The Backlist: The Illuminae Files

Hello all! I’m back with another set of backlist reviews. This time around I look at The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This trilogy was one of my surprise reads of 2018. I constantly avoided these books, honestly, because I hated the bright orange cover of Illuminae. Well, you know the saying about judging book covers and ooooh boy did my aversion to orange kick me in the teeth because The Illuminae Files are STELLAR!

 

Illuminae | Read March 1 -3, 2018 | 5 Stars

HOLY HECK I LOVED THIS BOOK! I didn’t know to expect going into this read, but a fast paced, hilarious, and INTENSELY CREEPY science fiction story that was told in an incredible and unique format was not it.

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Me for basically the entire book.

To say this book exceeded my expectations would be a vast understatement. The story stars Kady Grant, a spectacularly snarky computer hacker, Ezra Miller, her very pretty and very recent ex-boyfriend, and AIDAN, who I won’t say much about because I’m not sure if it’d count as spoilers but hot damn they are the best character. There is inaudible profanity, snark, slow burn creepiness, snark, space battles, snark, dire situations with dire consequences, and oh, did I mention the SNARK? This little quick review doesn’t even begin to describe all the awesome held within the obscenely orange cover of this book. If you like science fiction, or want to dip a toe into this genre pool, I 1000% recommend this book. Honestly, it is probably my favorite book read in 2018.

 

Gemina | Read March 7 – 16, 2018 | 4.5 stars

Oh boy, was I full of trepidation going into this one. I’m never a fan when a story suddenly shifts to the perspectives of whole new characters for large chunks of the story. What if these new characters didn’t fill the snarky, murder-y desires of my heart? But my fears were for naught BECAUSE HOLY HECK I LOVED THIS BOOK! Honestly, I have but one issue with this book and I’ll save it for the very end of this review because it is a spoiler (don’t worry, I’ll put up a warning before it hits). In Gemina, we get a new main trio to love, along with a cast of awesome and/or villainous characters. Hanna is the rich, spoiled, but well-trained daughter of Jump Station Heimdall’s captain. Nik is the attractive bad boy from the station’s crime family who supplies Hanna with drugs and snark. And Ella is Nik’s cousin who put’s Kady’s wit and hacking skills to shame. All three of them are forced to work together as a BeiTech strike team attack the jump station. But there is another sinister and creepy plot going on throughout the jump station and basically everything crescendos into glorious chaos. This book is another intense and snarky space adventure told in the same amazing format as the previous book. And now we come to the…

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SPOILER ALERT!

Literally the ONLY reason I knock this book down to a 4.5 is because of the author’s fall back on killing off a main character in an emotionally traumatic way and then bringing them right back. I LOATHE when this becomes a repeat thing. And while it was handled in a different way than in Illuminae, it still irritated me a bit.

END SPOILERS!

 

Obsidio | Read March 17 – 24, 2018 | 4 stars

I struggled with the rating of this one. Honestly, as I write this I am still wavering if I should kick it up to 4.5. Because this was a fantastic end to this trilogy. But I can’t explain much without being completely spoilery. I’ll dance around it for a bit and see if I can figure out how to say it. This book brings us yet another new set characters and I think these are the ones that deeply explore the emotional trauma of war/invasion the most. The scenes on the occupied surface of Kerenza are intense. It reminded me a lot of Season 3 of Battlestar Galactic. But even with how emotionally impactful the concept of the Kerenza scenes were, I felt like I had very little left to give the new characters. I think they were still well written and the Kerenza plot was good, but I spent most of the time waiting for scenes with the original crew. The plot is tense, and the action is superb. There are twists and turns and some damn fine writing. Certain things that are revealed in this book kinda blew my mind a little bit. As an ending goes, it was wholly satisfying.

SPOILERS BELOW FOR WHY I KNOCKED THIS ONE DOWN TO 4 STAR

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The authors pulled the “dead but not dead” fake out AGAIN! I was so damn angry with this. So angry. It’s lazy and I saw it coming a mile away. It makes me even angrier considering how often Jay Kristoff harps on other writers for lazy writing (his Instagram stories are amusing AF). And now that I’m typing this out I am fully okay with a 4 star. Either kill your darlings or don’t. You shouldn’t have it both ways. Especially more than once. Ugh.

END SPOILERS

 

All in all, I am angry at myself for staying away from these books for so long (*shakes fist at orange cover of Illuminae*). While I had one consistent issue with these books, I still consider them one of my new favorite Sci Fi series. I’d give the trilogy as a whole 4.5 stars. Kaufman and Kristoff have a new Sci Fi series that they are working on and HOLY HECK I CANNOT WAIT!

 

Thanks for joining me for another Backlist post! I’m not sure which ones I’ll be doing next. I must go stare at my shelves and see what jumps out at me.

The Confectioner’s Guild: The book directly responsible for me re-watching Great British Baking Show…again…

The Confectioner’s Guild by Claire Luana
Publisher: Live Edge Publishing
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Rating: 4.5/5
Spoiler Warning: No major spoilers revealed. One, very minor reveal of a character’s intentions.

Okay, before I start screaming about how much I loved this book (because y’all, I LOVED THIS BOOK), let me first give you the synopsis snagged from GoodReads:

A magic cupcake. A culinary killer. The perfect recipe for murder.

Wren knew her sweet treats could work wonders, but she never knew they could work magic. She barely has time to wrap her head around the stunning revelation when the head of the prestigious Confectioner’s Guild falls down dead before her. Poisoned by her cupcake.

Now facing murder charges in a magical world she doesn’t understand, Wren must discover who framed her or face the headsman’s axe. With the help of a handsome inspector and several new friends, Wren just might manage to learn the ropes, master her new powers, and find out who framed her. But when their search for clues leads to a deep-rooted conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, she realizes that the guild master isn’t the only one at risk of death by chocolate.

If Wren can’t bring the powerful culprit to justice, she and her friends will meet a bittersweet end.

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I have literally never requested a book through NetGalley as fast as I did for this book. YA magical murder mystery with a handsome inspector? My hopes rose like bread dough in a proving drawer. Oh gosh, no, that was bad and will be the only baking simile I attempt. Needless to say, I was expecting a lot from this read.

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And this book delivered!  It has been a long time since I’ve had so much fun reading a book. I’m fairly certain I had a smile on my face the entire time I was reading it. Though there are small bits a darkness, this story was light and fun and an absolute delight.

Wren Confectioner is a slightly sassy orphan girl who goes from an underappreciated apprentice at a baker’s shop to a journeyman at the Confectioner’s Guild AND gets accused of murder, all within the course of a couple days. There is a lot to love about Wren: she is confident in her skills as a baker while also being humble, she knows what she wants, and she has a mysterious back story. She is not an all knowing, perfect main character and that makes her seem real. While she can hold her own against the flirtations of the extremely handsome Hale, she makes mistakes and learns from them. My one issue with Wren is her age…16. You’ll understand why that is problematic in a minute…

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Let’s move one to the main men of the book, Lucas and Hale. Don’t be alarmed, this book is no love triangle. Lucas is tall, lean, and dark (lord help me, he has slightly graying hair, gray eyes, is an inspector, and lives above a bookstore. SIGN ME UP FOR LUCAS!). Hale is taller, broader, brighter, and described as virile. We are told Lucas is around 20 and while we don’t get an age for Hale, he is always described as a man, so I’m going with 20s for him as well. Remember when I said Wren was SIXTEEN? I honestly felt she was more of an 18 year old, but her character was written to be 16 because ALL YA female MCs are 16.  I had to ignore the age thing so I didn’t feel too cringe-y when Hale came at her with his flirtations or when I accepted that Lucas was wanting to court Wren instead of me.

26BRNqyHdCgrRPyWk(Me, when I read about Lucas)

There were a fair amount of other characters in this book so I won’t go into each of them, but the core cast was well fleshed out. I think Sable was probably the most intriguing and relateable of the bunch. I hope we learn more of her backstory as the books go on. The secondary cast of characters were a little less realized and I’m hoping that is just because we’ll get more of them in future books. But everyone felt real and beneficial to the story.

Outside of the characters, we’ve got some stellar world building and a nice mystery to solve. I felt like I had a pretty firm grasp on the world this book is set in. It took me a hot minute to figure out the Guilds and how they worked with the politics of Alesia. There is definitely set up for more story outside of the Guilds in future books. I liked the mystery aspect of the book, though I think avid mystery fans will figure things out sooner rather than later. For me, I try not to figure out the “whodunit” aspect of stories. I tend to enjoy reading mysteries more if I just roll with the main character on their investigation.

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And now for the ending of the book…

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Kidding, I’m keeping this spoiler free. Mostly, I just wanted a reason to use that Great British Bake Off gif because it is in fact the perfect description of the ending of this book.

At the end of it all, I love this book. Love, love, love it. This book has reminded me that even though I love tragic, dark stories, there is something to be said about fun, feel good books. Especially ones with handsome inspectors.

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Visit the author’s website, claireluana.com, for more information about pre-orders, pre-order swag (!!!), and her other books (which I’m probably going to go buy all of now)!

This book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley at my request. All thoughts and opinions are completely my own. Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.