Book Review: A Conspiracy of Stars

A Conspiracy of Stars – Olivia A. Cole – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 2 January 2018

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Synopsis

Octavia has only ever had one goal: to follow in the footsteps of her parents and become a prestigious whitecoat, one of the scientists who study the natural wonders of Faloiv. The secrets of the jungle’s exotic plants and animals are protected fiercely in the labs by the Council of N’Terra, so when the rules suddenly change, allowing students inside, Octavia should be overjoyed.

But something isn’t right. The newly elected leader of the Council has some extremist views about the way he believes N’Terra should be run, and he’s influencing others to follow him. When Octavia witnesses one of the Faloii—the indigenous people of Faloiv—attacked in front of her in the dark of night, she knows the Council is hiding something. They are living in separate worlds on a shared planet, and their fragile peace may soon turn into an all-out war.

With the help of Rondo, a quiet boy in class with a skill for hacking, and her inquisitive best friend, Alma, Octavia is set on a collision course to discover the secrets behind the history she’s been taught, the science she’s lived by, and the truth about her family.

My thoughts

Here there be monsters. A Conspiracy Of Stars is a truly imaginative novel. Beautifully crafted, this book draws the reader into another world, or rather planet, that is entirely different from our own. Yet is seems that the troubles of humanity follow, no matter how exotic the location.

Octavia’s dream is to become a whitecoat like her mother and father, eminent scientists who study the diverse animals and plants of Faloiv. When she and her fellow classmates are offered internships well before expected, they are all excited. But things are changing within their settlement of N’Terra. There are murmurs of discontent, anger towards the indigenous people of Faloiv, the Faloii, and the head of the Council seems to be driving it all. As Octavia and her friends uncover more of the secrets of her home, she begins to experience her own strange changes – it seems she is far more tied to the planet of Faloiv and all its inhabitants than she ever could have dreamed possible.

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Book Review: This Mortal Coil

This Mortal Coil – Emily Suvada – This Mortal Coil #1 – Simon Pulse – Published 7 November 2017

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Synopsis

Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

My thoughts

This book deserves a victory dance for awesomeness. But I’m actually too shocked to move right now. This Mortal Coil is mind-blowingly awesome. Prepare yourselves, I’m afraid this is going to be one of those gushing, I-just-loved-it-so-much reviews. But this book totally deserves it.

This Mortal Coil expertly combines breathtaking world building with endless action, insane plot twists that just keep coming, and some seriously amazing characters. Add romance in the midst of apocalyptic chaos with intense chemistry, a zombie virus that is wildly spreading, and some very impressive technological advancements that all seamlessly fit with scientific explanations, and you have one amazing book that is impossible to put down.

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Book Review: Warcross

Warcross – Marie Lu – G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers – Published 12 September 2017

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Synopsis

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem…and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

My thoughts

Warcross is a dramatic and thrilling science-fiction. All-too believable technology, fast-paced action, a compelling mystery, complicated and forbidden romance, and a really likeable main character – Warcross has everything that will keep readers glued to the pages.

Emika Chen is a bounty hunter. She hunts criminals who gamble on the world-wide phenomenon, virtual reality game, Warcross. It’s the only way she can afford to live and slowly repay her father’s debts. But in a moment of desperation, Em accidentally glitches herself into the biggest Warcross game of the season, instantly displayed across the vision of millions of people. Instead of begin arrested, though, Emika is recruited by the game’s founder, Hideo Tanaka, to play in the Warcross championship, working undercover to help him find the person responsible for dangerously hacking into the games.

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Book Review: Dare Mighty Things

Dare Mighty Things – Heather Kaczynski – HarperTeen – Published 10 October 2017

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Synopsis

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

My thoughts

From the very beginning this book was completely exciting. I had a huge grin of anticipation that I couldn’t wipe off my face – but maybe that was more to do with Cassandra’s smarts and humour. It’s so much fun hanging with someone who is clever, knows she is clever, and isn’t afraid to correct her internship boss’s math in front all his coworkers – go girl.

Cassandra knows she was born for something great – it’s expected of a child who was one of the first genetically engineered babies. When she is offered a place in a competition for a highly secretive NASA mission, Cass jumps at the opportunity. Leaving her family behind, Cass spends the next few months being tested to her limits and trying to outclass the other competitors. But no amount of physical or mental aptitude can prepare her for the challenges she will face, including making friends amongst her competitors. But the greatest challenge will be revealed if she makes it to the top spot and discovers what this mission aims to achieve.

Dare Mighty Things is set 26(ish) years in the future. Cass’ world largely resembles our own. Most things appear to have remained the same, despite increased weather disasters and decreased fertility levels. There also hasn’t been a space exploration – no funding – for years, which is why Cassandra is surprised to be asked to join a competition that offers a chance to travel into space.

