Tag Archives: 2.5/5

Three Romances I Wanted To Love But Didn’t

Sometimes, books just don’t work out for me. It’s not even that these books are bad, because they aren’t. They just each pushed some buttons and I didn’t enjoy them as much as I hoped I would. I decided to do shorter reviews for books that didn’t work for me from now on, since my posting schedule is different and I’d rather spend my time and effort talking at length about books that I actually loved.

Love Story (Love Unexpectedly #3) by Lauren Layne
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Links:

Source: Publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary NA romance.

My rating:

Love Story…Ahh, I wanted to love it so much. I read it at the end of a serious Lauren Layne binge (I discovered her last year and was then lucky enough to read this as an ARC, so I’m super late posting my review, oops), and maybe that’s why I wasn’t entirely impressed by it.

I mostly just couldn’t connect with the characters. Lucy was too “spoiled princess” for my taste, I didn’t really see what her conflict was here, and Reece was an asshole one too many times. I mean, the plot itself (a road trip across the US and a second chance romance) should have been enough for me to completely fall for it because those are some awesome tropes right there. And I did enjoy it, it was a quick read, I just wished to empathize more with Lucy and Reece.

It’s a standalone, even though it’s listed as a part of a series, which is kind of nice in the world of romance. If you’re already a Layne fan, go for it, you might connect better with the main characters. But if not, try another LL book first and fall in love with those (they’re great and she’s one of my favorite contemporary romance authors).

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Rescued by the Space Pirate (Ruby Robins Sexy Space Odyssey #1) by Nina Croft
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Links: Goodreads.

Source: Publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: space opera erotica.

My rating:

(Trigger warning for rape and dubious consent) Uhhh this book. I wanted this book to be campy and ridiculous and maybe sexy. I mean, when you pick up a book with such a title, you don’t expect to find serious literature of Nobel-prize-winning kind. But I expected some sort of space opera, with kissing. (Somebody find me that, please, I really want it now!)

What I got instead was alien porn with questionable consent and some uncool views on rape. *sad trombone* No but seriously, a hero who takes one look at a woman who was repeatedly gang-raped by weird tentacly aliens and says “she’ll get over it, people can adapt to anything” is not a hero I want to read about. Our heroine also gets bullied (aka fired from her job) into accepting the position of a spy which gets her into a situation where she gets touched by an alien against her will (she gets an orgasm out of it but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s non-consensual), so I wasn’t too impressed.

Look, I kind of wanted to continue reading the series because a three-way with a hot blue-skinned alien and a man who’s half-droid sounds like great fun (in writing, lol) but there were just too many issues for me to ignore. Now please, give me your space romance recs (aliens and tentacles are…fine, just as long as everyone’s there of their own free will).

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Royally Screwed (Royally #1) by Emma Chase
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Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Whyyyyy are allllll the heroes such assholesssss? Don’t get me wrong, I like a good bad boy now and then, but not if he’s a straight-up jackass. I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews for Emma Chase’s Royally series, and this was a fast read (what contemporary romance isn’t?), but I didn’t get the appeal of Prince Charming, so the whole thing fell short for me.

He behaved atrociously towards Olivia, insulted her and treated her like crap, AND YET she went with him and they somehow fell in love. Being fantastic in bed doesn’t make a hero a good person, and at the end of the day, I want my romance heroes to be good guys the heroine can trust to stand beside her no matter what. Prince Nicholas just didn’t deliver on that. Meh.

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Give me all your romance recs, especially the sci-fi kind if you have any. 

Any new contemporary romance authors I should try? I’ve been on a real contemporary kick lately.

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Crop of Mini Reviews

My posting schedule doesn’t allow me to review all the books I’ve read, and I like it that way. Not all books are meant to be talked about at length, so I skip them and only mention those that are either very good, ARCs, or very bad. Sometimes, though, these mini reviews really come in handy. These are all YA and MG reads from November and December.

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Blankets by Craig Thompson
Published in 2003 by Top Shelf Productions.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from my brother (paperback).

Genre: YA contemporary graphic novel.

My rating:

I read Blankets back in high school when my mom and dad gave my brother this copy as a present. It’s a beautiful story of a boy growing up in a highly religious environment, his experiences with faith, first love, friendship, and family. I didn’t remember the story well, so I picked it up when I saw it at my parents’ apartment – my brother didn’t take it with him when he moved out (dun dun dun! This only makes sense if you’ve read the story and maybe not even then, sorry.) It also seems to be largely autobiographical?

I really liked the artwork – it’s all done in black and white, so it’s really powerful. Thompson’s style is beautiful and clean, though he sometimes veers into fantastic shapes and creatures that break up the harsh reality Craig (yeah, the MC’s name is the same as the author’s) has to face every day. If you get a chance, definitely give this one a try, it really packs a punch.

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Paper Towns/Lažna mesta by John Green
Published in 2014 by Mladinska knjiga .

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from my mom (paperback).

Genre: YA contemporary.

My rating:

I did not enjoy this John Green novel. *le gasp*

I read The Fault in Our Stars a couple of years ago, before I started blogging, and really, really liked it (like most everyone I know). Then I read Looking for Alaska and reviewed it here. It was good, I liked it, but I definitely wasn’t as star-struck as I was before.

And now my faith in John Green’s writing is failing, because Paper Towns were a disappointment. I read the Slovenian translation (by Neža Božič), which is actually really good, so it didn’t play a role in my lower rating. I know Green has a really loyal following so if you find it unbearable to hear his books insulted, please exit through the side door. Thanks.

My main problem was with Margo. Without going into spoilers, she’s a spoiled (ha!) little brat and I disliked her immensely. Quentin was cool but the entire story was actually very similar to Looking for Alaska when you think about it! I wanted to slap some sense into all of them but couldn’t, because they’re fictional.

And then there was the pretentiousness. I’m sorry but do you know many 18-year-olds who quote Whitman but are also very cool and hip and generally the most intelligent beings around? I’ve read enough to know when an author did not kill his darlings (and he really should have). Parts of the story were horribly long-winded and really dragged along. Look, I had my fair share of stoned conversations about existential questions when I was that age but nobody ever said those conversations were meant to be written down, let alone read my millions of random people. Ugh.

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The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
by Lion UK.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: MG historical fantasy.

My rating:

The Little White Horse is one of my childhood favorites. I think I must have read it at least five times when I was younger – in Slovenian translation, of course (it is very good). But I wanted to read the original, so I bought myself the English version a couple of years ago and the book has been sitting on my shelf until now. I’m really happy I re-read it! I see it with completely different eyes now but the nostalgia is strong, so I can’t help but love it still.

Of course there are some problematic elements to the story of the orphaned Maria who comes to live at Moonacre Manor. There’s the notion that ladies don’t get angry, or loud, and that women are represented by the Moon while men belong to the Sun; there’s the overwhelming religious element and a number of other details that I could name. But they didn’t bother me in the least when I was little and it’s also wrong to judge the works from the past with today’s criteria.

So I’d still recommend this as a classic work of English children’s literature, and I’ll be reading it to my kids when the time comes, because it’s a pretty fairy tale and I want to share it with them. But if you’re looking for a modern, enlightened fantasy, this most certainly isn’t it.

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Have you read any of these? 

What did you think?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1) by Kiersten White
Published on June 28, 2016 by Delacorte Press.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: ARC via NetGalley. Thank you Delacorte Press for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: historical YA.

My rating:

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

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Well, I suspect I’ll be a bit of a black sheep with this one. I saw some very positive reviews already (I haven’t read them yet because I wanted to write mine first) and it seems like mostly everyone liked this novel a lot! However, I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel, sadly.

Let’s do the positive side first, though, it’s always important to give credit where it’s due. The writing is great. The main reason I requested this ARC was that I really enjoyed White’s Illusions of Fate – though I somehow never managed to review it here. Something about her style appeals to me, so I might give her books another chance – just not the sequel to this one.

Also, the historical setting was very convincing and well researched. So if you’re into historical fiction (not historical romance, mind you!), you’d do well to give this one a go. I don’t know whether you’re aware – but Turks (of the Ottoman Empire) invaded what is now Slovenia, too, when they were trying to reach Vienna at some point. And they took Slovenian boys as Janissaries as well. Not as many as in other Balkan nations, to be sure, but we have remnants of their language in some expressions and fortified churches on tops of hills where people fled when the warning fires burned. So it was an interesting historical period to read about, one that hasn’t been very popular in recent years. I liked that they weren’t necessarily presented as invaders, too – the author took care to be very, very neutral and thorough.

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But I disliked both the plot and the characters, which are probably the most important aspects of a story for me, so the setting and the writing didn’t make much of a difference in the final rating.

The main problem I had with these two crucial elements is that a) nothing good happens and b) there are no likable characters. And this is a problem for me, especially in YA. I’m not saying all YA books (or all books in general) should have a happy ending, far from it. In fact, I enjoy a dark story from time to time. But I feel like there has to be some hope, some moment of happiness, even if it’s crushed and stomped on in the end. I have to say that this is probably the most depressing book I’ve read in a while – and I’ve read books that made me cry, they just weren’t so dark.

It also doesn’t help that the historical period this story is set in was very bloody and uncertain. While the portrayal of the roles of women, for example, was very authentic, and I was impressed by White’s refusal to romanticize the lives of sultan’s concubines, I wish that there was something bright to look forward to. But there wasn’t and I was left with a profound sense of dread of what will happen in the sequel.

As for the characters, I couldn’t sympathize with any of them. Lada (the reimagining of Vlad the Impaler), the girl protagonist of the story, is twisted and cruel. Radu, her brother, goes from a pitiful boy to a scheming young man – he’d have been a good character to root for if he wasn’t so absolutely spineless. And Mehmed, the sultan’s heir, is an entitled little shit most of the time, even if he recognizes that Lada and Radu are very important in his life. I did not like how their relationships developed from childhood through adolescence, I didn’t like the lengths they went to. And if Lada managed to carve out a semblance of power for herself in a world where women were viewed as property, she was too selfish to ever think about improving the lives of other women with this newfound strength. *spoiler in white* Also, Mehmed’s professions of affection towards Lada were hollow and downright insulting when he continued visiting the harem and having babies.  I also thought I’d like the dynamic of this unlucky love triangle (Radu is hopelessly in love with Mehmed), but it only served to make all three of them act even worse towards each other, which was really disappointing. *end of spoiler*

I just wished someone was good enough to go against the rules of the society, to rebel not just for the sake of him/herself but to help others, too. *sigh* So you see, it was very hard to care for the fates of these people when they cared so little for the fates of those around them. Does this make sense? Again, I’m not saying that all YA protagonists have to be likeable, I love a good villain story, but there has to be someone to balance the scales.

All in all, as you can see this wasn’t a story for me. I won’t be reading the sequel because I simply can’t justify reading about unlikable characters when I have so many other, more attractive books to read. Go check out Mogsy’s and Alicia’s reviews, though, their tastes are usually very similar to mine so I’m curious to read what appealed to them in this novel!

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Have you read And I Darken? What did you think? What about other books by Kiersten White?

Do you like dark stories or do you prefer at least a drop of sunshine in every tale?

I’d love to hear from you!

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A Batch of YA Mini Reviews

I’ve had these written up and sitting around for a while and I really think it’s time for me to publish them. It may look like I’ve had the two ARCs for years because of their publication dates but I only received them last year, so I’m not that horrible.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Published in 2011 by Walker Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (Slovenian hardback).

Genre: MG urban fantasy/magical realism?.

My rating:

I enjoyed Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy a lot. I even saw him when he visited a book festival in Ljubljana – he’s one of the few authors who did. I read both that trilogy and A Monster Calls in Slovenian translations, which are very good. But while I liked A Monster Calls, I didn’t love it like I expected to. Maybe my expectations were too high?

In any case, this is a good story about a boy dealing with grief, it’s an important story to have if you need to offer it to a child/young person dealing with a similar situation. I guess we all deal with loss in our lives, in one way or another; hopefully not too often, but such is the way of life. I thought Ness did a credible job of working through the issues of denial, anger, and helplessness that come with such a life situation. I know a lot of people absolutely adore this book, so I urge you to give it a try, especially if you’ve already read Ness’s other stories and liked them.

The artwork is also absolutely brilliant, I think the story wouldn’t be half as good without it. Jim Kay is the man who’s working on the illustrated versions of Harry Potter, but his style is completely different here, it’s dark and scary.

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Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Published in 2012 by Intisar Khanani.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: author via NetGalley. Thank you Intisar Khanani for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA fantasy/fairytale retelling.

My rating:

Uh, this is one of my old ARC debts… I read Thorn last year as a part of the Fairytale Retelling Challenge, though I never got around to reviewing it. *sigh* I find it hard to write about books I neither actively liked nor disliked, I never know what exactly to write about them. I did enjoy Thorn, it’s a retelling of “The Goose Girl”, where a princess is unlawfully replaced by an evil impostor and has to prove her worth even though she’s now stripped of her royal status. I liked the story, it doesn’t rely on privilege and birthright to show a character’s strength, but I felt like the author didn’t really add anything important to the original story. The plot is essentially the same, only the decor is different. I liked the slightly Oriental vibe, but I found the princess’s reliance on God to be overwhelming, I prefer it if characters primarily believe in themselves and other people. It’s just one of those personal pet peeves, what can I say. I also missed more fantasy elements – I know fairy tales don’t necessarily feature them but this story did, to an extent. So I wished for a more pronounced world-building and/or magic system. This wasn’t a bad story but I wish it was executed more thoughtfully.

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Shadows (The Rephaim #1) by Paula Weston
by Text Publishing.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Text Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA paranormal fantasy.

My rating:

Well, what can I say, I’m a sucker for YA paranormals. Ever since I read Twilight, I’ve been searching for good stories (YES, I know, it’s horrible of me to say that but it’s true. I refuse to feel ashamed.) that would break the mold. And… Shadows doesn’t, really. I mean, it’s always nice to read a story where angels aren’t the good guys, though I think Laini Taylor took excellent care of that with her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Shadows is decidedly darker, more violent and kind of mysterious, but it has the requisite hot guy who knows too much about the heroine, the jealous ex-boyfriend (who is also gorgeous, hello, he’s an angel!) and a heroine who kicks ass even though she can’t remember where she’s learned it all. I liked the twin angle – she’s grieving/missing her twin brother, I think that if the story will develop that part, it might get really good. I’ll probably pick up the sequel one day, I’m just not in a huge rush to do so.

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Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Do you have any fairytale retelling of paranormal fantasy recs for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Batch of Romance Mini Reviews

This is a mixed bag of romances, two rather good ones and one that was decidedly underwhelming. See if anything catches your fancy!

 

The Princess Wore Plaid (The Oxenburg Princes #2.5) by Karen Hawkins
Published on March 21, 2016 by Pocket Star.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Pocket Star for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: historical romance.

My rating:

This is a novella from The Oxenburg Princes series and it was actually my favourite story so far. I usually dislike reading novellas because the characters or the story always feel underdeveloped, but this certainly wasn’t the case here! The novels focus on the brothers – princes – of the royal family of Oxenburg, a made up East-European country. They somehow end up traipsing through Scotland and falling in love. This novella features their royal cousin, the princess Tatiana and a recluse of a Scottish Lord. I didn’t enjoy the princes’ stories as much because they were domineering and very alpha, but Lord XX is a damaged man who allows XY into his life and heart despite his opinion that a young woman has no business spending time with a crippled loner. The heroine has been in a carriage accident and has suffered some memory loss, and is now employed at a country inn as a kitchen maid. I liked how she thought about her life as a royal and the things that made a person good, she really changed and grew up as a character, which, as you know, is very important to me. I’ve read most of Karen Hawkins’s books, so I’ll most definitely be reading the last part of this series as well – it’s the crown prince’s story! :)

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Sweet Ruin (Immortals After Dark #16) by Kresley Cole
Published in December 2015 by Gallery Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Gallery Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: paranormal romance.

My rating:

Oh, Kresley Cole… I have such a love-hate relationship with her. I absolutely adore the first… eight or so instalments of her Immortals After Dark super-series. Though her heroes are alpha males (yes, males, they’re demons and werewolves and whatnot) and often overbearing and insistent to the point of being pushy, her heroines definitely knew how to handle themselves and mostly kicked the men’s asses into submission, rarely taking shit from them. But once Cole started writing NA paranormals (seriously, don’t even bother with those, they’re horrible, or at least the first one is, I never continued with the series) and erotica (which kind of made me want to wash my eyeballs), the quality of her characters has slipped, I think. 

