Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files #2

gemina-amie-kaufman-jay-kristoffMoving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The saga that began with Illuminae continues on board the space station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech 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 may 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.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

5 Drink Me Potions

I would think after the mindblowingly-awesomeness that was Illuminae, it would be a very hard act to follow. Fortunately for us, Gemina is equally as badass as its predecessor, if not even a smidge better in a few areas.

The events in Gemina are set literally minutes right after what transpired at the end of Illuminae, albeit in a different location on the Heimdall Jump Station where all our favourite cast of characters were racing towards in the previous book.

Both acting as a sequel and a companion novel, we follow a whole new cast of characters navigating a world that is about to turn UPSIDE DOWN and INSIDE OUT on its head.

We already know from Illuminae the level of pure genius that is a combination of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, but here is exactly why their genius-ness was NOT a one-off chance occurrence.

The new cast
I was a little worried at first that I wouldn’t love the new protagonists as much. After all, Kady and Ezra were pretty awesome in book 1, and their romance was just so SWOON-worthy. But worries can be laid to rest as Hanna and Nik have stolen my heart.

Hanna is honestly just as badass, if not MORE, than Kady. Being trained in multiple forms of martial arts by her Commander father – what a wonderful decision for father-daughter bonding, Commander – she had the skill set to help defend her station from the impending danger being wrought on them. Plus, it sure helps to have her courage and wit on top of that. She wasn’t the little spoiled rich girl that the other characters initially pegged her for, and I adored her for standing her ground and showing everyone what kinda heroine she could be when push came to shove.

These other said characters would include both Nik and his cousin Ella. Nik wasn’t the sweet kinda guy that Ezra Mason was (oh rest my beating heart), but he wasn’t exactly the bad-boy-criminal that I may have thought he was either. He didn’t want to be this way, but you can’t choose your family, can you? And for a hero, he was definitely the most surprising. Of all those onboard the Heimdall, I’m sure no one else would think he was hero material. I loved his POV as much as Hanna’s, and I’m glad that there was more of him in this story (whereas I’m still miffed that Ezra wasn’t as prominent in Illuminae as I had hoped).

Ella’s great too. She’s like that awkward third wheel of this ragtag resistance group against the invading mercs. She throws in those cringey moments when Nik and Hanna are getting too cozy, and make us laugh while everything else is coming to pieces and people are dying all around. She’s no innocent herself (gang family, remember??), but I love her heart and loyalty. She even seems to come around with her opinions of Hanna. Plus her particular skill set behind the scenes makes her the unsung heroine of this story.

The artistry of this book *insert glowing heart face*
You know, I didn’t think anything could be prettier than Illuminae and its dossier of special files. I loved everything about it, from the maps to the IMs and the hilarious Security Footage Summary with the censored swear words everywhere. I even adored AIDAN’s commentary and unintentionally deep and funny thoughts.

If you think you’re gonna be missing this, or that Gemina is just a replication of what has been done by these two authors already, then you’re in for a surprise. Yes, in a way, it’s the same as all these types of files are also found in this book (yay!), but no, it’s also different. How?

Author Marie Lu has also contributed to this work of art with journal drawings by Hanna. They’re absolutely gorgeous and it adds another layer to this wonderful dossier of files. Plus, there are certain new types of pages that I thought were hilarious. Likewise, sometimes the words and the directions they take represent the movements of the characters, or follow along with the drawing in the background.

And even better? Kady and even AIDAN are back in this novel, so if you’re thinking you’ll be missing them and their words, there will be pages on their involvement on the Hypatia. Don’t worry, the authors didn’t forget about them and their amazing survival to this point. Things will start to wonderfully tie in together.

Honestly? You may be someone who loves ebooks or audiobooks, but this is one series where you just HAVE TO get your hands on the physical copy to fully appreciate how beautiful it is. I can’t tell you how much more beautiful it is without a) ruining things, or b) inadequately describing how wonderful Gemina is even after the initial surprise has subsided with Illuminae. Just grab one and read it!

The twists and turns of the plot and the insane details
I remember clearly how crazy the plot twisted in Illuminae as it was so subtle but it just all made SENSE at the end of it. Here? There were certain points that didn’t initially make sense when I read them, but as the story unfolded and things unravelled in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined or guessed, it all clicked as well. I dunno how Kaufman and Kristoff do it, but they are absolutely BRILLIANT in how they weave together all the intricate ideas to make a great story told in a beautiful format.

Another sideline to this plot was the presence of alien creatures that are also problematic for the crew on board (as if having mercs onboard wasn’t bad enough, you know?). The detail put into their genus and species – there’s a whole wiki-type page for the creature that’s provided, and as a scientist, gotta appreciate that detailing! – as well as how it’s cultivated and everything was downright amazing. Like it’s just one little thing in this gigantic plot, but they don’t do anything halfway. I’m so impressed. It makes this whole dossier effect more real.

I can go on and on but…
I’m sure all the reviews can go on about the brilliance that’s this series. So you don’t need anything more from me. I will end by saying that Gemina is worth the buy (it was an automatic purchase for me too), and it’s just as good as its sequel which is a rare gem to find in YA these days. Full of action and hints of romance (unfortunately, not as much as it was with Ezra and Kady), it’s everything you can ask for.

No matter if you don’t like sci fi, or if you don’t like YA, or if you think it’s too long (honestly, 659 pages just fly by ), it’s ALL worth it. I’m just so glad that this book I’ve been waiting for a whole year for was just as great as I could hope and expect. I’m even more glad that I’m ending 2016 off with this as one of my last reads. It’s worth it, and I can’t wait to see what book 3 brings!

Overall Recommendation:
Honestly, there’s no way I can put all that I’ve praised in this glowing review of Gemina in a brief summary. I’ll try, but you should just read the whole darn thing. For a sequel, it’s just as amazing as book 1, and you won’t be disappointed. The new heroes are just as awesome as Kady and Ezra, there’s even more beauty in this new dossier of files collected from Jump Station Heimdall and unforeseen twists of the plot made this an unforgettable read. You NEED to get your hands on a hardcopy NOW of Gemina. Before the year ends, if you can. You won’t regret it. Promise.


Review: The Thirteenth World by A.N. Willis

Series: The Corridor #2

the thirteenth world -AN willisTime is running out for Stel Alaster.

The Corridor, the only portal between First and Second Earth, is failing and the barriers between all twelve worlds are thinning.

Using her unique ability to travel through the multiverse, Stel sets out to save the Corridor . . . and ends up discovering a mysterious new world.

In the sequel to The Corridor, will the thirteenth world hold the key to the Corridor’s secrets?

Or will the portal implode and take every last universe down with it?

3.5 Drink Me Potions

Thank you Alloy Entertainment for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**The Thirteenth World comes out on September 29th!**

It began a few weeks after the cliffhanger of The Corridor left us. And my, could I say that the cliffhanger had me itching to get my hands on this sequel so much faster??

Anyway, I have a lot less complaints about this one. For once, the sequel may have surpassed its predecessor, which is rather high praise coming from me.

From book one, you would know that all is NOT happy and well on First Earth where Stel and most of her friends were from. The Corridor is acting up and is even MORE unstable than before, if that’s possible. And now? She was separated from everyone she loved and her portal wasn’t working. Talk about jumping into serious stuff immediately.

If you read my review for The Corridor, you’d know just how much I wanted to punch a ton of the characters. My despise for Dr. Tabor, aka the worst family friend EVER, literally made me wanna lock her up somewhere to get a taste of her own medicine. She did not win any points with me, as I suppose that wasn’t the plan.

However, to my surprise, my huge dislike for Stel’s brother Justin has actually faded. I know, I know. He redeemed himself in my eyes, although I truly hadn’t wanted that to happen after all he did. His character really grew and I could understand a little on why he did what he did. I’ll let you judge for yourself whether he was worth redeeming.

Justin may have outgrew his asshole-ness, and so it also seemed that Stel’s old bestie Lissa didn’t suck as much either. She was truly helpful when it came to controlling Overprotective Brother Syndrome, and I guess what she did at the end of The Corridor was somewhat redeeming too.

“My brother had been shocked into silence when Cohl and I came home earlier…Unfortunately, the silence hadn’t lasted long.
‘He’s too old for you. Plus, I don’t like his attitude. And that
‘You sound like an old man right now…Can we please not have this conversation? I’m leaving in twenty minutes.’…
Lissa took one look at me and my brother, and swooped in between us. ‘Justin! I was hoping to find you. I need your help, um…lifting something very heavy.’
‘Oh?’ Justin gave me another glare, but his attention was rapidly moving to Lissa’s.
‘Yep. Very, very heavy. I know you’re the
only guy around here who could lift it.’
Justin pushed back his shoulders, and crossed his arms. Which just so happened to make his biceps bulge. ‘I’ll take care of it for you.'”

