Book Review: Gemina (The Illuminae Files 02) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Let’s take a break from Fantasia Festival madness and get  a book review in! You may  not need it, but I absolutely do! 😉

Gemina is the sequel of Illuminae, the first book of The Illuminae Files (as you can see in the cover below). I read Illuminae earlier this year and totally loved it. If you want to know why, you can read all about it in my review HERE.

Gemina
(The Illuminae Files 02)
by: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Gemina

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands. – Goodreads

Gemina is an exhilarating ride. A fantastically amazing one. This author duo has truly created a writing style that works truly remarkably. Presenting the story through dossiers and recordings are amazing. In fact, I remembered talking at the end of the review of the first book.avoit how it was hard to make that one into a movie and I was honestly disappointed in that choice. On the contrary, Gemina is so descriptive making everything so vivid that while it will be hard to live up to the images of everyone, with the right director, this one could be a fun ride. It might be because it embraces Die Hard set in a dystopian future in space and adds in am an Alien theme with their creatures. The idea is that they can take the first book to have enough success to get this one made also. I’m a little more excited about the idea.

What works for both of these books is how they choose to lay it out. The different recordings and files give you juat enough to understand what is going on but also leaves gaps and blindspots as to what is going on behind the scene and that creates mystery. Continuing after the first book, this hops onto another space carrier and with new characters, however having still managing to comnect to the characters in the first book. That is important as it gives a continuity to the story. It makes the readers care about this world because the new pair of characters are every bit as intriguing to read as they come to life also, two very different people from the first but still with equally intriguing stories that make them survivors but also human. Hanna and Nik are two acquaintances wrapped up in a lot of stereotypes and prejudices towards each other and grow to see each other more.

Its amazing how the Illuminae Files series has embodied so much. Other than the characters, it definitely feels like there is a lot of unanswered questions. The virus in part one, the creatures in part two, the secret agenda from Beitech: the main question at the end is a lot of why’s. Hopefully we will get the answers soon to pull everything together in the third book.

Overall, I love Gemina. There’s so many great things about it that makes it incredible. Not quite as mindblowing as Illuminae however still very awesome.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

We’re somewhat back on track with the Goodreads challenge now. It shows that I’m a book ahead but then I can’t seem to fix the problem that it has the same book twice. Plus, I read a lot of short stories and comics so I’m not sure those really count as one book. Its slightly cheating. Although, with my TBR list somewhat mapped out, I feel like I’m most likely to go over at the current moment. Who knows, right? I could go into one of those lack of motivation phases and just not read for a month. Up next is a book review of All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. As I read this one, I couldn’t help but compare it to Thirteen Reasons Why, mostly because it also features youth and mental illness and how the two authors took a different angle and built different characters essentially.

Let’s check it out!

All the Bright Places
by: Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.  – Goodreads

Before I start the actual review, I’d like to start with this bit. I’m on record to not have enjoyed Thirteen Reasons Why. You can check out the review HERE.  As I think back to it frequently, its mostly because of Hannah Baker and how I find her a manipulative character in general. I haven’t seen the series and I can’t comment on it if that is what you are basing any opinions on. I always get a little worried when I approach books about mental illness because its a very touchy subject and a lot of people who has these illnesses will become very defensive about it. So I’m going to say that while I didn’t enjoy Thirteen Reasons Why, I appreciate what it was trying to do and the issues it was trying to highlight. If the character resounded more to you, that’s great. I’m happy to hear that it did because it means that someone related to it and it did its job. Now we’re aren’t here to talk about Thirteen Reasons Why but All the Bright Places and with that said, I’d like to highlight why I think this book works better at highlighting youths and mental illness, while trying to bring forth the same issues.

