3 stars · science fiction · young adult

Aurora Rising: a solid, sci-fi novel

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Aurora Rising

The Aurora Cycle #1

authors : jay kristoff and amie kaufman

other books by these authors:
gemina

pages : [hardcover] 473

memorable quote :

Who am I to deny gravity, Aurora? When you shine brighter than any constellation in the sky?

favorite character : ty

summary:

From the internationally bestselling authors of THE ILLUMINAE FILES comes an epic new science fiction adventure.

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.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

review :

AURORA RISING, while not completely out of this world, manages to have some (inter)stellar scenes and a neat hook that really makes me excited for book two.

This YA sci-fi novel opens with a group of teens, in space, forced to work together for the good of all humanity—and, at least 6/7 of them actually signed up for that because they’ve been training as part of a space police peace program. One is not like the others. One is the reason they’re all brought together, and the reason there’s a good chance not all of them are going to survive this mess. But what’s the fun of outer space without a little danger or certain death?

The book is told in multiple points of view, and whenever it’s that character’s POV, it becomes first person from their perspective. This was confusing particularly in the beginning of the book, because many of the characters have similar personalities. They all have the same snarky sense of humor. I’m certainly all for books that have more than one character who can make witty quips with terrible timing, but when everyone is doing it, that doesn’t help distinguish between voices. I wish we’d been eased a little more into these people before we switched POV so often.

Really, it isn’t just the confusing POV that makes AURORA RISING start out very slow. The first third of the book feels like a generic science fiction premise—and as someone who doesn’t overread the genre and hasn’t watched many of the most recent space movies, that’s saying a lot. AURORA RISING really comes into its own in the back half of the book—it finds its rhythm, just like the crew does with one another. Kind of. Sort of. Not really. They’re always a mess and that’s precisely what I like about them.

This is one of the rare books where I think the sequel will be better than the first book, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. AURORA RISING takes a lot of familiar pieces of science fiction and gives them a subtle spin so that you almost think you can see what’s coming, and then at the same time feel like you have no idea what the hell is going on (because you probably don’t).

Also it succeeds in making me terrified of everything. Thank you.

AURORA RISING could be better, and will be—probably—as the series continues.

3/5 stars

 

 

1 star · science fiction · young adult

The XY: well . . . I read it

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The XY

author : virginia bergin

summary :

She’s been taught to fear him.
He’s been taught to fear her.
What if they’re both wrong?

In River’s world, XYs are a relic of the past, along with things like war and violence. Thanks to the Global Agreements, River’s life is simple, safe, and peaceful…until she comes across a body in the road one day. A body that is definitely male, definitely still alive.

River isn’t prepared for this. There’s nothing in the Agreements about how to deal with an XY. Yet one lies before her, sick, suffering, and at her mercy.

River can kill him, or she can save him. Either way, nothing will ever be the same.

review :

I have too many thoughts on this book and most of them are not great, so I’ll start with the positives.

The concept was interesting. It hooked me, made me want to read to see where the author would go with it. In The XY, a plague wiped out most of the people on Earth with an XY chromosome, which changes everything. A few generations later, a teen girl finds an XY, a boy, and doesn’t understand what he is or how he’s alive in the outside world. And nothing afterward happens the way you’d think it would.

The problem, or one of them, with the XY is that it has a rather optimist view of women. I’m a feminist, which means believing in equality, and this book is surprisingly hard-hitting when it comes to the gender binary, considering all people born with XY chromosomes after the plague are kept apart from all of society so they won’t die. The book assumes that without these XYs, everything would be . . . Not perfect, but definitely an idealized world. It seems to take the idea that most terrible things in the world happened because of men (which is valid, as historically men have been the ones in positions of power to make these decisions) but then takes it farther. Aggression, suspicion, jealousy, violence–those are all XY traits, in this book. It’s like no woman would ever be selfish or radical or explosive.

The main character knows what dolls are, but she doesn’t know what video games are because those are an XY thing (and only for the very old women, the last generation to live before the plague, and I guess they only like those things because of . . . XY influence?? I don’t know). There’s a whole parody on International Women’s Day because the world in this book has the same but for men, and the main character repeatedly says that spending even one day on the topic is a waste of time. It’s a little too on the nose and enraging.

