book reviews, book talk, spoiler free

Aurora Rising

auroraAurora Rising by Amy Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

Rating: XXXXX

Published: May 7th 2019 by Rock the Boat

“Squad 312. This pack of losers and discapline cases and sociopaths, these misfits that nobody in the whole of Aurora Academy wanted to get paired with.”

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

Nobody panic.  

So if you’ve been reading my blog at all for the past year you’ll already be very well acquainted with this book and just how beyond excited I’ve been for its release. If you’re new here, welcome! Amie and Jay, the authors of Aurora Rising wrote a series of books called The Illuminae Files which are my favourite series of books, at the end of the last one they teased a new series of books in space with hot space elves. I have been excited ever since. We got a title, we got more details and we got art for each of the Squad members and Aurora herself and I have just been getting more and more excited. This is my most anticipated book release this year and I was lucky enough to get to read one of these gorgeous arc copies!

I went into this book rather unsure of how to feel, the first time I held it and realised I was about to actually read this book that I’d been so excited for I realised I felt some hesitation. I wanted to love it just as much as the books of the Illuminae files series and I was worried that it might end up feeling too samey or that it would be so different I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I’m pleased to report I need not of worried. Aurora Rising absolutely holds its own, being written by Amie and Jay it still has that brilliant banter suffused with action and emotion that we see throughout their own books as well as the ones they’ve worked on together and thus it contains the same essence at its core that the Illuminae Files do while still being its own entity. Much like The Illuminae Files, Aurora Rising is also set in space but that my friends, is where the similarities end and we strap in for a whole different kind of ride.

Aurora Rising is told from seven different POV’s and that may sound like a lot but it’s done spectacularly and is, in my opinion, one of the many reasons it’s so very easy to absolutely fall head over heels in love with Squad 312. Each POV has its own distinct voice and quirks and I am still taken aback at just how easy it is to recognise each of them from that alone as I often have trouble keeping track of who’s who in books with even two or three POV’s on occasion so this was huge for me. The characters themselves are fantastic and not since the Mass Effect games have I felt such an attachment to fictional characters as I have to squad 312, my squad. Each character feels completely unique and detailed, full of habits and flaws,  intriguing backstory and overflowing with their individual personalities so vibrant and rich that honestly, I could talk about them all day.

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Tyler Jones: Alpha – All round golden boy, goodie two shoes, wielder of dimples, squad leader and Captain hotness. Tyler goes through some stuff, as do the rest of the crew but I loved how he changed and moulded with the circumstances as they occurred. A brilliant leader and certainly one I would follow. 

Scarlett Jones: Face – The cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm, Tyler’s slightly more charismatic, sweet talking, red-headed twin sister. Older twin sister don’t you forget!  Scarlett is an absolute queen and really holds the whole team together. She knows when to flash a smile, a simple nod or a kind word which isn’t unusual perhaps for a face, those who are considered the peacemakers and fast talkers of the Aurora Legion but Scarlett really has an innate gift for it. Not to mention she’s sassy, confident and is well aware of how hot she is.

Zila Madran: Brain – A sociopath scientist with a fondness for her disrupter and shooting her bunkmates. Zila is cool, calculating and doesn’t mince her words, she’s no-nonsense, smart as hell and absolutely brilliant. Like Tyler, Zila had a brilliant character arc that you can really see change as time goes on, her particular quirks were especially interesting and I just loved her so much.

Finian de Karren de Seel: Gearhead – A smart ass techwizz with the galaxies biggest chip on his shoulder. Fin is a member of a pale-skinned humanoid species called the Betraskan who have to wear dark contacts above ground to protect their eyes. Fin is fantastic, he’s incredibly funny, witty and clever, he’s bi/pansexual and disabled, needing to wear an exo-suit to help with his mobility which I think was done particularly well in that it was something that was just accepted and no one tried to ‘fix him’ but he also had realistic limits. I would almost certainly die for him.

Kallis Gilwraeth: Tank – Kal is a hot, angsty space elf known as a Syldrathi, some say he has anger management issues but as the team’s tank, responsible for all things fighty this might be a good thing? Right?? Kal is utterly swoon-worthy, managing to be angry and hostile as well as the sweetest bean in the universe. I love him to pieces.

