Reivew: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

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.

I was browsing the clearance shelves at my local bookstore and saw this book on sale for about $6.00. After all the hype surrounding this series I decided it was time for me to FINALLY give it a try.

Illuminae is definitely a book you have to read a hard copy of. It would not be conducive to e-readers and would definitely leave a lot to be desired via audio. The formatting was very cool. It’s all documents and chat logs and graphics and the creators of the book obviously put a lot of thought into the layout and details. I’ll say again, it was very cool. Unfortunately, one very cool element does not a 5 star book make (at least not to me).

While I loved the format, it did not always work for me. There are many official memos and etc. that come across too unprofessional. I think there could’ve been a greater effort made to make them sound more realistic. I also had a huge problem with the video transcripts. The person transcribing them put in way too much detail of the participant’s feelings and thoughts turning it into more of a standard narration than what it should have been (this did have an explanation at the end so I’m not going to go into great detail with the quotes I actually took the time to mark to prove my point – I’ll just say that when I was reading those parts I was annoyed by it). There are also very long parts from AIDEN’s, the computer, POV that came across way too odd for me. They also blacked out all the curse words which at first I thought I would really appreciate, but quickly learned it just brought more attention to them. I found myself filling in the blacked out words anyways, and then sometimes second guessing which curse word I thought it was. This was not a good use of my time.

The plot was repetitive and drawn out. Lots of missiles and computer hacking and teenage angst and zombie-like sickness outbreak. I felt kind of bored during parts of it. However, every time I was thinking that I just didn’t care about what was going on, a character would be killed off and I found myself getting choked up. The character development was actually really well done. I loved Ezra and his kind of obnoxious friend McNulty. I loved Kady’s hacker friend, Zhang. It took me a little longer to warm up to Kady, but I did eventually really root for her, even if I didn’t love her as much as some of the other characters.

Overall, I liked Illuminae, but I didn’t love it. The non-traditional formatting was very cool and is definitely worth picking up an actual hard copy of the book for. However, I don’t understand all the 5-star hype for this run-of-the-mill sci-fi story. That said, it was still an enjoyable read and I plan on continuing the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Emma in the Night will be available August 8, 2017. 

There is no shortage of books about the return of missing girls, but Emma in the Night sets itself apart by including  and exploring an authentic narcissistic  character. The term Narcissist is used incorrectly a lot to describe people who are just arrogant, but it’s an actual personality disorder that is much more than just arrogance. Though at times the story turned almost a little too clinical describing how Judy, the mother of the missing girls (Emma and Cass), is a narcissist, it was a lot of interesting information.

The story is told through the POVs of Cass, the daughter that has returned and wants to help find her sister, and Abby, a psychologist with the FBI working the case who also grew up with a narcissistic mother. Through both of them we see just how twisted and abusive Cass and Emma’s childhood was and the reason behind that behavior.  I feel like the story is less about finding out exactly what happened, as finding out how exactly the characters reached this point. The conclusion to the crime/mystery was kind of clichéd and a little unsatisfying, but the events leading up to it were interesting.

I appreciated the new angle on the missing girls trope, but was left slightly underwhelmed overall. I think if you go into this for the character development, the family drama, and the mental health information rather than for the mystery, you will enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Waste of Space by Gina Damico

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show. And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Waste of Space will be available July 11, 2017.

This was such a different kind of book than what I’ve read before. While it didn’t quite work for me 100% of the time, I did find it an enjoyable, often humorous read.

I thought this was going to be a Contemporary sort of book, but it’s much more of a satire on reality tv. I have watched my fair share of reality shows and I found much of this to be really spot on – from the casting “…sixty percent white, thirty percent ethnic, ten percent undetermined…plus the four Golden Tokens: gay, foreigner, disabled, and orphan…”  (quote taken from ARC) to the manufactured dramatic plot points. I loved all the random reality tv show titles that were thrown in as being part of the same DV8 network. And I loved how it shows the audience being separated into those who fully believed these kids were in space, those who found the whole thing so fake it was insulting, and those that were just enjoying it and not really caring one way or the other how real it was.

I found some of the “spacetronatus” a little more likable and/or developed than others. I liked Snout and his pet pig, Colonel Bacon, who also came on the show. I loved Kaoru, who got recruited to the show against her will, only speaks Japanese, and is not at all amused at what is going on. The two characters that were the most developed were Titania and Nico. They developed a bit of a showmance and both had some serious backstories. I really liked Nico, but wasn’t quite as fond as Titania. I’m not quite sure why. She just kind of rubbed me the wrong way sometimes. I also thought that their storylines detracted from the overall satire feel of the book. I think that the author should have gone all in with the satire and left out the heavier storylines. The story felt a little unbalanced trying to switch back and forth between the two.