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Book Review: All Rights Reserved

All Rights Reserved – Gregory Scott Katsoulis – Word$ #1 – Harlequin Teen – Published 29 August 2017

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Synopsis

Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.

But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech rather than say anything at all she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

My thoughts

All Rights Reserved is a clever and timely dystopian novel that introduces a world where speech and communication is controlled and monitored for capital gain. It is scary in its portrayal of a future world that is all too possible. With characters who quickly garner the reader’s support, All Rights Reserved is a highly thought-provoking novel.

Speth knows that at the exact moment of her fifteenth birthday every word she says, every gesture, every move of affection will be monitored, recorded, and she will be charged accordingly. But when her friend suicides just moments before her Last Day speech, Speth is horrified and knows no other option than to remain silent. She unwittingly creates a silent revolutionary protest. But it is hard to lead a revolution when you have no plan and can’t communicate. With her family falling apart around her Speth knows she must never stop fighting if she is to save herself and her family, or if she is to hopefully affect some change in her society.

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Book Review: Jane, Unlimited

Jane, Unlimited – Kristin Cashore – Kathy Dawson Books – Published 19 September 2017

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Synopsis

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

My thoughts

Jane Unlimited is another book I have read recently solely because of the author. I found the synopsis confusing and was a little unsure what type of story this would be, but I decided to pick it up anyway because I loved, loved Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series. The few things I did know about the story prior to reading it were: a) it is genre defying, b) it is almost a choose-your-own-ending book, but is written to be read in order, and c) umbrellas get mentioned quite a bit. Otherwise I was a tad confused about it all. Now that I have finished reading it I can say that, unfortunately, it wasn’t the right book for me. Jane, Unlimited is a combination of many classics with its own, very unique style and a mixture of mystery, science fiction, and fantasy.

Jane’s aunt made her promise to accept if she was ever invited to stay at the mysterious grand house Tu Reviens. So, when Jane’s friend Kiran offers just such an invitation, Jane agrees. But Tu Reviens contains many secrets and intriguing mysteries and Jane’s own choices will influence what she will uncover and how that will change her destiny.

In her author’s note Cashore indicates that Jane, Unlimited reflects a number of literary works including Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The House of Mirth. Jane, Unlimited’s tone and style are very much reflective of these novels. It actually reminded me of a novel that I would be asked to read for senior English or a university course and then have to analyse it to death. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy it, because those are not my favourite type of books, but I can imagine someone who loved those classics really enjoying this book.

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Book Review: Amid Stars and Darkness

Amid Stars and Darkness – Chani Lynn Feener – The Xenith Trilogy #1 – Swoon Reads – Published 18 July 2017

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Synopsis

Delaney’s entire world is thrown into chaos after she is mistaken for Lissa Olena, an alien princess hiding out on Earth in order to escape an arranged marriage.

Kidnapped by the princess’s head bodyguard, Ruckus, and imprisoned in an alien palace, Delaney is forced to impersonate the princess until Olena can be found. If she fails, it will lead to an alien war and the eventual enslavement of the entire human race.

No pressure or anything.

Factor in Trystan, the princess’s terrifying betrothed who is intent on unraveling all her secrets, and her own growing feelings for Ruckus, and Delaney is in way over her head.

My thoughts

Amid Stars and Darkness is an enjoyable science-fiction novel. It mixes lots of romance with a touch of suspense in a story where aliens regularly visit Earth and a human girl is forced to experience life on an alien planet first hand.

When Delaney is mistaken as the alien princess, Lissa Olena, from a neighbouring planet, she is forcibly removed from Earth by Olena’s bodyguard. It’s one thing to know aliens walk around on Earth, Delaney’s even met a few, but it’s very different pretending to be their princess. She will have to convince everyone she is Olena – even Olena’s betrothed – if she is to prevent a war.

Every so often I have the desire to read a really epic fantasy or sci fi. Something that transports me to a vivid place far, far away. Amid Stars and Darkness certainly captured my attention. I enjoyed disappearing into its pages and the world building was good, even if I would have enjoyed seeing a lot more of the society, culture, and landscape of the alien world. The alien world is actually quite familiar to our Earth. It makes it easy to recognise, different enough to feel ‘alien’, but is ultimately very similar. Technology is more advanced, but no more than something Tony Stark might carry with him. The aliens are all physically and anatomically the same as humans, and while they have different names for ranks and roles, most are parallel to those on Earth. There are also no changes in gravity or atmosphere. Food, animals and plant life were the things that were slightly different but all had reference points to earthly things. Actually, this book sometimes felt a little like Stephenie Meyer’s The Host and it does share a few similarities – a girl with another girl’s face and identity, two guys, one seemingly the enemy the other a nice ally, and, despite the universe being much bigger than originally known, a restricted setting.