A lot of the premise of the book focuses on how women in the new world wouldn’t recognize an XY because they can’t comprehend what a man looks like. I’ve never seen a unicorn but I can sure comprehend what it looks like. Even older women who lived before the plague don’t know what an XY looks like?? The world still has access to the internet, to all sorts of communication. They can watch old videos and movies and access pictures. The MC doesn’t watch these because she can’t relate to them. They aren’t realistic. It’s like . . . Suddenly everyone in society has no interest in any entertainment. The MC looks down on her friend, the only person around who appreciates literature. It’s understandable for them not to look for entertainment in a survival situation, but this isn’t one. They’re society is fully functioning. The MC has plenty of time to sit around and feel sorry for herself.

The book tried to be trans-inclusive in its language which was refreshing. It consistently mentioned that this was a genetic plague, so it would refer to killing all the XYs instead of referring to killing all men. There was a vague mention once that people could continue dressing/identifying the way they’d like after the plague, which was never mentioned again and was sort of thrown out the window once it was apparent that no XXs the MC, River, knew identified themselves as trans. It seems like no one in their world understands it as anything but distinctly male and female.

Which . . . For a world where women are the only ones left, you would think we could get some F/F rep. Instead there are like the blandest female relationships here so nothing could be misconstrued and if it is interpreted as a relationship, someone else could claim you misinterpreted it. This is when I start hitting my head against my desk.

This review has gone on too long already and I haven’t even gotten to the plot. There were plot points that were picked up for no reason and dropped out of nowhere. No consequences for anything, no cohesive storyline. The best thing is that the book should have about fifty more pages and it doesn’t. It just ends. There’s no satisfying conclusion. Please don’t keep reading, like I did, and expect actual answers. You’ll get none.

I can’t recommend this book. It’s just not very well done, and it’ll leave you more frustrated than anything else.

1/5 stars

 

 

 

4 stars · science fiction · series

Reread Review: The Woods Vol. 1: The Arrow: let’s see how crazy this space high school can get

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the woods, vol 1: the arrow

by james tynion iv

artist : michael dialynas

pages : [ebook] 128

summary :

On October 16, 2013, 437 students, 52 teachers, and 24 additional staff from Bay Point Preparatory High School in suburban Milwaukee, WI vanished without a trace. Countless light years away, far outside the bounds of the charted universe, 513 people find themselves in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Where are they? Why are they there? The answers will prove stranger than anyone could possibly imagine.

reread review :

The Woods is a very interesting concept with an okay execution. The writing is okay, the characters are okay, the monsters are okay–and it definitely has potential. But when I read volume one for the first time it was the only one available at my library. By the time I found the following volumes, I needed to reread this one. Because I remembered . . . barely anything about it. And maybe that says more about this volume than anything else ever could.

Would I recommend it? Yes. It’s a quick read and it’s a creative concept. But it doesn’t immediately stand out as a favorite graphic novel for me–doesn’t pack as much of a punch as a first volume potentially should.

3/5 stars

 

5 stars · science fiction · series

Undivided by Neal Shusterman; an amazing conclusion to the series

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undivided

unwind #4

book 1: unwind
book 2: unwholly
book 3: unsouled

author : neal shusterman

pages : [hardcover] 372

favorite characters  conner & risa

memorable quote :

Best way to save humanity is to turn the monsters against one another.

summary :

Teens control the fate of America in the fourth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman.

Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future.

But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.

review :

Unwind was one of those books that, after I read it, I knew immediately I was going to love it and keep rereading it forever. It took me a little while to realize it was going to be part of a series. I’m so amazed at the turns this series has taken–the ups, the downs, those nail-biting moments in-between. Neal Shusterman proves again and again that he’s one of my favorite authors because he’s brilliant, and writes wholly (ha) unique and compelling narratives, and creates these characters you can’t help but love.

Undivided, the final book in the Unwind dystology, came with a bittersweet feeling. I often hate to end series because, while I have this pull to know what’s going to happen, I can’t help but feel like I need to stretch out my time in the story. I don’t want it to end. Oftentimes it takes me longest to read the books I know I’ll love because I’m afraid of the terrible things that could happen to the wonderful characters.

Not to say that Neal Shusterman isn’t also capable of creating amazing, compelling villains, or those characters who float around in the gray area between good and evil. As much as I care for some of the amazing crew they’ve picked up along the way, I always need me some Connor and Risa.

I won’t spoil anything. I will say that this book made me cry like I haven’t since I read book one for the first time. It’s amazingly thoughtful, terribly reminiscent and poignant in today’s world. It’s sweet. It bites. And it’s everything that I could have ever wished for.

What I love most about this series is that when it’s bad, you can’t imagine it will get any worse. And it does. And then when it’s good, you can’t imagine it’ll get any better, and then it does. There’s never any way to predict it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m sad to say goodbye to those surprises, and these characters, and those moments that made me laugh or cry. But I’m glad for the journey–if only so I can force everyone I know to read these books, immediately.

Undivided proves, once and for all, that this will be one of my favorite series of all time.

5/5 stars

2 stars · fiction · science fiction

Clean Room Volume 2: interesting, not captivating

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Clean Room: Volume 2

Exile

author : gail simone

illustrator : jon davis-hunt

pages : [paperback] 144

summary :

Journalist Chloe Pierce had no idea that her fiance Philip’s decision to pick up a book by enigmatic and compelling self-help guru Astrid Mueller would change her life forever–by ending his! Three months after reading Mueller’s book, Philip had blown his brains out all over Chloe’s new kitchen and something in that book made him do it.
Now, Chloe will stop at nothing as she attempts to infiltrate Mueller’s clandestine organization to find the truth behind Philip’s suicide and a “Clean Room” that she’s heard whispers of–a place where your deepest fears are exposed and your worst moments revealed.

This volume features a spectacularly disturbing standalone issue that delves into the depths of Astrid’s terrifying personal history and explains why demons have haunted her since birth.

review :

Clean Room: Volume 2, Exile picks up immediately after volume one. There’s intrigue and monsters, gory and vivid panels on nearly every other page, and a lot of questions still to be answered. Unfortunately, many of them continue unanswered throughout the entirety of this volume, but I suppose that’s what volume three is for, right?

Exile follows a lot more of Astrid’s story, and speaks more about her followers as well. Actually, there’s almost nothing new exposed about Chloe, the would-be journalist from volume one who I thought was intended to be the main focus of the series. The view flips between her and Astrid often, but rather than giving an all-encompassing view, this only ensures that readers never really get the full picture of what is going on.

Which means that little to no answers are given in this volume, at least until the very end. The conclusion of this volume hints that all will be revealed, or at least placed out in greater detail, in the next set of issues. Still, it would be nice to be thrown a little something every once in a while, apart from gratuitous violence and proving just how far these monsters are willing to go to harm these people. Again, there are the chillingly creative panels where the monsters demonstrate just how monstrous they can be.

Still. I would have been more pleased with this follow-up if it was more story and answers (or, even, more interesting questions) than perpetuating over and over again the power these monsters have to manipulate the people. That was clear from the first issue. Now it’s become redundant.

I’m determined, though, to see this through to the end, because it is an interesting concept, like nothing I’ve ever read before, and I want to see where they take the story. I’ll be going on to volume three.

I’d recommend this volume if you really like horror and gory intrigue. It definitely isn’t the type of graphic novel for people looking to read something happy.

2/5 stars

2 stars · fiction · science fiction

Clean Room Volume 1: a very gory, not very great, graphic novel

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Clean Room: Volume 1

Immaculte Conception

author : gail simone

illustrator : jon davis-hunt

pages : [paperback] 160

summary :

Journalist Chloe Pierce had no idea that her fiancée, Philip’s, decision to pick up a book by enigmatic and compelling self-help guru, Astrid Mueller, would change her life forever: by ending his! Three months after reading Mueller’s book, Philip had blown his brains out all over Chloe’s new kitchen and something in that book made him do it.
Now, Chloe will stop at nothing as she attempts to infiltrate Mueller’s clandestine organization to find the truth behind Philip’s suicide and a “Clean Room” that she’s heard whispers of–a place where your deepest fears are exposed and your worst moments revealed.

review :

I started reading this series because my library let me know about an app called Hoopla, where I can download a certain number of titles per month with my library card. This comic popped up under the popular section, I saw that all three volumes were available for download, and in I dove.

I’m still not quite certain what I’m getting myself into.

Clean Room: Immaculate Conception relies on an interesting mix of intrigue and horror to pull along the story. So mysterious, in fact, that I’m still not altogether certain the story needs to be stretched so far. Many panels are meant to convey that there are things going on that the reader doesn’t know about, that the characters haven’t yet pieced together, and that they hadn’t decided to give us all of the details on yet.

This volume has an interesting ending, giving just enough that I immediately downloaded the next volume. But it didn’t leave me sitting with anything particularly worthwhile. Nothing that I might want to recommend, or think about afterward. I can sort of see what lengths the comic is trying to reach toward–an interesting kind of twist on people being able to see monsters, and what exactly those monsters are, and how they factor into the mythology of the world.