I don’t know what it was about this book, but everyone that was pure AWFUL last time around was just….nicer? I guess the potential destruction of your life as you knew it could do that to you…

Stel’s identity crisis in this novel was hugely focused. What is she? Why could she do what she could do? And now everyone was counting on her to save the entire multiverse. Talk about big responsibilities.

She faced a lot of conflict about where she came from, and her actual birth heritage. Plus, did people see her for who she was, or just that girl with the super-portal-making powers? Was that all she summed up to now? It was nice to see some depth to the story, beyond the sci-fi/dystopian feel of the plot.

Likewise, The Thirteenth World wasn’t just great on character growth, but also more action-packed. Come on, the whole multiverse is coming to chaos and potential implosion of all the worlds. That’s crazy stuff. Sure, the astrophysics or pseudo-physics (I wouldn’t know if half of that stuff was true or made sense…) flew beyond me, but it sure was fascinating to hear how their ragtag group was gonna prevent such chaotic consequences from happening.

And more WORLDS! Who wouldn’t love visiting another world that oddly seemed like yours but isn’t? It’s just a shame that the world-building took a backseat in this sequel as there was more focus on the Corridor and fixing it. I would’ve loved to have known a little more backstory into one of the new Earths that was visited here.

And before you all berate me for this long review without talking about it….I will admit that Cohl has grown on me too. See? What IS with this book and redeeming characters? I didn’t feel the chemistry there with him in the last book. Hello? He was a TOTAL ASSHOLE to Stel in the beginning. Rude, much? And then you tell me you grew feelings for her? Uh, NOT buying it.

Anyway, that was in the past. Their romance and the predicament of being from two different universes really stresses the LONG in long-distance romance. I loved that beyond having those dopey “I-love-you-and-I-miss-you” kinda conversations, there was a level of friendship that felt lacking previously.

“Cohl said, ‘We’ll have to try somewhere else. One of the other Earths we’ve never visited. What do you think?’
‘I think your plan is perfect. And that you’re amazing.’
‘Anything else? Don’t stop now, this is just getting good.’
I inhaled deeply. ‘You smell pretty nice, too. Don’t let it go to your head.’
‘Too late.'”

Their love felt more real too. And in one scene, the writing was superbly touching. And so true. It described how real love should be like, and in that moment, I knew their love had won me over (’cause the writing didn’t make me wanna gag instead).

“We stayed there in the kitchen until almost midnight. We didn’t talk, didn’t even kiss, just held each other…..We’d said the words – that we loved each other – but that wasn’t really how I knew it was real. It was in the pauses, in this quiet moment when words had failed us. A touch, a look…It was the fierce ache around my heart, the stiffness in my lungs. It was being together until the very last priceless second.”

I’m assuming this is the last book of the series, although I had initially thought it’d be a trilogy. I will say that it won’t let you down. It wrapped things up nicely, but not too nicely like a stiff present. My only disappointment is that there won’t be any more exploration of the other 12 worlds. *secretly hopes for a spin-off book…*

Overall Recommendation:
The Thirteenth World definitely holds more grit and action, now that all the introductions to this slightly-futuristic-yet-not-too-far-off-into-the-future kinda world has been made. A ton of characters that I previously hated with a passion has surprisingly redeemed themselves without making me want to gauge out my eyes for reading it. And beyond character growth, it still held intrigue when dealing with multiverses, potential implosion of the worlds and, of course, the intricate workings of portal travelling. I think it summed up all the questions you ever asked and more. Definitely give it a shot.

Note: All quotes taken from this arc are subject to change


Review: The Corridor by A.N. Willis

Series: The Corridor Series #1

the corridor -a.n. willisInfinite worlds. Endless possibilities . . .

Stel Alaster has never known life without the Corridor. It appeared suddenly seventeen years ago, the only portal to a parallel version of our world—Second Earth. Everyone on First Earth fears Mods, the genetically modified Second Earthers who built the Corridor. They are too smart, too strong, and have powers that can’t be controlled. Any Mod found on First Earth is branded, then detained in the Corridor’s research labs.

Only Stel has a dangerous secret. She has a power, too: She can open a portal to Second Earth . . . and several other parallel universes she’s discovered. If anyone ever finds out, she’ll be imprisoned, no better than a Mod or common lab rat.

But when the Corridor starts to fail, emitting erratic bursts of energy that could destroy First Earth, Stel must risk everything to save the people and world she loves. With the help of an escaped Mod and an infuriatingly arrogant boy from a third universe, Stel sets out to unravel the mysteries of the Corridor and stabilize it before it’s too late. The fate of every world lies in the balance. . . .