All the Bright Places is about two young ones who meet on the sixth story roof of their school and for their own reasons, they both end up getting off. Who saves the other is unknown at that moment and its with this starting point that this unlikely friendship begins. First off, that descriptions says way too much, making the mystery of the story vanish because its so obvious what will happen. I really dislike stories that make descriptions who say too much. However, All the Bright Places is a page-turner. There is no doubt about it. While primarily their problems and their inner struggles make them intriguing to read, Violet and Theodore are compelling because of that. In many ways, both are learning to live in the present and remember that there is more to life than running away from the past or finding ways to escape the present. Not all people who suffer some form of mental illness can’t be saved, but sometimes, it takes someone with a careful eye to notice these little details and that is exactly what this story highlights, how a lot of people don’t know how to differentiate when someone needs help. They may not reach out or they may not be noticed and sometimes people will just label them with an excuse that describes who they are in an awkward or weird way. And sometimes, mental illness does become the world of the person who lives with it whether they like it or not. I’m speaking of this last part through personal experience of people I know and things that has happened to them and how various parts of how Theodore and Finch’s dialogue resounded to me.

These types of books are very personal experiences in some ways. However, All the Bright Places is very cleverly executed. It creates two characters and uses their search for the natural wonders around them to invoke the sense of discovery and how there is more to see and worth living for regardless of how big or small. It also emphasizes how while part of the fight is with support from others, in many ways, their inner struggles had to be overcame by themselves and with some good professional help. I’m not sure if this is trying to have a social statement about how schools don’t have a good enough psychiatric help or that there are lacking of resources and knowledge of these issues in teenagers. It might even be a statement about how parents (or family in general) sometimes don’t pay as much attention as they should to their children as they deal with their own issues. There might not even be a statement but just that sometimes, a little notice of the details of the people you see day in and out, whether its a friend or family could go a long way. All the Bright Places depicts it well that certain symptoms can be nudged off as a character trait, awkward or odd or just how that person is because its a familiar thing, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something that can alarm others to give a helpful nudge before its too late.

I’ve went off a tangent now. Overall, All the Bright Places is a great story that does very well in showing how mental illnesses can be misunderstood easily. It serves as a reminder to notice the ones we love more. It also serves to say that sometimes, those with mental illness might not even acknowledge that they have it and don’t know when to seek help and sometimes, there is nothing you can to stop their actions. Whatever it is that you relate to in this story or pick up, its a rather personal experience. In a more objective way, All the Bright Places brings out two characters that are very different and dealing with different issues, living in different realities and create a story where they search for wonders as they both search for the will to keep living and moving forward each day. Who says whom in the beginning, what is the reality of the situation, what are these individuals thinking of, what inner struggles are they truly dealing with, who are they and which part of their personality is because of their mental illnesses; these are all questions that it poses and will be swimming through your mind as you read it. Sometimes, it’ll make you smile a little as the characters find happiness and contentment in what they do and sometimes, you might feel a tug in your heartstrings as they go through their inner battles. Whatever it is, All the Bright Places is a well-executed and well-written young adult novel with compelling characters.

**As an after note, I have read some of the Goodreads reviews on why some people have changed their mind and rated this poorly, which made me think about the characterization of not only Violet and Theodore but also the people around them, I’d like to say that with my experiences, I feel like this book strikes a chord with me and does portray and highlight the mental illness issue very well in these characters. **

Archie, Volume 3 by Mark Waid

Next up in the reading adventures is back to the comic/graphic comic world. I still can’t decide which category I should call this one. Regardless, Archie Volume 3 was released just last month and there was a lovely online sale at Indigo so I ordered this one at a pretty awesome price. Its been a fun time reading these and is very cool to check out in between novels as a refresher to cleanse the palette before starting something new. However, this is one of the last new physical books for the year. I have a sizable TBR list and I really need to get cracking on a lot of them.

