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: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Finally! A book that I bought because of hype…that actually lived up to the hype.

4/5 stars

cover ready player one

Goodreads Description

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

My Review

The Race for the Egg

The plot of Ready Player One is simple: OASIS (a massive virtual reality network) contains a complex treasure hunt for an egg which gives the winner the massive inheritance of one of OASIS’s founders. Gunters are people who have dedicated their lives to trying to solve the riddles of the treasure hunt to find the egg. Since the creator of the treasure hunt was obsessed with his time as a teenager in the ’80s, gunters have encyclopedic knowledge of ’80s pop culture.

In the world of gunters, there is a faction called the Sixers. Sixers work for a rival company that wants to win the egg to take over OASIS. Wade, the protagonist, is pitted against the Sixers when he becomes the first person ever to make progress on finding the egg. Since the Sixers are giant corporate cheaters, it was really easy for me to hate them. They made excellent villains and helped raise the stakes of the race.

I loved the way Cline built a captivating underdog-coming-from-behind story within the simple plot.

All the ’80s References

I bought RPO blindly, basically just because other people loved it. I have to admit, I didn’t really process the fact that it is based entirely around ’80s pop culture until I started reading it.

I know nothing about ’80s pop culture. I don’t even play modern video games or watch today’s movies. Despite all of that, I loved the way that Cline wove the references into his story. Even though I had no “real world” reference, I felt like I was able to understand everything that was going on and get caught up in the drama of each scene.

The World Building

I loved the world building, both inside and outside of OASIS (the virtual reality in which the contest is taking place). Throughout the book, Cline continued to explore the technology of the digital universe that he had created, making the story feel dynamic and realistic.

One thing that surprised me (though it maybe shouldn’t have) was the role that money played in OASIS. Moving from planet to planet, leveling up your avatar, and getting items to wear/use/fight with all required real-world money—something Wade didn’t have. The addition of economic disparities in the virtual reality helped ground the seemingly infinite possibilities of OASIS and add painful realism to the story.

Wade

Wade was a great protagonist. He could have so easily become the cliche, antisocial geek with a debilitating obsession with virtual reality—but he wasn’t.

Yes, he was a massive ’80s geek, but he was also smart, he took initiative, and he clearly had skills that set him apart from others—in short, he was exactly the protagonist that this story needed. I loved his slightly sarcastic voice; Wade is one of my favorite male MCs that I’ve read.

Everyone Else

RPO starts off with basically only Wade and slowly expands the focus of the book to include side characters. I liked the other members of the High Five (the five people who, including Wade, start dominating the race for the egg). Each of them had a clear voice and personality, and in their own ways, they added diversity to the book. 

Art3mis, the love interest, was one of my favorite characters. She was able to stand on her own (AKA she didn’t exist just for Wade to fall for) and her own inner conflicts surrounding the romance were believable and bittersweet. The romantic subplot also worked, never overpowering the story.

The Plot and Pacing

I expected RPO to be a quick read, but it actually took me two weeks to get through. Though it looks deceptively short (my paperback was only an inch thick), the writing style works more with paragraphs than dialogue, and the pacing is slower than I expected. There are lots of intense, get-your-blood-racing scenes, but in between, Cline dedicates a lot of time to world building and character development.

The beginning of RPO dragged a bit for me. On the first page, we are told that Wade is going to find the Copper Key and make history…but then the story focuses on exposition and world building for at least 50 pages before that actually happens. By the end of the book, I didn’t really care about the lag in the beginning—and I appreciated how fully I understood Wade’s character and the world building—so this didn’t dramatically lower my rating.

By the middle of the book, I got used to the contemplative pacing and really started to enjoy the story-telling style. Looking at the book as a whole, the slower pacing totally worked.

TL;DR Wrap-Up

RPO impressed me with its complex (but understandable) world building, its lovable characters, and its simplistic but perfectly executed plot. It’s hard to describe what genre RPO is, so I would recommend this book to basically everyone.

Just thinking about the ending makes me smile. Seriously, this one lived up to the hype.

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.

Weekend Words #5

weekend words picWeekend Words showcases inspiring quotes from books, about writing, and about life. This feature will happen every weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday, depending on my schedule. While this is a reading/writing centric blog, this feature doesn’t have to be focused on those areas–it is intentionally open-ended to give bloggers a chance to say what’s on their mind.

Everyone should feel free to take part–it would honestly make my day! Complete instructions can be found on the feature’s page. 