3.5 Drink Me Potions

Thank you Netgalley and Alloy Entertainment for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

In some ways, The Corridor surprised my expectations from the synopsis. First, it’s only set in 2032? Really? Portals exist so close in the future? I was really thinking more like…at least a century past that. Also, having just read a recent novel on parallel worlds (Parallel by Lauren Miller), I wasn’t quite as mindblown by the concept in this book. Let me break down my thoughts into simpler categories.

The concept and overall world building
I’m a little picky when it comes to world building, especially for dystopian worlds where things can get a little confusing. And in this case, I’m still scratching my head at some things that were literally dumped on my head at the very beginning of the book.

#1. I’m still a little lost as to what exactly the Corridor Facility entails. It has a mall and residence buildings? But also house the lab and offices that look after this portal to Second Earth known as The Corridor? Uh, so it doesn’t just relate to the Corridor itself? Is it like some small community area that’s fenced in? Then why do they take a light rail train to get to some Peak to view the Corridor? So confused…

#2. How BIG is this Corridor? I know it has lights shining through and metal framework to hold it up. But I’m imagining a gigantic rectangular…doorway thing. I don’t know about you, but that’s the best my imagination could come up with

#3. Uh, I’m guessing their technology advanced only in a minor way from ours? A Panel seems to be akin to a tablet/iPad? But who knows ’cause we sure don’t get much of an explanation. And IF it’s practically a tablet – why the heck do we not just call it that?

Anyway, besides confusion at certain things to orient myself in this moderately futuristic setting, the world building wasn’t really solid enough. Besides the presence of the Corridor and genetically modified people (aka Mods) that came from Second Earth, it almost seemed like every day life as it is now. I guess 17 years can only change a community so much, huh?

The concept, however, was intriguing. Maybe the setting wasn’t as well thought out or anything, but the premise was still compelling to continue. With our protagonist Estele (aka Stel) immediately gaining her freaky portal-making powers right from the get-go, the plot is boom-boom-boom. She finds herself in another world that’s separate from First and Second Earth. Uh oh. How many parallel universes are in this book? The pace picks itself up after a while, though I will admit it was a little slow at first while Estele was trying to figure out what to do with her freaky new secret.

The characters
Stel made a decent protagonist, although she initially annoyed me. She did nothing about her situation, going about life as if everything was still normal for her. She entrusted this secret to no one, not even her bestie for life Lissa. So much for besties for life. And not even to her brother Justin, although he never seemed like a viable person to trust such a harsh secret to. She eventually gained some guts and I admire her spunk to stick up for her father, a scientist who had taken a reputation beating. Scratch that. A reputation that turned him into someone people didn’t believe anymore. I was glad she wasn’t going to let people attack her dad like that, even the criticism coming from his own son.

Speaking of Justin. Urgh. That boy. I want to strangle him. From the start, he was distant and only mildly polite to their father. He took the side of the one person solely responsible for his dad’s reputation downfall, who also happened to have usurped him from the prominent position as Chair of the research facility. Like, WHY? How could he do such a thing to his own DAD? Especially when it’s clear he was the victim. Anyway. I don’t know if the author meant for us to hate him so much, but I’m not sure I want him to be redeemed so easily.

And relating to that, the male protagonist was kind of an ass too. Initially at least. Why do all the boys seem so rude? When I first met Cohl, I honestly thought his much nicer, friendlier and overall cool guy of a brother was gonna be the guy Stel falls for. Talk about a strange introduction. Am I supposed to like him afterwards? He spied on his brother and Stel, for goodness sakes. I’m not sure I fully understand his 180 change in attitude towards her when he seemed to honestly despise her very presence at their first meeting. This makes for a weird romantic chemistry between them. Not sure I fully believe in it.

However, thankfully, Willis keeps the romance limited so it doesn’t take away from the central plot focused on the Corridor and its possible horrendous side effects for the people on First Earth. For that reason, the latter third of the book really built up and left me wishing there was more after the last words had come and gone. The Corridor may be many things, but it took the idea of parallel worlds in a different direction than most people may initially consider, and the hint of conspiracy tied it all into a book that is definitely worth checking out at least.

Overall Recommendation:
Although the world building wasn’t particularly strong for a dystopian novel, the concept behind the Corridor and travelling between parallel worlds made it an interesting read. Mildly well-paced, Stel makes for a headstrong protagonist as she steps into her role and accepts the abilities she received. Other male characters were not as fun to read about and romance is far and few between, but The Corridor holds enough substance to carry through a worthwhile read even with these minor annoyances.