Still, I feel like this volume reads mostly like horror, from the gruesome panels contained within. If you have a weak stomach, or don’t want to be scarred for life by the admittedly inventive and creative terrors living in these pages, stay away. If you like that sort of thing, maybe you’ll like Immaculate Conception more than I did.

2/5 stars

2 stars · fiction · young adult

She, Myself, & I by Emma Young: bland writing, cool concept

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She, Myself, & I

author : emma young

pages : [hardcover] 384

favorite character : rosa

summary :

Ever since Rosa’s nerve disease rendered her quadriplegic, she’s depended on her handsome, confident older brother to be her rock and her mirror. But when a doctor from Boston chooses her to be a candidate for an experimental brain transplant, she and her family move from London in search of a miracle. Sylvia—a girl from a small town in Massachusetts—is brain dead, and her parents have agreed to donate her body to give Rosa a new life. But when Rosa wakes from surgery, she can’t help but wonder, with increasing obsession, who Sylvia was and what her life was like. Her fascination with her new body and her desire to understand Sylvia prompt a road trip based on self-discovery… and a surprising new romance. But will Rosa be able to solve the dilemma of her identity?

review :

I received an ARC of She, Myself, & I from BookCon and while I am exceptionally thankful for that, it in no way affects my review.

I wanted to love this book. From the minute I read the summary, I knew I had to get my hands on it, and my friend and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time during BookCon to grab an ARC. I guess the only book I could possibly compare it to is that Meg Cabot novel about the girl who has her brain placed inside the body of a celebrity. This is nothing like that.

Rosa is in many ways a typical teenager. Her brother is simultaneously annoying and a best friend; she has friends online across the world she’ll probably never meet in real life; her parents hover a little too much. But she’s also been diagnosed with a real, debilitating, terminal illness. Her independence has slowly been taken away by this neurological disorder that isn’t ever named (so far as I know) and the specifics of which remain vague. Still, it’s shown that the longer it progresses, the less Rosa has a chance at life.

Until tragedy strikes, and one family is losing their teenage daughter. But for Rosa, this means she might get to live.

I love how She, Myself, & I addressed so many questions that there aren’t really answers to–ethical, spiritual, physical. One brain, one body–so is it all Rosa? Is anything left of the dead girl? As painful as it was, I loved that struggle, because it made it feel so much more real. Rosa’s questioning her own soul, what it means now that all that’s left of her old self is her brain.

While the ideas and themes were great, the writing just didn’t do it for me. The dialogue was fairly bland and the writing was quick, simplistic, and not very descriptive. The romance felt a little forced for me, less insta-love and more like Rosa picked the best out of all of her options and simply went for it. I didn’t feel much chemistry between them, and honestly thought it would have been more interesting had they remained simply friends. The book didn’t particularly need the romance; it didn’t improve from it, and Rosa is already dealing with so many other changes I feel like the focus should have remained on them.

There were a few other plot points that fell flat for me, but I won’t mention them because I don’t want to give out any spoilers. That’s because I know there will be people who love this book more than I did. I really want to read more of Emma Young’s writing in the future because I can see the potential here and feel like her perfect book for me simply hasn’t been written yet.

I probably won’t go around recommending this book, but I’ll certainly hand it off to someone else so they’ll have the chance to read it.

2/5 stars

 

5 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Reflection: Unsouled by Neal Shusterman

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How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

THIS BOOK. Just when you think this series can’t get any more intense, any sadder, any more painfully happy moments hidden in all of the mess that is this world, Neal Shusterman pulls out all of the stops and outdoes himself yet again.

If you haven’t read the previous two books, Unwind and Unwholly, stop right now and get them. This is definitely the series in which you can’t read any books out of order. Not only will you be incredibly confused, you’ll only end up spoiling yourself, and that’s absolutely no fun.

Unsouled is amazing and crazy and fabulous and horrifying. I mean . . . I could basically use all of those words to describe absolutely any novel Neal Shusterman puts out.

There are so many more things at play here that weren’t evident in the first book. Now, in my reread, I feel like I picked up on more in the first two books that came into play in book three. There are so many details thrown into these books, rereading them just makes them more enjoyable. It isn’t that the world or the concept is too complex; there are just so many factors, politically and physically, going on with the plot that it’s so interesting to see how complexly they weave together.

I feel like the more books of this dystology I read, the more invested I become, and the more eager to recommend these books to anyone and everyone I know. Yes, you need to read them. Yes, I’ll probably read these over and over again in the future.

