Book review: Illuminae (aka, the book that restored my faith in YA)

Illuminae: aka, the book that restored my faith in YAConsider this the book that restored my faith in YA. It was almost a five-star book but I ended up deducting half a star; I’ll explain at the end why I’m taking off half a star.

I initially added this book to my TBR list because so many of my fellow GR readers were giving it the thumbs up and dropping phrases like “teen hackers” and “space zombies”, which, let’s be real, sounded kind of cool. But it wasn’t exactly a book I prioritized, even after I got approved for an ARC from NetGalley. The ARC sat untouched and while I meant to get around to reading it, for some reason, this book just didn’t jump out at me as a “must read very soon” type of title.

I think it’s mostly because of the blurb, which does not do this book justice. It sounds like basically every YA adventure/romance blurb on the back of every much-hyped YA book ever. In other words…snoozefest. But then my husband bought me a copy for Christmas and so I finally sat down to see what the hype was all about. And boy, am I glad I did.

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Book review: Choose Your Own Autobiography, by Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris "Choose Your Own Autobiography"(Thank you to Blogging for Books for the review copy!)

I’m beginning to think that maybe autobiographies are just not my cup of tea. I’ve read a few in the past year and haven’t enjoyed any of them that much. I think it’s partly that I’m just not a huge “fan” of very many celebrities and I don’t care that much about their life stories, so it makes it a little hard to get into their autobiographies. For Neil Patrick Harris in particular, I know very little about him or his career–I actually know him better from Harold and Kumar than from How I Met Your Mother or Doogie Howser–so while many of the career anecdotes are amusing, they just don’t mean much to me.

And to be honest, if you don’t know a lot about a celebrity, reading about their personal life is kind of a snooze. It’s like sitting next to a stranger on a bus while they show you pictures of their kids. You try not to be rude and yawn, but the whole time you’re thinking, I don’t know you or any of these people. I don’t really want to hear another anecdote about your family vacation!

I think if you were a fan of Neil and his work then you’d like this book much better. The Choose Your Own  Adventure-style format is fun and some of the stories are funny. The book overall was just not really my taste, I ended up skimming parts of it because I wasn’t that interested.

Choose Your Own Autobiography, by Neil Patrick Harris (paperback, 304 pages). Genre: nonfiction, memoir, humor. Two out of five stars.

Five books to read if you loved ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’

Five books to read if you loved 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies'

I’ve loved Pride and Prejudice for years. I love books and movies with zombies. So obviously, when I found Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I fell in love! If you’ve already read the book and saw the movie this weekend, and are now looking for other titles in a similar vein, here are five of my picks you might enjoy:

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by Amanda Grange. What if Elizabeth Bennett’s beloved wasn’t quite the dashing gentleman she imagined him to be?

Phoenix Rising (The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1), by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. Corsets, check. Feisty heroines, check. Unabashed fun, check.

Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Not gonna lie, the ending wasn’t as tear-jerking as I hoped. But this was still an awesome book about (get ready) rage zombies in outer space.

The Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks. You didn’t think this would not be on the list, did you?

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James. Not of the undead kind, unfortunately—just regular murder—but this is still a fun re-imagining of life with the Darcys. Also a PBS miniseries, if you’d rather watch it than read it.

Have you read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or seen the movie? What did you think? Any similar titles you’d recommend to me? (If you haven’t read the book yet, make sure to enter my giveaway over here!)

Whim: Thought Questions: 337-343

Whim: Thought Questions: 337-343(Whim photo by Greg Rakozy via Unsplash)

337: Who or what is the greatest enemy of mankind? Ignorance. It drives religious warfare, racial discrimination, and every other kind of spiteful, divisive activity that turns one man against another.

338: What’s something you wish you had done earlier in life? Probably traveled, before I was tied down. But I would say I am happy with my life overall today, the wanderlust gets a bit less with each passing year. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

339: What is the closest you have ever come to fearing for your life? I got horribly sick once and wound up in the ER. Passing out and waking up in the hospital is pretty scary, especially when you’re not often sick.

#340: How do you deal with isolation and loneliness? I don’t really get lonely. I guess I am not a very social person. But usually I can text one of my friends or snuggle a cat and that makes me less lonely.

#341: What do you know well enough to teach to others? How to make excellent chocolate chip cookies. This is a work of art years in the making.

#342: What’s a quick decision you once made that changed your life? Kissed a boy on a whim. Eight years later, here we are. (Happy Valentine’s!)

#343: What have you lost interest in recently? I’ve kind of lost interest in life in general. I’ve just felt a bit blah. I keep trying to feel better though. Hopefully as spring comes I’ll perk up a little—I think I’m just really tired of being cold!!

Top Ten Tuesday: historical and futuristic settings I love

Top Ten Tuesday: historical and futuristic settings I loveIt’s time once again for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! This week we’re discussing the historical and futuristic settings we love best. I love both genres but lately I’ve read lots of dystopia, since it seems to be a popular genre of late and I do really like sci-fi. Here are ten books with historical and futuristic settings that I’ve really loved, broken down book by book.

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. Well, it’s historical fiction, time travel, adventure, mystery, and romance, all rolled into one, so it touches multiple bases in my genre-reading category. But I really enjoy seeing historical events through the eyes of a modern woman (Claire). She’s feisty and outspoken and constantly gets into trouble for her big mouth.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness. I always find it interesting to read about a futuristic society without realizing it—that is, you don’t start to get hints of a sci-fi story until several chapters in. Some sci-fi authors seems to feel the need to hit you over the head with the sci-fi elements so I appreciate subtlety.

Lock In, by John Scalzi. This book blew me away with the writing. I’ve read very few sci-fi books that so subtly slip in details and background and manage to weave such a complex story without confusing you or resorting to info dumps. Supposedly this was the start of a series but I haven’t seen any updates on further installments.

The Map of Time and The Map of the Sky, by Felix J. Palma. Historical sci-fi is so awesome and yet so rare (at least to my knowledge). These books feature H.G. Wells as a protagonist in Victorian London, and yet they deal with sci-fi elements like time travel and alien invasions. I can’t explain how awesome they are, you just need to read them. I just found out that The Map of Chaos was published recently and now I can’t wait to read it and see how the trilogy wraps up!

Best historical and futuristic settings in books

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, and The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. Sci-fi, dystopia, and other futuristic books can sometimes feel mechanical or too formulaic, so I always appreciate finding a futuristic tale that’s beautifully written. Both of these books look at a post-apocalyptic human future, though one focuses on earth and one is set in outer space. The writing is lyrical and the pacing just perfect. I will definitely re-read these books in the future.

In the Land of Armadillos, by Helen Maryles Shankman and The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey. One is a collection of interwoven short stories set in World War II-era Poland, the other is a novel set in Alaska during the time of settlers, gold rushes, and new frontiers. Both blend historical fact with fiction and a healthy dose of magical realism, for a result unlike anything else I’ve encountered.

Abandon, by Blake Crouch. I love it when an author takes a historical mystery and makes up their own story for it. This one had a really creepy bent to it that made it perfect for horror novel lovers as well.

So what historical and futuristic settings do you love best? Do you prefer historical fiction or futuristic stories? Are futuristic stories that aren’t super sci-fi cool or do you prefer lots of otherworldly tech and dystopia? What about historical stories—do you like lots of period details, or do you like it when the author uses their imagination?