Monday, October 5, 2015

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Publication.Date  October 20th 2015
Published By:  Knopf Books for Young Readers
AuthorAmie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff

Illuminae on Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

“Are you afraid?"
"Energy never stops, remember. It just changes forms."
"I am still afraid.”
“Am I not merciful?”
“You have me. Until ever last star in the galaxy dies.
You have me.”
“I am frequently underestimated. I think it's because I'm short.”
“Miracles are statistical improbabilities. And fate is an illusion humanity uses to comfort itself in the dark. There are no absolutes in life, save death.”
“Don't look at me!”

     Illuminae is not just a book. It's a phenomenon.

     It's also an unstoppable, all-consuming tornado carrying within itself a whirlwind of blood-chilling, spine-tingling, mind-warping events, ideas and emotions. It's a living thing with a beating heart and a truly badass character. Everyone's been talking about it long before I even got the opportunity to hold an early copy in my hands. This book was the hottest topic at BEA 2015 - it even got the stairs display, which only adds to the awesomeness of it all. Oh, and it has an official support group - the #IlluminaeSupprtGroup - and believe me when I tell you, you will need it when you're done reading.

    Before I continue on with my shameless raves, I need you to know one thing - initially, I had a very lukewarm approach to this book. I wasn't entirely sold on the idea behind it. It seemed to me that it had too many things going on, and with the very different narration style (a so-called "found footage" type of storytelling), I thought the authors would not be able to pull off anything solid. (Boy, I've never been more wrong in my whole life, not even when I tried to convince my husband that Ford was French!). Not only did they pull it off, they fucking nailed it. NAILED. IT.

     So, now that we have my embarrassing episode of book-doubt behind us, let's talk about this beauty. As you probably already know, the story is told through found footage of different sorts - from emails, to video recordings, top secret military files, personal messages, schematics to reports and more. When I first started reading, I was not entirely sold on this particular format of narration at all, but the more I read, the more it grew on me, and by the half-way point, I wasn't even paying attention to the format itself at all, I was so engrossed in what was going on. I honestly couldn't stop reading. You'd think the "found footage" format would make this story choppy and unclear, but dang, it just made it all flow effortlessly and seamlessly. I don't know who came up with the idea to go with this particular format of storytelling, but that was the best literary choice ever.

     The plot itself is too freaking epic for me to fully wrap my mind around it, but let's just say it has everything you'd want in a book, and then some. If you're a science fiction fan, you will have a blast with this book (especially if, like me, you love stories set in space and on different planets). If you're looking for a blood-chilling story, your mind will be blown to pieces by the unstoppable, deadly virus turning people into a murderous mob of wild beasts. If you add to this the suffocating and claustrophobic setting of a crippled space ship doomed to be blasted to pieces by the pursuing battleship, your mind will then go into overdrive.  There are literally chapters and passages that will have you panting, shifting in your seat, sweating and yelling "DON'T LOOK AT ME!" at your spouse. Then again, if you want to curl up with a seriously well written, authentic, kind of cheesy, but still incredibly heartfelt love story, Illuminae has got you covered, too. And let's not forget about the deeper, more meaningful side of the story, because Illuminae is more than just a bloody fear-fest and mind-bending space battles, it's also a very intelligent and illuminating meditation on humanity, sacrifice, purpose, free will and more. This book is just... God, I can't even.. It's soooooo good! (See, that is precisely why we need the #IlluminaeSupportGroup).

      Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are a writers match made in bookish heaven. I honestly don't know how they did it, but they set the entire YA universe on fire. And it's still ablaze.

This and more Illuminae designs can be found in my Society 6 store

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Audiobook Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Snow Like Ashes #1
Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic
Publication.Date:October 14, 2014
Published By:  Balzar + Bay
Website:Sara Raasch 

Snow Like Ashes on Goodreads
My review copy:
Borrowed from Library

Where to get:

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.


Recently I've come to think of audiobooks as a beautiful thing. I've started listening to them when I do yard work (not so much now in December), while I'm cleaning the house, or when I'm driving to my parents an hour away - at least when I'm driving alone, weirdly enough Joe doesn't enjoy listening to my books. Weird, right?

