Posts Tagged ‘YA Science Fiction’

illumniae

About :

What could be worse for a teenager than breaking up with her year-long boyfriend?

Well, lots of things, as Kady Grant soon discovers. When a major mining corporation attacks her sort-of-illegal mining settlement on the tiny planet of Kerenza, her breakup with Ezra is demoted to the second-worst thing that’s ever happened to her.

And they happen on the same day. Of course they do.

But even the Kerenza refugees who escape the attack remain in grave danger—a warship pursues the refugees through space, and as their ship breaks down, everything that can go wrong absolutely does. Worse yet, Kady, Ezra and the rest of the refugees must pry information out of those in charge, who would prefer to avoid panic by avoiding disclosure.

How can anyone onboard help if they’re left in the dark? Illuminae is YA sci-fi written by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman and published October 20th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers. Audie Award for Multi-Voiced Performance (2016), Aurealis Award Nominee for Best Science Fiction Novel (2015), The Inky Awards Nominee for Gold Inky (2016), Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) (2015), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2015)

Thoughts :

In a cool sci-fi twist on the epistolary novel, the authors wrote Illuminae in a series of IM logs, medical reports and other “hacked documents.” It looks brilliant in hard copy. Still, I hesitated to pick it up—I don’t get the chance to read much YA in hard copy, these days.

But when I heard good things about the audiobook, I decided to give it a shot.

“Audiobook?” you may wonder. “How could they convert this clever and unusual epistolary format into an audiobook?”

With lots and looooots of talented voice actors and sound effects. The “translation” from text to audio is well-planned and executed. This is one impressive audiobook, folks.

As far as the actual story, readers will find a lot to like there, also. The “voices” of our two main protagonists—the rebellious teens Kady and Ezra—are completely unique. I don’t know if Kaufman and Kristoff wrote the two perspectives separately or what, but Kady comes off as an extremely brainy, competent and ambitious hacker while Ezra embodies a soulful, handsome and foul-mouthed jock who flies starship missions after being drafted into the onboard military. Two such different and convincing voices rarely appear in the same book.

That’s particularly important in this book, where the voices basically carry the long setup of the book’s first half. The main focus revolves around Kady and Ezra’s love life as several different potential plot problems mount around them. The setup of the first half feels a little like the authors are throwing in tons of tropes to hold our attention, such as [Highlight to view SPOILER: a mutating disease and a warship “timebomb”]; but when the real story starts about halfway through, it grabbed me immediately.

I lovelovelove the twist [Highlight to view SPOILER: when Aiden releases the infected from Bay 4, OH MAN! That got my attention, haha]. Older readers of sci-fi will have read the trope before, but it will be new to a lot of young adults and anyone new to sci-fi and I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming. I wish I could talk about it more because it’s probably my favorite thing about the book!

But before I close this review, I’ll leave you with my favorite quote, an offering from the romantic Ezra:

You deserve every star in the galaxy laid out at your feet and a thousand diamonds in your hair. You deserve someone who’ll run with you as far and as fast as you want to. Holding your hand, not holding you back.”

Overall :

Ultimately, the sci-fi epistolary format is the most unique thing about Illuminae. Other than that, I think it’s a fun sci-fi, if a little overlong. A good contribution to the YA genre. I’m hoping for more history and cool techy inventions in book II, Gemina.

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Plot: 3/5 Stars
Writing: 4/5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 4/5 Stars
Audio: 5/5 Stars

****4/5 STARS

Recommended To :

Anyone new to sci-fi and any fans of YA in general. If you enjoy Star Wars, you might enjoy this. Oh, and if you like audios, the novelty of such a well-orchestrated audio might make it worth trying!

winter-final

She froze a few steps into the sitting room. Her gut tightened, her nostrils filling with the iron tang of blood.

It was all around her. On the walls. Dripping from the chandelier. Soaking into the upholstered cushions of the settee.…‘Why does the palace hurt so much, Jacin? Why is it always dying?’”

Princess Winter lives in mad Lunar Queen Levana’s court. Unfortunately, some of the madness has rubbed off on her. Seeing the destruction caused all around her by the Lunar gift, she refuses to use her own, a decision that causes her mind to deteriorate.