Catherine Brannock: Ace – Cat, also known at the Aurora Legion Academy as Zero, is fast flying, no crap taking, tattooed, hot-headed and absolutely not into Tyler. Cat was a hard character at times, occasionally repetitive and the one I felt least invested in for quite a while which I think may have actually been on purpose, to be honest. She pulls some damn punches throughout the story though that really gave her an extra dimension and really endeared her to me.

Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley: Girl out of time – Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries Aurora feels not only out of her time but out of her depth as well, as one might when you awaken to find everyone you ever knew has almost certainly died over a hundred years ago. I found Aurora one the harder characters to get into, not so much as Cat who I initially didn’t like and although this wasn’t the exact case with Aurora who I did like from the get-go, it just took me a lot longer to click with her like I did all of the others. I think this has more to do with Aurora trying to find herself, which isn’t a bad thing, it just meant it took me a while to find her as well which I think, especially if intentional was an extra fantastic layer to her character.

Everyone changes throughout the story and watching everyone adapt is fantastic, you really get to know someone when you see how they make decisions in tough moments and Aurora Rising is no different despite being a work of fiction. It makes me so happy to see such diversity throughout the Squad too, I loved this book to pieces and I’ll get into the rest of it but my favourite part is definitely these band of misfits.

I briefly want to mention the romance elements to this book, I won’t go into huge detail because of spoilers and this review is getting to already be huge but I wanted to put a mention in any way. Romance isn’t a huge thing in Aurora Rising but it is present, there is a ton of cute flirty language and moments which I love and there are some emotions flying around as there often is in YA novels. There is some tension that I found a little annoying at times but found easy to get over but there is also a whole other kettle of fish going on that I found absolutely fantastic and I’m not always that into the romance side of things. I’ll go into more depth when I hopefully film my spoiler-filled book talk in the next couple of days but I just want to say there are some real, pure good moments that melted even my little cold black heart.

There’s not an enormous amount of world-building here but as it is some large amount of time in the future we do get a bit of an update on what he missed thanks to Aurora needing the information, it coming up in general conversation and some handy info pages before each chapter which all felt super organic and natural instead of an overload of info which I feel can sometimes happen in sci-fi. We didn’t have to go into huge amounts of detail for any of the future tech as most of it such as artificial gravity, mag-boots the uniglass systems the team uses etc are all pretty self-explanatory and make sense at a pretty simple level meaning I don’t need to try and wrap my head around crazy new technology to understand a scene, always a bonus.

I found the plot a little slow going at times but not hugely so although there are moments when there is little to no exact direction which again, I feel is on purpose and fits with the mood of the story at the time but it irked the ‘must have a plan for everything’ part of me, I’m not a great risk taker and certainly not good with leaps of faith but that’s more of a personal issue and no real mark against the plot itself. I liked how it all came together over time and that we had a lot of different aspects throughout, we got space fights, we got a crazy heist, bar fights, creepy beyond belief aliens, an entire space station that is basically a jacked up Mos Eisley, crazy awesome mind powers and so much more. For me, this book has.it.all.

Aurora Rising is a brilliant mish-mash of The Breakfast Club meets Guardians of the Galaxy (as claimed by Jay Kristoff himself) but also has (for me at least) huge Mass Effect undertones which has firmly placed this in my favourite book category.

This book is out for general release May 7th (TOMORROW!) and I honestly cannot recommend it higher. If you’re still not sure  you can check out the first chapter and a clip of the audiobook (with a fantastic cast!) right here now and take the Aurora Legion Academy test here to see which role you would play in your own squad, I’m an Alpha like Tyler which makes sense as I over plan, am a bit of a stickler for rules and am far too bossy for my own good. Let me know which you end up as?

 

 

 

 

 

book talk, Uncategorized

When someone reads a book you love.

thumbnail_IMG_0160A couple of weeks ago I finished Illuminae and if you’ve read my review you’ll know how very very much I loved it. My husband, over the past year or so has fallen equally in love with the Warrior Cat books so we came to an agreement that he would read Illumiinae and I would read Warrior Cats (well…listen anyway, I had the first one on my Audible account.) He got off to a slow start, he’s not a big reader and I think I may have reminded him one or two times too many that he was meant to be starting Illuminae. He did in the end though and I couldn’t help but plaster a huge grin on my face as I heard him giggling away to himself as he read.

