Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Review

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Ratings

5 stars

Plot: 9/10

World building: 9/10

Writing style: 9/10

Character building: 8/10

Enjoyment: 9/10

Overall: 9/10

My Opinionated Review

Illuminae was intense. The story was brilliantly executed, the storytelling method of using files was unique and engaging and gave a certain narration that benefited the intensity and shock factor of the plot. It was quite a roller-coaster ride, filled with twists and turns, multiple plotlines, several enemies, and many possibilities for the sequel.

Although sci-fi is a genre I am not that familiar with and I do not consider it to be for me, I decided to give this book a chance after reading so many rave reviews, even from people who do not like sci-fi. I guess even the genres that I do not normally like are able to impress me if the author creates an engaging and well-written piece.

This story is set in a far future, with spaceships and intergalactic wars, and planets, and a whole lot of death. The unique way of how the story is told in a file format from excerpts from chat rooms to transcripts just adds so much to the futuristic feeling and intense storyline, giving an untrustworthy narration. And in the midst of all the horror and tragedy are two teenagers – a badass hacker Kady, and a witty, delightful pilot Ezra, who have to deal with war and conspiracies and death, as well as their teenage romance drama.

This book definitely surpassed my expectations, and I had quite high ones, to begin with. I don’t know whether it is because the plot was intense and surprising, or because of my lack of familiarity with sci-fi genre, that this book really shocked me, in the best way possible. I respect the authors who really can deliver a shockingly bloody catastrophe, where nobody is safe. Although some miracle survivals seemed a bit too easy and unrealistic, taking the measure of tragedy into account, some happiness was long overdue. Besides, it is impossible to tell the story if nobody is left alive.

At first, I believed that this kind of storytelling, although very refreshing, will affect the character building. However, I again found myself pleasantly surprised, having cared about the leads very much by the end of the book. Kady is the heroine that I have utmost respect for, her character was just amazing. And AIDAN was one hell of a creepy ‘character’. I just find AI type of characters quite unpredictable, and the best kinds of villains, since they are driven by different kind of motives. The dynamics between Kady and Ezra were the light, fun and heart-warming additions to a very intense story, giving the book complexity and a touch of hope.

Overall, every page of the book has made me more and more engaged. This was so different from what I usually tend to read, both narration and genre wise. Although characters being teenagers identifies this book as YA, it definitely does not have a ‘light’ story, it was scary as hell. So if you are looking for some intense, surprising story, filled with twists and turns at every corner, this is a perfect book for you, whether you are a sci-fi fan or not.

Book Playlist

  1. David Bowie – Space Oddity
  2. The Zombies – Time of the Season
  3. Eagles – One of These Nights
  4. Mercury Rev – Opus 40
  5. Cranberries – Zombie

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Book Review

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Ratings

5 stars

Plot: 8/10

World building: 8/10

Writing style: 9/10

Character building: 10/10

Enjoyment: 9/10

Overall: 9/10

My Opinionated Review

I enjoy a good superhero-supervillain dynamic, superhero movies are just wonderful entertainment. This book is about exactly that, and yet describing it just like a simple superhero story does not do the book justice. Some books just have a feeling that when you read them, they become something more. And this one was a masterpiece.

Just looking at the base of the story, the plot appears to be very predictable and cliché. It has the origin story, a hero’s journey, a fight between a hero and a villain, and how superpowers can be used for both good and evil. Yet the story is not that simple. There was no true hero in this book. Nor there was a true villain. It was about twisted, messed up anti-heroes, and about the importance of perception. How one perceives himself to be a hero, yet his actions are villainous, and a perceived villain, who is actually no worse than the ‘hero’. There was no good side in this book; no black and white. The thing that annoys me the most in  superhero stories is the drawn line between the good and bad. And this text eliminated the boring ordeal, making everybody grey. Well maybe more dark grey, since both sides have involved themselves in horrible mischiefs.

I was surprised how the author succeeded in crafting every single character in the matter that the reader tries to understand them, cares for them, and even sees the reason behind the actions. The jumps in the timeline guaranteed that the story was never boring. The multiple perceptions gave the reader an insight into every character’s thoughts and feelings. And all the dynamics were electrifying.

I have loved the twisted sisterly bond between Serena and Sidney, and the absolute power these two girls possessed. I have felt the dysfunctional, yet passionate and the captivating relationship between Eli and Serena. The unlikely team up on Victor’s side was the true heart of the story. And ,of course, the friendship turned to hate and revenge dynamic between the anti-heroes – Victor Vale and Eli Ever. This story is raw. It’s ExtraOrdinary, and yet it makes you wonder where is the line between the good and the evil, and how much everything is based on your perception.

V.E. Shwab has done a wonderful job in creating this messed-up world and truly captivating characters. Her writing style blew me away, and I am certain I will be checking out more of her work in the future.

Book Playlist

  1. Calexico – Para
  2. Stateless – Bloodstream
  3. The All-American Rejects – It Ends Tonight
  4. Nine Inch Nails – Hurt
  5. Imagine Dragons – Monster

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Book Review

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Ratings

5 stars

Plot: 9/10

World building: 9/10

Writing style: 9/10

Character building: 8/10

Enjoyment: 9/10

Overall: 9/10

My opinionated review

When I first heard about the book, the title instantly allured me, and I knew I wanted to read it without even knowing the premise of the story. ‘Wolf by Wolf’. Such a strong title and the ongoing importance of wolf symbolism has made this a wonderful read. I have always been fascinated by wolves, and as Yael, have a wolf tattoo. The wolf symbolism was enough for me to believe that I would enjoy this book. And going further into the read, this fast-paced action-filled adventure has gripped my interest and kept me on the edge all throughout.

It is definitely one ambitious and intriguing premise: Ryan Graudin blends an alternative history plot with science-fiction elements, presenting both these topics with such reality that the reader instantly believes in this fictitious world. The horror that the Nazis and Adolf Hitler imploded on the world is known to everyone. Therefore, this alternate portrayal of the world that would have become if Hitler actually won, seems very believable and very horrifying. Since Hitler was one of the most brutal  villains, in reality, moving this figure to fiction results in completely relatable and easily-understandable villainous character hate. Mixing that storyline with science experimentation and creating a character with skin-shifting fills the story with more depth and potential that makes it impossible to stop reading.

Mostly, this book is about identity, and finding yourself when you are forced to hide. Therefore Yael, a she-wolf skin-shifting 17-year-old girl is one of the most complex and compelling characters I have ever had the pleasure to know. She struggles with her identity – she becomes other people, changes her appearance until she forgets her own face. Especially in the hate-filled society of seeing only the Arian race as ‘pure’ and worth living, the circumstances Yael has to deal with, are truly horrific. The horrors and tragedy that she was forced to endure harden her skin and the unique ability of skin-shifting mixed with getting into the hands of resistance activists by chance create a super-spy character, entrusted with the most important mission of all – the execution of Adolf Hitler. She has to become the symbol of hope, the symbol of war, dealing with many dangers, testing her limits, while struggling with her own identity and reminders of people she is doing this for.

After many attempted assassinations of the world’s most hated leader, it is not an easy task to get close enough to Adolf Hitler and kill him. Therefore Yael has to go to extreme lengths and enrol in a motorcycle race competition, taking the identity of a famous racer Adele Wolfe and balancing this stolen personality with her important mission, and maintaining Adele’s complex relationships. This ‘Mad Max’ type of adventure kept me on the edge throughout the whole book. The constant challenges and twists thrust upon Yael were so intense that I would have to put the book down to be able to absorb everything that happened. The need to balance two completely different relationships with very multi-dimensional characters became the most entertaining part of the story. Felix, Adele’s brother, went to extreme lengths to protect his sister; and Luka, the toughest competition with unknown ties to Adele, history filled with love and betrayal, proved to be unplanned challenges to Yael. These already complex dynamics mixed with Yael trying to balance already established connections with her own struggles on whether these people are just Nazi followers or something more has made one thrilling plotline. And in the heart of all is Yael, struggling to find a balance between saving the world and losing her humanity. So much happens in this book, that it is impossible to analyse every single detail, but it sure is never boring, and at times hard to read due to the difficult subject matter. It’s like Hunger Games, just much closer to reality.

Oh boy, it was one hell of a ride. The final twist was somehow expected, although I have not seen it coming until the very end. The book ends with so much potential for the story to continue, without giving any identification of which direction the author will be taking the plot and our beloved characters. I hope Luka and Felix’s character will be explored more thoroughly in the sequel, since they are so complex and well-crafted, and I already feel much love for Felix’s protectiveness and Luka’s ‘moreness’. I cannot wait to see what’s in store for Yael now that she can be herself, and how the dynamics between the characters will be progressing. Moreover, I cannot wait for more action, because ‘Wolf by Wolf’ has easily become one of my favourite reads of the year.

Book Playlist

  1. Imagine Dragons – Gold
  2. Blue October – Hate Me
  3. Celldweller – It Makes No Difference Who We Are
  4. Alice Cooper – Poison
  5. Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun