Showing posts with label sci-fi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sci-fi. Show all posts

Thursday, April 27, 2017

[Review] We Are the Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson: Alien abductions and the Apocalypse





In WE ARE THE ANTS, Henry is frequently abducted by aliens and presented with the choice to either prevent the apocalypse or let the world end.


What intrigued me:
 Alien abductions and the world is ending? Count me in!

... is that it?

WE ARE THE ANTS has a fantastic premise and an equally great narrative voice. Hutchinson absolutely had me from the first page, the cynic and observant way he writes Henry is incredibly entertaining and fun. However, all this can't mask the fact that there really isn't much to WE ARE THE ANTS aside from the premise. 

All characters in this are painfully obvious plot devices. The main problem I had with everyone in this book that Henry doesn't show any attachments whatsoever to the people surrounding him. How is the reader going to be enamored with the characters if they are all introduced like worthless scum bags? Henry's cynicism may be entertaining for the first 100 pages, but it quickly gets insanely tiring. 

Getting abducted? What else is new...

Another problem I had is that Hutchinson romanticizes depression. Protagonist Henry get depressed very early on when he realizes that the world's fate is in his hands and I just don't like the way this gets handled. The whole atmosphere just screams "your typical depressed kid from a broken home finds love and gets cured", and that's exactly what you're getting in WE ARE THE ANTS. The story has so much potential, but I think Hutchinson absolutely ruined everything that lured me to this story with the execution. 

Especially the abduction part is written so frustratingly boring that I can't wrap my head around it. Henry doesn't theorize about it much, or appears scared or worried about it! The only emotion he displays is annoyance, which seems to be pretty much his default.

WE ARE THE ANTS is nothing short from being a regular novel about a kid's high school troubles. The alien part is so redundant that this doesn't even feel like Sci-Fi. Absolutely a disappointment.


Rating:

★★½☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WE ARE THE ANTS is just an average contemporary with a side of aliens. If you like that, and aren't expecting too much world building or fantastic characters, go ahead!



Additional Info

Published: 19th January 2016
Pages: 455
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Sci-Fi / Aliens
ISBN: 9781481449632

Synopsis:
"There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button. 

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like books about alien abductions?

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Monday, February 27, 2017

[Review] A Darker Shade of Magic (#1) - V.E. Schwab: 19th Century London and Parallel Universes





In A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, Kell is one of the blood magicians who are gifted with the ability to wander between parallel worlds.

What intrigued me: Recommended by literally everyone.

Textbook writing and too many info dumps

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC certainly has a great base frame, but absolutely can't hide the fact that it doesn't quite know what to do with all that world building. Protagonist Kell is a smuggler, an adopted royal, a blood magician, and handles the correspondence between the four different Londons. To get that all inside your head, you'll already need a moment. The biggest problem is that there is so much about this world and so many specific rules, quirks, and things to know, that there is no way you'll have a good time reading this for the first time. Paired with incredibly factual and emotionless writing, it reads like a textbook. I was often torn between utter disinterest and sort-of fascination. 

I grew insanely frustrated the more I read because I simply didn't understand what was happening and why it was happening, and who the bazillion side characters are. A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC plays in this sort-of 19th century-inspired historical-ish world that has kings and queens and (sometimes?) magic. Ish. I say Ish because even after having read this I still don't get it. Usually you'd expect a novel to lay out the basics within the first 100 pages, but in A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, you'll still be wrestling with exposition on page 350 of 400. 

Clearly the idea is there and Schwab really tried to set up an original world, but half of it neither makes sense nor is comprehensible to the average first time reader. This is not the type of fantasy I enjoy - throwing words in made-up languages around and introducing so many different parallel worlds that you're constantly confusing everyone. 

One dimensional characters and predictability

Because Schwab so heavily puts the focus on the world building, the characters are absolutely suffering. Everyone in A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC is one-dimensional, not even the protagonist Kell has an ounce of a personality. It's a shame because you can tell that a lot of effort went into this. At the end of the day, I think this book is impossible to enjoy if you prefer your high fantasy to make sense and to form a connection with the fictional characters you're reading about. 

On top of all that - the plot is just very predictable and anti-climactic. Of course protagonist Kell must face the only other rare special snowflake blood magician in the book aside from him because of some barely-plausible plot convenience; and of course there is a mystery about his birth parents that we only get to solve if we buy the next two books. 


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC wasn't for me. From a predictable plot to confusing world building, to writing that I just don't like, this one is a clear miss for me personally.



Additional Info

Published: 24th February 2015
Pages: 400
Publisher: Tor
Genre: Adult / Sci-Fi / Parallel Worlds
ISBN: 9780765376459

Synopsis:
"Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped."(Source: Goodreads)

 Have you read A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC?

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

[Review] A Million Worlds With You (Firebird #3) - Claudia Gray: Parallel Universes and Evil Twins




In A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU, Marguerite's evil parallel universe self is hell-bent on killing every version of Marguerite in every single universe she can so she can't sabotage the plans of Home Office.

What intrigued me: The conclusion to my favorite series of all time. It hurts.

Chasing through universes

A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU picks off right where the sequel left off. And I gotta say - that premise didn't do it for me. While Firebird is and will always remain my favorite book series, I wish it had been a duology. See, this whole Evil Twin coming to destroy the world storyline does feel a little over the top in my opinion and I just didn't enjoy it as much as the other books and found myself wishing for the story to get wrapped up more quickly. This is absolutely subjective.

The universes Gray shows us this time around are interesting, but not explored nearly as much as they could have! But because the premise is so reliant on the chasing part I was a little sad to see Marguerite spend very few time with the individual Pauls or even just in the universes. Where is the fluff! I feel like sometimes along the complicated plot lines and the excellent world building, the romance fluff got lost. Sure, we had Russia. But that was it? 

Arguably the most interesting parts of  A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU are those when Marguerite returns to previously visited universes. I really loved that in TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU already and I just can't get enough of checking in with the other scientists.  But regardless, A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU feels like a wild goose chase, jumping from universe to universe so fast and filled with barely plausible plot conveniences, I didn't like this nearly as much as the other books in the series.

Still grieving my husband

I have a confession to make: I don't think I ship Paul and Marguerite. I don't think I ever did. The problem is that both the reader and Marguerite get to know Paul on a deep emotional level in the Russia!Verse, where he is the Grand Duchess' protector Lieutenant Markov. And I never got over him. 
See, Lieutenant Markov shows the tender side of Paul, the romantic side - and in "real life" he's this grumpy smart-aleck who's angry all the time. The swooniness and the magic all poofed away with Lieutenant Markov's passing. A moment of silence. Anyway. I'm complaining on a high level here and this might not even ring true for you because you probably really loved Paul. I'm just a sad widow because my book husband was taken from me. 

But I'm so happy that we got another cuddly version of Paul with the sweet Father Paul from the Rome!Verse who has to choose between letting himself love Marguerite or staying celibate. Be still my beating heart! I'll definitely go back to TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU and reread the Rome!Verse parts with him, he's such a gentle flower that must be protected and made up a bit for the chronic lack of calm romantic fluff in this series. 

The Firebird books are excellent and just like the predecessors A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU presents an interestesting journey through the universes. It would've wanted more action and a compelling narrative from this than it actually delivered - it very much feels like an unnecessary sequel with a very disappointing and too convenient ending. However, if you've read one, you gotta read them all. I'm sad to say goodbye.




Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

A few words to mourn the ending of this series: Despite A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU's lack of my favorite thing about this series, my darling Russia!Verse including my favorite Paul, I loved visiting these different worlds.

I surely wouldn't mind returning to the world of Firebird with a prequel about Conley and Josie's romance from the Home Office!Verse. So if Claudia's up for that, I'll be back.

The rest of the series reviewed
A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU (1) | TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU (2)


Note: A thing that seriously worries and confuses me is that out of ALL the worlds and universes we visit, there isn't a single one where Marguerite/Paul/Theo are lgbt. There is only one universe where one of them is disabled - deaf, actually - though the time spent there is so short that you can barely call this representation. (Well then there's one where a character loses a leg but they don't appear on-screen after that so that doesn't count either.)

While there is an explanation for this lack of marginalizations/diversity in the books ~wishy washy we're meant to be together fate yada yada~, I think it wouldn't have been that hard to even just add -one- universe where they're lgbt. Out of all the decisions they have to make to lead to Marguerite and Paul's epic love 90% of the time, you can't try to tell me that there isn't a single universe where Paul ended up with Theo, or Marguerite decided she liked neither and is a lesbian or is bi and ended up with a girl. [Totally seeing her and Romola. Yes.] What do you guys think?



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 419
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Parallel Worlds
ISBN: 9780062279026

Synopsis:
"A million universes. A million dangers. One destiny.

The fate of the multiverse rests in Marguerite Caine’s hands. Marguerite has been at the center of a cross-dimensional feud since she first traveled to another universe using her parents’ invention, the Firebird. Only now has she learned the true plans of the evil Triad Corporation—and that those plans could spell doom for dozens or hundreds of universes, each facing total annihilation.

Paul Markov has always been at Marguerite’s side, but Triad’s last attack has left him a changed man—angry and shadowed by tragedy. He struggles to overcome the damage done to him, but despite Marguerite’s efforts to help, Paul may never be the same again.

So it’s up to Marguerite alone to stop the destruction of the multiverse. Billions of lives are at stake. The risks have never been higher. And Triad has unleashed its ultimate weapon: another dimension’s Marguerite—wicked, psychologically twisted, and always one step ahead."
(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read any books by Claudia Gray?

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

[Review] Aurora - Kim Stanley Robinson: Colonization and New Planets





In AURORA, a giant spaceship full of colonists is approaching the end of its 159-year-long journey to a new planet.

