Book Review: Their Fractured Light (Starbound #3) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

The best book so far and the perfect ending of the Starbound trilogy!

5/5 stars

cover their fractured light

Goodreads Description

A year ago, Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase made the now infamous Avon Broadcast, calling on the galaxy to witness for their planet, and protect them from destruction. Some say Flynn’s a madman, others whisper about conspiracies. Nobody knows the truth. A year before that, Tarver Merendsen and Lilac LaRoux were rescued from a terrible shipwreck—now, they live a public life in front of the cameras, and a secret life away from the world’s gaze.

Now, in the center of the universe on the planet of Corinth, all four are about to collide with two new players, who will bring the fight against LaRoux Industries to a head. Gideon Marchant is an eighteen-year-old computer hacker—a whiz kid and an urban warrior. He’ll climb, abseil and worm his way past the best security measures to pull off onsite hacks that others don’t dare touch.

Sofia Quinn has a killer smile, and by the time you’re done noticing it, she’s got you offering up your wallet, your car, and anything else she desires. She holds LaRoux Industries responsible for the mysterious death of her father and is out for revenge at any cost.

When a LaRoux Industries security breach interrupts Gideon and Sofia’s separate attempts to infiltrate their headquarters, they’re forced to work together to escape. Each of them has their own reason for wanting to take down LaRoux Industries, and neither trusts the other. But working together might be the best chance they have to expose the secrets LRI is so desperate to hide

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Read my reviews of These Broken Stars (book 1) and This Shattered World (book 2)

My Review

I LOVED this book! All of the pieces fit together perfectly and there was a great balance between new elements specific to this book and old elements continued throughout the series. Seeing all of the characters run into each other and realizing how interconnected all of their stories are was fascinating and gave me exactly the fangirl feels I wanted from the conclusion of this trilogy.

As with the two previous books, I loved the characters first and foremost. I fell in love with Sofia first, mainly because we had met her in the second book, so I already appreciated her character. I loved her character’s complexity; she was so much more than a con artist or a flirt. She hated herself for the very things that were keeping her alive. She was amazing at surviving, but she was also consumed by a need for vengeance. I wanted to give her a hug and a high five all at once.

Gideon was also a complicated character. I loved the warring parts of his character: hacker in the shadows and frustrated boy who wants to go out and change things himself. His relationship with the online community and his perspective on the events of the previous books added interesting layers to the story. I can’t say that I fell for Gideon as hard as I fell for Tarver or Flynn, but I always liked reading his chapters, and I enjoyed his voice.

Gideon and Sofia’s relationship was the most complicated of the trilogy’s. They end up working together mostly by accident, both of them keeping their cards close to their vests. From the first pages, I loved their dynamic and their conversations with each other. However, their obsessions with secrecy kept each other apart, even as they started falling for each other.

It was frustrating that neither of them would open up and explain their real motivations to the other, but—unlike with most miscommunication-based romances—I actually understood and appreciated their reasons for keeping quiet. Even once their romance bubbled to the surface, their secrets still got in the way. I loved them as a couple, but even I had my doubts that a relationship between them would work. I can’t thank Kaufman and Spooner enough for building barriers between Sofia and Gideon that even the reader couldn’t completely knock down. 

Their Fractured Light is more than a romance though. The whisper plot that connected book one and book two is still prevalent, guiding the series to its climax. The mystery surrounding LaRoux Industries and the whispers continued to grow and evolve, changing as each character added new pieces to the puzzle. As with the rest of the series, the plot was addictive; I had to keep reading to see where the story would end up. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the way that everything fit together was immensely satisfying and a great ending for the story.

Possibly the best part of this book was realizing how interconnected the three stories in this trilogy actually are. Lilac, Tarver, Flynn, and Lee all come back (to lots and lots of fangirl squeals from me). Each character had a connection to another, and most of them weren’t positive. Watching all of the characters sort out their preconceptions and conflicting loyalties was fascinating and frustrating, because I wanted them to hurry up and be the big happy family I knew that they could be. There were a few shocking reveals as to how the characters’ lives fit together, which I liked, even if I saw one of them coming. 

Overall, the conclusion of the Starbound trilogy did not disappoint. If you’ve been on the fence about finishing the series, you definitely should! The characters are alive and the plot is gripping in a way that I’ve rarely seen. I’m honestly crushed that the series is over—I read it so quickly that I feel like I need more time with all of the characters.

Book Review: This Shattered World (Starbound #2) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

This was such a good continuation of the Starbound trilogy! Though my heart broke to have different characters as the leads, I fell in love with Lee and Flynn too, and the story was even more gripping than the first.