1. A Powerful Quote From a Recent Read

artificial intelligence

“The Alexander’s artificial intelligence isn’t capable of lying. Sure, it can think for itself, but no neurogrammer is stupid enough to make a computer capable of conceptualizing deceit. These things are so smart now; the ability to spin bullshit is all that separates us from them.” — Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Illuminae (The Illuminae Files _01)

HOW CREEPY IS THAT QUOTE?!

Wow I didn’t know that this book would be this dark and creepy and aaahhhhh. Seriously, this book is incredible.

(Illuminae publishes October 20)

2. A Quote that Inspired or Influenced Me This Week

feel like quitting
click for image credit

“When you feel like quitting, remember why I started.”

This quote has always inspired me, but it was prevalent on my mind this week. I have my first Speech and Debate competition this weekend (that’s where I am right now!), and it’s a ton of stress and excitement. I know that I love it, but sometimes the exhaustion makes me want to quit…

3. Something I’ve Been Wanting to Say

Being sick sucks, but it ends up happening to me basically once a semester. Schools don’t want sick people to come to school–it’s my biggest pet peeve–but at the same time, most teachers have strict absent policies that make missing more than a few days of school hurt your grade. Since I was almost sick this week, and my sister actually was, this ridiculous paradox has been on my mind.


I hope you’re all having a great weekend! What quotes have inspired you recently?

Book Review: Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson

My love of Brandon Sanderson only continues to grow.

5/5 stars

cover firefight

My spoiler-free review of book one, Steelheart, can be found here.

Amazon Description

Newcago is free.

They told David it was impossible, that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart–invincible, immortal, unconquerable–is dead. And he died by David’s hand.

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers.

Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it’s the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David’s willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic–Firefight. And now he will go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

My Review

This was an amazing “second book”–it avoided the pit falls that sequels often experience. It continued the plot of the first book without copying it; new elements fit with the original story but also made it clear that the second book could stand on its own.

I loved Babylon Restored. It is an oceanic version of New York, with a healthy dose of nonsensical, semi-magic elements (such as the fact that all spray paint glows in the dark). The new setting helped to develop the series and keep it from being a one-trick pony–Babylon Restored challenged the Reckoners with new dangers. The resulting fight scenes were just as heart-racing and action-packed as the ones in the previous book, but they were also new and unexpected, because of the difficulties of fighting in a city dominated by water.

Firefight introduces a cast of new characters, as well as keeps a few of the original characters from Steelheart. They meet a new Reckoners cell, which helped to move the plot along and fulfill the promise that had been made in book one: as soon as I knew there were other cells, I wanted to eventually meet one of them, and I was happy when this happened in the second book of the series. However, the new Reckoners’ characters were somewhat flat for me, and I never fell in love with any of them.

David’s character continued to develop, growing more fully into his role as a strong and endearing protagonist. He’s still the reckless, determined, awkward, and moderately bloodthirsty character I loved in Steelheart, but I could also tell that he had grown and that his values had changed. A world without Steelheart left vengeful David feeling lost, and enjoyed seeing him refocus his energies on larger and more meaningful goals. His new fame as Steelslayer also exposed an interesting side of the dweeby, socially inept guy who began the series. But he still sucks at metaphors, which might be my favorite of his character traits.

Prof continued to be one of the most interesting characters in the series. His relationship with David grew more strained in this book, which I actually liked. Both characters were able to develop their own unique quirks when David stopped “worshiping” Prof. I liked the dual father/son and general/soldier relationships the two shared, as well as the growing difference of opinions as to what the Reckoners should do about Epics.

The characters in this book don’t all agree about the course of action that the Reckoners are taking (even the Reckoners themselves). I liked that discord and differences of opinion were included–it added a dose of realism that is often missing from “kill the Big Bad and everything will be okay” plots. The ethical dilemmas surrounding taking down Epics who rule “civilized” cities such as Newcago and Babylon Restored were interesting and conflicting, and I appreciated that the debate was included in this book. I also liked the discussions of the laid-back, “whatever happens will happen” lifestyle that Babylon Restored residents adopted and its role in the perpetuation of tyranny.

The plot of Firefight is solid, well-paced, and full of Sanderson-brand stunning reveals. I will say that I never found the new villain, Regalia, to be all that scary. She wasn’t quite evil enough for me to take her as seriously as I had taken Steelheart, but I liked her backstory with the Reckoners. The subplot surrounding Megan/Firefight was interesting and presented appropriate conflicts, but I never really believed Megan was evil. It didn’t work with the story, or with David’s affection for her. In the next book, I might be proven completely wrong about this, and look like a freaking idiot, but in this book, I felt like any attempt to make Megan evil was transparent.

