To Read or Not to Read?

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman

I kept hearing things about Illuminae when it first came out but it took me over a year to read it for the first time which I did in March of 2017. I was initially hesitant because of the way I’d heard it was formatted. It’s not a straight novel or even told in verse. No, it’s much different.

Illuminae is set in the year 2575 where two rival megacorporations are at war over the planet Kerenza and our two main characters, Kady and Ezra, are right in the middle of it. They end up getting off of the planet and onto a ship only to discover that their problems are not over. Not only is their fleet being pursued by an enemy warship but there’s also a deadly plague and the fleet’s AI isn’t behaving like a normal AI at all.

Only the story isn’t being told in real time. The bulk of the novel is told through hacked documents: emails and instant messages, military files, medical reports, and descriptions of surveillance feeds. And that’s why I was initially hesitant to read it. I thought it would be awkward and annoying to follow a story told in that type of format. Only, it wasn’t. It was actually very engaging.

Then, this year, I read a lot of things which said the audiobook was also very interesting and I wondered how that would work given that the book is such a visual thing. So I decided to give it a try and I ended up loving that too (though I did keep a copy of the book nearby so I could compare/see what I was missing by only listening).

So here’s a breakdown of the good and the bad in regards to the audiobook.

The Good:

  • Kady and Ezra’s back and forth was fun with their sarcasm and flirtiness and Ezra’s voice was very appealing.
  • I liked how the audiobook was able to add some fun audio elements as well with the whirrs of machines, beeping during countdowns, ability to hear music when it was mentioned, and the sound of gunfire and what not closer to the end. That made for a very interesting listening experience.
  • The video surveillance analyst had an awesome accent. I mean, a lot of the characters had really cool accents that were fitting with their names but the analyst’s was very fun to listen to. And he was playful even though he had to narrate some of the worst atrocities the book described.
  • There was a section where one of the crazy plague victims was stalking our main girl and the sound of his voice was creepy as heck. It actually send shivers up my spine.

The Bad:

  • Since Illuminae is so visual you’d definitely lose some of the context if you didn’t have the book open beside you while you listened to the audio version. The audiobook did try to describe some of the images but obviously couldn’t handle them all and a lot of times the way the words were written, in swoops or certain designs, was actually pretty important.

The Questionable:

  • AIDAN’s voice. I actually ended up liking the creepy AI system but his voice didn’t seem quite right. I was expecting something a little more robotic sounding than it was.

Overall I really, really enjoyed the audiobook and look forward to rereading, and first time listening, to the second. Plus, now the third and final book in the series is out and I am so ready for it!


To Read or Not to Read?

Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott

I generally try to keep my book reviews spoiler free but sometimes I just can’t help but throw a spoiler tag at the top of the review and just spoil the crap out of it because I want to talk about it. Gray Wolf Island is one of those instances.


Book tag: “Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.”

The book opened up with dramatic with a very sick Sadie curled up in her sister Ruby’s arms. Sadie knows she is going to die and die soon and her one regret is that she wasn’t able to find the treasure that is supposedly on Gray Wolf Island. So she tells Ruby that she has to find the treasure for both of them. And then she asks Ruby to suffocate her so that she doesn’t have to suffer anymore. Yeah, that’s how the book opens. With a mercy killing.

And then we’re introduced to more characters. Gabe who is said to have been the product of a virgin birth and gets teased mercilessly for it. Charlie who has always known when he’d die. Anne who, for years, hasn’t been able to sleep a wink. And then there’s Elliot whose family has always had very close ties to the island. Plus, when it’s not Ruby who is the narrator it’s a boy named Cooper who wakes up on Gray Wolf Island a few years before the main setting of the novel and who helps the old man who owned the island plant a treasure.

Not too far into the book Ruby finds a treasure map/poem (which, we find out during the flashback chapters, was actually written by Cooper). And even though Ruby has never been good at making friends, she ends up getting the Gabe, Anne, Elliot, and Charlie to go searching for the treasure with her even though Charlie knows that Gray Wolf Island is where he dies.

The group of new friends go on the treasure hunt and discover a lot of the island from it’s mysterious pit to the crazy cave system. Through their journey they discover all sorts of secrets about each other. Then the shit hits the fan.

Charlie always thought he’d die on the island but it ends up being Gabe. And it turns out that Cooper was Elliot all along, only something really bad happened in Elliot’s childhood, causing him to lose his memory of an entire year. So it was a little weird to find out that Cooper, who had created the entire treasure map/poem, had been with the group all along.

And another odd thing was that there was some supernatural/magical realism elements. The whole girl who never sleeps thing and the premonitions along with flowers that spontaneously bloom which was odd given that everything else seemed so normal. It was kind of jarring and it made me question what was really happening and what wasn’t. If that was the intended effect then great, otherwise maybe it didn’t quite fit like the author had hoped it was.

Overall I liked the book but it left an odd taste in my mouth when all was said and done.

To Read or Not to Read?