I've had Snow Like Ashes waiting to be read for awhile and after reading some rave reviews I knew it was time to finally read listen to it. Reviewing an audio book is a bit tricky, a different sort of experience. I don't have the text to refer to and as I wasn't reading a text, perhaps some details may have slipped through the cracks, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy Snow Like Ashes.

Sara has created a rather interesting a new world with this series. There are eight kingdoms (four seasons and four rhythms) that are ruled by monarchies that possess magic; some kingdoms it is the female line and in others it is the male. Winter, in a perpetual state of Winter (and the crazy people love the cold), is one of those kingdoms where magic runs through the female line, which is a bit tricky considering that were invaded by Spring and had their queen killed. Bad luck on her having a son, too. Even worse luck is that their conduit for magic was broken in half by Spring's King Angra. Things are not looking good for our Winterians and the odds are stacked against them.

Having escaped when they were babies Meira and Mather (heir to the Winter throne) have grown up as refugees alongside the 23 other people, now down to roughly 10, who escaped Winter when Spring invaded. Meira wants to fight and to help bring her kingdom back to its former glory, but at the same time is kept behind by Sir who treats her like child despite her attempts to just be good enough for him. I love the relationship between Meira and Sir. It's very love-hate and while she cannot stand the way he treats her, when shit hits the fan she is the one he turns to. The ones she trusts to keep her safe and make sense of the world.

She is really a truly strong and realistic character. She constantly doubts herself, despite her skill and knowledge, and actually has a normal range of feelings. She dreams of a day when she can marry Mather, despite knowing he will have to marry royalty once they reclaim Winter, and fights with these feelings. She doesn't want to love him because they're future together is doomed, but at the same time knows she cannot help it. Mather, who returns her feelings, struggles with the knowledge that even if they reclaim Winter from Spring since he is male he cannot harness the magic of his heritage and is powerful until he has a daughter and she becomes age.

At the same time, Sara doesn't allow this somewhat doomed relationship to dominate her book. It's a subplot. She allows it to be important and integral to the story, but it is not the story. She puts her focus into Meira, into the refugees effort to reclaim their home, and the development of the plot as a whole.

These characters have a lot of obstacles to overcome and there are a lot to details to keep straight and remember. Despite all this, Sara keeps everything straight and doesn't overwhelm her readers with too much detail all at once, but just enough that we are informed and not drowning in details and facts.

I've stated before that I'm not a huge high fantasy person, but if I encounter more books like Snow Like Ashes, I can definitely be turned when it comes to this genre. As it stands, I'm counting down the days until Ice Like Fire is released.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Old Factory Natural Soy Wax Candles (Review and Giveaway)

Disclaimer: A sample of the product was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Do you like candles? If you do, you will love these! Old Factory candles are top-quality soy candles - I absolutely LOVE them! 

I really enjoy scented candles, but my husband can't stand strong, artificial fragrances, so when I discovered Old Factory candles I was very excited. Not only are they made out of natural soy wax, they smell simply divine. The set I got is called COFFEE SHOP and comes with three different scents: Chai Tea, Hazelnut and Coffee Bean.

The Chai Tea candle has the most gentle, barely perceptible, yet very sensual and pleasing fragrance. It smells like a delicious cup of Chai Tea - all natural and authentic. 

The Coffee Bean and Hazelnut are stronger scents, but still very pleasant and natural. I absolutely love the Hazelnut one, it is definitely my favorite. When I light it up, the whole apartment fills up with a comforting, relaxing scent that brings to mind hazelnut coffee or home-baked hazelnut cookies (in fact, when my dad came in he said: "smells like you baked something delicious"). 

They burn very clean (no nasty smoke at all) and the vintage-labels make them look really beautiful on the shelf or the coffee table. Plus, they last very long. I kept the Chai Tea lit up the entire afternoon and evening and it barely burned down at all - when the wax solidified again, the candle was as good as new. 

Personally, I am a big fan of Old Factory candles and will definitely be trying some of the other sets. Finally, I have found candles that last long, look beautiful and actually smell wonderful.


Win one set of these gorgeous smelling, natural soy candles from Old Factory!
Open to: US/Canada
Ends 10/17

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