Yes, this book maybe has enough fuel for a few nightmares.

 

 

5 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Reflection: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

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How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

Neal Shusterman is one of my all-time favorite authors. Unwind is simultaneously one of the most creative and one of the scariest novels I’ve ever read because this could totally happen in the future. I haven’t ever read book four, the last book, so now that I finally have it, that called for a reread of the series so I’m geared up for the conclusion. (Well, kind of. I really don’t want it to end, because I’ve been reading and loving these books for around eight years.)

Unwind is something you kind of have to read before you can really get it. It’s one of those books that sounds horrific when described (and is horrific in execution) but it’s still necessary. It’s still relevant. People today continue to fight over issues that, in this fictional universe, led to the Unwind Accords. That’s what makes these books so terrifying. They make us see what we as a country are totally capable of.

And yeah, I mean, people look at you kind of crazy when you try to describe these books. As in, “You know organ donors? Think doing that, but while you’re still alive, only parents decide to ‘donate’ their kids, and the kids have no choice about it, so they’re cut into a million different parts to help other people who were lucky enough to have parents who didn’t want to chop them into a million different parts.”

And then there are the complex characters, the ones you love, the ones you hate, the ones you hate that you’re beginning to feel empathy today. Shusterman takes societal misconceptions and turns them on their head. Kids who have anger problems, or acted out a lot–instead of getting the help and support they need, they’re being unwound. Even perfect kids, talented kids, are getting unwound because of messed-up reasons.

Unwind makes you think. It makes you cry. Most of all, it makes you want to read more, so it’s a good thing there are three more books after this one.

4 stars · science fiction · young adult

Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman; a crazy ride

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full tilt

author : neal shusterman

pages : [paperback] 208

memorable quote :

Who am I? The sum of your dreams, the thrill you refuse to grasp, the unknown you fear.

favorite character : blake

summary :

Sixteen-year-old Blake and his younger brother, Quinn, are exact opposites. Blake is the responsible member of the family. He constantly has to keep an eye on the fearless Quinn, whose thrill-seeking sometimes goes too far. But the stakes get higher when Blake has to chase Quinn into a bizarre phantom carnival that traps its customers forever.

In order to escape, Blake must survive seven deadly rides by dawn, each of which represents a deep, personal fear — from a carousel of stampeding animals to a hall of mirrors that changes people into their deformed reflections. Blake ultimately has to face up to a horrible secret from his own past to save himself and his brother — that is, if the carnival doesn’t claim their souls first!

review :

love Neal Shusterman’s writing. He’s been on my insta-buy list for years when he comes out with new books. I’m fairly certain this was one of his first novels, and it’s the only one of his I’ve read that isn’t part of any series. It’s my least favorite, but that isn’t saying very much, because I still really liked it. It’s creative, it’s fun, and I feel like younger audiences will definitely fall in love with Shusterman’s writing after reading this.

Full Tilt at its core is a story of two brothers. It’s also a story about not letting your past overtake your entire life. Blake and Quinn are nearly complete opposites. Whereas Blake is quiet and reserved, Quinn is reckless and an adrenaline junkie. Blake is the one invited to this very strange, very dangerous carnival, but Quinn is the one who actually wants to go and Blake only arrives because he needs to save his brother from himself.

I love the creativity here. The carnival rides are simultaneously things from nightmares and also things that kids love seeing in movies or video games–but it’s another thing entirely when the players are gambling with their lives. If they die at the carnival, it’s game-over forever, and they’ll be trapped there forever. Blake isn’t sure what the rest of the world will think happened to them, but isn’t sure he wants to find out. Although he just wants to take Quinn and get home, it isn’t as simple as all that. It feels like this carnival has been built specifically to cater to each individual’s personal fears.

I was rooting for Blake, because I wasn’t sure if I’d do as well in his position. This carnival can literally read into your mind and worst nightmares–I don’t think I’d be able to beat the kind of games he has to play. It was interesting to see how every individual has their own strengths–for example, what’s impossible for one person to get through, another can overcome quite easily. I loved how Full Tilt managed to show that on an even playing field, there can still be an individualized experience. Not everyone reacts to identical life experiences in the same way. Just like Blake and Quinn need to learn to empathize with one another, readers do too. I feel like this is an important book to be read, because of those important messages linking these thrills.

I’m so glad that I reread this book, and Neal Shusterman continues to be one of my top recommended authors. His books are so fun, creative, and smart–everything you could want in a YA novel.

4/5 stars