Winter’s breakdown is heartbreaking for her guard, Jacin, to watch. He has loved the princess since childhood, and now that he’s back in the Lunar court, it’s harder than ever for him to endure her pain. But there might be hope yet: rumors say that the rebel Lunar princess Selene knows of a cure for the “gift”—a cure that could help his princess. As Princess Winter fights every day to covertly undermine Queen Levana’s bloodshed—a decision that leads her to care for the Queen’s newest “pet,” a tortured earthen rebel named Scarlet Benoit—Jacin determines to find a cure for Princess Winter’s Lunar sickness at all costs.

And helping Princess Selene lead a rebellion against the evil Queen is his best bet. YA Sci-Fi, fairy tale retelling. Published November 10th 2015 by Feiwel & Friends. Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2015).

About:

As with the other reviews of this series, I can’t address much about the overarching plot of the series without spoilers, so I’ll just leave it at this: welcome to Luna. This setting adds all sorts of tension to the plan of revolution, and the plot moves fairly quickly.

There’s so much to like about this fourth installment, and a lot of it has to do with the characters. First of all, the whole crew is finally working together in genuine camaraderie throughout much of the book—even Scarlet, who has been languishing in captivity since book III. I suspect any reader would enjoy spending a few hours with this large, loud group of friends.

I also have to once again praise the pure genius of the audio narrator, Rebecca Soler: she brings all the characters to life, but her portrayal of Winter, with the princess’s growing mental instability, is the most breathtaking of all.

Though Winter’s arc is largely reactive and introspective, instead of proactive, her complex character-building and the portrayal of her madness definitely add layers of intensity to her scenes. I think she, Cress and Cinder are tied three ways for my favorite characters of the series; Cress’s scenes are usually the most entertaining, though, with plenty of action and humor.

And speaking of Cress, she gets some fantastic scenes in this book! She’s been a dynamic character ever since her “official” introduction in book III, my favorite of the four volumes.

One of the best surprises about this book is the friendship between Winter and Scarlet.

‘Hello, crazy,’ said Scarlet. It sounded like an endearment. ‘How are the castle walls today?’”

Throughout book III, Scarlet felt largely like an unnecessary accessory to the arc of her Lunar supersoldier boyfriend. When she starred in book II, she would pop off randomly at times that called for calm, as if that was supposed to convince me of her toughness. But Princess Winter brings out Scarlet’s courage, humor and many capabilities in a way that none of the other characters managed to do.

Alas, just as I’m truly growing fond of the entire cast, it’s time to say goodbye. As the last installment, Winter had a big job to tie off the story. The final showdown with Levana did unfortunately lack much in the way of visible, clever trickery that would have greatly enhanced the battle. Also, the love subplots grew somewhat tired by the end—not because of the individual relationships, but because even Disney princesses don’t always get a prince. Still, Winter ends the series really well with a big decision by Cinder. Good stuff.

Overall :

Awesome heroines (including a fashion-obsessed android), swoonworthy guys, rebellions to infinity and beyond, and, of course, spaceships to fly in the rebels. I’m really glad I listened to it because now I can wholeheartedly recommend it to the many patrons of my library looking for this exact thing: a completely unique YA series with lots of genuine entertainment value.

Recommended To :

Anyone looking for a clever modern twist on the princess fairy tales!

****4/5 Stars

therains

“It began with a hard, slanting rain. And soon there was fire, too, but it wasn’t fire. Not really. It was the piece of Asteroid 9918 Darwinia breaking up above Earth, flaming as they entered the atmosphere.”

Teenage brothers Chance and Patrick Rain know something is wrong when they hear screams coming from the farm next door. Their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. McCafferty, appear possessed—with what, the Rains have no idea, and the terrified young McCafferty children don’t have any answers, either. But the problem only grows more serious.

A kind of parasitic spore is turning the adults of their rural hometown, Creek’s Cause, into—dare we use the “z” word? And the stream of spores is headed toward town. No one can stop it. The Rain brothers are determined to try, but the closer they get to adulthood, the closer they are to becoming part of the problem.

And the problem ain’t pretty. YA Sci-Fi Thriller published October 18th 2016 by Tor Teen. Gregg Hurwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of 15 thrillers.

The Rains combines the alien vs human and zombie mythos and adds in a dash of horror. Narrated in an epistolary format by Chance Rain, the book focuses on action with a strong, fast-moving plot. The rural setting is the most original aspect of the book and definitely my favorite part.

Thoughts :

Page one dumps readers into an atmospheric moment of suspense before the real fun begins, but Chance’s second entry quickly transitions to a bare-bones kind of backstory.

I should probably introduce myself at this point.”

I rolled my eyes several times at hokey lines such as,

I’m fifteen. Fifteen in Creek’s Cause isn’t like fifteen in a lot of other places. We work hard here and start young.”

The teen characters do bear out this description, though, acting much more like young adults than like teenagers. It’s actually a nice change that the Rain brothers, Patrick and Chance, get along so well. Their strong partnership and friendship lets us focus on the action, instead of angsty drama that can sometimes characterize YA.

In fact, this novel is almost all action, with quick pacing and plenty of fight.

I reached for the blackened handles sticking up out of the forge and ripped the tongs free. As Bob came at me, I raised the glowing yellow tips up to the level of his eyeholes and let Bob’s weight carry him onto them. He impaled his face on the tongs, the membranes popping, the hot metal sinking deep, winding up somewhere near the middle of his head. I clenched the tongs hard, cinching the tongs inward toward his brain.”

Isn’t there just something deliciously creepy about using hot tongs, ripped straight from the forge, to clench someone’s brain to jelly? Yes. Way creepier than slugging someone with a bullet.

In fact, the rural atmosphere—especially the perfectly realized setting of Creek’s Cause—is what make The Rains stand out. Feral sheriffs, baling hooks used as weapons and canneries repurposed as factories of death? Please and thank you.

And I love that we have ourselves some cowboy heroes! I’m a country girl, myself. The majority of the characters feel fairly “standard country mettle,” but that doesn’t bother me.

It’s the love triangle that’s kind of…awkward. I might enjoy a love triangle, if it’s done well, but this one is a little weird. Two brothers and a girl who can’t seem to decide? It’s not serious, yet, thankfully, and I’m hoping it stays a puppy love kind of thing. But at least it’s different than most YA specimens; for once, the story is not being told by the girl who can’t decide.

Besides the love triangle, I have very few complaints. I do have mixed feelings about the speculative element. The zombie transformation—while it has a clever basis—manifests too quickly to feel remotely believable.

Then a blackness crept across his eyes until they looked like two giant pupils filling the space between the lids. And then the blackness crumbled away like ash. The breeze lifted bits of black residue out of his head. The lights of the house behind him showed in those two spots.”

This happens in seconds? Eh…I dunno. But! The aliens show some promise—what we saw of them, anyway. Book I addresses the zombies; let’s hope book II develops the aliens.

The only other problem is the CLIFF HANGER! Gah! Hurry it up, Hurwitz. You can’t just leave it like that!

Overall :

Everything about this book is pretty average—except for the setting, which rocks. I am interested in seeing where book II goes with the aliens, though.

Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5
Worldbuilding: 4/5
Writing: 3/5

***3/5 STARS

Recommendations :

The book is fairly gory, but that probably won’t stop most readers who pick up a book like this. Recommended to big fans of sci-fi thrillers, especially with elements of horror. It’s more similar to The Maze Runner than to The Fifth Wave—it’s The Fifth Wave for action-fans instead of character-driven readers. Similar to the feel of Shusterman’s Unwind. Give to all the boys!

remade5

“Sharply told in a fantastic new format, ReMade should be on your radar.”- James Dashner, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner series

“Umta walked over to the group, and they immediately grew quiet. Most of them looked away…Only May looked her in the eyes; she was that brave at least. But the look she gave Umta was loaded with the unspoken question on everyone’s mind: Where did you come from?”

Umta is different from the rest of the characters populating the YA Dystopian serial ReMade. She’s not even human–she lived during the ancient past, instead of a modern/contemporary age like all the other characters. But like the others, she was given a second chance to live, after her untimely death. Now she’s eager to protect these soft, strange children as if they were her own.

But something out there is stalking them; and this time, it isn’t just a wild animal. Episode 1.5 was authored by Matthew Cody and published October 12th 2016 by Serial Box Publishing.

Thoughts :

I took almost no notes on this story because I flew through it. Matthew Cody is a great writer. Not only is Umta the most compelling protagonist yet, but this episode finally managed some narrative tension. I think it’s tied with episode 1 (the other episode written by Matthew Cody) for my favorite.

I cheered, early on, when we got a few hints of worldbuilding:

At 22%:

The tracks run north and south, and get this—the rails are humming. Vibrating. I think the power’s still on, like it was back on the station.”

Me: YUSSSSSSSS! THINGS ARE HAPPENING, I CAN FEEL IT!

Then,

Me at 100%: Well…some stuff happened. But I still don’t know what’s going on. Gah.

Overall:

This episode frustrated me because I kept imagining I could hear the writers debating how much info to reveal during each installment. “Hey guys, you think it’s time we tell these readers what’s going on?” “Shut up, shhh, no way. Let’s just throw some robots at them, again. It worked in episode 1, didn’t it?”

When story writers are stingy with their forward motion, I start to wonder if it’s because they don’t have many more surprises to spring.

So I’m not sure if I’ll be continuing on, or not. I would have to buy my next three episodes, and at $1.99 for each 40 minute installment, the price can add up quickly. I really needed this episode to blow my mind and it didn’t quite do that.

The caretakers had shared the fruit of knowledge with Umta.”

So share it with us? Pretty please?

Plot: 1.5/5 Stars
Character: 5/5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 2/5 Stars
Writing: 4/5 Stars

***3/5 Stars

Thanks to Matthew Cody, Serial Box Publishing & Netgalley for the free review copy!

“Sharply told in a fantastic new format, ReMade should be on your radar.”- James Dashner, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner series

“I’m not pretending to be a hero anymore, he thought.”

When teen gamer Loki woke up in the mysterious Dystopian world of the YA serial ReMade, he got a second chance at life—with a few strings attached. There are no parents, no video games and no modern conveniences. Instead, there are wild animals, robots and space elevators.

And while Loki can aim a gun pretty well, adapting his gamer skills to this new terrain will take every bit of his imagination. Remade 1.4 by E. C. Meyers. Published October 5th 2016 by Serial Box Publishing.

Thoughts :

In this episode, like the others, we get to know the narrator and learn about his death as he finds a place for himself in this new world—and in this case, Loki finds himself among the leadership of the teens as they battle a predator that has been stalking them. As with all of the previous ReMade narrators, Loki is phenomenally drawn and totally sympathetic; but the scenes set during his previous life (and death, although we don’t get the details in this episode) trouble me even more than the other episodes have. I won’t spoil anything for you, but wow! This kid needs a hug.

Also like the other episodes, there is action, but the plot crawls. There’s almost no real forward movement and we still have no answers about why the teens are here.

Plot: 1.5/5 Stars
Characters: 5/5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 1.5/5 Stars
Writing: 3.5/5 Stars

Overall:

I’ll round up to 3/5 Stars. I really want to see some plot progression. I understand the need to introduce characters to the serial, but I’m not enjoying the world enough to make up for the mysterious lack of information.

Recommended To :

I’m not comfortable recommending the serial until I start getting some answers. Thankfully, I suspect the next episode, narrated by Umta (the only adult among the ReMade survivors), will give us some of those answers.

Thank you to E. C. Meyers, Serial Box Publishing and Netgalley for my free review copy of ReMade 1.4!

scarlet

“THIS COMMUNICATION IS TO INFORM SCARLET BENOIT OF RIEX, FRANCE, EF, THAT AS OF 15:42 ON 28 AUG 126 THE CASE OF MISSING PERSON(S) MICHELLE BENOIT OF RIEX, FRANCE, EF, HAS BEEN DISMISSED DUE TO LACK OF SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE OF VIOLENCE OR NONSPECIFIC FOUL PLAY. CONJECTURE: PERSON(S) LEFT OF OWN FREE WILL AND/OR SUICIDE. CASE CLOSED.”

A second fairy tale heroine joins the wildly popular Lunar Chronicles: Little Red Riding Hood.

Premise :

Scarlet Benoit doesn’t know much about her grandmother’s past. And she doesn’t care. They’re family and they love each other, and that’s enough.

All she wants is to bring her grandmother back home.

But what Scarlet doesn’t know can hurt her. She doesn’t know about the secret that stole her grandmother away and produced the conflicted, mysterious (and, okay, totally hot) ally Scarlet has come to know as “Wolf.” She doesn’t know about her grandmother’s connection to a certain Lunar princess—and she doesn’t know that the very same Lunar princess is on her trail.

Yes, Cinder returns in this second book of the series. (Check out my review of book I here!)

Scarlet picks up where Cinder leaves off, with our favorite cyborg mechanic in New Beijing Prison, scoring a few handy new cyborg parts. Cinder knows she needs to escape the prison, and along the way, she picks up a young accomplice, his spaceship and a disconcerting habit of controlling people with her newly-discovered mind magic.

And then she’s on her way to discover the secrets that haunt her past. YA Sci-Fi, Fairy tale retelling. Published February 5th 2013 by Feiwel & Friends. More details here.

Thoughts :

I have mixed feelings about the plot of Scarlet. It starts stronger than Cinder, imo—I love that police Comm on page 2. But ultimately, Cinder’s plot with the wily Dr. Erland interested me more than Scarlet’s plot.

Scarlet’s story seems disconnected from Cinder’s for much of the book. Basically, she wants to find her grandmother and she has to convince Wolf to help her do so. But, I kept wondering, what does this have to do with Cinder? It does come together, eventually; and thankfully, in the meanwhile, I did enjoy Scarlet’s romantic arc! Both books have romantic arcs, but I totally got into Scarlet’s. [Highlight to read spoiler: Because Wolf, that sexy literal beast.]

As a character, I find Scarlet more complex but less compelling than Cinder. Although Cinder is a relatively simple character, I always enjoy her pragmatic approach to life and the cyborg traits that make her such a unique being. Scarlet, on the other hand, pops off constantly and isn’t quite as bright as our runaway princess from book 1.

I did, however, enjoy the new setting: France. Sure, Meyer could give a few more details, but this setting beats the heck out of the almost-nonexistent setting of New Beijing in Cinder. The audiobook narrator, Rebecca Soler, does a terrific job with all the accents. She truly brings all of Marissa Meyers’ characters—organic, mechanical and both—to life.

Before I end this review, I have to give a shout-out to Iko the spaceship. I love this development! Touches like this are what make the Lunar Chronicles so fun.

3.5/5 STARS OVERALL

Here’s the breakdown:

Plot: 3.5/5 STARS

Characters: 4/5 STARS

Worldbuilding: 3.5/5 STARS

Writing: 3/5 STARS

Recommended To :

Teens! All of them! It’s really a fun series, for both teens and adults, if you’re in the mood for it. With the romantic arc between Scarlet and Wolf, I would say this is less of a “family read” than Cinder was, but it’s still squeaky clean and the audiobook is a great way to listen.

Remade

“Sharply told in a fantastic new format, ReMade should be on your radar.” – James Dashner, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner series

Honestly, the situation might be confusing and everyone else was freaked out, but it was the best thing that had ever happened to her.”

remade3Premise :

Nevaeh passes from her old life as gracefully as she enters her new one, in the third installment of Serial Box Publishing’s ya dystopian serial, ReMade. Unlike the other disgruntled teen characters, she’s grateful for a second chance to live, and she works to make a home for her companions in the strange wilderness.

But when a mistake with the food supply causes the group to branch out their foraging and hunting efforts, a hunting accident shows Navaeh where her talents may lie in the new society. YA Sci-Fi/Dystopian serial installment #3, authored by Carrie Harris. Published September 28th, 2016 by Serial Box Publishing. Reviews of installments 1 & 2 can be found here & here

Thoughts :

This third installment, like the second installment, drew me into the character’s narrative right away. Navaeh’s story will resonate with any teen who has struggled with long-term illness.

She had time—time! Imagine!—and now she had the strength to help Cole.”

I found myself admiring and sympathizing completely with Navaeh; her perspective is unique among the others we’ve enjoyed so far.

We also get a few clues about the elusive worldbuilding:

…the woods around them were full of animals and berries and fruits that looked kind of like things you might see in the supermarket back home, only…different…. It was tough to tell what was safe to eat, considering how much had changed.”

My theories about the world of Remade are so ridiculous, I’m not even going to try sharing them! But I’m definitely curious.

However, this third installment, like the others, primarily concerns itself with rehashing the death of the narrator. I found it refreshing to get the inevitable flashback out of the way quickly, but I’m starting to tire of this pattern. The series is rapidly becoming a collage of character sketches set against the background of some mysterious place. It’s similar to The Maze Runner, but with less action and more character-building. I feel like I’m still waiting to be introduced to the other characters—and their deaths—before anything exciting happens.

So I’m crossing my fingers for some plot movement and real problem solving, soon! I’m actually really excited to read #5, Umta’s installment, because I have a feeling she knows more than she’s saying.

Overall:

Great characters; overly mysterious mysteries.

Recommendation :

I’m definitely reading on, at least to Umta’s story; so until then, I’ll still recommend the series to teens and dystopian-addicts, but I’m going to hold off on other recommendations until I see where this is going.

***3/5 STARS

My thanks to Carrie Harris, Serial Box Publishing and Netgalley for my free review copy!