All in all, I would strongly recommend reading Firefight if you’ve read Steelheart, and I can’t wait to continue the series (why do I have to wait until February 2016 for Calamity?!). The Reckoners series is a powerful combination of action-movie fight scenes, sci-fi elements, endearing characters, and suspenseful plots.


Also! I now have a copy of this book SIGNED. In person! It was so great to meet Brandon Sanderson, and to get one of my favorite books by him signed. AHHH *still fangirling*

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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.

Book Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

I first read this book about a year ago, and remembered liking it enough. My sister read it for the first time this month and loved it, causing me to reread it. I liked the book a lot more this time, and I’m not really sure why I didn’t think more of it the first time, because it’s great.

4.5/5 stars

cover across a star swept sea

Amazon description of Across a Star-Swept Sea:

From Rampant and Ascendant author Diana Peterfreund comes this thrilling companion to For Darkness Shows the Stars, now in paperback. Across a Star-Swept Sea is a romantic science-fiction reimagining of the classic The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the islands of Galatea and Albion stand alone, a paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on Galatea, an uprising against the aristocracy has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy. On neighboring Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous teenage aristocrat Persis Blake. Her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo . . . is her most dangerous mission ever.

When Persis discovers that Justen is keeping a secret that could plunge New Pacifica into another dark age, she realizes she’s not just risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.

First, I’d like to say that I didn’t realize this book was a companion novel. You can totally read it stand-alone (as I did), but now I want to go back and read For Darkness Shows the Stars.

Now, to talk about the book.

I love the world Peterfreund created. The Reduction disease is believable, and the cure’s own set of consequences is a nice addition to what have been a very simple backstory. The court of Albion is perfectly ridiculous and frivolous, the ultimate backdrop for Persis’s ditzy character. The revolution in Galatea was unique and interesting, because unlike pretty much every other book that has a revolution taking place in it against tyranny, you don’t like the revolution. This premise drew me in, breaking from the classic dystopian mold (the book is only dystopian in the loosest sense of the term). It’s possible I’ve just been studying AP European History way too much, but I found a ton of historical parallels and conflicts that made the revolution even more complex for me as a reader.

I loved the technological aspects of the world-building as well. Like the court of Albion, they are for the most part, completely ridiculous and unnecessary. Genetemps to change your appearance for a few hours, flutternotes that take nutrients out of your own body to fly away as physical manifestations of telepathic messages. However, they paint a clear picture of a civilization that has far surpassed modern day technology. Justen’s character, a medic and a scientist, also helps to ground the technology in the realm of the practical. His medical research into the Reduction balanced with the court’s gadgets to create a wide span of technologies–the way technology is in the real world.

Persis Blake is a wonderful character. She is an intensely smart girl who is the heir to her family’s estate. When her best friend Isla suddenly becomes the princess regent of Albion, Persis drops her studies to accompany her to court as her closest advisor. Persis adopts the persona of Persis Flake, a stupid airhead aristo, to disguise her nighttime exploits as the world’s most infamous spy: The Wild Poppy. The conflict between her two personas is so pronounced and creates a fascinating dynamic within herself. She’s still the brilliant girl she was when she was top of her classes, before Isla became the regent, but all of it is trapped inside of her as she has to give airheaded responses to court gossip and turn the conversation away from anything of substance.

The dynamic between Isla and Persis impressed me. The two girls have been best friends for years, and remain so. However, Isla is under immense pressure as a ruler, with almost all of her court doubting her leadership, and the stress puts a burden on their relationship. It is clear that Isla is Persis’s queen, and she uses her power throughout the novel. Persis, for her part, is keeping secrets from Isla and feels like her best friend doesn’t understand her. Still, they are steadfastly friends. I loved that Peterfreund didn’t give them a flawless relationship–it wouldn’t have made sense with both of their characters.

And Justen. Justen the grandson of Persistence Helo, the genius who created the cure for the Reduction, making him famous and revered by all. He starts the book trying to escape Galatea’s revolution, which he was closely involved with. His escape involves meeting Persis, and when he gets back to court and asks for asylum, Isla makes the two pretend to be in love as a cover for his real reason for coming to Albion: further research into his grandmother’s cure. Persis is forced to be Persis Flake around Justen, even as she marvels at his intellect and longs for substantive discussions of political affairs. Justen thinks she is an idiot and cannot believe he got saddled with her.

This book is a lesson in dramatic irony (defined as when the reader knows more than the characters). Justen and Persis’s relationship progresses as Justen realizes that Persis is stupid but also caring–but you as a reader are dying, because you know just how brilliant Persis is. There are a ton of conversations between the two about who the Wild Poppy is. Their relationship is sweet and powerful, but also freaking frustrating, because you know the reveal is coming and you want Justen to appreciate Persis!!!!

(A note: Normally, the premise of this romance would put me off a book, but Peterfreund totally pulled it off.)

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys slightly ridiculous stories, spies, dramatic irony, romance, court drama, sci-fi/dystopian-ish stories–AHH just read it!

Comments with spoilers:

I loved the fact that Justen created the revolution’s Reduction drug. It was the perfect device to create internal conflicts within himself, and basically the only thing that could rip Persis away from him.

Remy and Viana were really interesting characters. I loved how Remy joined the League of the Wild Poppy, as well as the moment she realized that Persis Flake was the infamous spy. Viana was a bitch, sure, but her character was complex and her relationship with Justen added to the story. The sibling dynamic between all three of them was well crafted.

The scene when Justen and Persis’s parents find out that Persis is the Wild Poppy was PERFECT. It was so simple and yet earth-shattering.

This book needed an epilogue. I wanted a longer happy ending!

Book Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

I picked up this book because it was by Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn trilogy, currently my favorite series I’ve read this year. While this book was completely different from Mistborn, it was still amazing. I’m in love.

5/5 stars

Genre: YA dystopian, science fiction, action

Series: The Reckoners, book one

cover steelheart

 

Amazon description of Steelheart

How far would you go for revenge if someone killed your father?
If someone destroyed your city?
If everything you ever loved was taken from you?
David Charleston will go to any lengths to stop Steelheart. But to exact revenge in Steelheart’s world, David will need the Reckoners—a shadowy group of rebels bent on maintaining justice.
And it turns out that the Reckoners might just need David too.

Wow. I loved this book.

It is not Mistborn, which was almost-high fantasy, really freaking long, emotionally powerful, subtle, complex. A lot of this review will compare the two, but if you don’t know the first series, just ignore the extra bits.

The setting is a dystopia ruled by powerful beings called Epics. The city that he lives in, Newcago, is ruled by totalitarian Epic Steelheart, who murdered David’s father in his ascent to power, leaving David with a serious vendetta against him. It is an interesting dystopia however, because Steelheart’s regime has only been around for ten years. Most of the population has memories of what it was like before, something most dystopian authors cut out.

The story itself is action-oriented, with tons of fight scenes and gunfire. Elements of the world are science-fictiony. I definitely wanted a deeper understanding of how the science-y elements worked, how the technology functioned, but I trust that Sanderson will explain it in a later book (hopefully).

It is a fast, powerful read. As I said, lots of fight scenes, lots of explosions, lots of dodging bullets, but never in a cheesy way. Since they have advanced scientific technology to help them not get killed, it keeps the scenes from being totally unrealistic (AKA Steelheart is not like every episode of “Burn Notice” ever, which the cast totally should not have survived that many seasons of). The plot built quickly; Sanderson paced it well, and kept the reader guessing.

The characters were great. David is a lovable geek, with a seriously vindictive side. He’s impulsive. He’s horrible at metaphors. (More on that later). The Reckoners were characterized well, for me. Each one had a distinct personality and added something different to the book. Cody is by far my favorite, because pretty much everything he said had me laughing out loud. Sanderson created Megan’s character well, keeping her mysterious, keeping her in character. She was an actually strong female in a story that could have used her as a sexy body and nothing else. Her dynamic with David moved the story along without monopolizing it, letting the action be the focus of the plot (a novelty in the hyper-romanticized world of YA). Prof was a powerful character, the classic leader with a mysterious past. Though I saw hints of Mistborn’s Kelsier in him, Sanderson didn’t create a carbon copy, which helped to establish the differences between his series.

The plot twists! So many, so well executed. I can’t say more, cuz duh…spoilers. But seriously, guys, if you like surprising plots–Sanderson is your author.

Ooh! A note on David sucking at creating metaphors. It’s a running joke through the story, that he thinks way too much into his metaphors and they just don’t make sense. While it could have just been a running joke, for me it was more. I’ve spent so many hours in English classes disecting metaphors, analyzing the author’s diction. It was hilarious to read lines that really made me think about metaphors in our language, and why some work and others don’t. It’s kind of English-class-geeky of me, but I loved it.

I need book two, Firefight, to come out. I have to wait until January!!! The horror.