I… read Sweet Ruin in a day or so, the story is still good and the writing pretty addictive, but I wish for more truly independent women, not just superficially “strong” heroines who conform to their partner’s wishes. Eh. Also, this one opened up the world of the Lore, which is already complicated as fuck, to a whole other dimension of super deities, which worries me a lot, because it looks like we’re in for another sub-series of crazy-powerful individuals, who are mostly male, which always troubles me when they’re paired with women who can’t really cope with that kind of strength. I mean, before, the couples in her romances were valkyrie and a werewolf, for example, both were immortal and the woman was more than capable of slapping the man around. But now … things just aren’t so level anymore, and I never like such imbalance. Eh. We’ll see where the series goes, I might give the next part another try for old times’ sake.

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Playing For Her Heart (Gamers #2) by Megan Erickson
by Entangled Publishing.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Entangled Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary romance/erotica.

My rating:

Ooh, another ARC debt. I actually enjoyed this one a lot. It’s a contemporary romance bordering on erotica with some role playing involved. The couple hooks up at a SFF convention (I really want to visit ComiCon or something someday, not for the sex, obviously, but for the amazing cosplay!), they are dressed as characters from the same video game, and the sex is off the charts hot. But then the girl disappears from the room and the guy is left wondering if he’ll ever see her again. He does, of course, as she’s his best friend’s shy sister – she only lets go when she’s playing a role, so he accepts that, but knows he wants more than just games from her (he’s playing for her heart, hint hint). Anyway, this was a nice surprise, as I haven’t had much luck with Entangled romances in the past (which hasn’t prevented me from reading them, *sigh*). 

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Did you read any of these? What did you think?

Do you stay loyal to authors even after they’ve disappointed you?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published in 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from a friend.

Genre: YA sci-fi.

My rating:

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.

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If you’ve been around my blog before, you’ll probably have noticed my dislike for over-hyped books. Or rather, my wariness to read them because I feel that the hype invariably causes my expectations to soar so I am disappointed by the time I read the story. It’s not the author’s fault, nor is it mine – it’s just a combination of a ridiculous amount of publicity and my excitement. 

I have to say that Illuminae is exactly such a book. I think it must have been one of the most hyped-up releases of 2015 and it received fantastic reviews on a number of blogs I read. I wasn’t even going to read it (or I’d have waited for the release of book 2 to see if the general obsession with the story continued), but I got a chance to borrow a copy from a friend and I took it. And… well, I’m not sorry I read it, it just wasn’t a good fit for me.

I went into the story blind, without even reading the synopsis, and all I knew was that the story was supposed to wow me. I liked the innovative formatting – most of the story is told through reports, chat logs, interview transcripts, etc, and even includes spaceship schematics. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi so this was a new experience for me – and let me tell you, I would not do well in space. The thought of being separated from the endless void by a mere metal wall is terrifying. I never wanted to be an astronaut when I was little. 

I did like Kady and Ezra, they were cool kids and I liked that their story was complicated before the action even begins (they’d just broken up when their home planet is destroyed), so there was no danger of insta-love or anything. No love triangles, either, which is refreshing. But I wished I could see into their heads more. I wished for a more personal view of their thoughts and actions – the fact that the story is told through reports and such means we never really know what’s going on with them in the moment, not really. I lacked some sort of personal connection that would have made me root for them more. 

I also didn’t know the book would have a horror-tinged conflict at its heart. I am a total chicken when it comes to horror so I avoid it scrupulously, but since I didn’t know anything about the story before I started reading it, I was in the middle of the carnage before I realized what was happening. Would I have read the book if I knew that this would happen? Honestly? Probably not. I don’t need mental images of these things and it really seemed like a lot (and I mean a lot) of these scenes were there just for the shock factor. Eh.

In any case, I probably won’t be continuing with this series, it just isn’t my cup of tea. I know others liked it because it’s action packed and a fast read and different from other stories, so I’m sure the sequel will be just as well-received by the majority. 

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Have you read Illuminae? What did you think?

Do you ever go into books completely blind or do you always read the synopsis first?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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