What intrigued me: I love reading about alien planets.

Extremely technical and difficult read

I picked up AURORA hoping for something in the vein of Scott Sigler's Generations trilogy, but was bitterly disappointed. AURORA is hard sci-fi, space opera even, that reads very clunky, difficult and facts-centric. The really interesting premise is pretty much negated through the way it's written. 

I especially struggled with the strange character voice that borders on extremely juvenile in a condecending way as the story begins being told through 12-year-old Freya's eyes. Mixed with terms and concepts that are impossible to understand if you don't have a degree in quantum physics. From detailed paragraphs and paragraphs about how the spaceship works to rambling passive narration, AURORA does everything it possibly can to derive from the plot. 

If you care about the mechanics of spaceships and their logistics, this will be a treat for you. For me, who's just looking for some fun space travel, this is a very clear miss. This story absolutely has no business at all being 500+ pages long. It drags, it's difficult to read and understand, and really just doesn't get to the point. It took me a ridiculous amount of time to even understand that the ship has a conscience and it's not just some more rambling directed at no one in particular. 

So, so, so much filler

AURORA is separated into seven parts that chronic a specific stage of the journey, centered on a handful of characters, but yet somehow written in omniscient perspective. It takes a ridiculous amount of time until the actual plot takes off. You could basically skip about 200 pages and have a great reading experience - AURORA has so much filler, so many unnecessary scenes, and so much rambling that you really really don't have to bother reading the whole thing. 

This is just a story that revels in the authors storytelling - this isn't about the characters who are mediocre cardboard cutouts at most, it's about the author showcasing their knowledge about space travel. Enhanced by off-screen comments from the sentient spaceship it's quite obvious that AURORA isn't about the characters. That's essentially what made it so hard for me to connect with this narrative and stay focused and interested in the story. AURORA really just is a pick for die-hard space opera fans.

Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

AURORA is a hard miss for me. Strange writing paired with lots of filler and mechanics and logistics-centric narration is absolutely not what I was looking for. If you enjoy hard sci-fi and space opera, and love yourself some technical reads about spaceship mechanics and physics, this is your perfect pick.



Additional Info

Published: November 14th 2016
Pages: 560
Publisher: Heyne
Genre: Adult / Space & Other Planets
ISBN: 9783453317246

Synopsis:
"A major new novel from one of science fiction's most powerful voices, AURORA tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system. 

Brilliantly imagined and beautifully told, it is the work of a writer at the height of his powers. 

Our voyage from Earth began generations ago.

Now, we approach our new home.

AURORA.
"(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like hard Sci-Fi?

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Recommendation: Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2) - Claudia Gray: Multiple Universes and Epic Romance





In TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU, Marguerite is forced to help their enemies from the Triad Corporation by sabotaging other dimensions' research if she wants her boyfriend Paul back, whose consciousness has been splintered and has to be retrieved in four different dimensions.


What intrigued me: The first novel in this series was phenomenal.



Less romance, more action

TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU takes a little different approach to the story than the previous novel. Instead of focusing on the romance, I'd rather call this one an action-like novel with a side of romance. The pace isn't necessarily picked up, but it feels like you're rushing through every mission with Marguerite. 

Mostly I got this feeling because to me the respective universes we travel through aren't explained or explored as much as I would have liked. The universes we visit are much more grounded in reality and I would have loved to visit a crazy universe like the Oceanverse from the first novel. However, each universe just feels like a quick rest stop instead of a complete world. There is so much potential in the wonderful worlds we get a glimpse of and it's really disappointing that Gray this time decided to swap world building for dialogue. 

Masterfully crafted and addicting

Aside from this, TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU was breathtaking. Gray paints such incredible characters that are so real it feels like you actually know them while you read it. Again, I was absolutely swept up in the romance and happy to return to the Russiaverse from the first novel, that absolutely broke my heart the first time. Gray isn't miserly with plot twists, throwing the reader from one intrigue to the next. It's impossible to see them all coming, and insanely impressive because most of these had to have been planned from the beginning. Hats off, the structure of the Firebird books is just impeccable.

TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU absolutely made me want to read the next book, ending on the biggest and most insane plot twist I've read about in a while. November can't come soon enough and I am absolutely, positively sure that I will recommend this incredibly addicting and mind-blowing series to a lot of my friends.


Rating:

★★★★

 




Overall: Do I Recommend?

Absolutely. If you like scientific concepts, conspiracy theories, and a romance that will break your heart, pick it up. TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU proves to be a worthy sequel to a stunning debut and surely sealed the deal on the Firebird series becoming one of my all-time favorites.



Additional Info

Published: November 3rd 2015
Pages: 424
Publisher: Harper Teen
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Parallel Worlds
ASIN: B00TE8LHXI

Synopsis:
"Ever since she used the Firebird, her parents' invention, to cross into alternate dimensions, Marguerite has caught the attention of enemies who will do anything to force her into helping them dominate the multiverse—even hurting the people she loves. She resists until her boyfriend, Paul, is attacked and his consciousness scattered across multiple dimensions. 

