Lost Review & New Review: Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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synThis 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.

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.

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Illuminae is a reading experience. The documents, interviews, emails, and recordings get the reader involved in every clue, panic attack, and bit of romance in this epic space thriller.

The pacing is inconsistent. At first, it’s an action-packed thrill ride that will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat. The setting is insane. The danger, the terror of the invasion-it’s beyond intense. The middle part, despite the varied documents lags behind that initial hysteria only to pick up at the end with an unexpected and terrifying twist. 

Some scenes are gory and full of sickening detail. It’s awesome. The attacks are straight out of your favorite horror film and darkest nightmares. 

The world building is fierce and complex and full of politics that put profit over humanity. It’s cruel, despicable, and packed with drama. 

Kady is stellar as a protagonist. She’s conflicted in love, nostalgic, occasionally scared and so relatable, despite being a mad hacker on a space ship. Kady has skills. She uses her brain to dip into the computer systems and uncover secrets, take control, and steer everyone aboard away from utter destruction. The adrenaline is high. Her task has slim odds for survival and yet, Kady NEVER gives up. No matter how much is thrown at her, she fights and fights and keeps fighting for her people. 

The AI, wow. Unexpected and so cool. He’s got personality and such a presence. He’s dangerous, deadly, and struggles to understand emotion, but he’s sort of lovable in a weird way and the only thing saving our heroes from total devastation.

gemina

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syn

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.

review

4/5 Stars 

My core issue with Gemina was the lack of rehash early on. There’s no explanation of previous events in Illuminae so I spent most of the book wondering what was going on and when it would link up with the previous story. I was super confused for much of the book. 

Hanna has a big personality, maybe even more epic than Kady’s in book 1. She’s a total, unabashed B.A. character. She’s fierce, intelligent, sexy, and full of sass. She flirts and plays and is one heck of a vixen, but underneath her perky, blonde exterior is a deadly force. Her fighting skills, her Sun Tzu references, her tactical skills, she’s wicked awesome and completely refreshing. She owns her body, her life, and will mess up anyone that threatens her. I’m impressed with how she transforms from a party girl to a warrior. The transition is smooth, floating to the surface because it was always a part of her. 

The added dynamic of Russian gang life was a marvelous addition to this story. The danger, the intrigue, the stories that went along with the Knives, the drama, it totally swept me away. 

Cat and mouse game to the extreme. Man the hunt is deadly, bloody, full of gross description, and the code names alone-each and every character is different, has a strong personality, and has their own reason for trying to capture Hanna. 

There’s a twist. It’s made of science and theory, and is a little confusing but the illustration helps. Oh the illustrations. They’re beautiful and hilarious, part comic book style and part precise diagrams. 

Elena. Oh my gosh, I love her. She’s a sarcasm queen, witty, and full of life. She doesn’t take put downs from anyone and is a genius on the computer. She’s a heroine that may even trump Hanna. Her interactions with Nik are adorable and lively. They fight like siblings, but the love floats off the pages.

Nik is complex. He’s a pervert, a flirt, and his comebacks are hilarious. He’s got the House of Knives gang cred and the tattoos to prove it. He’s so much more than meets the eye. He’s a big softy underneath that tough exterior and loves so hard it will make you swoon. His story is made of drama and lies and twists that will keep you guessing about who he truly is. 

I loved the set up at the end. The parallel between Hanna and Nik, the use of color, the poetic way it works together as one narrative despite the circumstances *no spoilers*. You have to see it. Trust me, it’s genius. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Intense reading,

Jordan

Spotlight & Giveaway: You Were Here-Cori McCarthy

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Release Date: March 1, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

“The mix of forms as well as the insights each character gleans through their urban explorations render this book both readable and teachable on multiple levels.”

–Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, STARRED Review

“Readers who appreciate stories of searching for personal truths will be happy to join this meaningful quest for identity and independence.”

–Booklist

“You Were Here is wrenchingly beautiful in its honest and achingly accurate portrayal of grief and how it breaks us–and the way unconditional friendship puts us back together.”

-Jo Knowles, award-winning author of See You At Harry’s and Read Between the Lines

“Through razor-sharp wit, no-holds-barred momentum, and heart-wrenching twists, Cori McCarthy dares you to climb through the broken, abandoned wreckage of the past, stand on the edge of the world, and face something even scarier: the truth.”

-K.A. Barson, author of 45 Pounds (More or Less and Charlotte Cuts it Out)

“The urban explorers of You Were Here dive deep into the forgotten man-made spaces all around them–and their own feelings of loss, love, and fear. McCarthy deftly intertwines the characters’ stories, filling them with authentic pain and heartache as well as soaring moments of grace and humor. I dare you to read it!”

–Maggie Lehrman, author of The Cost of All Things

synJaycee is about to accomplish what her older brother Jake couldn’t: live past graduation.

Jaycee is dealing with her brother’s death the only way she can – by re-creating Jake’s daredevil stunts. The ones that got him killed. She’s not crazy, okay? She just doesn’t have a whole lot of respect for staying alive.

Jaycee doesn’t expect to have help on her insane quest to remember Jake. But she’s joined by a group of unlikely friends – all with their own reasons for completing the dares and their own brand of dysfunction: the uptight, ex-best friend, the heartbroken poet, the slacker with Peter Pan syndrome, and… Mik. He doesn’t talk, but somehow still challenges Jayce to do the unthinkable—reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.

Cori McCarthy’s gripping narrative defies expectation, moving seamlessly from prose to graphic novel panels and word art poetry, perfect for fans of E. Lockhart, Jennier Niven, and Jandy Nelson. From the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum to the skeletal remains of the world’s largest amusement park, You Were Here takes you on an unforgettable journey of friendship, heartbreak and inevitable change.

authcori.jpgCori McCarthy studied poetry and screenwriting before falling in love with writing for teens at Vermont College of Fine Arts. From a military family, Cori was born on Guam and lived a little bit of everywhere before she landed in Michigan. Learn more about her books at CoriMcCarthy.com

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Excerpt“What do I see?” I asked, turning back to the halo effect created by Margaret’s splayed hair. “It was a game. She died because she was playing a game.”

“Just like Jake,” Natalie said.

“Right,” I quipped, trying to mask not only my annoyance at Natalie’s psychoanalyst tone but also a flare of grief. My chest grew tight. Why wouldn’t it go away? Why did all this still buckle me to the ground? Tears burned my eyes, and I took my hair out of my ponytail. This never happened when I came here with Mik. Mik didn’t talk or prod. Mik let me be while we walked around Jake’s old haunt, wondering if he was actually haunting it.

“My dad said that OU will raze the TB ward.” Bishop pointed out the window toward the building on the very top of the hill, by far the spookiest and most unkempt in The Ridges compound. “It’s the only fully abandoned building.”

“Raze?” I asked, suddenly angry. “When?”

“End of the summer, I think. My dad said it was going to cost a ton but that leaving the old building there while it was falling in is just asking for lawsuits.”

“Jake loved the TB ward,” I said. “They haven’t stripped it down like this building.”

“TB?” Zach asked.

“Tuberculosis,” Natalie said.

Bishop squinted at his friend. “TB has been one of the leading terminal diseases in society since the dawn of civilization, Zach.”

“But it doesn’t exist anymore,” Zach said. “Like leprosy.”

“It totally exists,” Natalie said. “And so does leprosy. Where do you learn these things?”

“TB is still the leading cause of death for all people with HIV,” Bishop said. “But don’t worry, Zach. You won’t get it.”

I was surprised to find Zach looking at me. “What kind of things are in there?”

I shrugged. “I’ve never been, but I know it’s more dangerous. All the windows and doors are boarded up to keep drunk undergrads out.”

“So there’s no way in?” Bishop asked.

I shook my head. “Didn’t say that. Every building in The Ridges compound is connected by basement tunnels. If we get into the basement, we can get into any building.”
We all shuffled to our feet and stood around the last portrait of Margaret Schilling.

“I’m in,” Bishop said, and I nodded. Bishop was cool; we’d been partners for two semesters straight in woodshop. He said odd, grandiose things sometimes, but I liked him for it. Plus there was a pretty good chance that Mik would show himself with only Bishop around.

“I’ll take you two to the exit,” I told Natalie and Zach.

“Well, hey,” Zach said. “What if I want to come?”

Natalie looked at him, stunned. “You want to go? What about Kolenski’s three kegs?”

“Kolenski gets kegs every couple of weeks.” Zach shoved his hands in his pockets. He had sobered up since they’d entered The Ridges, and now he just looked worn down. Even his hair had flattened. I’d written him off years ago, but the way he’d helped me find Jake’s footprint and waylaid Natalie…maybe he wasn’t such a garden-variety “dude.”

“Who else can say that they did this the night after graduation?” he added with a shrug.

“So Natalie’s the loose end?” I said. “Big surprise.”

“Wait a second. It was my idea to follow you in the first place. And I…I want to see it.”

“Really?” Zach asked her. “Even if it’s dangerous?”

“I’m going to minor in history. It’ll be like walking around inside of history.”

I knew Natalie well enough to know that she was deluding herself, but when I opened my mouth to point it out, I saw something instead. Bishop did too.

“Apple.” He pointed to the ground. “Guys. There’s an apple.”

A shiny, green Granny Smith apple sat in the doorway. I picked it up.

“Where the hell did that come from?” Zach asked, fear trilling his voice. “Is someone else here? That wasn’t there a few minutes ago, right? Right?”

They all looked up and down the hall. Nothing.

“Maybe Jake’s ghost put it there. Or Margaret’s,” I said. A thump of what could only be described as happiness resounded through my chest. It was foreign and weird, and yet welcome.

“You’re smiling,” Natalie said. “Why are you smiling? You never smile.”

I rubbed the apple on my shirt and took a huge crunching bite. Natalie looked like she was going to pass out. I winked. “This way to the basement.”

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Runs 3/1-3/31 (US & Canada only)

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Keep reading, 

Jordan