future works & recommend Wintersong for those who love great world building, Romance, Fantasy, lyrical writing, and especially those who enjoy Classical music/Composition 😉

December Owlcrate & Book Of The Month Unboxing

Wowserz! December came & is already almost gone *eeeeK* my Owlcrate & Book Of The Month arrived very early this month since the subscription services were attempting to beat the holiday rush that is inevitable with snail mail. I held off on posting it since I know some prefer to be surprised. I honestly haven’t been surprised lately with the exception of Vassa In The Night, which had me diggin’ for clues LOL. I’m not sure why but I quite enjoy figuring out what they’re going to send each month. Yes, I already have a 99% positive educated guess on what the January selection will be *winks* Book Of The Month recently started the option of “ship now for free” whenever you add a past months selection to your current box. I added All the Ugly and Wonderful Things since i’ve had it on my mind ever since hearing the synopsis read aloud by a favorite Booktuber of mine. I struggled a bit this month with selecting my BOTM book & hope that I don’t regret going with Swimming Lessons. I know now that the option to skip is available but still holding out hope for my pick, it also happens to be an advanced reader copy (finished) since it isn’t set to hit shelves til’ February 2017 😉


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  • Of Fire and Satrs by Audrey Coulthurst (GR Synopsis also below)
  • Harry Potter Funko Mystery Mini Figure
  • The Lord of the Rings Pin
  • Dark Horse Game of Thrones Coasters (hands down favorite items in the entire box!)
  • A Darker Shade of Magic Sticker (this was missing in my box. 1st time an item was left out)
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Mini Cardgoodreads-synopsis-2

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.


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Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.

Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.

All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

What are your thoughts on December’s Owlcrate? Do you prefer to be surprised each month or go full on Nancy Drew? For my fellow BOTM subscribers, what were your selections for December? 

Wishing you all a Happy Holiday Weekend XOXO!!!

Waiting On Wednesday

ramona-blueRamona Blue

Published by: Balzer + Bray

Date of Publication: May 9th 2017

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ 🏳️‍🌈 

Pages: 491

 

 

 

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For fans of Rainbow Rowell and Morgan Matson comes this sharp and thought-provoking novel about modern love, family, and the labels that we just can’t seem to escape—from Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ and Side Effects May Vary.

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. One of only two out lesbians in her small town and standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the responsible adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, her responsibilities weigh more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool.

As Ramona falls more in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift as well, and she must decide if knowing who she is is more important than figuring out who she might become.

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I am currently reading & loving Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ (Dumplin’ #1)  on a whim really after leaving the book I was currently reading at home. I have a 1.5 hour commute to & from work, and not having a book on hand was just unacceptable lol. I started Dumplin’ & immediately got sucked into this small town girls story, personality, and inner monologue. I got curious and opened up my Goodreads to see if Julie Murphy has any other books & found 2 things: Dumplin’ is a series (almost positive it was originally a standalone) + a new book set for 2017 titled Ramona Blue. That cover immediately caught my interest & then I read the synopsis (cuz let’s face it, it’s usually in that order LOL). This story has LGBTQ characters but what stands out for me is that the protog is introduced as one of only two lesbians in her small town who then falls for her childhood friend who happens to be male. I’m curious to see how bi-sexuality is handled by Murphy…the original blurb I believe, had mentioned something along the lines of not being put in a box by labels. The blurb has since changed & I see that there seems to be a bit of controversy on Goodreads as well as rating the book 1 star before it’s been published or made its rounds for anyone to see. I also see the book getting 5 stars by readers who are trying to negate the low ratings because they find this to be unjust to the authors yet unpublished work. I don’t agree with either of these methods. Considering that Murphy is handling body image in Dumplin’ so well, I think i’ll give this one a shot & formulate/provide my own informed opinion/review/rating 😉

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On a World of Words and to participate all you have to do is answer the three W’s listed below. Once you’ve posted your WWW, drop a link to your post in Sam’s comments <3’s!

The questions are:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you’ll read next?