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Book Review: Defy The Stars

Defy the Stars – Claudia Gray – Constellation #1 – Little, Brown Books – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

She’s a soldier. Noemi Vidal is seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine. Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

My thoughts

Don’t you just love it when a book surprises you? I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Defy The Stars. It just seemed to get better and better. It was clever. It was original. It had so much packed into it. It made me want to desperately read the next book in the series and yet, at the same time, I was totally content with the story just as it was. It made me fall in love with science fiction all over again and reminded me just how good it can be.

Noemi is a solider from Genesis, sworn to sacrifice her life to protect her planet from Earth’s forces who want to destroy Genesis just like they have Earth. Abel is a machine. One of the most advanced robots ever created. But 30 years stuck on an abandoned spaceship has left his wiring a little crossed and he longs for freedom. When Noemi discovers Abel while on a rescue mission, she also discovers that Abel holds the key to protecting her planet from Earth forever. She commands his help and together they explore the galaxy, putting into place her plan. But Abel is growing ever more human, and Noemi is running out of time.

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Book Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies

Empress of a Thousand Skies

Empress of a Thousand Skies – Rhoda Belleza – Razorbill – Published 7 February 2017

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Synopsis

Empress
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

My thoughts

Empress of a Thousand Skies is compelling and action-driven science fiction. Planets and their moons, droids, holos, space craft, and a plot to keep the crown princess from taking her throne as Empress, it has a very Star Wars feel to it.

Rhee knows that she must one day take her place as Empress. But before that she plans to enact her revenge on the man who killed her family. Rhee has planned her revenge for years, but an attempt is made on her own life before she can act on her plans. Adrift in the galaxy, she is on the run. Meanwhile, Aly is framed for the princess’s murder and he too becomes entangled in the plot to return war to the planets.

Empress of a Thousand Skies is told in alternating chapters from Rhee and Aly’s perspectives. They come so very close to meeting many times in the novel and yet they never do connect. Instead their story lines run almost parallel as they uncover the motives behind those who killed Rhee’s parents and who plan to kill Rhee.

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Book Review: Split The Sun

split-the-sun

Split The Sun – Tessa Elwood – Inherit The Stars Trilogy #2 – Running Kids Press – Published 6 December 2016

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Synopsis

The Ruling Lord of the House of Galton is dead, and the nation is in shock—or celebrating, depending on the district. Kit Franks would be more than happy to join him.
Kit’s mother bombed the digital core of the House, killing several and upending the nation’s information structure. No one wants the daughter of a terrorist. Kit lost her job, her aunt wants her evicted, her father is using her as a shield against a drug lord, a group of political rebels need Kit to ignite an interplanetary war, and the boy two floors down keeps jacking up her suicide attempts—as if she has a life worth saving.
When Mom-the-terrorist starts showing up on feeds and causing planet-wide blackouts, everyone looks to Kit for an answer. The rebels want Mom on their side. The government needs to stop Mom’s digital virus from spreading before there’s no record of government left. Both sides will do anything, destroy anyone, to make Kit crack. They believe she’s the key to Mom’s agenda and the House’s future. Worst of all, they may be right.
Kit’s having dreams she can’t explain, remembering conversations that no longer seem innocent, understanding too much coded subtext in Mom’s universal feed messages. Everyone, from Mom to the rebels, has a vision of Kit’s fate—locked, sealed, and ready to roll. The question is, does Kit have a vision for herself?

My thoughts

Split The Sun mixes fast-paced and edgy drama, action, family, romance and one hell of a resilient character to create an addictive story.

Kit has achieved a status of notoriety thanks to her mother blowing up their planet’s archive. Kit is left feeling both guilt and hopelessness, despite her ignorance about her mother’s deadly plans, despite what the rest of the planet chooses to think about her. But it seems like no one will let Kit fade into the obscurity she craves – not the crowds who lay blame, the government who seek answers, a rebel group of protestors that think Kit might live up to her mother’s apparent glory, her family who only want to take from her, nor the boy who lives in the apartment above Kit. Kit will need to decide what she will fight for – if anything.

Split The Sun is the second book in the Inherit the Stars series. It is more like a companion book, with a different set of characters and different plot line, but set in the same world and with the same mix of action, sci-fi adventure and romance. I think I enjoyed Split The Sun more than I did Inherit The Stars. Both are great books but I really connected with Kit. I had initially expected Split the Sun to continue the story of Eagle and Asa from Inherit the Stars, but wasn’t disappointed at all in Kit. She is a fantastic character. Continually knocked down, she is on the very edge of giving up and yet she cares so much about people, does everything she can for the people that treat her like rubbish. Her resilience and strength is amazing. 

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