4/5 stars

cover this shattered world

Goodreads Description

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

My Review

Okay, I have a confession. I was kind of pissed when I found out that This Shattered World had a completely different cast and setting than These Broken Stars. It’s not that I wasn’t open to seeing more of the world or meeting new characters…I just really loved Lilac and Tarver. But it was okay, because This Shattered World totally won me over.

In TBS, I fell in love with Tarver before Lilac, but in TSW, Lee won me over before Flynn. Captain Lee Chase (technically Jubilee) is the classic, hard-ass YA protagonist, and even if I’m sometimes frustrated with the trope, I also love it to death. Stone-faced Chase (as she’s called) is an infamous army commander, known across the planet for her ruthlessness. Even better, Lee’s character developed into a multifaceted character with real skeletons in her closet and a fascinating self-image.

Flynn took a little longer to grab me, but it was only a few chapters before I loved his character as well. He’s a pacifist rebel, fighting to hold back the militant faction of the rebel group. Flynn’s struggle to reel in the anger of his people really got to me—after studying so many revolutions in history, the sense of impossibility that Flynn felt was palpable for me. Even though Flynn is a self-proclaimed pacifist, his character is not mellow or bland at all. He is a fighter, he just wants to fight with words, and it presented a powerful juxtaposition with Lee’s loyalty to the military.

I found the plot of TSW more gripping than TBS. The pacing was excellent, the mystery was mind-boggling, and the romance was swoon-freaking-worthy.

Even though TSW has different characters than TBS, their two plots are directly connected. The mystery presented in TBS is explored further in TSW, with the whispers and LaRoux’s corporation still being investigated. However, even though there are common elements between the two books, there is still a lot of mystery in TSW. I expected to understand everything before the characters did—I had an entire book’s worth of prior knowledge, right—but I was often just as befuddled as they were…in a good way.

Once again, Kaufman and Spooner created an unpredictable and emotion-ruining romance. Flynn and Lee are caught on opposite sides of a civil war. It isn’t so much that they hate each other—honestly from the start they are drawn to each other in an inexplicable (but not cliché) way—but they are overwhelmed by how impossible it is for them to be a couple.

I really appreciated that even when the two of them were clearly in love with each other, they still kept themselves apart, putting their political loyalties first. From these characters, nothing else would have been believable…no matter how much I wanted the two of them to screw it and be together.

The romance seems like a cliché set-up, but in reality, it was executed in a unique way. The authors even presented openings for stereotypical romantic drama…and then let them pass by. Instead, they took the romance in an unpredictable direction, with the rest of the plot, keeping me on my toes at all times. It was awesome.

I would recommend this book to anyone who read These Broken Stars. Don’t be scared away by the seemingly disconnected plot—it is an amazing continuation of the story. I can’t wait to read This Fractured Light!

Book Review: These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

This book was exactly what I needed to recover from Out of Darkness—romantic, sassy, creative YA.

4/5 stars

cover these broken stars

Goodreads Description

Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.

My Review

I discovered Amie Kaufman when I read Illuminae, which she co-authored with Jay Kristoff. I LOVED Illuminae, so I knew that I had to read Kaufman’s other books, the Starbound series. These Broken Stars did not disappoint.

These Broken Stars switches back and forth between two characters: Lilac, the daughter of the galaxy’s richest businessman, and Tarver, poor-boy turned war-hero being trotted around the universe as a publicity stunt. The two of them end up stranded together after the ship they are travelling on crashes on an unknown planet. Survival forces them to work together, despite their hatred for and frustration with each other.

I loved Tarver’s character. I generally expect that YA books like this will have a somewhat one-dimensional love interest, but Tarver broke this mold. He is more than a love interest; he carries his weight in the telling and shaping of the story. I loved his soldier personality—I believed that he could be the war hero everyone said he was. His voice was part professional solider, part teenage boy, and I loved how the two parts of his personality worked together. His ties to his family and the grief motivating him were believable, breaking the “tragic backstory” cliché.

Lilac took a little while to grow on me. In the beginning of the novel, Tarver tells most of the story, and Lilac comes off mostly as a prideful heiress who is more capable than people think…but who uses her skills for stupid reasons. However, as the story progressed, I got to see Lilac’s character develop, and I loved her. Even when she was falling apart, she fiercely tries to hold herself together, and it wasn’t just inane pride. Her character’s determination to stay in control made sense to me while simultaneously pulling at my heart strings.

The romance between Lilac and Tarver (c’mon, you knew it was coming) was awesome. I’m a sucker for love-to-hate romances, and this book executed it perfectly. Lilac and Tarver honestly hated each other in the beginning of the book, and it wasn’t a fleeting emotion. Even as they started to work with each other, their dominant feelings for each other were frustration and anger and hate—and I loved it. It sounds weird to glorify this, but I felt that it made their transition into romance more powerful. They made an amazing couple, but seeing that they had to “work” for it made it more meaningful when they eventually fell in love.

But These Broken Stars is more than a romance. The planet that Lilac and Tarver land on is filled with oddities and inexplicable occurrences, building until it is clear that some conspiracy is behind the entire planet. The mystery elements drove the plot well, giving it a good amount of suspense and confusion without making the story too overwhelming. I always wanted to keep reading, to find out what was going to happen next, to figure out another piece of the puzzle.

By the end of the story, enough of the mystery was resolved that I didn’t feel like the book was just an exposition for the series, but there were still a lot of lingering questions, pushing me to read the next book.

I would recommend These Broken Stars to fans of YA romances who enjoy creative sci-fi stories and like it when their heart is broken (a little). This book was filled with shocking moments and emotional scenes. Anyone who read Illuminae and needs more like it should definitely read this book.

Book Review: Illuminae (Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. This book redefines what it means to be a book. I need a new thesaurus just to describe my love of this books. AHHH!

5/5 stars!!!

Release date: October 20, 2015

cover illuminae

Amazon Description

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 one of the 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.

My Review Fangirling Mess

I’m having trouble forming complete sentences about this book. I can’t put into coherent words the emotional roller coaster ride that was this books. *draws deep breath* Here goes.

My favorite thing about this book’s premise was the idea of the protagonists being exes. From the first page, the romance is unique and fresh and hilarious, and I wanted to read about that.

Little did I know that this book was going to be so much more than a romance in space. It is science fiction. It is horror. It is a work of graphic design art. It is terrifying and scientific and one-of-a-kind.

I was afraid that the plot was going to be “too much.” I mean, a virus, and artificial intelligence going haywire, and secrets being kept? It could have been a mess of subplots, but it wasn’t. Everything worked together, and what seemed like separate ideas in the synopsis were actually pieces of the same (scary AF) whole.

It’s hard to talk about the plot, because it is so complex. What started as a simple attack on a planet mushroom-clouded (is that a word?) into a web of lies and death and terror. To describe it would be to spoil the surprise, so all that I will say is that the plot is heart-racing, emotionally destructive, and hair-raising.

I read this book over the course of a week and a half, which surprises me looking back on it, because it was really hard to put down. Every time I read it, my heart started pounding and I got legitimately stressed-out. I’m glad that I never read this book at night, because I don’t think I would have been able to sleep.

Ezra and Kady are two of my new favorite characters…ever. Ezra is a classic “good guy” character, the kind of guy you can’t help rooting for. He clearly did not intend to get roped into an intergalactic war–he’d rather stay on his small planet and make cheesy romatic gestures to his girl friend–but he will rise to the occasion when duty calls. He’s got a heart of gold, and I would have myself a new book crush, except that him and Kady are my new OTP and I couldn’t bear to break them up (again…awkward).

Kady is badass to the extreme. She’s a hacker, she’s sassy, she rolls her eyes at romance, she’s reckless and brave, she’s got a problem with authority–I instantly loved her. With every scene that pushed her harder and harder but didn’t break her, I was increasingly impressed by the raw power of her character. (Wow that sounds cheesy…)

What puts this book in a class of its own is the graphic design. The idea of Illuminae is that it is a dossier of compiled files from the aftermath of the attack. But the graphic designer (seriously, who was that person? They deserve a medal) took this original concept and ran with it, taking it as an opportunity to tell a story in a way I’ve never read before. The way that the words were arranged on the pages quadrupled the emotional impact of each scene. Rarely was there a time when I got to a new section of the dossier and didn’t say “wow.” I would put in examples (I’m dying to put in examples) but most of them would be spoilers. Suffice to say that this book doesn’t just create an incredibly graphic and heart-wrenching story, but it also uses graphic design to slam the story straight into your heart.

The ending of this book had me in tears. I was laughing with joy and crying with sadness simultaneously. The series of reveals in the last third of the book were all shocking and tear-inducing. I NEED the next book (and book one isn’t even out yet…fangirl pain).

I recommend this book for basically everyone. This is the kind of book that sticks with you. The kind of book that redefines what “incredible” means. The kind of book you shove into other people’s hands with abandon.

Special thanks to Penguin Random House for giving me a copy of this book at SDCC 2015! This in no way affected my review.

Short Story: Entropy, Human Style

I’ve never wanted to kill someone before today.

“Hey.”

I swallow, pressing my tongue against my teeth, testing out the idea of conversation. “…Hey.”

“I’m glad we’re talking.”

I’m not. “Me, too.” I glance around the room: a metal cube, with a table and two chairs. I know there is a door behind me—locked.

“This doesn’t have to be awkward.”

God, does my nose twitch like that when I talk?

“And yet, it is.”

Her jaw swerves as she bites her tongue. “What do you want me to say?”

I bite my own tongue, a reflexive mirror. “Whatever. Just—talk.” I should have a notebook or a voice recorder or—something. But those jobs have been passed off to people and machines working outside the cube while I slowly go insane in here with her.

I can’t remember why I thought this was a good idea. Any of this. Screw fame—I want my sanity.

“I don’t remember everything yet,” she says. “But the doctors say all of it will come back over time. Probably just a few weeks more.”

“Great,” I say, tight-lipped.

“I remember the last day of second grade, when your mom bought us ice cream—mint chip, because it’s our favorite.”

“I like vanilla now,” I say.

“I know that, too.”

She plays with the tip of her hair, twisting it around her finger. “And I remember middle school graduation, when you got that plaque for Best Science Student.”

“Ironic.” My fingers itch to find my hair but I keep them firmly clasped in front of me.

“Prom night,” she jokes, winking. My insides clench, not because the memory is bad—it’s pretty fantastic—but at the idea that she knows about it.

“It’s like being twins,” she finally offers. Then a shrug and a smile, like a mix between a beaten puppy and a flirty preteen. Both of them just trying to get the right type of attention—from me.

I lean back. “No, it’s not. Twins are separate people. Twins have different dreams at night. Twins have different hobbies and have read different books. Twins have different strides and like different condiments on their burgers.”

She counters, “Twins have the same birthday. Twins have the same genes and the same home lives and the same inside jokes about chores and crushes.”

Identical twins,” I clarify. “And only if they have a good relationship and grow up together and—there are variables you haven’t considered.”

“I know.”

Variables. I’m the math/science genius and I still can’t figure all of them out.

It’s making me twitch, being in the same room with her. I can’t stop noticing every little thing she does: worry the hem of her shirt, shift her shoulders, crack only the knuckle of her index fingers.

“Can you just—stop?”

She freezes. “Stop what?”

I’m trying not to scream and I know she can tell. “Stop—being me? Can you, I don’t know, learn ballet or get a scar or go to the South and pick up an annoying accent? Just something that makes you be different?”

“That’s not the point.”

“Well, the point can fuck off, okay?” I yell.

She flinches. I want to feel guilty, but my anger shoves the rest of my emotions out of my brain and locks the doors.

“You’re not supposed to exist. You’re impossible. You’re a mistake. And just because I agreed to talk to you doesn’t mean that any of that has changed.”

Her eyes—my eyes—meet mine. “I’m the greatest thing you’ve ever done.”

“Smartest. You’re the smartest thing I’ve ever done. The most impressive. Maybe the most influential. But Prometheus stole fire and all he got for that was saying goodbye to his liver—and not in the fun, alcoholic way. Marie Curie fried her own brain so that we can make microwave pizza. Let’s ask Nobel and Oppenheimer about the most influential things they ever did, huh?

“Science doesn’t reward scientists. Achievements don’t make your own life better, no matter how happy everyone else around you is.”

She laughs. “I’d say you’ve been working on that speech for a while, but I don’t have any memory of it.”

Wow, she’s a bitch. “You don’t have to be obnoxious about it.”

“Right, because you’re a poster child for kindness.” That kills the conversation, and we sit in tense silence.

She taps her forehead. “Damn, you’re smart.”

I can almost see the memories as they flood into her mind, but I know she is past middle school moments and exes. Her eyes are slightly glazed, her mouth open the tiniest amount. It is an expression I have never worn, and I am suddenly struck by the fact that someone else—someone I can’t control—has my brain. She knows every math equation I’ve ever learned, every idea that I’ve ever had.

I’ve had a lot of bad ideas over the years.

I stare at her, really look at her.

She’s me. We’ve got the same eyes, the same hair, the same crooked front tooth and mole just above our lip. She’s my height and weight. We’ve got the same fingerprints and the same genes. She remembers the same life that I remember. The only difference is our ages.

I’m twenty-five years old. She’s been alive for barely one week.

She’s my ticket into every science journal, every prestigious conference, every history book in the world. She’s a Nobel Prize taunting me with memories of elementary school.

She’s the world’s most successful clone—pushing past gene replication to factor in life chronology and outside influences—and it’s my own romantic, dumbass fault that she’s…me.

“Why do you hate me?” she asks, leaning in. “I’m you. I have your head. And I know you don’t hate yourself.”

What makes a person themselves? Memories—she has mine. Genes—ditto.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

We were only clones for one second

And then she existed and I existed, separately, and both of our selves branched out from there and we’ll never come back to where we started. Entropy—human style. A study of human identity locked in a box—is she me, or someone else?

Ask Schrodinger.

The history of the world is the development of weapons: rocks to spears to bows and arrows to cannons to guns to tanks to missiles to the A-bomb to chemical warfare to this—putting someone in a box with themselves and watching them slowly rip each other apart.