*All covers will take you to their Goodreads page*

 

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Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel

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Currently reading this short story collection and honestly taking my time with it because of the heavy subject matter. The author was nice enough to send me a eGalley a couple of weeks ago after seeing me express interest in her book. The writing is poignant & thought provoking. I’m currently on story 4 out of 5 and think I already have a favorite unless the last one dethrones my current favorite. My heart strings have been pulled while reading Manipulated Lives, making me think of my own personal experience with a manipulative friendship. My husband says that he’s never seen me take such copious notes lol, I just don’t want to forget anything with my terrible memory. I should be done reading Manipulated Lives by tomorrow & then a full review will follow 😉

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Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

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I recently read & reviewed Scrappy Little Nobody (review here) by Anna Kendrick, I listened to the audiobook which I tend to do with all comedienne autobiographies/memoirs. I gave this one 4.5 stars, Kendrick delivered tons of laughs & an inside look to her childhood and come-up. Never once did she sound braggy of her fame, instead we get a humble down to earth Anna who is still in awe of just how far she’s come. If you’re a fan of her movies and find her funny, Scrappy Little Nobody is worth a read.

Lost Girls by Merrie Desetefano 

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Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano was HANDS DOWN a 5 star read for me (review here) for the plot, characters, writing, and yes even world building…a dark & seedy one. This is a Young Adult Thriller/Mystery yet I honestly got a more mature vibe to Destefano’s characters & found that to be refreshing. The Goodreads synopsis describes this as Black Swan meets Fight Club, and a more accurate description there is not! If you’re interested in characters that are morally gray, stories with awesome family dynamics, and adrenaline infused reads then this is the book for you 😉

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Roseblood by A.G. Howard

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Goodreads Synopsis

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

A Phantom Of The Opera re-telling? I couldn’t resist picking this one up at NYC Comic Con/BookCon. I’ve always admired this authors book covers from afar & even have her Splintered series on my TBR. I’m hoping this one is a hit & if it is then 2017 will be the year I binge this authors books.

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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Goodreads Synopsis

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Thankful to have an eGalley from Soho Teen/Adam Silvera. After reading More Happy Than Not last year I started following Adam Silvera on social media & relaized how cool & down to earth this author is with his fanbase. Once I read the synopsis to History Is All You Left me I immediately knew that it was going to put me through it but I am SO READY! super excited to read this one & I know Adam will not fail me 🙂

November Wrap-Up and Haul

Let’s be honest…November wasn’t the best of months for many & we’re all wishing for a much better 2017, well I know I am lol. November marks the beginning of my favorite time of year because of Thanksgiving. I have many beautiful memories tied to this holiday and i’m making new ones for my two tiny humans. This month was filled with family time and I managed to surprise myself with my reading because I really didn’t think I would get much done at all. Favorite read of the month goes to Heartless, it was just what I needed at the time and I was so glad to have buddy read it with Gretchen @Chicnerdreads. Every month I squeeze in a audiobook & it’s always a treat when I go with Gaiman, The Graveyard Book did NOT disappoint. Fractured was a fast paced page turner that hooked me in til the very last page. Crooked Kingdom was a bittersweet conclusion to what has now become my favorite duology *fingers crossed for more Dregs* 

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer  ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman ★★★★ (4 Stars)

Crooked Kingdom (Six Of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo ★★★★ (3.75)

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie  ★★★★ (3.75)


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I seriously thought I had purchased way more than I actually did this month and for this I am very thankful LOL! Besides digging myself out of my ARC hole, I have also taken advantage of some e-book deals this month. I love adding to  my physical library but for now, i’m scaling back just a smidge. In my haul I include my Owlcrate subscription (ongoing Valentines Day gift from hubby), Book of The Month subscription, physical books, e-books, and the random books/bookish items my hubby gifts me from time to time. So, Let’s get on with it…

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Heartless was the November Owlcrate selection & The Trespasser by Tana French was the book I selected for my Book Of The Month subscription. I ordered Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them the same night I watched the movie cuz it was THAT good! hehe. The Sun Is Also A Star will be my 1st Yoon even though I own Everything Everything, I was hooked once I read the synopsis for The Sun Is Also A Star so I hope that it’s as good as what I hear its predecessor was.

Gifts from Lé hubby: Potter, Beasts & Blanket ❤

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Kindle Deals I couldn’t resist for $1.99 or less, Blood Lust by Jill Cooper was a free book I found thanks to the lovely Liz at CoverToCover  who featured a Sci-Fi & Fantasy Mega Promo on her blog mid November💕

 

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Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was Fan-Frikkin-Tastic!!! Hubby and I felt a wave of nostalgia hit us as soon as we heard the Harry Potter theme music intro. As a matter of fact he turned to me & said “BABE! I’ve missed that intro” 😂😂😂 we completely fangirled/boyed out Lol. The actors were all pretty great but as many will probably agree, The Niffler stole the show haha. Also, major brownie points for taking place in the 20’s, my fave time period in history (Real & Fantasy) I’m looking forward to the upcoming movies in this new installment to a beloved world 💕

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SoOo I am currently OBSESSED with This Is Us…it’s intense what I feel for this show lol. I recently watched the first 9 episodes on Hulu  and every single one…hit me in the feels! all of them! every single time! This show has it all and then some, I don’t think there’s anything to compare to this show on tv at the moment. I’ve heard it be compared to The Parenthood but I never watched that show so I wouldn’t be able to confirm this to be true. The acting…The writing…I really can’t even describe how amazing of a show this truly is. Told in present day & flashbacks this show weaves the lives of this family together in a most seamless way. I love it & will sit back and wait for the Emmy announcements to start rolling in LOL 😉

Hope you all had a good November filled with good food and great reads! Although November was a bit rough, i’m hoping for a better December. What were some of your EPIC reads for November? watch anything new on Netflix/Hulu?

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

2213661The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Published by: HarperCollins

Date of Publication: September 30th 2008

Genres:

Pages: 312

Format: Audiobook (self-narrated)

Rating:★★★★ (4 Stars) 

 

 

 

Goodreads Synopsis

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

 

The Audiobook Experience…

I’ll keep this one short and sweet since i’m beginning to believe that Uncle Gaiman can do no wrong when he begins to spin his tales. You would be sadly mistaken if you were to think that you can resist the magic of his worlds once they begin to reel you in. The Graveyard Book By Neil Gaiman is now the 2nd book i’ve read by this author and it has only served to cement my feelings towards him…I simply LOVE Uncle Gaiman! It has now become the norm for me to reach for the audiobook vs. physical or even digital format for Gaiman’s books. Treat Yo self to a feast for your ears & imagination with the audiobook narrated by Gaiman himself. Not only is his voice truly one of of the most soothing story telling voices i’ve come across but he also has a few other talents up his sleeve. Gaiman gave each of the characters in this book their own distinct voice without sounding over the top. I truly enjoyed listening to his audiobook and often found myself wanting to return to the graveyard at all hours of the day.

The book opens up right after the murder of a mother, father, and daughter. Baby Nobody Owens aka Bod, managed to crawl over his crib railing and out of the house, too little to know he had just escaped his families murderer. Bod wanders off into the street and eventually walks right into the cemetery where he meets all sorts of interesting characters  no longer of this world. The Owens, a married couple who were never able to conceive children of their own take to “adopting” Bod who is still a baby. They grant him full freedom of the cemetery  to wander off & also get Silas who is neither living or dead (believed to be a Vampire) to become his guardian. Together, the many characters in the graveyard, raise Bod and protect him from outside dangers by providing a safe home for him amongst the tombstones. We get to see Bod the baby grow into a young man who becomes curious about the outside world & experiencing it for himself. Just like any child his age, Bod gets into a bit of mischief (more like adventures lol) that teach him theres more than just the dead…there’s the living he has yet to experience. All the while, The Man Jack (Bod’s families murderer) is out and about looking to tie the loose ends of the night he intended to kill baby Bod in his crib.

The characters in The Graveyard Book all played a role in educating young Bod and keeping him safe. I thoroughly enjoyed The Owens as well as the other supporting ghosts Caius Pompeius and Scarlett Perkins to name some of my faves. I found out later on while blog hopping that some of the characters in Gaiman’s books crossover one way or another. In this book we get an appearance from a relative of Daisy Hempstock from Stardust, my 1st Gaiman & favorite thus far. With such descriptive story telling & imagery, Gaiman’s ghosts/characters will probably stick with me for many years to come. It really doesn’t matter what age you are, if you’re young at heart and are looking for a heartwarming story then The Graveyard Book is the book for you 😉

“Kiss a lover, 
Dance a measure, 
Find your name 
And buried treasure. 
Face your life, 
It’s pain, 
It’s pleasure, 
Leave no path untaken.” 
― Neil GaimanThe Graveyard Book

Review: Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Spoiler Free)

gemina-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoffGemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Date of Publication: October 18th 2016

Genres: Young Adult Sci-Fi

Pages: 608

Format: Physical Book (Hardcover)

Rating:★★★★★ (5 Stars)

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

 

After reading and Loving the ISH (funny cuz currency in Gemina is referred to as ISH) out of Illuminae (review here) earlier this year, I knew that Gemina would be a book to have me running to the bookstore to drop that $$$ HAHA! just like its predecessor, Gemina did NOT disappoint. Offering up non-stop page turning action & a cast of witty characters you can’t get enough of. Illustrations by Marie Lu author of the Young elites covered the pages making Gemina one beautiful book both inside & out. The Illuminae Files are addictive, fun, and overall just great story telling…

 

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CREDS & HAILS go to Gretchen @CHICNERDREADS for this EPIC aesthetic, I can’t stop staring at it with the only *heart eyes* Thanks again my fren’ you’re simply AMAZING! 

PLOT

Gemina picks up with a brand new set of characters on the Jump Station Heimdall right after the events of the Kerenza invasion & BeiTech assault. Since this is book 2 in the series, I will ward off the dreaded spoilers. Gemina is said to be a companion novel to Illuminae & for the most part it is, however it most definitely is necessary to read Illuminae as it all does tie in. The characters at jump station Heimdall are unaware of the events at Kerenza or BeiTech’s involvement. As the reader, you feel a sense of anticipation all throughout Gemina because you are aware of what’s happened & the imminent danger that lays ahead. The civilians and crew on Jump Station Heimdall are unaware of the incoming ships & just like in Illuminae, they are in for a rude awakening. This is the story of how Hemidall came to defend itself & the intricate web of deception BeiTech has woven…

CHARACTERS

Although we have quite a few players in the game, the main characters are Hannah Donelly & Niklas Malikov. These are two young adults who end up having to step into much larger shoes when the ISH hits the fan. We get to know both these characters on a more personal level since the format in this book is dialogue heavy. I enjoyed the witty banter between these two so much & found myself either smiling or outright laughing at some of the their exchanges. Hannah also keeps a journal & she’s a pretty good artist (illustrations by Marie Lu) depicting exactly what she thinks of Nik in a series of laugh out loud drawings. Hannah has to be one of my new hands down favorite kick a** female protagonists in YA PERIOD! she is smart, quick on her feet, a pro in war games thanks to her dad, witty, and loyal to her friends & family. Nik Malikov stole my heart with his dirty mind & endless attempts to win Hannah over. He was born into the House Of Knives, a criminal family (yup they exist even in outer space HAHA!) & is being groomed & taught to earn his keep through a series of innnnneresting criminal activities (I won’t divulge more than that hehe). I can’t discuss the characters in this book without mentioning my FAVORITE Spider, Ella Malikova who is Nik’s cousin and hacker extraordinaire. Ella is disabled from the waist down and spends her time in front of a computer in her wheelchair exchanging sarcastic & witty remarks with Nik through IM’s. Not only is Ella AMAZING at what she knows with computers but she’s also a fighter in every sense & I looked forward to seeing her IM’s pop up on the page.

 

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Illustrations by Marie Lu author of The Young Elites trilogy

WRITING

The format for Gemina is the same as the one the authors used for Illuminae. The story is told through a series of IM chats, E-mails, & memorandums. In between these you’ll come across transcriptions from video camera footage which in the story, are written by Analysts that have watched & to the best of their ability tried to make sense of what is caught on camera. Gemina just like Illuminae may appear intimidating at first glance especially given the 600+ page count. However, I can assure all those that are interested in The Illuminae Files that it is all well worth it & a very quick read. In fact, the format of this book only helps move the story along much faster & the dialogue is so much fun that before you know it, you’ll be requesting that Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman get working on the 3rd book hehe 😉

Donelly, H: What, you’re just going to open the door so I can creep in?

Donelly, H: It’s too far, not safe. recon before action, that’s the rule. If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.

Merrick, J: What?

Donelly, H: Sun Tzu.

 IM chat between Hanna Donelly & her boyfriend Jackson Merrick

THOUGHTS

Gemina deserves all of the hype it gets because it truly delivers & packs a punch, I’m lucky to have other books I’ve really been looking forward to because the book hangover is REAL!  Once again, I am left so impressed with these two authors because I can’t tell where one starts and the other ends, they write so well together. The inclusion of Marie Lu’s illustrations in this book only enhanced the beauty and overall bad a**ness of this second installment. Although Illuminae will always hold that special place in my heart for introducing me to such an interesting world…Gemina came in & is now holding the crown. What really made this book even more spectacular is the humor & characters this round, these authors are clearly in tune with young adults making the dialogue so believable. I am now left waiting another year for the 3rd installment…currently experiencing the phase where I watch for (stalk) these authors for any bit of info…following the cookie crumb trail I go…