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Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) – Amie Kaufman & Jay KristoffTitle: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Publishing Info: October 20, 2015 by Source: ALAMW15, BEA 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: July 9, 2015
Related Posts: Gemina (The Illuminae Files #1), Unearthed (Unearthed #1), These Broken Stars (These Broken Stars #1), Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3), Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)

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.

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The hype for ILLUMINAE was already huge several months before the book came out so by the time I got around to reading it (you know… still three months before its release date), it was already a pretty intimidating book from all of the reactions, not to mention the fact that the ARC was pretty honkin’ big. ILLUMINAE (in advanced copy form) clocked in at about 600 pages and taking on that brick (and I mean that extremely lovingly) was a bit scary, especially when it’s right smack in prime sci-fi territory: future and space. Thankfully, I had absolutely nothing to fear because I simply couldn’t put ILLUMINAE down and it may be one of the best books I’ve read this year. 

How to review a book like ILLUMINAE… well, let’s start with the formatting. The book is exactly what the series title implies: a collection of files. From transcripts of interviews to video surveillance reports to emails to data pulled directly from the ship, ILLUMINAE tells the story of Kady and Ezra — two teens attempting to survive and reunite once an attack on their planet evacuates their community into space. At first I wasn’t sure how I would handle the formatting but not only was it not detrimental to my reading experience but it enhanced it exponentially. It was so interesting to pick up the full story from all of these forms of files and it was incredibly creative! I loved how different it felt and the representation of so many different forms really brought the world to life even more. I was fully submerged into The Illuminae Files and didn’t want to be yanked out of that world once I got into it.

The formatting also heightened the level of emotion for me. I think there were a few factors contributing to this, one of which is being able to read direct dialogue in emails and chat sessions. There’s no “he said” or “she said” or extra helpful information within a paragraph that sometimes takes away from being the moment of emotion or action. The action sequences were more contained within reports from outside observers so the reader is able to witness action in a different way as well. I really think these methods of capturing and presenting information allowed me to stay in the moment and not have to read a lot of descriptors which can sometimes cause my minder to start thinking more about the structure again and stray from the emotional side.
The other main factor was that the formatting was just so visually appealing. The files presented to the reader came complete with headers, logos, different fonts, pictures, strains, wrinkles, and more. Other pages were structured to represent how a machine was working, a pilot’s flight path, or a character’s journey. Then there were some pages that only had one or two words on it to really drive a point or emotion home to the readers. It was so exciting to see something so different and that visual representation really added another layer to the book!

Aside from the help from the formatting, the story really was just so good. It took me a little while to establish the characters and get to know them but once I did (and it really didn’t take that long), I felt like I knew them inside and out. I grew very attached to them and really felt like I took this journey with them. The plot and storytelling were also incredible. The suspense was constantly building, emotions high, action going, and there were quite a few twists that totally took me by surprise! 

I feel like I could go on and on about ILLUMINAE but the bottom line is that you don’t want miss this book. It’s totally worth all of the hype and buzz it’s received and I think a lot of people will be stunned by it! I’m a BIT sad that I read it so early because now I need to wait a very long while for book two… But you can bet I’ll be inhaling the rest of this series!

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Kady // Character Obsessions: Family, survival, hacking, Ezra.
I didn’t quite know what to expect from Kady at first but I ended up LOVING her. She was such a spitfire and always willing to take on a challenge, especially to help the people she loves. Kady was so much fun to get to know and she really just came to life in this book.
Ezra // Character Obsessions: Romance, compliance, Kady, survival.
Ezra was kind of the softer side to Kady. He was a bit more romantic than Kady and seemed to be much more on the emotional side. I loved the balance he brought to the story and the side he brought out of Kady!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Epic space adventures. This is another time where I’m like, “Remind me again why I was avoiding this?” ILLUMINAE opened me up to a little more sci-fi and adventures in outer space.
Left Me Wanting More: Focus… but rarely! The ONLY thing I could possibly say about this book that I didn’t 100% enjoy was that there were a few times when I got distracted because of formatting. But almost all of the time it enhanced my reading experience, but honestly that’s so nit-picky because this book was phenomenal.

Addiction Rating
BUY IT!

I loved ILLUMINAE. I think this may be a book that I’ll end up collecting because so far I can’t bear to part with the two differently formatted ARCs that I have and I know I need a finished copy too… You’ll want this one for yourself!

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BOOKS LIKE ILLUMINAE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

THE 5TH WAVE     ARMADA

Six of Crows (The Dregs #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (The Dregs #1) by Leigh BardugoTitle: Six of Crows (The Dregs #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Publishing Info: September 29, 2015 by Macmillan
Source: BEA 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 3, 2015
Related Posts: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2), Grisha Novellas: The Witch of Duva (The Grisha #0.5), The Taylor (The Grisha #1.5), The Too-Clever Fox (The Grisha #2.5), Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2), Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3), Grisha Novellas: The Demon in the Wood (The Grisha #0.1) & Little Knife (The Grisha #2.6), The Demon in the Wood (The Grisha # 0.1), Little Knife (The Grisha #2.6), Six of Crows (The Dregs #1), , Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1)

Game of Thrones meets Ocean's Eleven in this brand-new book in the world of the Grisha by New York Times-bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first

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If you know me but at all as a reader/book blogger, you know one of my most favorite series ever is Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. Naturally, that meant that SIX OF CROWS was one of my most-anticipated new releases of 2015 and once I got a hold of it at BEA, I didn’t even bother to wait and dance around the fact that it wasn’t coming out for another few months. I just dove right in!

Immediately, I was getting hints of adult fantasy. SIX OF CROWS reminded me very subtly of some of my favorite adult fantasy series like Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss, and the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. Of course, since the book takes place in the Grishaverse, I also had the Grisha trilogy in the back of my head… and yet SIX OF CROWS was very much of book of its own. I really loved that Leigh Bardugo made this truly its own series. This isn’t a spin-off — it’s just a brand new series set in the same location. If you’re a Sanderson fan, think of how different his books are and yet set in his fictional Cosmere. Or really any book set in any specific state or country — the landscape and general rules are the same, you’ll spot references to historical moments, but the story itself is entirely its own. That’s what you get with SIX OF CROWS.

I immediately liked the setting and the characters. SIX OF CROWS opens in the Dregs which is exactly what it sounds like — not the best neighborhood — and I loved getting to know Crows leader Kaz and his gang. I really felt like I got a vivid picture of the setting and very much just fell into that world. It’s a much different feel from The Grisha Trilogy — it’s almost is completely different — but that was something I really appreciated.

… But at the same time, I think that was something that was personally hard for me to adjust to. I knew this book was going to be very different but secretly, I was also hoping for it to be similar. The focus is much less on the Grisha powers and abilities and much more plain cunning and survival (with a hint of revenge). We do meet a few Grisha but the book isn’t immersed in the world-building side in terms of establishing the rules of the magic system and hierarchy of royalty. It’s a completely different atmosphere so it sort of threw me and yet I liked it all at the same time.

The structure of the book is also a new thing from Leigh. Each chapter takes on the POV of a new main character and in each chapter, we get a little more of their personal story within their perspective. I really liked that I was able to obtain this information from each character themselves but at the same time, I felt like I didn’t get to spend enough time with each one to make a real connection with them. I doubt this will be an issue with a lot of people but for some reason it was just something that I couldn’t push past. I mean, you remember — one of the most-anticipated books of the year!! — so it was a very, very hard thing for me to not fall 100% head over heels for this book. Don’t get me wrong… I still REALLY enjoyed the book but I just didn’t find myself connecting with the characters as much as I had hoped.

The other hard thing for me was that everyone was comparing this book to Ocean’s 11 — a fantasy Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 11 meets Grisha, etc — and that’s one of my favorite movies, but keep in mind that when I make book comparisons, I’m not only looking at plot but also the feel of things. For me, it wasn’t an entirely accurate comparison so that was a little bit of a misconception about the book before I started. I feel like Ocean’s 11 is a very funny movie, lots of emphasis focused on humor, cleverness, and sharp tongues. I wouldn’t say that SIX OF CROWS is not those things but definitely not the in capacity that I imagined it. If you’re a fan of Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series, I would say that’s a more accurate “Ocean’s 11 meets fantasy” comparison. Lots of humor there (it’s a pretty important tone in those books) and while SIX OF CROWS didn’t need that level of humor for me to connect with it, the expectation was there. The book and the characters were definitely clever, sharp, and even a bit sassy sometimes but it wasn’t the humor level I expected. The Dregs is a dark place and these characters have some very serious pasts. I did love their story and I liked that it was a bit darker and I’d say a bit more mature than The Grisha Trilogy but again, my expectations were raised to a certain level. It wasn’t that the reality was a bad thing but I found myself waiting for that comparison to ring true and it didn’t quite make it. This is why I don’t like comparing books to other things unless they’re VERY carefully chosen… BUT that’s a full discussion for another time and place.

I don’t want to seem like I’m harping on the book — I’m really not. I want to reiterate that I enjoyed it cover to cover and especially loved the ending but the hype (both my own and what’s out there in the universe) had me thinking things were going to be a certain way and that wasn’t quite how the book went. I guess very long story short, go into SIX OF CROWS with an open mind! It’s a great book and really very enjoyable but just be careful of what sort of preconceived notions you have! Maybe the book will exceed them (I hope it does. Bardugo is fantastic). Maybe I jumped in too quickly and didn’t wait for anyone else to give a little feedback before I started the book. Maybe these things just happen every once in a while and we can’t all be 100% in love with the books we want to be.

Whatever the case, SIX OF CROWS really is still a wonderful book and I was always left wanting more. I wanted more of the characters, more plot… I found myself thinking about the book when I wasn’t reading it and wanted to read more. It really drew me in and I wanted to get lost within the pages. Oh, and of COURSE there are some wonderfully constructed attractions and romances that may set up these characters to be your new OTPs. Some of them are so wonderfully subtle and others achingly shippy. There’s just so much to love in this book!

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

six of crows goodreads update

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Something just dawned on me so I’m going to do this character breakdown a bit different… I realized part of why I struggled with the characters. In fantasy, I fell like there are always layers to characters and it seems like more a of a mystery to discover them than in contemporary. I guess in SIX OF CROWS, I felt like the character development read as a stand alone instead of a series (though I guess as of right now, it’s planned to be just a two-book series). I got to know a lot about the main characters in the book which was great but I didn’t feel like I was going on a journey with them. Of course there’s still plenty of room for growth and development in the next book but I didn’t feel pulled along to peel those layers back in the next book or guess what the histories might be. For most the characters, we find out in book one and the biggest mysteries (for me) were given answers. I guess I wanted to be pulled a bit longer by the mystery and longing and having that “can’t wait” feeling for book two. I’m still excited to read the second book and honestly, I’m probably re-reading SIX OF CROWS on audio when it comes out but I think that’s the feeling that I was lacking. I guess the answer is that I did like the character development but I never quite got THAT personally invested for some reason.

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Kept Me Hooked On: The Grishaverse. I mean, of course. It was really neat to explore a TOTALLY different part of it too. I liked how different it was from Ravka and how you really learn that Ravka does not equal the entire Grishaverse. I’d love to see more books and series in the same universe too! It’s a fun way to explore and feel connected but be nearly entirely independent of previous series.
Left Me Wanting More: Character connection. It was the main thing I seemed to be missing and I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY. Well, I do understand. Now I do. But it was really, really hard to read this book that I was enjoying and wanted to LOVE and found something falling short for me. I feel broken. Something’s wrong with me that I felt something was missing, right? 🙁

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

My recommendation is still to buy it! I adore Leigh Bardugo and this book really was so much fun. I think now that I have a hold on things, I’ll enjoy my re-read and book two even more! (I hope.)

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BOOKS LIKE SIX OF CROWS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

THE NAME OF THE WIND     THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA