Spirit Followers by Lydia Redwine (Instruments of Sacrifice #1)

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Quality of writing: 4 out of 5 stars.

How much I enjoyed reading this book: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“When a Royal dies, the realms elect the one to take their place. By reasons Camaria does not know, her realm elects her as the next Royal. Now that she is the new-found sixteenth Royal of the nation of Mirabelle, Cam embarks on a journey with her sisters and a young huntsman to the four realms of the nation to complete training in the four kinds of magic. Once she has completed this training, she will then be permitted to consume her annual amount of magic and possess manifested powers. Her ventures are unexpectedly steeped in precarious events when Cam discovers a secret plan of revolt, a past she never knew, and an ancient people group thought dead who call themselves the Spirit Followers.”

This review has been long in coming, and I am grateful for Lydia’s patience with how long it took me to get to her book! College and life got the better of me, but I was finally able to read the review copy that Miss Redwine sent me, and I am excited to be reviewing it! In lieu of that, I just want to say ‘thank you’ to Lydia Redwine for sending me her book in trade for an honest review. In no way has this influence my opinion or review regarding “Spirit Followers.”

Lydia Redwine’s book, “Spirit Followers,” was a very good debut to what seems to be a promising career as a writer. Lydia is a talented writer, this book being a fairly complex novel for not only the first book in a series but also a debut novel. While reading “Spirit Followers,” I thought that the approach Lydia took toward the fantasy genre was fairly unique compared to some of the other books that I have read within the genre, and her world building was well done. The society and different “cultures” that Lydia introduced in “Spirit Followers” reminded me a lot of Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” series in how each teenager had to decide which magical inlet they wished to become a part of and to live in for the remainder of their lives, especially because of how each “district” was divided by certain abilities and cultural traits. Basically it was the factions renamed with a dash of magical giftings; that aspect was not particularly original feeling, but I don’t think that it was a problem or detrimental to the plot, despite the similarities between this book’s society and other dystopian novels’. Besides the differing magical enclaves, some of the other rebellion themes were reminiscent of other YA fantasy and dystopian books that have been written throughout the years, but I thought that Lydia Redwine did a good job adding different dynamics to her story that made a similar theme completely her own.

Lydia definitely started her debut off with a bang , but for me personally, I wished she had taken a bit more time to introduce her characters and the society before throwing me as a reader right into the thick of the plot. I didn’t feel like I got to know Camaria (AKA Cam) as well as I wanted to before her whole life started to implode and the drama started saturating the story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy action-packed, fast-paced plots, but I would have liked to have had the time to get attached to Cam and the other characters before their world suddenly went up in flames in the traditional YA way. The pacing was a little problematic for me in the beginning of “Spirit Followers,” but Lydia did a really good job of keeping her plot moving by introducing new characters and having Cam and her group travel around the different “factions” throughout this book.

As with Cam, I did not feel like I got attached to any character in particular. Oliver, Cam’s friend, made an appearance just in the beginning of “Spirit Follows” only to disappear for 90% of the book, and I was a little bummed by that because I thought that he could have been a more dynamic character if he had been present in this book for longer. Riah’s story was vague, but I totally got what Lydia was going for with this character, although I wish it had been more “fleshed-out,” so to speak. I don’t go for the bad boy type where they are actually the enemy, despite their inner struggle between good and evil; that’s just not my personal taste, so Riah was the kind of character that was fairly interesting, but I was not particularly invested in him. Fiera was probably the character that I liked the most, and she reminded me a lot of Nesta from “A Court of Thorns and Roses.” Normally I don’t like the prickly, super intense female characters, but she ended up being the most dynamic character in “Spirit Followers,” and she got business done, which I totally respected.

Besides the characters, I was quite surprised by Lydia Redwine’s world building. She did a fantastic job of not just telling her readers about all of the different regions of her world, but also showing them. Cam and her group of reluctant rebels traveled to most of the little enclaves where she (and her readers) learned about the different cultures and the magic that was present in the region. Lydia did a very good job of making her world feel expansive, and I think that there is a lot of potential in the next couple of books in this series to explore in-depth the history of Cam’s world.

Overall, I thought that Lydia Redwine’s debut was well-written and creative with a fast moving plot, but I do wish that certain aspects had been more developed (like some of the characters) before you-know-what hit the fan. I did not feel as attached to the characters as I had hoped I would be, but they were still very good. I have other things that I want to talk about regarding the plot and the loops that Lydia took her characters for, but I do not want to spoil anything for those of you wanting to read this book! I feel like “Spirit Followers” would be a great book for fans of both the fantasy and dystopian genres, especially fans of the “Divergent” series, and although this book had a high body count, I think that younger readers (middle school) would like this book, too.

And I Darken by Kiersten White (The Conquerors Saga #1)

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“And I Darken” by Kiersten White

Publishing House: Delacorte Press

Release Date: June 28th, 2016

Quality of Writing: 3 out of 5 stars.

How Much I Enjoyed It: 1 1/2-2 out of 5 stars.

“NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.”

Thank you, NetGalley and Delacorte, for the e-galley of “And I Darken.” In no way has this affected my review.

This is going to be a fairly short review, since I have very little to say about “And I Darker,” especially good things. While Kiersten White is a fairly good writer, I personally found everything about this book to be quite difficult to read, from its empty feeling chapters to its cruel and awful characters. Normally I can kind of enjoy a book if it has a mildly intriguing plot, or if the world/historical elements are done well, but all if the characters in “And I Darken” were so unrepentant in their awful behaviors to an extreme that they tainted anything else that I might have liked about this book.

“And I Darken” began with Lada as a young girl, and I have truly never read a book with a heroine who was as awful as her at such a young age, or who was just awful in general. Lada wasn’t just a difficult child, she was a vicious, cruel little hellion from the start of “And I Darken,” and I was quite disturbed by how horrendously awful she was toward everyone, including her younger brother. I was completely shocked by just how wickedly Lada acted in the first half of this book, but I kept reading it despite how much I disliked her because I wanted to see if there was a moral to this story, a drop of redemption for this girl who enjoyed being a terror upon the earth.

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Yeah, no, that was a terribly foolish thing to hope for concerning “And I Darken” and its protagonist, because there was no redemption to Lada, no moral to her story, and I was thoroughly disturbed that a heroine, whom we are supposed to be rooting for, was no better than the villains who stole her home from her. Honestly, Lada felt more like an antagonist because of how little character growth she had in this book.

I get that Lada was the daughter of Vlad the Impaler, and obviously that’s going to create some familial and emotional issues, but Lada’s aggression went above and beyond that, and even reached sociopathic levels in her utter lack of respect for life. Lada constantly complained that she deserved to have her homeland back, that no one loved it as she did, but upon reading those parts of “And I Darken,” I realized that Lada’s love for her kingdom was only extended toward the land itself and not to the people who lived within the boarders of Wallachia. Question: kingdoms are made up of territories and people who live on said land, correct? Yeah, I thought so. Lada was a terrify creature to read about, and I kept thinking about what would happen to the people, whom she cared nothing for nor ever thought about, when they were under her rule. Lada was barely better than the sultan in how merciless she was, and it felt like she would only be the lesser of two evils when acting as a ruler.

I wanted to enjoy “And I Darken,” but my dislike for Lada and the other characters, who were only slightly easier to read about, stopped me from being able to enjoy anything else that might have been interesting about this book. I was also sad about the plot because it seemed to drag a lot and was empty enough that, when I started grazing pages, there was nothing to miss; I could skip a few chapters at a time when I wanted to and still deduce what was happening quite accurately, which made this books lose what little hold it had left over me.

I finished “And I Darken” because it was a review e-ARC, but if that had not been the case, it would have been a DNF for me. This book never drew me in, not even with its historical aspects, and since the characters were all pretty despicable and manipulative, I had no one to root for and cheer on, which sealed the deal on my dislike of this book. I am so sorry for my strong feelings toward “And I Darken,” especially if you were a fan of it, but there was honestly nothing likable, redeeming, or interesting enough about this book to make me want to move forward with “The Conquerors Saga.” Sorry, but this was a major miss.

 

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor (Into the Dim #1)

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“Into the Dim” by Janet B. Taylor

Publishing house: HMH Books for Young Readers

Release date: March 1st, 2016

Quality of writing: 4 out of 5 stars.

How much I enjoyed it: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing. Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.”

Thank you, HMH publishing, for sending me a review ARC of “Into the Dim.” In no way has influenced my review.

I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable “Into the Dim” ended up being! It took me a while to get adjusted to Janet B. Taylor’s writing style and her heroine’s voice, but one I did, I started to feel more immersed in the historical and time-travel elements that were in “Into the Dim,” and that made reading this book quite fun. Janet is a very good writer, and I enjoyed the “science” of her time-travel in this book, which felt very similar to the style of time-travel in “Timeline” the movie. I adored that film growing up, so the similarities between it and “Into the Dim”definitely endeared this book to me more than anything else in it. Despite being partial to its “Timeline” vibes, I did find some of the characters in “Into the Dim” to be quite likable.

Hope turned out to be a pretty good character. At first, I felt a bit disconnected from the writing style and this character’s voice, but after about a hundred pages, I realized that Janet B. Taylor’s book was going to be a much younger feeling YA novel than was advertised online. “Into the Dim” was marketed as 14 and up, which made me go into reading this book with the expectation that it was going to be far darker and more gritty than it actual ended up being. Once I got into my head that the female character was supposed to feel quite young and that this book seemed to have been written with a younger audience in mind, then I was able to enjoy this character’s perspective and the rest of “Into the Dim” a lot more.

Like I said before, Hope felt like a very young heroine, which was appropriate since she was only sixteen in this book. I have gotten so used to reading protagonists who were sixteen- to nineteen-years-old, but who felt like mature adults, that it was slightly off-putting at first to read a book about a heroine with such a young voice, but once I got used to Hope feeling so young, I was okay with how young she and everyone in this book seemed. In most cases, I prefer more mature protagonists, but I did like that Hope’s young voice left a lot of opportunity for her character to grow and mature over the course of this book, which I liked. I don’t really think that a week and a half is long enough to drastically change and mature an individual, but I still appreciated that Hope and the other characters in “Into the Dim” experienced some personal growth during their journey through time. Although Hope was a pretty good character, I was slightly unsettled by Hope’s infatuation with Bran Cameron.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Bran in “Into the Dim,” especially since he reminded me a wee bit of Zach Goode from the “Gallagher Girls” series by Ally Carter, but I personally did not buy into Hope’s insta-affection towards Bran Cameron. I liked Bran and thought that he was an interesting and slightly mysterious character, and I did not mind his side of the romance in this book, but even after having finished “Into the Dim,” I am still a little unsettled by Hope’s half of the romantic relationship in this book.

Despite my not-so-fond feelings towards Hope and Bran’s romance, I thought that Janet B. Taylor did a good job of writing a pretty likable heroine and an interesting lead male character, but I think that my favorite part of this book, other than it’s “Timeline” vibes, ended up being the secondary characters. Phoebe, Doug, Collum, Bran, and the adults in this story made it endearing and likable, and at times it felt as if they were more dynamic than Hope, even though she was the protagonist. Oh, and William Lucie and Rachel were adorable together! I really wanted to get to know Janet’s secondary characters better, so I am hoping that she will choose to focus more on them in second book of her “Into the Dim” series.

Overall, I enjoyed reading “Into the Dim.” Janet B. Taylor’s book was well-written and fast paced, but there were also times when it felt a little too rushed, and I found myself wishing for a bit more layering of the historical aspects. All of the historical facts in “Into the Dim” were well-researched and interesting, I just wish that there had been a bit more of them threaded throughout this book in order to make the era that Hope had traveled back to come alive for me as a reader. Other than wishing for a bit more from the setting and historical elements, I enjoyed “Into the Dim,” and I think that it would be a good read for mature middle school aged kids and younger teens.

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C Stevens

“The Lies About Truth” by Courtney C. Stevens

Publishing House: HarperTeen

Release Date: November 3rd, 2015

Quality of Writing: 4 out of 5 stars.

How much I enjoyed it: 3 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“Sadie Kingston, is a girl living in the aftermath. A year after surviving a car accident that killed her friend Trent and left her body and face scarred, she can’t move forward. The only person who seems to understand her is Trent’s brother, Max.

As Sadie begins to fall for Max, she’s unsure if she is truly healed enough to be with him — even if Max is able to look at her scars and not shy away. But when the truth about the accident and subsequent events comes to light, Sadie has to decide if she can embrace the future or if she’ll always be trapped in the past.”

Thank you, HarperTeen, for hosting the giveaway on goodreads and for sending me an ARC of this book. In no way has this influenced my review.

“The Lies About Truth” was a pretty good contemporary book. It had a lot of depth to it because of the issues that Courtney C. Stevens dealt with, and I thought that the character were well-written. I can see why people like “The Lies About Truth,” because it was a very good book, but it just did not click for me.

There are a lot of moments in my life when I wonder what’s wrong with me and why I don’t like something that seems, from all appearances, so good? I felt that way about this book because, even though it was well-written and had a great, emotional story, I just did not connect with the characters or the story. I could appreciate it and the journey that the heroine and her friends went on, but I did not fall in love with the heart of the story. I feel like whenever I read a novel by Katie McGarry, I am completely emotionally invested in the story she tells and the characters she writes; her books capture my heart, and that’s all there is too it. Sadly, I didn’t get that feeling of being emotionally drawn into the story or invested in the characters, despite their tumultuous circumstances and really wanting to connect with them. “The Lies About Truth” had a great story and well-developed characters for the genre, but for some odd and frustrating reason, I could not get into Sadie’s story.

Sadie was a great contemporary fiction heroine; she had secrets and had been through a lot, but she was not the kind of female character who grated on my nerves because of her more depressive inner thoughts. I was okay with her perspective because it was understandable considering what she had been through, and I did honestly want to see her break free of her fears and past hurts. I also thought that the emails between Max and her were very cute, and I liked that the two of them, who had been the most effected by the crash, were able to lean on one another and accept each other when they needed it most. I thought that Courtney Stevens did a good job of writing Sadie and the journey to self-acceptance that her character experience; it really was a lovely evolution, even though I did not feel super invested in this book.

Maxwell was also a good character, and the relationship that existed between him and Sadie because of the crash that took his brother’s life. One of the things that I loved seeing about both him and Sadie was how they accepted the “new” versions of each other, and where others might have seen flaws, they just saw a friend and someone who could understood them. I think that most people can relate, in one way or another, to the feeling that comes with finding a person who may or may not know every thought in your head, but they still understand you. While reading “The Lies About Truth,” I felt like Max and Sadie had that, which warmed my heart towards this book’s story and characters a bit more; I still didn’t feel attached or all that invested in the story, but I definitely appreciated that aspect of the it.

Overall, I thought that “The Lies About Truth” was a very good contemporary read. It was mature but clean, and I thought that Courtney C. Stevens handled the issues of self-image and self-acceptance quite well, despite not being that attached to her characters. This book was a bit predictable at times because the issues it dealt with are so commonly used now in young adult fiction, but isn’t that why we read certain contemporary novels, because we know how it will go and that it will end happily? “The Lies About Truth” was a good book, even though it was not necessarily my favorite contemporary story.

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund (An Uncertain Choice #2)

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“A Daring Sacrifice” by Jody Hedlund

Publishing house: Zondervan

Release date: March 1st, 2016

Quality of writing: 4 out of 5 stars.

How much I liked it: 2 1/2-3 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“In a reverse twist on the Robin Hood story, a young medieval maiden stands up for the rights of the mistreated, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. All the while, she fights against her cruel uncle who has taken over the land that is rightfully hers. Forced to live in the woods and hide with the poor people she’s grown to love, she works to save and protect them, but she never anticipates falling in love with the wealthy knight who represents all she’s come to despise.

Thank you, Zondervan, for sending me a review ARC of “A Daring Sacrifice” by Jody Hedlund. In no way has this influenced my review.

The beginning of “A Daring Sacrifice” started off with a quicker pacing than Jody Hedlund’s first book, “An Uncertain Choice,” and I liked that because it helped me to be a little more interested in this book. I think that Jody Hedlund is a good writer for her genre and younger readers, but I’m personally not the hugest fan of this author’s stories. “An Uncertain Choice” and “A Daring Sacrifice” were both very small books, more like short stories, and I think that combined with me not caring for the characters kind of doomed me to the fate of disliking both of Jody’s books; I feel terrible for not enjoying her books, but sadly, they were just not the kind of stories that I like or connect with.

One of the things that I did not particularly care for in this book was its formatting, and how the perspectives shifted from the main female character’s to the male character’s with no real definition; the publisher used a slightly different font, but that was it. Granted, I love fonts and tend to notice them, but with the two protagonists in “A Daring Sacrifice,” I found their voices to be quite similar, despite being different genders, and that was a bit frustrating to me. When I wasn’t deliberately think about the font type, I kind of just floated through the chapters, not fully paying attention to the plot or the characters, and then I would realize that I didn’t know whose perspective I was reading from. There were obviously key words and characters that hinted at whose head I was in, but it still bothered me a little bit at times that I felt like I was adrift while reading “A Daring Sacrifice.” I did not get the chance to really find out who the characters were or understand their motivations in this book because of how short it was, and Julianna’s and Collin’s slightly disengaging perspectives kept me from being gripped by and pulled into the story that Jody had written.

In all fairness, I did like Juliana, the heroine of this story, more than Jody Hedlund’s previous female protagonist, whose name I no longer remember. (oops!) I appreciated the fact that Juliana was a more go-out-and-get-them kind of person, and I found her’s to be an easier perspective to read from, despite not being particularly attached to her. Although Juliana was a more pleasant female, she did not feel super distinct compared to some of the other fairy tale retelling characters. A lot of authors have been remaking the “Robin Hood” legend to star a female character, which is great, but it also does not make for the most diverse or unique protagonists in young adult fiction. A. C. Gaughen wrote a book about a female Will Scarlet who was a part of Robin Hood’s crew, and Melanie Dickerson combined the legend of “Robin Hood”  with the “Swan Lake” fairy tale that starred a heroine who stole and poached to save the poor… Retellings are great and some of them have even become my favorite books, but at times it is hard to distinguish between them when the concepts are so widely used and the characters do not possess distinct pasts or traits that set them apart from each other. Juliana was an okay heroine, I just felt like she fell into the pile of many heroines in this genre who are fairly similar.

I don’t have a lot of words for Sir Collin, the “hero” in “A Daring Sacrifice,” because I was not at all a fan of him in it. Collin was supposed to be a charming, handsome lord with a heart of gold, but instead, he came off as an irritating male who was unattractively self-assured. The “banter” between him and Juliana was in no way charming or endearing, and I had a distaste for this character that started during the second chapter from his perspective and it lasted through the rest of this book. I can acknowledge the fact that he supposedly experienced some character growth over the course of “A Daring Sacrifice,” but this book was just so short that it felt like I never got the chance to actually see any development or progress in this character. The insta-love romance between Juliana and Collin also didn’t help with the fact that I did not like this book.

*sighs* Maybe the time period this book took place in can justify how quickly Juliana and Collin “fell” for each other, but I just did not buy it. This book was only 221 pages, which meant that the romance had to occur at a very rapid pace, and I think that Collin said in his head those three little words by page 100 or 120. All I can tell you is that it felt like it happened WAY too soon.

I feel really bad about not liking “A Daring Sacrifice” and for my not-so-pleasant review, but sadly, it’s how I feel. I know that Jody Hedlund has won a couple of awards for her books, so don’t let my review steer you away from reading her books if their summaries sound interesting to you. “A Daring Sacrifice” was a fairly well-written book and would be great for younger readers because of how easy it was to read, but it just did not end up being for me.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (The Illuminae Files #1)

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“Illuninae” by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Publishing house: Knopf

Release date: October 20th, 2015

Quality of writing: 4-4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

How much I liked it: 3 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“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.”