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

The Library of Fates has been on my radar more or less since I ordered it for the library I work at last summer when the book was released. I love books about books and libraries so I was primarily drawn to it because of the title, and then the cover art pulled me, as did the description, Princess Amrita finds herself a fugitive after her kingdom is visited by an awful emperor of another kingdom who turns out to have less than friendly intentions towards Amrita’s father, who used to be his best friend.

On her escape Amrita takes with her Thala, an oracle who the emperor had kept as a slave. Thala wants them to find the Library of All Things, a place where she believes they can reverse their fates. So starts a winding adventure.

I had some very high hopes for this book and, unfortunately, it fell very flat.


The good things:

  • Khorana is a very talented writer and the language she used to describe the locations in the story was beautiful.
  • The plot was an interesting one and unique and I loved how the author meshed the mythology and the real world with the almost supernatural/magical aspect of the mythology.

The bad things:

  • Amrita was the epitome of the naive princess. I mean I get that a princess would likely be sheltered but she was borderline ridiculous but of course she’s “special” so she manages to slip out of every problem spot she gets into. It was very annoying.
  • The journey Amrita and Thala took should have felt more desperate but at no point was I really worried for the characters.
  • It’s called the Library of Fates but the library is barely a presence at all and it’s not explained very well which was sad.
  • The ending was rushed and full of coincidences and people reaching life changing decisions very quickly.

Overall The Library of Fates was an interesting concept but between the characters and the plot it wasn’t executed well enough to keep my attention.

Literary Musings

Favorite Fanfiction Tropes

When it comes to reading novels I don’t like to find that two, three, or maybe even more have pretty much the same plot line. But when it comes to reading fanfiction I like to see multiple interpretations of an idea from fans. So that’s why I love it when certain challenges come out where authors are asked to write up their vision for a certain scenario.

These are a few of my favorites.

  • The Marriage Law
    • A few years back someone came up with this idea for the Harry Potter world. What if Voldemort’s acts of evil had done irreparable damage to the number of witches and wizards and, at the same time, they have the knowledge that half-bloods and Muggleborns more or less need to marry pure-bloods in order to ensure the children are magical as well? In this scenario the Ministry enforces the marriage between certain pairs and even often assigns the couples.
    • Basically this is a way for writers to force Hermione together with someone she usually wouldn’t be paired with, be it Draco Malfoy or one of the older crowd. Personally I think it’s creepy when authors pair her with Remus, Sirius, or Severus but I LOVE it when they pair her up with Draco or maybe even have one of the older Weasley brothers be able to save her.
    • This is one of the those tropes that I technically hate the premise of (forced marriage? yech!) but actually enjoy reading about when the relationship is a slow burn type of thing.
  • Holiday Themed
    • Two characters I ship getting caught under the mistletoe and discovering they’re attracted to one another when they kiss? Yes! A Secret Santa exchange revealing some hidden feelings? Yes! People dressing up for a Halloween costume party and kissing only to realize who they really are under those costumes? Yes! So cheesy but I love them!
  • The Secret Relationship
    • Hermione finally revealing to Harry and Ron that she’s been seeing Draco or Fred or George or someone she’s been hiding. Natasha (Black Widow) revealing to the rest of the Avengers that she had a past relationship with the Winter Soldier. I like it when these are cleverly crafted and with plenty of background information and ways to fit it into the story that was told as is. (For example, I’ve written a few Hermione/Draco stories like this and I mention that some of the fights/name calling was decided upon beforehand and that the couple talks about it after to kind of reassure one another.)

Now, of course, these plot lines have to be well-written and cleverly crafted but they are certainly fun to read!

To Read or Not to Read?

Best and Worst Books of February 2018

Given that February and March are part of the Teen Reading Challenge I read a lot of books in February. Some of those were very good, some of those were bad, and some were just meh. And I may eventually have time to write full reviews on those books that I particularly enjoyed or didn’t enjoy but, for now, I’m just going to do a brief write up on them.

The Best:

  • Unearthed by Amie Kaufman
    • A few people from Earth explore a new planet. Some of those people are there for intellectual purposes while others just want to loot the technology that the extinct alien race left behind. Only it’s not that easy because the aliens laid traps and riddles that must be solved in order to make it through their buildings.
    • The two main characters, scientist Jules and scavenger Mia are at odds with one another but they both have secrets, reasons that make them more sympathetic.
    • It’s kind of like a Star Wars/Indiana Jones thing with all the riddles and scavengers and both desert and snowy landscapes.
    • And the ending was kind of chilling! I can’t wait for book two though I’m kind of glad it’s just going to be a duology and not a longer series because I hate waiting for the rest of a long series/having to worry whether it will ever be finished.
  • Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows
    • Mira is a well-known, important figure across the Fallen Isles because the Mira Treaty, a peace agreement which united the islands against their enemy, was named after her. She represents hope and unity. But Mira isn’t perfect. She has a form of OCD and very bad anxiety (both of which were portrayed really well.)
    • There are also dragons! And people have slight magical abilities, different based on which island they are from and which God they worship but they are mysterious powers. I can’t wait to read more about them in the next book.
    • Mira spends a lot of the book in a jail cell with a horrible guard. There are conspiracies all around her and while not everything made sense it was an interesting read.
  • I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin
    • Ava and Gen, the closest friends ever, have went to different colleges and so they are constantly sending texts and emails. Even though they have been best friends forever, college brings out new sides to both girls and their friendship is tested.
    • I loved how real this seemed. It reminded me of a friendship that I had in high school that was made difficult when she transferred schools and kind of became a different person.

The Worst:

  • Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy
    • Popular, smart girls, all of them members of a high school group called the Larks, start turning up dead. Narrator Penelope, the president of the Larks, spends the book worrying that she’s next in line.
    • All of the girls mentioned are your stereotypical mean girls, most of them hooking up with all the boys and just being bitches to everyone. All of the slut shaming and cattiness got so annoying.
    • Penelope was not a likeable character. If you want me to worry about whether or not the main character is going to die next I’d like to find something sympathetic about her. I did not find that here.
    • There should have been some hint of the killer before the reveal. Like I literally had to go back through and even figure out who said character was before the revelation because I couldn’t remember the person. And the motivation was weak.
  • 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough
    • Another murder mystery with another mean girl. Natasha is one of the popular girls and at the beginning she is pulled out of the river after being dead for thirteen minutes. She doesn’t know exactly what happened leading up to the incident but she knows it wasn’t an accident. And she wasn’t trying to kill herself.
    • Literally all of the girls were bitches and catty.
    • Another book where there was an unreliable narrator style twist at the end which I like most of the time. Only this time it kind of came out of nowhere and I feel as though there should have been more foreshadowing.
Literary Musings

Tell a Fairy Tale Day 2018

Whenever I start planning library programs, be they for preschool storytimes or teen programs, I often start by looking up what the weird holidays are for the day/week the program will take place. I decided that it may be interesting to do a series of blog posts that are centered around the same idea. And today is Tell a Fairy Tale Day.

Now if I were being more creative I would actually take the time to write up a fairy tale-esque short story but I’m really not feeling all that creative today. So instead, I’m going to write about another fairy tale style story that I’ve been working on over the past couple of years.

First off, I’m going to start by admitting that I am a sucker for fairy tale retellings. I’ve read many of them from short stories written by various Young Adult writers, to full on novels by Young Adult writers, to naughty versions written by relatively unknown authors of adult fiction. And, just like every other style of writing, they are hit and miss. Some of the retellings I’ve seen are perfectly crafted and well-written while others are dull and uninspired. You also have the ones that are way too much like the original that you can’t even really them a retelling while others are too far removed from their original story line that you’d be better off categorizing them as “inspired by” instead of as a retelling. Finding that perfect balance is hard and so I struggled with the fairy tale inspired novel I started for the National Novel Writing Month in 2016 and have barely worked on since.

Here’s the synopsis for Snow Must Fall:

First there was Princess Mirabelle of Altair, beloved daughter.

Six years later Princess Bianca of the neighboring kingdom of Castor was born.

For fifteen years the girls have nothing to do with one another but then, after             circumstances neither of them bargained for, their fates become entwined.

This re-imagining of the fairy tale Snow White gives more background to the Evil Queen, weaving a tale of abuse, murder, and revenge.

I had a lot of fun with it for a little while and I wrote quite a bit that year during NaNoWriMo though I didn’t reach my word count goal. I also worked on it during the following years’ Camp NaNoWriMo sessions but I have yet to finish it. I don’t know if I just generally lost interest in the project altogether, or if I got jaded because there are maybe way too many retellings out there to expect mine to make it anywhere, or maybe I just got worried that it wouldn’t be up to snuff. I don’t know for sure but I do know one thing. I will not be tossing what I’ve written even if it gets to be the year 2030 and I still haven’t done anything with it because I know, as soon as I get rid of it, I would be inspired to finish it or use it.


Literary Musings

My Favorite Bookish Quotes

I’ve been trying to come up with interesting topics for blog posts and decided that I should do a post about my favorite quotes about books and reading. I wouldn’t be surprised if I had done a similar posting before and I’m frankly too lazy to double check and make sure I haven’t written this exact same post sometime over the years so I apologize if I have.

So without further ado…my favorite bookish quotes.

  • ‘”One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”‘ – Cassandra Clare (Clockwork Angel)
    • I read Clockwork Angel by Clare years ago and yet this quote has always stuck with me because I just think it’s so true. Reading, and words, can have such a powerful effect on us. They can be meaningful in an enlightening way or just in a personal way and I think that’s amazing.
  • “When trouble strikes, head to the library. You will either be able to solve the problem, or simply have something to read as the world crashes down around you.”- Lemony Snicket
    • I love the combination of book love and library love in this quote. As a librarian I, of course, love the library so it’s nice to see a quote that speaks of the importance of the library like this one does. In a library, and in books, you can find solutions to problems or just enjoyment. I know that I can sometimes get so lost in a book that I can picture the world falling down around me without my notice.
  • ‘”A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R.Martin (A Dance With Dragons)
    • I just love how this quote really puts an emphasis on how important reading can be to an individual. When you really get into a book you aren’t just reading it, you’re “living” it. And to me, that’s just beautiful. Plus, it shows non-readers that they are really missing out.