Soon however I found whenever he read completely nerve wrecking, this is one of my favourite books, what if he hates it? He had already tried to give City of Bones ago and could not get on with it and I was stealing myself for another rejection but I held out more hope because I knew Illuminae was more his taste but still I couldn’t help worry.

Have you ever told someone how much you love a song, you perhaps play it for a friend and they just sit there and look bored or unimpressed (it is, to be fair, very difficult to make appropriately interested faces to music) and you find yourself panicking and saying things like “Don’t worry, the chorus is much better” or “you had to be there” etc. Just me maybe? I don’t do it as much now but I also don’t get people to listen to my favourite songs anymore either. Everyone has slightly different tastes governed by different factors. For example I love the song “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” by Panic at the Disco because I first saw it with the video (which I ADORE) at a Fall Out Boy concert ON a Saturday night, had I just heard it on the radio one random day I probably wouldn’t feel the same about it. This sort of thing is the reason I love to read so many different reviews for the same book, especially if it is something I’ve reviewed myself because I’m not overly interested if the book is written amazingly (although Laini Taylor you are a word queen) and quite often the “themes” of a book are completely lost on me but I know how a book makes me FEEL and for me at least, that is what’s important.

I was so sure he would like it. Mainly because he is an older, dorkier Ezra type character and I know he loves to see characters like that. I am pleased to report that he did in fact absolutely love it and I got to witness the positive side to recommended someone a book you love. Watching him devour pages and pages was so satisfying and when he came to bed at two in the morning moaning “no, no no no no, no” at the book and threatening to put it in the freezer I was ecstatic to see his reactions were pretty on par with my own and I could tell exactly where he was in the story by the faces he was making.

He got to the last hundred or so pages of Illumine when I was at the same point in the third book, Obsidio and so we spent a couple of hours reading together, both gasping at one thing or another, making comments here and there (more him than me as I didn’t want to spoil anything for him) and watching the shock, horror and joy he went through was brilliant. I cried at my book, he cried at his and when he finally finished he told me it was one of the best books he’d ever read and I knew it had been worth getting him to read it and I was glad to have gone on that journey with him.

I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s great to recommend books. Remember not everyone will feel the same way about things as you do and it does suck a bit when someone doesn’t get the same enjoyment out of it that you did so don’t feel too down and certainly don’t force them or you’re at risk of tainting how they might feel about it and over pressure them. BUT if you can introduce someone to a book they completely and utterly fall in love with its totally worth it because reading and loving the same book as someone else is an amazing experience that reminds me why I write blogs, why I make book tube videos (they should return next week fingers crossed!) and why I love talking about books with people so thank you Chris for enjoying Illuminae with me, I can’t wait to see you get your heart ripped out of your chest when you read Gemina.

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book reviews, spoiler free

Gemina Review

Just a heads up that this review will be spoiler free for Gemina but not for the events of Illuminae. I like to keep all reviews as spoiler free as possible to be accessible to everyone but with sequels it’s a bit more difficult to avoid events that have happened in previous books.

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Gemina by  Amie Kaufman and  Jay Kristoff

Rating: XXXXX

Published: October 18th 2016 by Rock the Boat 

“It’s just you and it; and everything you’re about to take away.”

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.

I am dead. Review to come when I remember how to use feelings again. Were the words I used in my goodreads temporary review, this book, like its predecessor knocked me for six. Illuminae felt like something revolutionary to my world and there was no question I would be moving onto it’s sequel Gemina so there’s no interesting story about how I decided to read this book other than when I had hit just over half way through Illuminae I ordered Gemina and Obsido, which then arrived just before I finished Illuminae. Perfect timing.

Gemina is set out in the same format we already know and love from Illuminae, instant messages, audio transcripts, surveillance footage etc but everything seems to have have been knocked up a notch for this second book. First of all we are treated to excerpts from the journal of one of our main characters and instead of being hidden behind super encrypted files digitally, this journal is a pen and paper, leather bound journal and not only are we treated to the inner thoughts of this character we are treated to some beautiful and funny pictures which help portray events that transpire, explain the layout of the jump station etc and are just there for fun doodles, not to mention the ever present foreboding bullet hole present in every entry that becomes more and more saturated with blood as we read on. There are also pictures of the aforementioned (in the synopsis) Bei tech assault crew and I really enjoyed this little extra that popped up occasionally, helping to keep track of who’s who and what they do.