I just want to start this review off by saying thank you to the lovely lady who loaned me her ARC of “Illuminae” and Knopf publishing for giving her one. In no way has this influenced my review.

There was a LOT of hype surrounding “Illuminae” before it came out, and I had joined the masses of bloggers trying to get their hands on a nearly unobtainable and coveted ARC of this book. Yeah, I was SUPER excited for this book and was getting caught up in the tide of reviews proclaiming how glorious “Illuminae” was, and now that this weighty book has been released, it seems for most people that it was not overly hyped by popular bloggers/readers. Sadly, I wasn’t most people.

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Feel free to throw rotten tomatoes or gross trash at me for saying it, but I did not like this book. I ended up reading “Illuminae” back in late July (thanks to the generous loan from a fellow bookish comrade) and after finishing it, I just didn’t know how to review it due to my lackluster feelings towards it, and the longer I waited, the more I dreaded the day when I had to write my review. I kinda hate myself a little bit since I love Amie Kaufman so much as an author, but my problem was that “Illuminae” never had anything that appealed to me, no character or situation that drew me into its story. I kept hoping for something to really pop out at me like a character or plot twist, but I wasn’t surprised by much because it seemed a little predictable, and I was not at all held in suspense since the stakes weren’t high for me; I didn’t have a character that I loved, so I had nothing to lose. I didn’t want for any of the characters to die, but when a lot of them did get killed, I was sad because they were (fictional) people, yet I was left relatively unaffected. I think that one of the reasons for my feeling of distance from the characters in this story was because of the writing style where most everything was in texts, instant messages, data logs, and secret dossiers.

The writing style was definitely inventive and different from anything I have seen in YA, but the fact that almost all of this book’s 600 pages were written in the cold, distancing style of text and instant messaging, I felt like I was watching this book unfold rather than feeling involved and like I was a part of this story. I think the best thing to compare this book to is a video game that you get to watch someone else play. Not. Fun.

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Due to the lack of suspense, my dislike of the main characters, and the feeling of déjà vous concerning the science fiction aspects of this book, I just really wanted to finish “Illuminae” and be done with it. I was so sad about that because I REALLY wanted to like this book and I tried to, but it just was not for me. “Illuminae” wasn’t a bad book, but I don’t think it is all that epic either, and that really pains my heart to write because of how much I love both halves of the dynamic duo known as the “Starbound” authors. I guess I just kept wanting for Amie and Meagan to be the ones writing this book together, making it an extension of their creative and immensely entertaining “Starbound” trilogy. Okay, I’ve rained on this book long enough, so I’m going to talk about something that I actually liked about “Illuminae.”

I may not have liked the characters or story of “Illuminae,” but I did LOVE the design of this book’s cover and its incredibly unique interior. As I said before, the whole book was done in texts, instant messages, dossiers, and data logs, and although it did not end up being a good way to get to know the characters, they made for a very interesting visual every time I turned the page. My favorite pages were definitely the black ones because of how uniquely they were designed; some were pictures made out of words/numbers, and others were beautiful patterns drawn from strings of words. It was very creative, and I loved the artistry of those pages as well as the parts of the story they shared with me as a reader.

Overall, I think “Illuminae” was a very creatively designed book with a promising concept. Despite that, however, this was definitely not a book that I like, and as much as I love Amie Kaufman as an author, I don’t think I’ll pick the second book in the “Illuminae Files” series up.

P.S. Most people are giving “Illuminae” rave reviews, so don’t let my review steer you off of picking it up.

Shades of Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon (Doon #3)

 

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“Shades of Doon” by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

Publisher: Blink

Release Date: September 1st, 2015

Writing Quality: 4 out of 5 stars.

How much I enjoyed it: 3 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads Summary:

After cheating death, Veronica Welling is determined to savor every moment in her idyllic kingdom with both her true love and best friend by her side at last. At the same time, Mackenna Reid is enthusiastically building her new life and a theater with her prince. But just as their dreams of happiness are within reach, the world Vee and Kenna have chosen is ripped away, leaving them to face their most horrific challenge yet—their old lives.

