ARC Review: The Girl With the Wrong Name by Barnabas Miller

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: The Girl With the Wrong Name
author: Barnabas Miller
pages: 259
format: Paperback
isbn/asin: 978-1616951948
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4/5 (from hated to loved) or 7/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Dead Girls Don't Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf, What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler, and other devious mysteries.
Ever since “The Night In Question” left her with a hideous scar and no memory of what happened, Theo Lane has been hiding. An aspiring filmmaker, she uses a hidden button cam to keep the world at bay. She spends the entire summer in a Manhattan café, secretly documenting random “subjects.”

Once school starts, Theo finds her best friend has morphed into a flirtatious, short-skirt-clad stranger. Everyone ignores the scar. As if that will make it go away. The café remains her lunchtime refuge.

Her most interesting subject is the Lost Boy, a stranger who comes in every day at the same time. When she finally gets up the courage to talk to him she discovers why: the Lost Boy, Andy, is waiting for someone who said she’d meet him there…four days ago. Intoxicated by Andy’s love for this mystery girl, Theo agrees to help him find her, and her unhealthy obsession pulls her into a perilous, mind-bending journey. But is it really Andy’s world she’s investigating? Or is it her own?

in depth

This is a solid read that's been undeservedly overlooked.  If you're craving a young adult thriller, dive right in.  The Girl with the Wrong Name is a fast-moving, tightly plotted mystery that delivers plenty of chills and a shocking ending.  From the start, it's clear that Theo is a little addled from whatever happened to her on "the night in question."  Somehow, that night, she received a scar--and a fervent desire to get outside of her own head.  A desire that leads her to a cafe and to Andy, an aimless boy waiting for a girl with whom he spent a dazzling, adventurous night.  A girl who was supposed to meet him days ago.  The mystery is a perfect mystery for Theo to pursue--one that, unlike her night, seems solvable.  

Theo is quirky (sometimes too much so) and intriguing, just snarky and unreliable enough to make for a great narrator.  She's got a photographic memory for wedding announcements and she tends to script her life in her own head, while it's happening.  She's also obsessive, a quality which outpaces her reason on numerous occasions and moves the plot forward in surprising ways.  I wanted to know more about her as much as about the mystery with Andy, because it's clear there's a lot bubbling beneath her surface.  Andy, too, is a puzzle--lost, lonely, obsessed with a girl he met only once. 

The story is a little incredible in the most literal sense, so I couldn't buy all of it--but most of it is still plausible enough to chill and mystify.  As Theo and Andy discover more about the mystery girl, the world seems to turn cartwheels around them.  How is the girl connected to a bride Theo read about in the paper?  Why does the girl seem to recognize Theo? Why are Andy's memories of the night he spent with the girl so fuzzy and confused?  The deeper Theo digs, the more the mystery becomes her singular purpose, until a streak of antidepressants and sleepless nights explodes into a truth so wild and shocking, you'd never realize it was based on a true story.  Sleuth that I am, I didn't even guess the whole of it.  

What makes the novel especially satisfying is the way Theo narrates.  Her voice is raw, a little too clever sometimes, gritty and irreverent and believably teenaged.  Her narrative is punctuated by recording and stop buttons, showing where Theo's filming starts and stops, how it frames her whole world.  As the plot thickens, Theo's narrative becomes frenetic, almost hallucinatory, and spins an atmosphere of dissolution that leaves you bristling with a sense of the uncanny.  

It's a book that requires some suspension of disbelief, but one that startles--and lingers.  

in a sentence

The Girl with the Wrong Name is a frenetic mystery that mystifies, deceives, and delivers a satisfying, shocking reveal.  


will i read this author again?  Yep, I really dig his writing style   
will i continue the series?  N/A  

Note: I received this copy in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.


Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books I read in 2015 (ish) that weren't my type...but I liked them anyway

top ten tuesday                surprises

Hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  

Want to help support your broke blogger so she can host more giveaways and give swankier prizes?  Click the book covers.  If you like the book and choose to purchase it from Amazon, a little bit of the proceeds goes to Sarcasm & Lemons!   

I don't usually pick up books I don't think I'll like, so I had to do some reaching...  

c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten

one Vengeance Road - Erin Bowen 

I hate westerns.  John Wayne is boring.  I'd probably watch They Died with Their Boots On but only for Errol Flynn.  Only Erin's book is so swashbuckling and tense (with sexy gunslingers) that it became an exception to my rule.  
Walk on Earth a Stranger - Rae Carson 

Same goes for prairie stories.  F*ck Little House and gingham and freshly churned butter.  Only this book is actually vicious and brutal and takes the rosy cheeked sap right out of the west.  Also it's pretty.  
The Thing About Jellyfish - Ali Benjamin 

Heartwarming middle grade where kids feel feelings and make it through on the power of their childlike spirit?  Gag me.  But it's actually a poignant story of grief as experienced by a child, with writing an adult can admire.  
Saint Anything - Sarah Dessen 

This goes into my "pastel books with soft focus flowers on the cover" category, which I usually avoid.  Because they seem prissy and heartwarming.  Except Sarah is awesome and this book is authentically teen and a really compelling read.  And not pastel.  

five  What We Left Behind - Robin Talley 

Not only is it NA, but it's hardcore romance, aka the romance is the big part of the plot, which usually I'm like ...eh.  But it's social significance and authentic characters made it a winner.  

Dumplin' - Julie Murphy 

I saw "pageant" and "Texas" and wanted to scurry away, but everyone and their mother and mother's mother was raving about it.  It turned out to be pretty cute and fun, and I learned about mums. 
The Girl From Everywhere - Heidi Heilig 

I passed this over because I'm not hugely into pirate books for some reason--or at least I always think I'm not, even though I've liked loads of them... But with gorgeous prose, tight plotting, and admirable characters, it became a favorite of the year.  

eight Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon 

I don't get allergy books.  I was also fresh from disliking Trial By Fire.  But weirdo-disease book turned out to be super clever witty dry romance with dictionary definitions and diagrams for kissing.  Score.  
I'll Meet You There - Heather Demetrios 

Broken boy and girl in small town, problems, oh noooooooo.  It's a type of romance-heavy contemporary I usually stray from.  But this one had some layers of character that drew me in.  

ten  The Restorer - Amanda Stevens 

I don't usually read adult books about real adults because I'm totally not a real adult and I'm all like ew, marriage, jobs, blech.  But this NOLA-based supernatural crime thriller was riveting and spooky.  


ARC Review: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: A Madness So Discreet
author: Mandy McGinnis
pages: 376
format: Kindle ARC
isbn/asin: 978-0553499117
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 3.5/5 (from hated to loved) or 6/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Jackaby by William Ritter, Sherlock Holmes, and These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly.
Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

in depth

A Madness So Discreet is a delightfully sinister asylum story interwoven with a Sherlock Holmes crime story.  Grace is committed to a Victorian-era asylum for a peculiar kind of madness--pregnancy.  Like many a fallen girl, she's being shut up in the asylum until the birth to protect the reputation of her father, the senator.  Only it was his evil desires that ruined her.  Not for the faint of heart.  

The plot is intense and multilayered.  Grace is content to hide in the asylum to escape her father's depravity, but she grows increasingly worried for her younger sister.  When she becomes unruly, the cruel warden schedules her for a lobotomy--but the enigmatic Dr. Thornhollow instead whisks her away to a kinder asylum where he acts as a doctor, and moonlights as a criminal profiler.  With his forensic knowledge and Grace's photographic memory, he hopes to catch a rampant serial killer.  

Being a serial killer junkie myself (yes, I'm one of those people), I was thrilled to follow Grace and Thornhollow's investigation of the person going about slaughtering young women.  Their time period allows for a little looseness in the accuracy of their conclusions, so I didn't twitch.  Much.  Their search is breath-holdingly twisty and brings out a ferocity in Grace that I didn't expect.  McGinnis goes farther than most young adult authors would dare, and the darkness adds power to her words and a chill that lingers.  

Aside from the killer, Grace is struggling with her father's evil.  With her sister growing older, in danger of suffering her fate, she's desperate to expose her father's vile proclivities to the world before it's too late.  Her quest for revenge leads her into a desperate spiral that threatens to undo her very humanity, and casts shadow on the nature of madness.  

Dark and written in a poetic prose, A Madness So Discreet is an affecting crime novella that combines the best of Victorian charm with madness and murder.  The relationship between Grace and Thornhollow (who is absolutely pompous in an adorable, awkward way) is charged with shared fervor and hints of something more (although I wish there'd been more).  There were slow bits and some contrived plot points that keep me from giving this more stars.  There was also a something I was missing.  Another level of darkness, perhaps.  

However, it's a fantastic example of both crime fiction and an asylum story, and a delightfully harrowing read. 

in a sentence

Dark and twisted, A Madness So Discreet plays with your ideas of good and evil, sanity and madness, and spins a thrilling tale.  


will i read this author again?  Yeah, her style is admirable  
will i continue the series?  I'm actually not sure if there is one. Yes, if there is. 

Note: I received this copy in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.


Throwback Thursday: Character Psychology 101: Emotional abuse is not romance

character psych 101


If you've been a long time follower, you may remember this feature.  It combines my passion for and expertise in psychology with my love for books!  And I want to bring it back.  Every post I'll have a different topic linking psychology (with actual real facts from research!) to popular fiction.  Hopefully this will be interesting as both a deeper discussion of the novel, as well as teaching you something you may not have known.  To kick off the renewal of this topic, I'd like to share the first Character Psych 101 post. 

twilight & abusive relationships

So, let’s imagine a relationship between two people, a boy and a girl in high school. They meet and there’s instant attraction. The boy oscillates between flirting with the girl and telling her to stay away from him. Eventually he gives in. They date. She spends all of her time with him. Her family and friends don’t know where she goes or what she does with him. He disapproves of some of her close friends and tries to get her to stop seeing them. He tells her what to do because he wants to keep her safe. They alternate between blissful making out and extreme fights. He’s her only world. She’s his source of redemption.

Anyone else creeped out yet? Because this describes Bella and Edward in Twilight, as well as many of the relationships that are pop up in teen, young adult, or new adult romance.  (I'm going to pick on Twilight because it's popular enough to have some armor and because it's almost universally familiar to people.)  It also describes your garden-variety abusive relationship. 

And it’s not romantic. It’s not sweet. It’s glorifying a controlling union in which the boy is free to be possessive and authoritarian because it’s seen as sweet, caring, insert more delusional crap here. It’s sick. And it’s giving teen girls a very twisted idea of an ideal relationship. Girls aren’t guilt-free either. Our heroines are often guilty of many of the same controlling, possessive behaviors--and tend to get called out on it less.

This isn't new.  This isn't groundbreaking.  But how many times do we have to talk about this before people start getting the hint?  Twilight.  Hush, Hush.  The Vampire Diaries.  50 Shades of Gray.  The D.U.F.F.    Don't make me keep listing.

Sure, you don’t see a lot of YA heroes out there hitting their girlfriends. Most people know how to recognize that kind of abuse. But what about emotional abuse? Let’s take a look.

Common types of emotional abuse courtesy of The Hotline, and some Twilight examples:

  • Calls you names, insults you, or criticizes you

  • Does not trust you and acts jealous or possessive -- This is hugely common in YA. Edward gets annoyed that Jacob gives Bella a present (Twilight). Yeah, all people get jealous, but Edward's reaction to Jacob's affections for Bella are over-the-top and don't give Bella the agency to handle the situation herself.   

  • Tries to isolate you from family or friends -- Sounds extreme, right? Well, what about Edward disabling Bella’s truck so that she couldn’t go visit Jacob? Pretty creepy.

  • Monitors where you go, who you call, and who you spend time with -- See above about the truck. Also all of Edward’s annoyance over Bella’s relationship with Jacob. Even telling her to stay away from him.   

  • Punishes you by withholding affection

  • Expects you to ask permission -- Edward gets super annoyed every time Bella goes off and does something risky on her own without telling him first.   

  • Humiliates you in any way
  • Monitors your communication -- Spying on your partner's cell phone is not cool.

These are just some examples , but the fact that they’re part of a relationship portrayed as desirable and ideal is worrisome. What’s wrong with healthy relationships built on mutual trust? It's fine for books to portray abuse, but when it's done uncritically and in the guise of idealized romance, it sends a dangerous message about women should want and expect. 

And it's dangerous.  Emotional abuse damages a person's self-esteem over time.  It can isolate people from friends and family to the point where their partner is their only meaningful relationship, and they have no where else to turn.  Maybe Edward preventing Bella from seeing Jacob is seen as a harmless mistake in the book, but if a guy did that in real life, it's almost certainly a sign of controlling, coercive behavior.  While Edward thankfully didn't ridicule or demean Bella, this is one of the most common (and damaging) parts of emotional abuse.  Both in research and in anecdotes from battered women I've worked with, many assert that they'd rather have their partner hit them than verbally attack them--the emotional abuse felt worse and the effects lasted longer. 

While Edward and Bella's relationship doesn't show some of the most severe kinds of abuse, it's full of incidents and red flags that are characteristic of abusers.  It's often these "lesser" forms of abuse that eventually escalate into more violent forms.  By that time, the woman or man feels trapped. 



What are some examples of abusive relationships or behavior in YA and teen books?
What characters fit the abuser profile? 
What are some examples of healthy relationships in YA and teen books?

Other Links:

Twilight and the Abuse Checklist: In which a clever reader goes through the abuse checklist and finds that Edward and Bella fit nearly all of the warning flags.
Relationship violence in Twilight -- In which a psychologist discusses how Bella is the prototypical woman at risk for abuse.
Bad Romance -- A fantastic post about YA novels, particularly Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, and rape culture.


Top Ten Tuesday: (on Wednesday) Songs that should be adapted as books

top ten tuesday                songs

Hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  

Want to help support your broke blogger so she can host more giveaways and give swankier prizes?  Click the book covers.  If you like the book and choose to purchase it from Amazon, a little bit of the proceeds goes to Sarcasm & Lemons!   

Just think, if I were still in my emo/pop punk phase...  

c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten

one"Snuff" - Slipknot

Just imagine the drama!  It'd be YA horror romance.  It's decided.  

So break yourself against my stones
And spit your pity in my soul
You never needed any help

You sold me out to save yourself
two"First" - Cold War Kids 

Another favorite.  Contemporary romance?  With some dark magical realism, perhaps?  

There comes a time, in a short life
Turn it around, get a rewrite
Call it a dark, night of the soul

Ticking of clocks, gravity’s pull
three"The Funeral" - Band of Horses  

Continuing the dark trend (maybe I'm not over my emo days...), this would be a tragic fairy tale reimagining.  

I'm coming up only to hold you under
And coming up only to show you're wrong
And to know you is hard; we wonder...
To know you all wrong; we warn. 
four"Bad Blood" - Bastille  

An intense, richly descriptive high fantasy about long-warring factions and shattered friendships. 

We were young and drinking in the park
There was nowhere else to go
And you said you always had my back

Oh but how were we to know?

five"Maps" - The Front Bottoms  

Think of a dark comedy--a road trip story with a few dark turns but a bright underside, ala Little Miss Sunshine.  

She says that I cannot go she sees my plane in the ocean.
And what about your friends don't you love them enough to stay.
And I say if I don't leave now then I will never get away.
Let me be a blue raft on a blue sea I'll blend right in.  

six"Modern Jesus" - Portugal. The Man

Think tongue-in-cheek black humor, teens in high school, mental health issues, glitz and shadow like Less Than Zero.  

You don't need sympathy
They got a pill for everything
Just take that dark cloud

Ring it out to wash it down, but...
seven"Dustland Fairytale" - The Killers 

There's a story here already, hidden enough to allow creativity.  A late-in-life romance?  A 60s teenage coming-of-age slash love story?  With magical elements?  

Saw Cinderella in a party dress,
But she was looking for a nightgown.
I saw the devil wrapping up his hands,
He's getting ready for the showdown 

eight"The Man Who Sold the World" - David Bowie (covered by Nirvana) 

Interstellar space opera with existential themes and glitter!  

We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when
Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend
Which came as some surprise I spoke into his eyes

I thought you died alone, a long long time ago
nine"Rollercoaster" - Bleachers 

I had to look really hard for a happy one. I knew I had one somewhere. ... So, cute summertime romance, don't you think?  The kind I pretend not to like.  

I think about it everyday and night I can't let go
Man, I'm never the same
We were shotgun lovers

I'm a shot gun running away

ten"Beware the Dog" - The Griswolds 

Imagine it: twisted Alice in Wonderland fantasy non-romance adventure.  Bam.  

Beware the ghost who lives on Salamander Road
Trapped in a cloud of smoke
It's old enough to know better than it knows

Ate so much you better leave that prick alone


Book Blurb Breakdown: Rebel Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

book blurb breakdown

Book Blurb Breakdown is a Sarcasm & Lemons feature where your anal English degree-holding author (gently) rips apart jacket blurbs to pin down what makes her want to pick up the book instantly--and what makes her want to throw it at the wall.  See the original post for more detail.  

If you'd like to do a breakdown, here's a snazzy little button!  Post your link in the comments. 

today's blurb

Status:  Unread

the blurb: as is 

from Goodreads

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from. 

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is. 

the blurb:  shredded 

She’s more gunpowder than girl (I really like this line. It's sassy and moreover, short.)—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands. (The second half is okay. Not sure if I like the em dash.  The whole thing is a great, pithy opener, though.)

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, (Like "mirage?" *eye twitches* *yes, is a snob about names) but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, (Full stop, please!) and (Remove this traitorous 'and'!  Edit: I might have changed my mind about the 'and.') rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. (Djinni! Yeah, it's a trend, but I'm always open for more. Plus, I like the sort of mythical set-up we have here in the desert.) But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, (Why is this name in English?!) the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from. (Is Amani "she?" This is nitpicky, but her name should be introduced in the first paragraph to promote continuity. Or the first paragraph should be one of those italicized taglines.  However, I'm already pleased with the set-up.  Not too flowery, enough to give a sense of the world we're going into.) 

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," (I have a feeling I'm going to like this lady's writing style.  Tehe.) Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. (Um, how? Is there some kind of contest?)  When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, (*cough*Love interest. Is he "just about her age?") in a shooting contest, (Should mention this above.) she figures he’s the perfect escape route.  (Because he's a foreigner? Do they all come with escape plans? I'm being snarky, but I really am intrigued by the plot. I'm all for female sharpshooting badasses.) But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. (Now you've locked me in. Armies! Fugitives! HORSIES. In one sentence, the stakes are laid out and amped up.) And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him (The Sultan or the horse?  Kidding...but seriously.)...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is. (Is she magical!? Why doesn't she know who she is?) 

the verdict 

4/5 stars
would i read it?:  yes 

I like that this one is short and punchy, except that it sometimes sacrifices clarity for succinctness.  There are a few orphaned pronouns running about, some excessive conjunctions, and a few ideas mashed together that would do well to spend time apart.  And if you're going to introduce "hero has big secret," you might want to allude to that in the first bit.  Plus, you know, typical young adult tropes and such, but I can't really blame it too much here.  (WAIT, IS JIN A DJINNI!?)  Hem.  Aside aside, I'm still intrigued by this book.  The unique phrasing (wed or dead, gunpowder girl) gives me high hopes for the writer's prose, and for the most part, the plot is outlined tightly, giving away just enough to entice without spoiling the punchline.  

Also mythological horses.  

*mic drop*  

your thoughts

Does this blurb grab you?  
Do you agree with my thoughts?  If not, how so?  
Have you read it?  Does the blurb match the pages? 
Do you have any recommendations for blurbs I should shred?  



ARC Review: Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Illuminae
author: Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
pages: 599
format: Beautiful hardcover ARC
isbn/asin: 978-0553499117
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Firefly (yes, that one), The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett, and space-heavy hardcore science fiction.
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 an 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.

in depth

Illuminae is a motherxxxxxxx phenomenon.  A young adult book like no other, it capitalizes on one of my favorite things--turning the formatting upside-down and sideways--and creates an entire novel out of letters, IMs, emails, error reports, transcriptions, and visual representations.  xxxxxx xxxx xx xsssssssssxxxxxx, it's one of the best novels of the year.  

Meet Kady.  She's a badxxx hacker with 

  • a dirty mouth, 
  • a deathwish, 
  • a xxxxxxx amazing coldly calculating sciencey brain.  

She just broke up with Ezra, who is 
  • kind of goofy, 
  • a motherxxxxxxxx battle pilot, 
  • stuck on a different ship.  
Their planet was just nearly completely destroyed in a huge crazy explosion by an intergalactic company.  Now, the survivors are scattered onto several different ships, one of which is controlled by a murderous super intelligent computer with a weird affection for Kady and a xxxx-poor knowledge of sarcasm:  AIDAN.  After AIDAN xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxx, it becomes clear that Kady, Ezra, and the survivors are in much bigger trouble than they realized.  Either they'll reach the nearest safe zone in time, or they'll be blown to tiny space-bits.  

Getting the picture yet?  Illuminae isn't your typical science-fiction novel.  It isn't your typical novel.  If you want long paragraphs of description and dialogue, go find another book.  If you're a little more adventurous and like p u t t i n g   t h e   p i e c e s   together, then pick up this book!  You have to be okay with a little frustration and confusion.  You're not getting a linear narrative.  Plot points are hidden behind the scenes and a lot happens off-screen.  You have to fill in the blanks to get to know the characters, but I found them charming and easy to read.  

I, personally, found it xxxxxxx refreshing to be treated like a xxxxxxxxx intelligent reader rather than a child who needs to be spoon-fed.  You get to know the characters through how they choose to present themselves.  There were times when I was a bit confused, but it just added to the fun.  Best part:  the document of files is canon, as in someone in the book is reading it just as you are, which is super xxxxxxx meta.  And Kaufman and Kristoff have a fantastic sense of pacing.  It's always moving.  Something is always happening.  A huge disaster like that thing that happened that I can't say may occur on two brief, but visually stunning, pages.  And it packs a punch.  

The only thing that bugged me was that some of the things didn't really seem like something you'd see in a secret dossier of files collected by a xxxxx xxx xxxxx xxx xx xxxxxxx xxx xxx xxx xxxxxxx.  Like, it's cute that the person transcribing the videos has a poetic sense, but seriously--we're in the post-space age.  They'd just send video.  And the spy person is not going to sit making pretty artistic representations of people getting sucked into a space vacuum.  So sometimes I was pulled out, reminded this was a novel.  

But overall?  It's a xxxxxxx intense, elaborate science-fiction thriller that left me aching for another installment.  There are moments of black humor that punctuate the chaos, showing that even in totally xxxxxd up circumstances, people are still people.   

Also, AIDAN is Sheldon-level hysterical.  Don't tell him I said that.

in a sentence

Darkly funny, eerily beautiful, and constantly thrilling, Illuminae is an experimental novel-in-pieces that breaks everything you thought you knew about science fiction.  


will i read this author again?  Yes, both of them!    
will i continue the series?  YES I wanted to continue it the second I turned the last page.  Grump.  

Note: I received this copy in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.


ARC Review We'll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: We'll Never Be Apart
author: Emiko Jean
pages: 279
format: Kindle ARC
isbn/asin: 978-0544482005
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4/5 (from hated to loved) or 7.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, Dead Girls Don't Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf, and other twisted, twisty mysteries.



That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths.

Is the one person she trusts only telling her half the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean.

in depth

The only thing I'd really heard going into this novel was that it's beautifully written--and I was far from disappointed.  In the voices of Alice's narration and Cellie's diary, Jean creates a richly layered world, dark and glittering and severely unsettling.  Jean's prose is as sharp as a knife, at times sweet and at times grotesquely poetic.   It was this skin-prickling atmosphere that kept me reading even when elements of the thriller were predictable or unbelievable, and it's this atmosphere that keeps this book in my memory.  

Alice is in a mental institution, ruled criminally insane.  Again.  First committed for a crime she was unwittingly party to, she's here again for a deadly fire that scarred her and killed her beloved Jason.  A fire set by her twin.  When wolfish bad-boy Chase seems to have information about Cellie's whereabouts, Alice recruits him to help her find her sister--and enact her revenge.  Despite some are-you-serious moments (I mean, two kids escaping unseen from a state psychiatric facility?  Nowadays?  Unlikely.), it's a story that hinges more on its emotional payoff than its plot-shockers.  

I had an inkling what might happen from the start, but I don't think the book is any less for the lack of surprise.  If you read enough thrillers, you learn the patterns and the likely ends.  Like any romance.  Like any adventure.  What distinguishes any good story is the telling.  We'll Never Be Apart is one of the best young adult psychological thrillers I've ever read.  With shades of Gone Girl's he-said-she-said, it weaves together two contradictory narratives, leaving you chasing the gaps and lies until the very end.  

Its narrators were it for me.  Alice is a hollow, distrustful wraith of herself, alive only with the fire of her grief and burning for revenge.  Cellie is cold cruelty, a psychopath who protects her vulnerable heart with blood and bone.  I believed them, connected fully with their emotions, sympathized with both and raged at both.  And they made me believe in the unscrupulous doctors; Jason, romantic with a dark edge that keeps you at bated breath around him; Chase, liquid pain in a snarky shell.  In their bleak world of hypodermic needles and chipped linoleum. 

I think if your enjoyment of thrillers hinges on a totally unexpected reveal, you'll be disappointed.  If you're more interested in a brutally beautiful journey, then this is one to pick up.  

in a sentence

We'll Never Be Apart is a beautifully-written exploration of dark, broken minds.  


will i read this author again?  Yes, I love her style  
will i continue the series?  N/A 

Note: I received this copy in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.