Let’s check this out! 🙂

Archie, Volume 3
By: Mark Waid
Illustrated by: Joe Eisma

Introducing… Cheryl Blossom! The fiery red-head takes center stage as Archie and Veronica’s worlds are torn apart as the two are living thousands of miles away from each other. What will happen to the rest of Archie’s friends in Riverdale? And just what kind of havoc will Cheryl Blossom wreak? – Goodreads

This renewed Archie world is great so far and this third book is no exception. I haven’t quite managed to get the TV Binge post put together for Riverdale but I love the character of Cheryl Blossom. She is a girl with a lot of motives but it is also with a character like this that has a hidden agenda that brings out the nature of some of our other characters. In this book, I am mostly referring to Veronica. It is always interesting how the book isn’t always about Archie and will turn its focus on the girls or the other feuds or situations with other characters. However, that sometimes still makes Archie the least appealing to watch grow (both in the comics or the show) because he always just literally stumbles clumsily into situations and tries to do everything with the best intentions and ends up with the worst results. It does warrant some funny moments. With that said, one of my fave parts of this one was when Archie wanted to be like Jughead and in turn, being his best friend, Jughead had to hold the fort and be Archie, making Betty point out why Archie wanted to be him and in a roundabout way, let us learn a little more about both of these guys. While there was a lack of Betty in this book, that one part made her presence be felt regardless.

Volume 3 truly picks up where the last volume ended and not only adds a new colorful character to challenge the group but also further develops the main players to make sure they remain interesting in this modernized version of Archie. While Betty is seen less in this book, the main focus was on Archie and Veronica and their fight for their romance. It brought forth changes in their characters that lead them to acknowledge who they are. Along with beautiful illustrations from Joe Eisma, Archie, Volume 3 is a great read.

Have you read this one? Did you read any of the modernized Archie comics?

TaleSpins (TaleSpins #1-3) by Michael Mullin

After a nice weekend off from mostly everything online, I’m happy to be back writing again. It was something that I needed a lot to just sit back and take some time to break out of the normal routine. Its a new week and time for more writing. Next up is a book review of TaleSpins which is technically three short stories put together into this one book.

Let’s check it out!

TaleSpins (TaleSpins #1-3)
by: Michael Mullin

TaleSpins

A trilogy of alternative fairytales and retellings. Discover the real Snow White story through the eyes of Creepy, the unknown 8th dwarf! Meet a teen princess who hires “The Frog Prince” witch to get revenge on a Mean Girl! And learn how the giant, boy thief and magic beans tale truly went down! – Goodreads

I love reading fairy tales and the retellings are usually so fun as well. Disney makes them suitable for all ages and in many ways, tells some of these stories without the true darkness it may have. However, perhaps its how innocent we know all these stories that when they retold, it turns into a darker affair. TaleSpins’ three story is set up in a deeper story, adding in characters and events while putting it into a sing song rhyme poetry sort of way. Because of this new approach, it is a refreshing take on how we read these unique stories.

The first story in this trilogy is a spin on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and its called The 8th Dwarf, an awkward dwarf that was punished to live in the basement of the dwarves home. This character intercepted the story really well and definitely was the best of the three stories here.  The second story is based on The Frog Prince and somehow was taken with bullying and a girl trying to get revenge on a classmate in an extreme way. Also an interesting take as the endeavor of it was for the girl to succeed however the Frog Prince character here takes a more conscience sort of role and teaches us a little lesson. The last story is a take on Jack and the Beanstalk which actually turns things around as we see the ogre being the centre of attentiom instead of Jack who really if you think about it is a thief.

TaleSpins is a collection of three short stories and they are pretty fast to get through. I like reading poetry and rhyming pieces out loud, so that worked for me and had me really invested. However, as the story gets into the longer sentences, I started wishing this was a physical book to really see the sentence structure better. The writing and language is very polished as well. Overall, a pretty good read. Mostly the last story fell flat for me a little in the middle but still a solid entry to the retellings of these three stories.

Have you read TaleSpins?

Dirty Little Secrets (J.J. Graves Mystery #1) by Liliana Hart

Diving back into my TBR list sitting on my Kindle, I’m not sure if I picked up this book because I was hooked on Pretty Little Liars and the cover reminded me of the series so I thought it would be cool. There really are no reasons especially when its really a shot in the dark and hoping that its a good read. I’ve never read anything from Liliana Hart before so let’s check it out!

Dirty Little Secrets (J.J. Graves Mystery #1)
By: Liliana Hart

dirty little secrets

J.J. Graves has seen a lot of dead bodies in her line of work. She’s not only in the mortuary business, but she’s also the coroner for King George County, Virginia. When a grisly murder is discovered in the small town of Bloody Mary, it’s up to J.J. and her best friend, Detective Jack Lawson, to bring the victim justice. The murders are piling up. When a popular mystery writer shows up on J.J.’s doorstep with plans of writing his new book about the Bloody Mary Serial Killer, J.J. has to decide if he might be going above and beyond the call of duty to create the spine tinglers he’s so well known for. Passions are rising. J.J and Jack discover each victim had a shocking secret, and the very foundation of J.J.’s life is in danger of crumbling when it turns out she’s harboring secrets of her own—secrets that make her a perfect target in a deadly game. – Goodreads

Mystery/thriller/suspense are so hard to do well. I can tell you that this book has nothing to do with anything like the plot of Pretty Little Liars of course, as you can see in the summary above. The star of the show is J.J. Graves who is a doctor turned mortician who also shadows in this small hometown as the person taking care of autopsies which usually are just normal everyday natural or accidental deaths and nothing like murders until one murder after the next plague the town and it becomes apparent that someone from the town itself could be responsible and that the victims lead a much darker life than they lead on. Small towns are a great setting for murder mysteries because it keeps things confined whether in terms of relationships or just the possible suspects and gives it space to be easier to follow. For that, Liliana Hart did really good at setting up that stage. The mystery itself made sense and the big reveal also was logical and twisty enough to be a surprise.

Dirty Little Secrets is a pretty quick read because it keeps its length under control. It will have your brain wondering the whodunnit question. However, the book does have its downfall. One of the biggest ones is creating a character like J.J. who isn’t exactly someone we can care for. She is very human because of her imperfections however, she does have a generic personality as a mortician or even the big hidden secret reveal. Her conversations are uninspired especially as we step into the middle when she is infatuated by the stranger in the town while her best friend, the hunk and player of the town Jack fumes over her decisions. Now, what J.J. lacks, Jack’s character makes up a little for. He is still a little generic in his background but there are more layers to his personality and in the bits where he shows up, it leaves us wanting to know more about this character.

As the debut of a series, Dirty Little Lies does well to set up our characters and a look at the town setting. While there are some uncompelling and generic elements, there are still bits to retain it and if not that, the writing style here is a pleasure to read. It does leave me curious to see where the characters will go especially after getting through showing is the basics of this character in this first book that the next one will have more intriguing layers to work with. Maybe I will give it a whirl some time, just to see if its worth continuing to read the entire series, which seems to have ended at Book #4.5.

Blog Tour: Dead Over Heels (Short Story) by Theresa Braun

Dead Over Heels

Dead Over Heels
By: Theresa Braun

Dead Over Heels

Veronica’s first date with Sebastian not only stirs up a powerful attraction, but also a series of supernatural events that will tear them apart. – Goodreads

Dead Over Heels is a quick short paranormal story. It does take a little while to set up the stage and possibly the beginning gave me some odd vibes of generic dialogue and a hint of possibly the story turning into some contemporary romance, a genre that I’ve been struggling to find something appealing. However, Dead Over Heels is more than that. It proved that the beginning few pages takes just a little more patience and it picks up from there. Short stories are tricky, because it needs to carry character development and story building in a shorter time frame. This paranormal story manages to do it pretty well. Veronica is our main character here and she gets a lot of care into her past and with the events that go by, it allows for mystery and surprises to come up, giving it a fun little journey to the big finale.