Thrust out of Doon, the best friends are confronted with tormentors from their past and no way to return to their adopted land. When the MacCrae brothers rush to their rescue, the girls’ situation turns from nightmare to modern-day fairy tale. But their happiness could be short-lived: unbeknownst to them, someone in their closest circle is aiding the witch of Doon in her bid to destroy the kingdom once and for all.

Thank you, Blink and Gwen Hendrickson, for sending me a review ARC of “Shades of Doon” by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon. In no way has this affected my review.

I have mixed feelings about this book. A couple of years back Gwen had sent me an ARC of “Doon” by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon before its release in August of 2013, and I really liked it. “Doon” was a cute and new story, and I loved that it took place in Scotland, which is a place I have always wanted to visit; it wasn’t a life altering book for me, but I liked it and wanted to read the next boo in the “Doon” series when it came out. The following year I purchased “Destined for Doon” in the hopes that I would like it as much as its predecessor, but I think that I had changed a lot as a reader, so I didn’t end up liking the second book as much as I had the first. Despite that, I still wanted to continue in the “Doon” series, and so I pretty excited when I got approved for an ARC of “Shades of Doon.”

“Shades of Doon” picked up soon after “Destined for Doon” left off, so there wasn’t much to miss between books two and three; Carey and Lorie also did a good job of continuing on with the story while scattering reminders of what happened in book two throughout “Shades of Doon.” It had been a year since I read “Destined for Doon,” so some of it was pretty foggy, but after only a little while of reading this book, I was able to remember most of the second book before the plot of “Shades of Doon” thickened.

I have to hand it to Carey and Lorie for definitely getting more creative with their plot, and I was also happy to see that Mackenna and Duncan were more like themselves in this book. In “Doon” Duncan and Kenna had been my favorite characters because they were cute, funny, and they had history, but in “Destined for Doon” both of them became broody and they lost the lightheartedness that had originally endeared them to me. Obviously they had good reason to act that way in book two, but I still hadn’t liked it and was happy to find them acting more like themselves in “Shades of Doon.” I think that I’ve changed a lot as a reader over the last couple of years because, even though I was happy both Duncan and Kenna were back, I still felt a little distant from them in this book. Duncan and Kenna remained my favorites while reading “Shades of Doon,” even if I was a bit distant from them, and I thought that their relation was a sweet contrast to this book’s darker theme.

Sadly, besides Duncan and Kenna, I didn’t really feel like I cared that much about the other characters in this book. Veronica and Jamie have always irritated me a bit, even in the first book, and I wanted to like them in “Shades of Doon,” but I just didn’t care all that much for them or their romance. I almost wish that the “Doon” series was romance-less because then it would feel less forced; for me personally, the romance was what made me dislike reading these books, even Duncan’s and Kenna’s at times, and I wish it was more of an adventure and coming of age series rather than a romantic fantasy series. “Doon” is a cute series, I just really don’t like the romance in it.

Besides me not being a fan of the romance, I did find some of the twist in “Shades of Doon” to be interesting, and I thought it was clever of Carey and Lorie to have Veronica and MacKenna get thrown back into the modern world. I wasn’t a fan of how Kenna’s dad and Veronica’s mom were very distant, and I felt like it was an easy plot device to justify the two girls choosing to leave their families behind them without any warning when they first got transported to “Doon.” Absentee parents are commonly used to justify teens picking up and leaving their old lives behind, and I just am personally not a fan of that plot device to make it easier to explain. At one point in this book, however, Veronica saw her mom again, and so I was glad to at least see Carey and Lorie have their character say goodbye.

Overall “Shades of Doon” was a good book. Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon made the plot a bit more intricate and it did feel like their characters had grown a bit since the beginning of this series. It took me until about halfway through to into this book, but once things started to pick up, I enjoyed reading “Shades of Doon.” This isn’t a series I’ll reread a lot, but it is cute and clean, and I will definitely read the fourth and final book when it comes out. A good read that I would definitely recommend it to younger readers who like the fantasy genre.

P.S. I have a giveaway going for this book, so check it out by clicking on this link: https://booksandwonderfulthings.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/arc-giveaway/