The basic story for Gemina is once again, if sparesly desribed at risk of sounding like a mish mash of done before sci-fi troupes but Kaufman and Kristoff have done it again by taking these very basic Sci-Fi/horror ideas and brething a good few extra dimensions of life into them, making them utterly addictive and thrilling. Like Illuminae I found some parts of Gemina rather chilling and even a little scary (I honestly have no idea how these books have not given me nightmares yet!) Not only do the events in Gemina freak me out a but it’s there way they’re presented in the file transcript, I turned a page and jumped at one point, which isn’t something I’ve ever experienced with books before and was a nice suprise in a twisted sort of way. I feel like the tension was higher here due to the way the information was presented and to me that speaks of some very good writing.

It took me a little longer to get into Gemina after becoming very attached to Kady, Ezra and even AIDAN, I had trouble meshing with our two new main characters, Hanna and Nik. Hanna seemed like a typical spoiled brat and Nik just seemed the worst kind of desperate, sleazy, don’t care if you have a boyfriend because he must be an idiot, I’m clearly the superior choice kind of guy and I was distraught after having loved Illuminae so much that these new IMPOSTERS would ruin the sequel for me. Kady and Ez went through some rough stuff before we technically even meet them and the way we see them react and deal with that helped to develop a closeness and fondness for them pretty early on. Turns out tragedy is a great character builder.

A Lot of my notes from the first quarter of the book are me moaning about things that Nik and Hanna do, how Hanna’s boyfriend is too sweet and good for her and angry/sighing faces about Nik’s desperate attempts to flirt and woo Hanna. It’s okay though, my dislike for these two is actually a point in favour of this book because I don’t remember ever having done quite the 360 on a pair of characters like I did with these two. The character progression here is totally phenomnal and is one of the things I liked most about this book, by the end of the book my notes went from “I can’t believe this spoiled child is meant to be one of our main protagonists, Kady would kick her butt” and “I really hope she breaks his wrist, he’s such a creep” to the other end of the scale with “Hanna is so amazing, everyone is in trouble” and “Nik is precious baby, I want to hug him.” I felt horrible for the way I felt about them to start with now because I realised I was judging them without knowing much about them and before I’d given them the chance to prove themselves and that they did.

Gemina is full of the heart wrenching twists and turns you would expect from the Illuminae files, this book broke my heart even more than it’s predacessor I think, to the point where I just sat and sobbed for a good few minuites and honestly debated throwing the book across the room or putting it in the freezer. I was worried about this book as middle books are notorious for being a little boring or proving that a series probably should have been a stand alone but this is totally not the case for Gemina which I think could have easily stood on it’s own if need be.

I am cautious now however about Obsido, there seems to have been a pattern in the first two books that they have both followed and I think the mould needs to be broken for the third or risk becoming boring through predictability.

 

book reviews, spoiler free

Illuminae Spoiler Free Review

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Illuminae
by  Amie Kaufman and  Jay Kristoff

Rating: XXXXX (If there was a higher rating this book would have it!)

Published: October 22nd 2015 by Rock the Boat

“If I breathed I would sigh. I would scream. I would cry.”

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.

Wow. Just. Wow. Those three words were the original review I left on Goodreads after finishing this book at some ungodly hour in the morning and being unable to sleep but trying to resist reading the next book straight away. I’ve been interested but kept putting off reading this book. I would see it or Gemina in a book store and pick it up almost every time but was put off by the format and left without it. Then recently with the launch of Obsido I kept seeing this series appearing everywhere again and my interest was again piqued! One of my bookish friends on the other side of the world was a big fan I realised and when I asked her about it she couldn’t recommend it more and she hasn’t steered me wrong yet so I decided to take another look at it. By this point I had read “The loneliest girl in the Universe” by Lauren James which is largely in the format of emails sent across deep space between two people and is one of my favourite books. I figured if I liked that so much and enjoyed the email format maybe Illuminae will be just as good?

Good news. It totally is. Illuminae is a wild ride and one I have absolutely loved. 599 pages seemed like a long old book but the format makes it such a fast paced read that eventually you’re eating up pages faster than you can count. Turns out I absolutely LOVE the format after all. Not only is it super easy to read once you’re used to it but you get so much extra little bits from it. I was worried it wouldn’t seem very immersive but for me that’s totally not been the case at all, if anything I’ve found it MORE so which I certainly wasn’t expecting. There’s a particular moment where a list of casualties are listed and although you’re not expected to necessarily read every single name the pages are not wasted because there are just enough pages for you to think, “wow, that’s so many…” and if that doesn’t get you there are hundreds of smiling pictures of all kinds of smiling faces, babies, children, families compiled into a few pages and again there is such a weight there from the sheer number and then seeing these faces. It might just be me but that felt like such a powerful moment compiled from something so simple. Then there are ship schematics (always give me ship schematics please), after action reports with lines and sections with lines through but are still readable, therefore given us an extra dimension to that part, what we’re meant to see and what we’re not both feel just as important. I admit I read some of those reports a couple of times to see how different they felt.

The story itself feels like a beautiful blending of classic sci-fi tropes but it doesn’t feel stale or overused. It wasn’t until I tried describing the story to someone I realised that it sounded like I was describing a mishmash of some of my favourite sci-fi films but it works so damn well and feels fresh, surprising, horrifying and shocking all the same. Every twist feels like you’ve been punched in the gut and I honestly have no idea how I made it through this book without having any nightmares. There was however, plenty of gasping, crying, a couple of gags and still a lot of laughs. This story really does have it all but I have so much trouble explaining it because although it sounds pretty good there are no words I can truly find to do this book justice (I’m going to try for a couple more paragraphs though be warned).

The writing is quick, witty and absolutely phenomenal, able to tell a story and give us facts while still being able to use some amazing descriptions that are still relevant in the format. “…It’s like a beautiful painting of a totally empty room” is one that really struck me. There are some on purpose typos when a character is trying to communicate at speed in an urgent moment and I’m sure I missed loads but the ones I noticed fit so well and just gave it an extra dimension. There are countdowns and statistics throughout that help illustrate the passage of time and give an impending sense of doom that is almost palpable and quite often I felt like I physically could not put this book down for fear of missing something, how could I go and do normal things when there was a countdown going on in my book?! I had to have my husband take away and hide this book so I could sleep at one point (I am the worst kind of adult) which is something that hasn’t happened in years (Catching Fire was the last time I believe).

The book starts with two transcripts that overlap, this is where we meet our ‘main characters’ Kady and Ezra. Swapping back and forth between one event told by two people separately this starting transcript of their interviews totally sold me even more because it is done so very well, switching accounts at the perfect time so we get all the details we need without any repetition. Also it contains the line “I’m frequently underestimated. I think it’s because I’m short.” By the time the interviews are done I felt like I had a really good picture and understanding of both characters and was already eager to know more. A great start. We go on to get entries from Kady’s personal journal, conversations between Ezra and his friends, audio transcripts from the commanding officers of the ships where we spend our story and much much more building a rich world and giving us more insights into these characters and those around them almost effortlessly. I cried about numerous non main characters and a character I couldn’t see me having any attachment to whatsoever at the beginning became one of my absolute favourite characters. That feels like great character development to me.

It is YA and there is romance but (and I know you’re possibly getting pretty sick of me gushing by this point, I know) the romance in this felt perfect. It wasn’t shoved in your face too much, there are no silly love triangles or alpha males and swooning females. It felt very realistic and totally believable. I’ve been getting sick of the same romance put into every story I’ve read lately which is a shame because I like a little romance. Illuminae however just really hit the spot by managing to be funny, flirty, sweet, beautiful, tragic and just a hint of sweet, sweet angst.

I could honestly go on and on about this book, when I finished it genuinely felt like I’d just watched this amazing film and I wanted to go see it again and again and again. I’m mortified that it has taken me so long to read such a great book but I think maybe it would have made all other books I read since feel inferior so maybe it was for the best. It has rekindled my love of sci-fi books and I’m probably going to binge watch some of my favourite sci-fi movies and shows in between reading the next two books in the series. I cannot recommend this book anywhere near enough. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m about half way through the sequel and losing my mind, speak soon.