I expected to get the “spacetronauts” POV in a traditional narrative format. Instead, the story is told from a whistle-blowing intern who shares video, phone, and blog transcripts, along with his own observations. I really liked this format. All of my favorite portions of the story came from the transcripts with Chazz, the producer, working behind the scenes. I also enjoyed the Perky Paisley talk show and the various blog posts about the show. Where it lacked for me was actually with the kids on the show. While they did have several humorous moments, I found them way less interesting than the production of the show.

Overall, I found Waste of Space pretty enjoyable. I loved the satirical view of reality television. Though it did occasionally go a little far into cheesy territory, I thought it was really well done overall. If you’re looking for a humorous, different kind of YA book, I definitely recommend this one. Catchphrase forever!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

3.5 stars

Review: He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack. She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim’s life that is changed forever. Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear, and while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something, and someone, is always in the dark.

It took me quite awhile to get into this book. I honestly thought about giving up, but all the reviews I read that talked about the great ending made me power through. While I ultimately found it a little disappointing, I am glad that I kept reading. About a third of the way through it started to get a lot more interesting and then a little farther along there is a surprise that definitely makes the tedious first part of the book worth it.

The story is told in alternating 1st person POV between Laura and Kit and in alternate timelines. I am a big fan of both of those narrative devices when done well and I thought they were used very effectively here. It felt completely necessary to the story and not just a narrative style choice. I didn’t particularly like either Laura or Kit, but this is one of those instances where you don’t really have to. While they both did stupid things sometimes, there was always a level of empathy with them and chances of redemption, so I could still root for them. The other main character is Beth and I was not a fan of her at all. I’m not going to go into any detail about her, though, because I don’t feel like I can do it without revealing any spoilers.

Eclipse chasing is a big part of the story. I thought that it would just be part of the setting where the catalyst of the story takes place, but it’s much more than that. I never knew that eclipse chasing was a thing that people traveled all over the world for. It does seem like an expensive hobby to have, especially for people who aren’t exactly wealthy, and my deeply practical nature makes me view it as irresponsible, which kind of soured me on the Kit and Laura.  It did make me kind of excited about the eclipse that’s supposed to be in the US this year, but I just looked it up and I don’t live in an area that will see Totality so now I’m a little disappointed.

Overall, He Said/She Said was a decent book, but fell short of my expectations. The reveals and slightly faster pace of the second half the book could not completely save it from the very slow, somewhat hard to get through beginning. While I liked the twists in the story, they were not as explosive as I was expecting from other reviews I’ve read. However, I did love how it was written and thought it was one of the most effective uses of multiple POV and timelines that I have read in quite awhile.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Her Surprise Engagement (The Sorensen Family #4) by Ashlee Mallory

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Single mom Daisy Sorensen doesn’t believe in fairytale endings—at least not for her. All she wants is to enjoy a much-needed, stress-free family vacation at a friend’s Lake Tahoe home. So of course everything that can go wrong does. Including a gorgeous man and his daughter showing up in the middle of the night.

Soon-to-be Governor Jack Harrison has had a crazy week, but he’s sure nothing can top arriving to find a bathrobe-clad, beautiful stranger in the home he’s staying in for the week. He’s wrong. When things spiral out of control the next morning, Jack makes Daisy an offer she can’t refuse. She’ll pretend to be his fiancée and he’ll help her open the bakery she’s been dreaming about.

But in between late-night campfires and days on the lake, Jack finds himself falling for the strong, stubborn woman for real.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

I’ve been a fan of Ashlee Mallory’s The Sorensen Family series since the first book, Her Backup Boyfriend, and have enjoyed each book since. I love the relationships between the Sorensen siblings and have enjoyed getting each of their stories.

In Her Surprise Engagement we focus on the last of the Sorensen siblings, Daisy. Daisy has recently become a single mother and she’s determined to prove that she can provide for herself and her three children. She frustrated me at times because that determination came off as prideful and it didn’t seem like good parenting to turn things down that would be beneficial to her kids. However, as we get to know her a little better we see how it’s not so much pride keeping her from asking for help, but the fear of once again being in a position where she relied solely on someone else for support and how hard it would be to pick up the pieces of her life again if that support leaves. I liked how she learned that accepting some help sometimes didn’t mean she would lose her independence.