Marguerite has no choice but to search for each splinter of Paul’s soul. The hunt sends her racing through a war-torn San Francisco, the criminal underworld of New York City, and a glittering Paris where another Marguerite hides a shocking secret. Each world brings Marguerite one step closer to rescuing Paul. But with each trial she faces, she begins to question the destiny she thought they shared. "(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read the Firebird books?

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

[Review] A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) - Claudia Gray: Dimensional Travel and Parallel Universes





In A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU, Marguerite is determined to hunt down Paul Markov, the man that killed her physicist father and subsequently fled into a parallel universe.

What intrigued me: Time travel books are my krypronite. This is only dimensional travel, but well - close enough.

YES to parallel worlds

A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU teases with a killer premise. Parallel worlds. Science. Physics. Sci-Fi. Action.
And the strange thing is, it actually delivers. The first page hooked me and I was absolutely invested in the story. The world building is impeccable, the parallel worlds Marguerite and side kick and other love interest Theo travel to are both fascinating and shockingly plausible. 

Yep, this one is one of the dreaded YA read with a love triangle - but hear me out: Gray actually manages to make this one quite endurable because Marguerite never really develops more than brotherly feelings for one of them. I'm not going to tell which one, it would spoil all the fun. The romance we get though, is breathtaking.

Emotional punch to the gut

It's a literal punch to the gut. I was so invested in the romantic storyline that would, and sometimes wouldn't happen, depending on which parallel universe they were in. Gosh. I suffered with Marguerite, I swooned with her, I cried with her.

Gray has this wonderfully easy to read, clean writing style, but whenever we have a romantic scene, she bang out sentences that just make you look up and reevaluate your life. Or start ugly crying. Seriously, if you want swoon and all the feels, this is your pick. For the love of god, I lost my heart in the Russian parallel world. If you've already recognized it, Saint Basil's Cathedral is pictured on the cover. A huge chunk of the novel is spent in Moscow in a wonderfully Romanov-era storyline that WILL murder your feelings. 

A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU is really a spectacularly written, unpredictable book version of a box of chocolates. From high tech worlds, to regency worlds, to something inbetween, I promise you'll enjoy at least one of the fantastic worlds Claudia Gray has so incredibly carefully crafted. And hey, the time travel plot is also pretty neat. And the love interest.  Dear God, the love interest. Prepare to have your heart broken.

But one thing that I have to remark and that negates a lot of things I enjoyed about this book is that it features dubious consent/rape. And that is not addressed until book three. A character in this has sex with another character that is unable to consent. And this is not okay. And this is not okay if not addressed properly. I loved this book and consider this to be one of my favorites, but I must knock stars off this rating for this horrifying thing.


Rating:

★★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU is the parallel world novel that I've been waiting for. If you love a good romance with a side of fast-paced action, pick this gem up.

Trigger warning for dubious consent/rape.



Additional Info

Published: November 4th 2014
Pages: 360
Publisher: Harper Teen
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Parallel Worlds
ISBN: 9780062278968

Synopsis:
"Marguerite Caine's physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite's father is murdered, and the killer—her parent's handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul's guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father's death is far more sinister than she expected."(Source: Goodreads)

Do you know some good books about parallel worlds?

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

[Review] Alight (Generations #2) - Scott Sigler: Mayan Culture and New Planets




In ALIGHT, the Birthday Children have arrived at planet Omeyocan and are exploring it.

What intrigued me: I absolutely loved the first book ALIVE.

Solid pace and jungle adventures

What initially fascinated me with the predecessor was definitely the mystery. In ALIVE, we don't get answers until the very end, which sort of made me forgive that the book had a very dragging middle and little plot.

ALIGHT follows a similar formula: We have to wait for every bit of information to make sense, so despite the fact that there's lots of exploration and action, it still feels dragged out. You really have to be patient to get to the interesting parts of the story, which are indeed quite fascinating, but the mere fact that it takes a ridiculous time to get there frustrated me immensely.

Omeyocan is a very interesting setting and managed to fascinate me. I was a little frustrated with the characters' lack of information and didn't really like the little guessing games that arose every time they encountered something they didn't immediately recognize. Omeyocan is based in Mayan culture appearance-wise, which is to be expected if you take a look at names like Xolotl. Called that one! I was hoping for more of an alien feel to the whole planet. Like this, it just feels like your average Mayan-inspired jungle with a hint of modern technology.

All the little nods to colonialism somehow give this book a cautionary tale kind of feel. Especially with Aramovsky and his neverending missionary crusade I got tired of it very quickly.

Sigler didn't quite manage to keep my interest in this sequel. I was hoping for more information and reasons very early on, maybe a big revelation or something. Though the change in scenery is quite neat, it can't hide the fact that there isn't really much plot in this.

Too many characters and a very forced romance

As for the characters - there still are too many. I couldn't keep up with them in the first novel, and has tremendous problems remembering these people and trying to figure the relationships out. It hasn't even been that long since I read ALIVE and if it weren't for the little information dumps before each character gets introduced anew, I would have been completely lost. 

ALIGHT focuses a little more on the dreaded love triangle and I just couldn't warm up to it. There is little to no real reason why these people are attracted to each other - aside maybe from superficiality and hormones. There is no base for their relationship, which just couldn't make me sympathize with Bishop and Em as a couple, even less with her and O'Malley. Honestly, I wouldn't even have minded all that if Em was an LGBT protagonist. I will never understand books in which societal norms don't exist, yet everyone turns out to be straight.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

ALIGHT didn't have me hold my breath and frantically turn the pages like the predecessor, but it's a solid read. A typical second book that lowered my enthusiasm for the third, mainly because it's just too heavy on the instant hump romance.



Additional Info

Published: April 5th 2016
Pages: 448
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Space and other Planets
ISBN: 9780553393156

Synopsis:
"Alight reveals to readers the further adventures of Em, Spingate, O’Malley, Bishop, and the other young heroes introduced in Alive. In Alive, Em fought to assert herself as leader and her friends tried to comprehend their own mysterious identity; now she must wrestle not with the challenge of winning power but the grave responsibility of having assumed it, and she and her friends must contend with a grim fact: the revelation of their identity is not an answer but another question—and one with terrifying implications."
(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like books set on other planets?

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

[Review] Dreamscape: Saving Alex - Kirstin Pulioff: Saving the Queen in a Video Game




In DREAMSCAPE, Alexis gets sucked into her favorite childhood video game.

What intrigued me: I'm forever searching for a book similar to READY PLAYER ONE.

Is she even in a game?

The world of DREAMSCAPE sure is interesting, but it is absolutely not what I expected. When Alexis first gets sucked in, we are presented a world that is more reminiscent of your average high fantasy novel than a video game. The aesthetics of a pixelated game are just missing and exchanged for real life people and objects. 
It doesn't feel at all like she's even in a game, maybe sucked into a very unoriginal medieval world instead. I missed all the little nods to pop culture that I loved so much about READY PLAYER ONE, and found it absolutely strange that Alexis didn't show recognition or fascination with anything that was happening, considering that she actually landed right in her favorite game.

Unoriginal High Fantasy Setting

The main quest of DREAMSCAPE is for Alexis to rescue Queen Elin, because she is immediately recognized as one of the Golden Heroes of the game. Until that plot line even begins, we are presented with lots of filler as opportunities to showcase the world, which just isn't original at all. I might as well could have read any medieval-inspired high fantasy novel and exchanged it for this one, it's full of cliches and at no point surprised me with its world-building. 

The perk of this way of storytelling is simply that it kept me going. I wanted to see whether it would get better, was desperately waiting for a fun twist that would make this original and unique that just didn't come.
DREAMSCAPE wasn't really what I expected, which doesn't necessarily mean that it's a bad novel. The voice is extraordinary believable for a teen girl, Alexis is a fun character to read about and the writing absolutely matches the pace of the story. It just wasn't for me, because I wasn't expecting a generic high fantasy story.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

If you were interested in this because you were hoping to find a book that's similar to READY PLAYER ONE, I'll have to disappoint you. DREAMSCAPE is a very unoriginal novel about a fantasy world instead of a fast-paced Sci-Fi adventure.



Additional Info

Published: April 12th 2015
Pages: 348
Publisher: Createspace 
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Virtual Reality
ISBN: 9781507726921

Synopsis:
"Sixteen-year-old Alexis Stone is used to getting away from life’s frustration with Dreamscape, a video game she's loved since childhood. As her family prepares to move, a sleepy night of gaming pulls her into the world like never before. Trapped in Dreamscape’s realm, Alex is about to learn that being a hero has consequences… and this time, the stakes are deadly. Will helping the rebellion cost her everything she knows and loves? Or will she betray them to save her own life?"
(Source: Goodreads)

Do you have any recommendations for books set in a virtual reality scenario?

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

[Review] Zodiac (#1) - Romina Russell




In ZODIAC, humanity has long left the earth and moved on to another group of planets named after Zodiac signs. Telling the future is the new science of this galaxy, until one girl starts predicting the impending doom of all twelve planet constellations brought upon them by the mysterious thirteenth star sign.

Why it intrigued me: I love everything astrology and I'm a sucker for books with a space theme. Also, this probably has the most beautiful cover of 2015.


Mediocre World Building Can't Carry This Premise

Though the premise is very, very promising, Russell absolutely fails in world building. The biggest problem of the book is that it's set in a distant future instead of an alternate timeline or fictional world. Having those twelve planet constellations named after the star signs with each person living there having a personality associated with that star sign, is pretty hard for me to believe. Even taking this as just high fantasy concept, it's nothing that we haven't seen before.  *cough* DIVERGENT *cough* 

ZODIAC has this nice concept and promising idea of fortune-telling futuristic humans living somewhere in space, but that's it. A lot of it doesn't make sense and the biggest problem is that so many concepts are named, but remain unexplained. I don't even remember all the specific names for emperors and soldiers and matriarchs. There is so much lingo in this and so much unexplained, complicated pseudo-world building that I was just at a loss at some point and felt like giving up. 
I'm not sure what the world of ZODIAC is trying to be. High fantasy, futuristic, science fiction, something entirely unique? For a different galaxy there is just too little imagery to even create a world in my head. 

From Zero to Holy Mother of Everything??

I'd forgive all the issues I have with the confusing world of ZODIAC if the characters were decent and likable. Rho Grace is a fortune teller from the planet Cancer that somehow is able to tell the future without any science-y gadgets. So far so good. She's one of those blank slate characters that you can't help but not care about because she doesn't really have a personality. 

But then she randomly gets promoted to emperor of everything and addressed as Holy Mother for literally no reason at all and her voice and everything just changes and I felt like I must have skipped 300 pages of character development by accident. Honestly, I've never had the issue with too much character development before, but this novel will probably become my standard example. 

The whole novel is simply about her trying to convince everyone that someone coming from the ancient long forgotten thirteenth planet is trying to kill everyone. Along the way she also falls in love with two very easily forgettable, replaceable love interests who I'm sure were pretty much taken straight from SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi. It's just every cliche every packed in an insanely beautiful cover and thrown into space. Can I get my time back?


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

You can try, but it's just too light for me. Nothing I haven't read 700 times before and with a way better execution. It's every debut YA novel ever smashed into one. I'm grieving for the wonderful premise.



Additional Info

Published: November 9th 2015
Pages: 448
Publisher: ivi
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Space and Other Planets
ISBN: 9783492703819

Synopsis:
"Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?"(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read ZODIAC?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

[Recommendation] The 5th Wave (#1) - Rick Yancey


 In THE 5th WAVE, aliens are invading the earth. In four surges they have already murdered the majority of the earth's population.

Teenager Cassie is one of the sole survivors, preparing for the fifth surge of the alien invasion.

I'm not sure what happened here and how it happened but this is definitely my favorite read of the year. And it's November, so that says a lot. This was my first audio book in a long time, and I'm very, very happy I chose this one.



Prose to die for

Yancey manages to write the most relatable teen girl protagonist I have encountered in YA so far. Cassie's voice is just essentially teen, her thoughts, her feelings. I can't imagine how a fifty year old man managed to pull that off. I'm honestly truly, truly impressed.
I especially enjoyed the first chapter, which is essentially a monologue, but with a truckload of depth. Cassie's feelings about the invasion are described so powerfully and so movingly that I couldn't even do anything else while I listened to the audio book. I was absolutely sucked into this strange world.

Usually I groan when authors don't jump right into the story, but Yancey is inexplicably talented at info-dumping the heck out of the reader and still leave you yearning for more. The premise, the alien invasion, is just executed masterfully. Yancey doesn't give much information about it in the first place, but sprinkles the info-dumps all over the first chapters, so you find yourself yelling at the audio book narrator to hurry up / frantically turning the pages (whichever format you prefer).

There's only one cliché in this book. And it's my pet peeve...

The only things I didn't like as much about the book relate to the (of course we have one) love triangle. I really don't like them. I'm sorry.
Yancey made it a little more bearable by setting the whole thing up from the start. Cassie's infatuation with this boy Ben from her school is mentioned very early in and I understand and it does make sense, but love triangles are just a red flag for me. I'm sorry, other authors ruined this for me.

It just doesn't seem realistic for Cassie's super crush to have survived all of this, when a huge portion of humanity died. I'm surprised that Yancey went for this, because he's so realistic in his writing everywhere else. The invasion isn't sugarcoated, it's just WAR. Blunt, ruthless war without compromises. There are more plot twists that I can count, but then Yancey goes for the most persistent and arguably annoying cliché in dystopian YA: the love triangle between the MC, the crush/ old friend, and the rebel. Man. But seriously, this is the only thing I don't like about this book.

...

On audio narration:
I listened to the German audio book from Der Hörverlag Audible, which is narrated by Merete Brettschneider, Achim Buch, and Philipp Baltus as the protagonist Cassie and her love interests respectively.  Because I loved the book so much, it wasn't a smart choice to listen to the audio book - the narration speed is much slower than my own reading speed. Mainly because I'm an insanely fast reader when I love a book. Brettschneider uses pauses frequently for emphasis, which does work in terms of narration, but I just wanted to binge-listen the whole thing. I wish there had been an option to speed the whole book up a little. 

However, the character voices are so, so, so spot on. You hardly find a narrator that can pull off male AND female voices flawlessly. Brettschneider sounds believable as a 16 year-old teen just as much as a 40-something Dad. It's a little terrifying how good she is, actually. I didn't even notice it's the same person talking. This sounds strange, but she really is that good at sounding like men. I'm in awe. She could have single-handedly narrated the whole audio book alone.

Rating:

★★★★ 


Overall: Do I Recommend?

I'm an alien enthusiast and I have read more alien books than I can count. BUT: This is by far my favorite.
It's written so relatably, so believably, and the world building is amazing. "The 5th Wave" reads like mixture of "The Reapers are the Angels" and "The Host". Just more ruthless and realistic. If an alien invasion is ever going to happen in my life time, this is how it's going down. "The 5th Wave" should be compulsory reading for all YA alien stories fan. Nevermind me while I run to the next book store to pick up a physical copy of this as well.



Additional Info


Published: April 14th 2014 
Pages: 496
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Aliens
ASIN: B00JAD6RPU

Synopsis:
"After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother--or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.(Source: Goodreads)



 Have you read The 5th Wave?

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

[Review] The Martian - Andy Weir



In "The Martian" by Andy Weir, astronaut Mark Watney gets accidentally left behind on Mars and has to fend for his life until the next expedition crew arrives to save him.

Unfortunately, the next crew arrives in four years and he only has food and water for one year.

As you might know, I love everything related to space, so picking this one up was a no-brainer. I haven't read a novel set on Mars before and I am a huge fan of Sci-Fi novels that heavily build on facts.


Not a Good Choice for Non-Scientists

Even though Weir does his best to make everything easily understandable, the book mostly consists of the technical and scientific alterations Watney has to make to survive. If you're neither an astronaut, mechanic, or gardener, it will easily get tiring and exhausting to try to keep up.

I was hoping to see a book along the lines of "Ready Player One" just for space - a book that makes me feel like I'm an expert on something that I know nothing about. "The Martian" doesn't give me the notion that I know what's going on. I kept on reading, but actually understanding none of the processes, especially the chemical ones, that Watney tries to explain in detail. It's definitely not light reading.

It reads like a how-to book - just in case you get left behind on Mars. However, even if you couldn't care less how Watney splits rocket fuel atoms and mixed them with oxygen to create water, it's a fun read. I salute to Weir - it's incredibly difficult to write a book set in one place with a single character and keep it interesting.

I was hoping for a lot of flashbacks, for a little more plot to add more depth and sympathy for Watney.

The Sassiest Gardener/Astronaut You'll Ever Read About

Mark Watney is a really likable character. The first line already got me hooked and I caught myself chuckling over his frustration all the time. He makes the best out of a pretty much hopeless situation and always has a sarcastic line prepared. He's a cool guy and that definitely adds more entertainment value to the book!
Weir could have easily made Watney emotionally affected by it all, but the mere fact that he keeps a clear head and makes plans makes him insanely likable to me. I rooted for him from the start, because he's so eager to succeed.
...
I'm slightly disappointed with the POV changes. Weir tries to simultaneously tell the other side of the story, how the NASA is reacting to finding out Watney still alive. There is pretty much no structure to it and the second you've already sympathized with one of the side characters, there are time jumps. The pacing is really off, sometimes Weir chooses to skip months at a time, and sometimes he decides to describe redundant processes annoyingly detailed.


Rating:

★★☆☆


Overall: Do I Recommend?

Maybe. "The Martian" is a decent survivalist sci-fi novel set on Mars, with a chamber play feel. Certainly a must-read for chemistry savvy space adventure fans, but a little too difficult and packed with science for the average Joe.



Additional Info

Original Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Published: 14th September 2015
Pages: 512
Medium: Paperback
Publisher: Heyne Verlag
Cover: Heyne, 2015
Genre: Adult / Science Fiction
ISBN: 978-3-453-31691-1


Synopsis:
"Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death.

The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next.


Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?"
(Source: Goodreads)



 Have you read a good novel set in space lately?


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Monday, August 31, 2015

[ARC Review] The Next Together - Lauren James

In "The Next Together" by Lauren James teenagers Katherine and Matthew are reborn again throughout different centuries. They always find each other and they always end up falling in love.

When the Katherine of 2039 stumbles upon a news article from 2019 which shows an exact doppelgänger couple of her and her lab partner Matthew who even have their exact names, she starts investigating. 

Three Love Stories .... -ish.

The story sucks you in within the first two hundred pages.

The story begins from the point of view of 2039 Katherine and I was really hoping to at least have an anchor for the story. There is no real main love story and to me, the story in 2039 feels simply poorly executed. Even though it all comes together in the end, it doesn't feel like one big love story. It feels like reading about several different couples. 2039!Matthew and Katherine hardly talk, but from one second to the next end up in bed together. I didn't feel the epicness of their love story, everything felt too forced and too constructed. 

I don't like crossover novels, but for "The Next Together" the concept of a romance/historical/sci-fi story works. It feel like three separate love stories . However, I'd rather have read three stand-alone romance books than one big time travel-ish one. The novel really needs a pair of main characters, each reincarnation of the two feels like two entirely different people.

Exceptionally funny- but a little too much lingo

I feel like there is too much in-depth knowledge needed to understand what is actually going on. I'm not particularly a fan of history and I have never studied the Crimean War at school. When writing about topics like this in novels that aren't just about that, you definitely have to make sure that even the uneducated reader will understand. Or as one of my writing professors once said: "Always write for the idiot reader".

The same applies to the science talk. Whenever 2019 Katherine started talking about bacteria, I was pretty much clueless. So it's a deadly fertilizer? For bacteria? I still don't get it after at least a dozen repetitions.

Talk about lingo - I love that James decided to base the 2019 couple on tumblr humor, and I loved it even more that she decided to keep that sense of humor in Katherine's character throughout the time lines. Some dialogues are flat-out hilarious and I had to pause for a minute to catch my breath.

Rating:

★★★

 

Overall: Do I Recommend?

 I liked the overall idea and the concept and the writing is nice. It's always great to have a well-written time travel novel. It's most likely a book that I will reread in the future so I'll get all the little foreshadowing hints.

I'm definitely going to pick up the sequel when it comes out. 


Additional Info



Pages: 356
Publisher: Walker
Cover: Walker, 2015
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Time Travel
ISBN: 9781406358056

Synopsis:
"How many times can you lose the person you love? 

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. 

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? 

Maybe the next together will be different...(Source: Goodreads)


Can you recommend nice time travel reads to me?

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

[Recommendation] Ready Player One - Ernest Cline


In READY PLAYER ONE, a world-wide phenoma has taken over the lives of all people: OASIS, a virtual utopian reality in which everyone can be what they want to be is what most people spend their days playing.

What intrigued me: I decided to give this a try because everyone I know is absolutely smitten with it.

Extremely Addicting Storytelling

Cline has a very pleasant and engaging writing style. His writing is very fast-paced and he manages to build a lot of tension with his words. His biggest strength is definitely world building and plot. He makes the possibility of a future defined by a virtual reality game seem scarily realistic. I absolutely fell in love with the idea.
The novel needs about a hundred pages of introduction until it absolutely sucks you in. The second Wade finds the first clue, I was hooked and couldn't put the novel down. The pages flew by and I craved to find out what happens next! READY PLAYER ONE reads like a fast-paced action novel, without exhausting fight scenes. Even without knowing a single game mentioned in the novel, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time! I can't even explain how this novel and its world are so, so realistically portrayed and interesting that you don't want to put the book down. I needed about six hours - for a 500 page book. I'm not even a fast reader.

Strong World Building That Gets You Hooked

Wade is a very stereotypical underdog-kind-of character with a tragic past who lives in an abusive loveless household. The only thing that brings him joy is the virtual world of OASIS. He doesn't have any friends or close relationships in real life, which leads to him being absolutely dependent on OASIS and spending every waking minute with trying to find the easter egg. To me, his relationship to fellow hunter Art3mis wasn't really necessary. I'm not as fan of romance plots on the side.

Even though Wade has "known her" for a long time through her blog, they seem to fall in love too quickly and almost instantly. It just doesn't seem realistic for these two to fall for each other. Even though I wasn't a particular fan of Art3mis and Wade personally, I can't deny that their relationship is just adorable. I'd rather have seen him fall for his best friend Aech, with whom Wade has more chemistry and way more interesting conversations. Their interactions are super dynamic and extremely fun to read. The prose isn't what makes READY PLAYER ONE so special, but it's the lively dialogue and the extraordinary world building.

I'm just absolutely smitten with everything about this novel. There are some things that don't necessarily add up, like Wade having so little trouble with the hints even though everyone has been looking for them for years; or him getting out of the resulting trouble very easily. Regardless, this is an impressive read and outstanding for a debut novel. I don't usually read novels with action plots and gaming pop culture references, especially not about the 80s. I'm absolutely baffled and surprised that I loved this novel. I wouldn't mind a sequel.

Rating:


★★★

 

Overall: Do I Recommend?

READY PLAYER ONE is definitely a very unique and interesting read. I can even imagine this being in turned into a super interesting and action-packed movie! As a child of the late 90s/00s, I wasn't really able to identify a lot of the novels, music, and games mentioned, but regardless, it was a great read. I absolutely recommend the novel to every gamer out there, and especially children of the 70s and 80s. I enjoyed every minute of reading this.




Additional Info

Published: March 26th 2012
Pages: 512
Genre: YA / Dystopia
ISBN: 9783764530907

Synopsis:

"It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake. 
A quest for the ultimate prize. 
Are you ready?"
(Source: Goodreads)



Would you want to live in a virtual reality?

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