Dead Over Heels might not start off great in the first few pages but it finds its pacing quick enough to still let us learn about our characters and build a story that not only has paranormal elements but also some mystery and surprises. A very welcome surprise to say the least and turning things around as it stepped into the finale.

Goodreads score: 4/5
(I’m somewhere in the 3.5/5 leaning towards 4)

About the Author

Theresa Braun

Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides with her two fur babies, who are her creative sidekicks. She enjoys delving into creative writing, painting, photography and even bouts of ghost hunting. Traveling is one of her passions—in fact, her latest adventure took her to Romania for a horror writers’ workshop where she followed in the steps of Vlad the Impaler. She writes horror fiction and the occasional romance. She blogs about writing, television shows, movies, and books, and all things dark. Her short stories are published in Under the Bed Magazine, in Hindered Souls, in The Horror Zine, in Schlock! Webzine, and by Frith Books. Upcoming stories to appear in Monsters Exist and Hardened Hearts.

Archie Vol.1: The New Riverdale by Mark Waid

Archie Vol. 1: The New Riverdale
by: Mark Waid

Archie The New Riverdale

America’s Favorite Teenager, Archie Andrews, is reborn in the pages of this must-have graphic novel collecting the first six issues of the comic book series that everyone is talking about. Meet Riverdale High teen Archie, his oddball, food-loving best friend Jughead, girl-next-door Betty and well-to-do snob Veronica Lodge as they embark on a modern reimagining of the beloved Archie world. It’s all here: the love triangle, friendship, humor, charm and lots of fun – but with a decidedly modern twist. – Goodreads

I love Archie, you know the old comics in those little books. I remember Archie being one of the first comics I ever read along with Garfield and Peanuts along with For Better or For Worse and of course, Calvin and Hobbes. Man, the memories of all these comics are just great. I loved the simple art and the colorful characters particularly in these books. I probably read Archie before I should be however, they were on sale at some second hand book sale that we went to for a quarter or something and my mom let me have it. If I look hard enough, I’m sure I still have them in one of my boxes when I moved. While I am skeptical of renewing the Archie series, the new series Riverdale which is really just inspired by the Archie characters gave me slightly more confidence to finally pick up the first volume to give it a go.

The New Riverdale is the title of the first volume of the new Archie. Let’s just start with the art. The art style is beautiful and a little more graphic novel-esque, which I do enjoy. On top of that, the characters are a little more developed than from what I’ve read when I was younger however still holding their personality and individual charm. All the familiar faces are still there and it does stay true to the old comics while giving it a little more flair. Perhaps I’m a little skewed in my mind because I have been introduced to a darker Riverdale because of the new TV series so I like the fact that this one seems a little more mature and somehow seems like it grew up as I did (kind of…).

It is nice to see these characters in a more modern setting to give it a renewed audience. For one, the story now has Archie and Betty in a fresh break-up as Veronica Lodge moves into town with her rich family. Jughead is still the burger-loving chill guy who helps Archie out in his own way. You have Reggie who is the bad guy here who wants the rich girl or if not, the pretty girl and tries to stir up drama. Its a nice way to give an introduction to the characters in the series and let us see how they are created now. To be honest, I haven’t read a ton of Archie despite liking it a lot however, there are a lot of issues out so its a huge game of catch-up to even remember more of them.

Overall, Archie: The New Riverdale  Volume 1 is a nice start to modernizing the characters in the Archie-verse. Everyone get a first look and stays true to their characters and the art style of this new one is really nice as well.

As a side note, I’m waiting on Volume 2 to get here now, except the postal service is being stupid so my package is stuck in the Undeliverable Mail Office somehow. My guess is probably the packaging fell apart but I’m waiting for them to get back to me on either what happened or when it’ll be ready to be on its way to me. Anyways, that is coming up.