The fake-relationship storyline is always one of my favorites to read about and I liked that it was incorporated here. I thought the events that led up to it were humorous. I did think that the fake relationship turned real a little too fast, though. Jack is a love-at-first-sight kind of guy and while I thought he was sweet and romantic and did like him and Daisy together, it was a little too insta-love for me to really get behind it. They only know each other for a couple of weeks before he’s all in and I would’ve liked to have seen their relationship develop a little more before that.

Overall, I enjoyed Her Surprise Engagement. I enjoyed re-visiting the Sorensen clan one more time and thought this book did a good job of showing us all their Happy Ever Afters. I would definitely recommend this to fans of the series and Contemporary Romance.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.

Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.

Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

I saw several rave reviews on The Weight of Lies and knew that I had to read it. While I did like the story, it ended up falling a little short of my expectations.

I liked the concept of the story. Any time a book or movie centers around a writer, I’m in. I am also a sucker for cold case mysteries. I had many theories about what really happened and kept changing my mind from chapter to chapter. Carpenter really did a good job of keeping me guessing and ultimately surprising me with an unexpected twist. I also really enjoyed the excerpts from the book that was inspired by the mystery Megan is looking into. It paralleled the story really well and I thought it was a really clever narrative device.

While it started off a little slow, it did eventually suck me in once we got further into the story. The island – and some of it’s inhabitants – was pretty creepy and I really felt Megan’s paranoia. I liked Megan, but she frustrated me often. For being as paranoid as she was, you would think she’d be a little smarter. I kept wondering why she wouldn’t password protect her computer. Or how inner monologue would go on and on about how certain people were liars and untrustworthy, but she just kept trusting them anyways.

Overall, I enjoyed The Weight of Lies, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The mystery played out to it’s conclusion well, but I thought the actual ending of the book was pretty anti-climactic. I think I was expecting a more horror-inspired ending and was kind of disappointed it didn’t go that route. Also, while there is some good psychological suspense, I was expecting more. It was still a well-done, enjoyable book, though, and I think fans of the genre will like it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Party by Robyn Harding

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this stunning and provocative domestic drama about a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, a wealthy family in San Francisco finds themselves entangled in a legal battle, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies.

One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.

Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?

But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s picture perfect life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to unravel. A lawsuit is filed that irrevocably changes their relationship, reveals dark secrets in the Sanders’ marriage, and exposes the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah.

Harkening to Herman Koch’s The Dinner, Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, The Party takes us behind the façade of the perfect family, exposing the lies, betrayals, and moral lapses that neighbors don’t see—and the secrets that children and parents keep from themselves and each other.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Party will be available June 6, 2017.

This is a hard book for me to review. On the one hand, I kind of hated pretty much everything about it. But on the other hand, I couldn’t stop reading it.

The characters are awful people. All of them. All the time. I thought maybe Jeff and Kim had just been through some bad times and they would get better as the story went on. They did not. Their daughter, Hannah, and her friends were all awful. Lisa, the mother of the girl to get hurt at Hannah’s party, is awful. All of Jeff and Kim’s friends are just as horrible – the one exception being Lisa’s boyfriend, Allan, who tried to be the voice of reason in her vendetta against the Sanders. It seemed like every time a character was faced with a decision they chose the wrong one. At first I was getting so upset over their actions, screaming at them in my head to stop being idiots. But around halfway through the story, I became a little more resigned to their behavior and just began waiting for the next stupid thing. There is no one to root for in this book, so for awhile I was just rooting for all of them to have their comeuppance. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the ending to be satisfactory at all.

Even though I hated all the characters, I just kept reading. At first I wanted to see the characters redeem themselves, but even after I realized that wasn’t going to happen I still wanted to see what happened. The story is told through the POVs of Kim, Jeff, Lisa, and Hannah and I thought they were all done effectively. Even though I hated them, it has to say something about the writing that I still wanted to keep reading about them.

Overall, The Party has good writing and an interesting premise, but I absolutely hated all the characters. For awhile I did enjoy hating them, but I found it really unsatisfying that they didn’t get the level of comeuppance I was hoping for, nor did they really seem to learn anything from the experience. I’m bumping my rating up a little bit, though, because the author still made me keep reading, despite my feelings about the characters.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars