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Free Space by Sean Danker, possibly my favorite sci-fi novel of all time

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Free Space

evagardian #2

author : sean danker

pages : [paperback] 320

favorite character : the admiral

summary :

In the follow-up to Admiral, the intergalactic war has ended and hostilities between the Evagardian Empire and the Commonwealth are officially over, but the admiral is far from safe. . . .

“I’d impersonated a prince, temporarily stopped a war, escaped a deadly planet, and survived more assassination attempts than I could conveniently count. After all that, there shouldn’t have been anything simpler than a nice weekend with a charming Evagardian girl.

However, some corners of the galaxy aren’t as genteel as the Empire, and Evagardians aren’t universally loved, which is how I ended up kidnapped to be traded as a commodity.

Their timing couldn’t have been worse. I’m not at my best, but these people have no idea whom they’re dealing with: a highly trained, genetically engineered soldier in the Imperial Service who happens to be my date.”

review :

You may be thinking: Kayla, might it be an exaggeration to claim this is the best sci-fi novel you’ve ever read?

Nope. It isn’t. This is the sci-fi for people who don’t think they’d like sci-fi, and the one to get for those already obsessed with the genre.

For the record, I really enjoy sci-fi. I think it’s interesting to see what authors can come up with in terms of technology, space, and most importantly, characters. If your characters are flat, or boring, or just unenjoyable, it doesn’t matter what kind of tech they’re parading around the galaxy.

There is absolutely none of that when it comes to the cast filling Free Space. They tend to alternate between  hilarious or terrifying. Some of them are capable of humor while also potentially able to kill someone five ways with the tip of a finger. This is the kind of stuff I live for.

First, let’s talk about how awesome it is that two of the four main characters this book centers around are female. Each completely capable of destroying or saving the known universe, possibly with one hand. But they’re also allowed their vulnerable, fragile moments. They’re allowed to make mistakes. They’re realistic–well, as realistic as it gets in science fiction, which is incredible. It’s so rare for me to find amazing representation in this in a sci-fi book–let alone one where the main narrator is male, let alone when written by a man. I could go on and on about this, just this, as a reason to read it, but like an infomercial, that’s not all!

As for the main narrator himself, the Admiral himself is as witty and always on the edge of death as ever. I love how Salmagard only ever refers to him with the title both of them know he never earned. I love how he somehow always seems to be two seconds away from death and yet acts like that was always park of the plan. Kind of like if Jack Sparrow had ever been intelligent enough to be an intergalactic spy.

I mean, yes, terrible, heart-pounding plot twists and insane things happen in the book that have you on the edge of your seat. Things that will encourage you not to put down this novel until the very end. Things that are as awesome as they are terrible for the characters to actually have to experience.

Let’s talk about the plot. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. Kind of part bumbling quest, part escape novel, part let’s-just-try-not-to-die. I love how this novel, as well as The Admiral, presents its own self-contained story within the series. I feel like that does so much more for these books, makes the writing more powerful and concise, and allows for more fun with the characters. I don’t want to spoil it by mentioning any specifics of what happen, because Free Space, unlike real space,  is best experienced when you dive right in without knowing too much about it.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Honestly, I feel like I’ve been endlessly talking about it ever since I knew that it existed. Can there be more? I want more. I’d read more of this series in a heartbeat.

5/5 stars

 

When I learned a sequel existed:

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When I finished the book:

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How I feel about the characters:

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Hunted by Meagan Spooner: fairy tale perfection

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Hunted

author : meagan spooner

pages : [hardcover] 384

memorable quote :

She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.

favorite characters :

summary :

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

review :

This book was amazing, this book was everything, the only terrible thing about this book is that there isn’t more for me to read.

Hunted is a retold fairy tale that is so reminiscent of classic fairy tale style. It’s told in an epic, beautifully composed style that really brings these characters and events up to legendary status.

Yeva grew up well. Her father as a merchant has provided everything and more to her and her sisters. More than that, because he had no sign, he indulged her and taught her the love of the hunt. Older now and expected to marry, she’s intended to leave that wilder part of herself aside–until their perfect world collapses, the money is gone, and they’re scrambling to pick up enough pieces simply to survive.

Hunted follows many of the same paths as other Beauty and the Beast retellings, but I absolutely loved how different the Beast and the curse as a whole is here. There are little sections of text from the Beast’s perspective interspersed between Yeva’s chapters, which give a better understanding of him and his own turmoil. I love how there’s so much more of an explanation as to what happened to  him, that led to him being there with Yeva.

I wouldn’t exactly call this retelling dark, but it wasn’t the brightest, either. There are some terrible things that happen, more realistic portrayals of what can happen out deep in the woods.

loved how Yeva was obsessed with stories and adventure. Portrayals of Beauty as a wild adventurer always make me happy, and she was such a strong and complex character. Maybe a little scary, but that just makes her more interesting.

I love retold fairy tales and like to get my hands on any that come out. Still, Hunted ranks as one of my top favorites, so I know I’ll be ranting about this one and pushing it on other people for years to come.

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · action · books to movies · Uncategorized

Books to Movies: Logan

I can’t accurately express how completely excited I was for this movie. Wolverine and Hugh Jackman are undoubtedly one of the best character and actor pairings I’ve ever seen. As in if anyone else ever tries to play Wolverine in my lifetime I’ll be disappointed.

It’d been a while since I’d seen any X-Men film, really, but all of them pretty much stand on their own as separate films, which is nice if you really aren’t sure about where to dive into the movieverse. I’d say watch at least a few of the originals before getting to this one because, after all, you want to save the best for last, right?

This review will only contain mild spoilers, but if you want to know absolutely nothing about the movie other than knowing I give it 5/5 stars, get out now.

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Let’s talk about characters. I loved the dynamic in this film, because it makes everyone seem so much realistic, more fleshed out, than happens in most superhero films. As always it was amazing to see the relationship between Logan and Charles, aka Patrick Stewart, because I think they have one of the greatest, most interesting relationships out of all of the X-Men. They’re just so good. I can’t even reflect on it without getting hit by a mixture of emotions, that I don’t think I could accurately explain even if I spoiled everything in the entire movie.

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Laura. I’m torn between wanting desperately to adopt her, giving her the good life she deserves, and running as far away from her as possible because she’s terrifyingDafne Keen conveys so much while not speaking a word, and as a child actress that’s only more impressive. I want more movies with her. I want a trilogy that’s only about her. Because those fight scenes including her were so intense, I couldn’t sit back in my seat.

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Still, what I love about these movies (or just Wolverine in particular) is the tongue in cheek humor that comes with it. Maybe to keep me from being a complete and utter sobbing mess, there are still lighthearted moments perfectly interspersed in the script.

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I love that while there’s backstory here, while we know everything that’s going on — behind the amazing action sequences there’s so much character work happening. Between Laura and Logan and Charles, yes, but even minor characters have their chance to shine. And I loved every minute of it.

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That ending? Perfect — perfectly devastating. Everything I’d dreaded and hoped for realized.

Have you seen Logan? What did you think?

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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Gemina

The Illuminae Files #2
Book 1: Illuminae

authors : amie kaufman and jay kristoff

pages : [hardcover] 608

favorite character : kady

memorable quote :

And now, born from the ashes, she’s a warrior in bloodied black.

summary :

The highly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller that critics are calling “out-of-this-world awesome.”

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 :

My advice? Don’t even read the summary. Just dive into this headfirst after you read Illuminae. Because I don’t think it’s even possible for these books to get more intricate and surprising and fun even while they’re devastating.

Gemina takes place right after Illuminae, a few days before the Hypatia is set to arrive at the Heimdall wormhole station. As a total sidenote, I thought it was really interesting how there were so many things in that system named after Norse myth. Heimdall is such a fitting name, just thinking about how perfect it is makes me happy.

Within the first few pages it’s obvious that we’re going to have some new main characters in play, because the action is fixated on Heimdall now and there’s literally nothing the people on the Hypatia can do to ensure their mutual survival. Which would be horrifying, although as usual Kady seems to take that as a challenge to prove to BeiTech they’ll survive just to spite them. I love it.

The two new characters, Hanna and Nik, are incredibly interesting because it’s exactly like taking a YA contemporary romance novel and throwing those characters into space, on a wormhole station lightyears away from any Core System (like, you know, planets where people actually live) and then continuously trying to kill them. This book is a real sci-fi horror story. I thought Illuminae was scary enough; Gemina literally gave me nightmares because of one of the new creatures introduced. Thanks, guys. I won’t describe them because you really just need to read the book and then be scarred for life yourself.

And, I mean, one of the biggest dislikes I had about this book was a super petty one — I hate when teenage characters smoke just because it’s “cool”. It’s my hope that, hundreds of years from now like when Gemina takes place, no one will smoke because everyone knows it will kill them. And, obviously, probably, there are newer lethal alternatives. Plus, I mean, you’re trapped on a space station. Maybe you don’t want to risk accidentally blowing everyone up or setting something on fire?

Like I said, that was really low on my list of priorities, because there were so many other terrible (terribly wonderful) things happening. Just when you think things can’t get worse, they do. Just when things start looking up, you know someone, or several someones, or everyone will soon, once again, be on the verge of dying. Because literally no one is safe in this series and you never know who’s going to be creatively killed off next.

That, paired with the unique way this book is formatted and written, had me fall in love with the series all over again. I’ve always been a fan of unique formatting or prose in books and The Illuminae Files really has something special here. Everything is told via securty camera feeds, court hearings, artificial intelligence interpretations, comm links, instant messages — all of that distant, mechanical stuff, but you still feel like you’re right in there with the characters. You still get to know them, feel for them, and root for their survival. Most of all, you just want to make sure that BeiTech gets everything they rightfully deserve.

This is a book I’ll be raving about for, well, forever, and it can’t be soon enough until I have my hands on book three.

5/5 stars

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Beauty and the Beast: Movie Review

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I recently made it over to the theater to finally see Beauty and the Beast. Usually I’m a little quicker to see the latest Disney movie, but I was actually a little afraid to see this adaptation because the animation is one of my favorite movies.

This review will only contain minor spoilers, if any, and nothing major. But if you’d prefer to know absolutely nothing about the movie, leave knowing I give it 3/5 stars.

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I love Emma Watson. I was really excited when I’d first heard she’d been cast as Belle, and eagerly waited to see what would be released. My excitement dimmed when I heard she’d be doing her own vocals. In such a music-based film, I don’t feel like this is a great choice. Maybe they should have gone the Cinderella route and taken almost every song out of the film — although the original Beauty and the Beast soundtrack is so clever and catchy that would have been a shame. Still, they could have gone the way of most Disney princess movies and had separate vocals for words and songs. The utterly, over autotuned result jarred me out of the story with every passing song she was a part of. Because, of course, viewers are going to compare it to Paige O’Hara‘s gorgeous singing voice.

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One of my favorite parts of the film was, surprisingly, Gaston. I liked his character even more than in the animated movie — ‘liked’ meaning that I thought it was well-developed and interesting, in that he’s completely insane, egotistical, and sexist. He didn’t even need a say a word — his facial expressions perfectly captured his disdain for everyone else, or situations that didn’t go quite his way.

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I was a little disappointed that his groupies didn’t make much of an appearance, and a lot that could have been given to them was instead transferred over to LeFou. He was pretty funny, though, so I didn’t mind the extra screentime. And whereas it was interesting to see what was subtlety changed to obviously make LeFou gay, I hope Disney doesn’t use this as a cop-out with keeping diversity way, way in the background. They’ve been slowly building toward a show or movie that could have an LGBT+ main character . . . I’m still waiting for it.

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Then there’s the Beast. His character felt slightly different from the animated version, too, probably because there was so much more background to the characters given here. You get an understanding of why he was cursed, but not only that — why he was such an awful person to begin with. Why he might want to change. Honestly, there were a few moments while he was getting to know Belle that he seemed utterly adorable by how simultaneously cocky and flustered he was. His design was pretty cool, too, though I’m still very confused by people who find him handsome.

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Speaking of backstory, there’s some of Belle’s too, because everyone, everywhere, has always wondered what the heck happened to her mother. Don’t worry, friends, it’s revealed, though kind of in the most randomly magical of ways. It looks like there’s a separate book out about that, too, so maybe Disney just included it because they wanted the chance to sell something else. Much as I love them, I know they love money more than they love me. I literally had a dream last night where I accidentally made Bob Iger angry, so maybe that’s some kind of sign.

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The castle staff were voiced wonderfully, with a special shoutout to Gandalf parading about as Cogsworth. Literally the perfect match — and that’s not sarcasm. The only thing that threw me off were the vaguely creepy and odd character designs. Cogsworth worked best, for me, with Lumiere a close second, followed by Mrs. Potts and Chip in dead last. Yeah, if Chip slid toward me in a creepily empty house, I would have run away too.

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Last, but not least, can we talk about how disappointing Belle’s gold dress was? Especially after Cinderella had such a gorgeous live action take on the ballgown. It was pretty, yes, but nowhere near the jaw-dropping spectacle you expect from a classic princess.

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This movie had its work cut out for it because it just makes it so easy to compare to something that came before it. When I could slip into the familiar story–like the scenes that were, word for word, exactly like the animation–I adored it. But this is probably the first Disney musical I walked out of where I wasn’t immediately compelled to buy the entire soundtrack. I mean, I saw Moana on Thanksgiving, bought the soundtrack an hour later, and have listened to it nearly every day since.

Still, I can’t wait to see what the other live action movies in the works will be like.

If you’ve seen the movie, what did you think?

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The Haters by Jesse Andrews: Maybe I should have DNF’d?

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The Haters

author : jesse andrews

pages : [hardcover] 352

summary :

Do you have a favorite band?

Okay. Good. Unfortunately, it also sucks. And Wes and Corey can tell you exactly how.

There is nothing Wes and Corey can’t hate on. Even bands they love. In fact, they are incapable of loving anything without relentlessly figuring out ways to hate it, too.

And so when they are sent to a place as soul-crushing as jazz camp—which is populated almost completely by competitive maniacs who are trying to seem chill by talking in Jazz Voice—Wes and Corey hate on it with extreme prejudice. Fortunately, so does a girl named Ash, who may even be a bigger and better hater than the two of them combined.

When the three of them run away from camp, start their own band, and go on tour, it seems like a great idea. Except that they are faced with a basically unanswerable question: How can confirmed haters even try to make music that maybe doesn’t suck?

The answer takes the form of a catastrophic, hilarious, romantically tangled road trip from Jesse Andrews, bestselling author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. You can feel free to hate on it. But you can also love it, too. Because maybe those are kind of the same thing.

review :

I was super excited to read this book because obviously I’ve read Andrews’ previous book (I don’t know many people who don’t know something about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and think he has a really great, unique way of telling stories. Unfortunately this one didn’t really do it for me.

I went into The Haters without knowing too much about it. I briefly read some of the front flap and then dove right in. I have to admit that I know next to nothing about jazz, was surprised to see a contemporary book all about jazz music, and then was a little excited because that’s something new, something cool. And then within the next few dozen pages, all of that disappeared with only a few more references to jazz musicians and not much else.

I think what made it so hard for me to get into this book and the road trip is that there’s no real end goal. Wes himself acknowledges that none of them are actually good at playing music, yet they continue to do so, and they have no real destination in their journey. They all abandon their cell phones because it will be the ‘cool’ thing to do. That’s basically their justification for a lot of the illegal things they do, too. I do like that at the end of this novel, the character need to face real consequences for what they’ve done. That isn’t something that happens a lot in YA so I was actually pleased to see that.

But, at the end of The Haters, I don’t feel like I came away with much else. A lot of the book is taken up by dialogue of Wes and Corey hating on various things, making a bunch of jokes I guess high school guys always make, and then . . . not much else. It just wasn’t the one for me.

2/5 stars

3 stars · adult · Fantasy · Uncategorized

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

author : seth grahame-smith

pages : [hardcover] 336

favorite quote :

Judge us not equally, Abraham. We may all deserve hell, but some of us deserve it sooner than others.

favorite character : henry

summary :

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.”

“My baby boy…” she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

review :

I’ve been thinking about reading this book for a long while and, honestly, was never sure that I would actually get around to reading it. See, I always had so many other options, and so many new and more compelling books to reach for. But being temporarily moved away from all of that, with only access to a limited library and the more limited reach of whatever books aren’t currently checked out there, I chose this book because it’s one of the few titles I haven’t already read but have heard of.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was nothing like I thought it would be. This is the first of Grahame-Smith’s books I’ve read, so I never before experienced his writing style in his retellings. It was an interesting take and better than I thought it would be. The tone is more dry historical nonfiction than sensationalized bestseller vampire lore. It reads like Grahame-Smith has really been commissioned by Henry, a vampire who’s lived for centuries, to tell the true story of Abraham Lincoln in a new historical textbook. There are even pictures included with insets that show you where Lincoln (or the vampires!) supposedly are. I liked how that added to the storybuilding with the play at realism.

Maybe it played in too well, however, because it really did bore me like an actual textbook would. There was surprisingly little vampire slaying in this Abe Lincoln biography. Although I’m not sure of how much written is historically accurate (I’m going to assume a fair part of it is, apart from the vampires and all), it was . . . dull. And demonstrates how utterly depressing it was to live in a time period where so many people died under mysterious or unexplained circumstances, not just because of vampires but because of diseases they didn’t even have a name for back then. It’s a wonder that some people managed to survive it all without losing their minds.

I’m not sure if I would pick up another book by Grahame-Smith. This book certainly shows the talent he has, but a book including vampires, to me, has to be entertaining. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter actually skimmed over most of the scenes where vampires appeared, and would refer back to action-packed events in one or two sentences rather than showing them. Actually, one of the things that annoyed me most in this book was the cheap trick of using a dream to get in an especially shocking or enrapturing scene, only to have it turn out to be a dream. That happened so often in this novel, I couldn’t even keep track of the number of times it frustrated me. At least three, maybe four or five scenes were constructed in this way.

I could certainly see the draw this book holds for the people who loved it so much but, for me, I’m now more interested to see how it would translate on screen for me because that form of media might work best with this material.

3/5 stars