If you want world-building of awesome and relatable characters and a super voice, then ‘In the Dark Spaces’ by Cally Black is for you.
It’s SciFi with added ethical conundrums and a dash of Stockholm syndrome. Prepare to cry. And grin. And be absorbed.
My library wants my copy back, stat, and I’m that working-my-shift-button-stuck kind of busy ATM. Plus I just spilt tea on my keyboard…
So I’ll keep this quick.
Fabulously Awesome Book.
It won the Ampersand Prize and it’s so obvious why. Be prepared to get 3/4 of the way through and have one of those existential crises where you question why you ever bother to write because Black does it so well…
… Of course, we write because we can’t imagine life without writing, and we read because sometimes they’re as perfect as this book! 🙂
Take care everyone. Don’t spill your tea.
Ok, people. Hands up who totally loves The Illuminae Files?
<Earth shudders on its axis as billions of hands are raised>
It’s no secret I really dig this series. I love the way it’s written. I love the way you have to work to read it. I love the way it makes you question good and bad and ethics and whether we all should have a murderous AI watching our backs.
I jumped at the opportunity to read ‘Obsidio’ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff as soon as it turned up shiny (literally) bright and new at my library.
I was not disappointed 🙂
Questions are answered. Body counts are added to. There are laughs. There is panic.
There is AIDAN…
Right. So, what are a few aspects I loved?
- That dash of you-can-do-this-too
- The distinct VOICES
Hello beautiful cover. I think I’ll read you…
It started with the gorgeous cover, but this is a clever and crisp novel that followed through on expectations. ‘These Broken Stars’ by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner was a fab accompaniment to a great holiday.
And it only got better on my second read, because it was so crafty I didn’t notice some of the cool things the authors were weaving into it until I started analysing.
‘These Broken Stars’ is the first in the successful The Starbound Trilogy. We have society girl, Lilac, and low-born army hero Tarver. Sparks fly, their spaceship fails to, and they find themselves stranded together on a planet with too many mysteries.
I loved the clues and suspense, and the gentle beauty that came from two people hiking and learning about themselves as they went. I also love hiking, but I don’t think that’s a prerequisite to enjoying this fab book.
So, what was great about it?
Let’s do some deconstruction… and beware the occasional (read: frequent) blatant spoiler… Here are three areas I’m going to focus on for this novel.
- Multiple plot themes = ongoing interest
- Characters and POV (I know, I sound like a broken record…)
- Subtle introduction of ideas so you don’t even notice you’re noticing them
I’d heard a heap of good about this book, earning it a place in Swifty the caravan on my latest holiday.
I was not disappointed. This is classic YA.
It’s fab to see a debut book that is so polished. ‘Spark’ by Rachael Craw ticks all the YA boxes. Happily it does so without the sort of contrived staging that would drive me to make a list of all the ticks it ticks as I tick each off. If you get my drift.
Anyhoo… Let’s look at what I think worked for this one.
- Straight-into-it structure
- Super-solid world-building
- Intrigue with some good ol’ fashioned whodunnit
- Off-limits romance.
Maybe it’s a book-nerd thing, but I really loved how this book both pokes fun at, and pays homage to, the mighty Chosen One trope. I loved the nuances, I loved the giggles and I even loved the confusion.
Confusion…? What are you talking about Heather? Good books don’t confuse you! Except sometimes they do…
‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ by Patrick Ness had me scratching my head. Thankfully not nits (can you even catch them from a book?). Perhaps not even confusion, so much as mystery. I couldn’t get a complete handle on the world. Because I had too much of a handle on the world.
When was it set? Where?
Because everything seemed to be about now and about our normal world. Except for the blue lights and the zombies and the adults that don’t remember. Are they metaphors or are they real? Are they both? And… aaaah!
Reading! Continue reading
I was jigging-foot excited to read ‘Gemina‘ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Nervous too. Because, seriously, ‘Illuminae‘ was so damn mindblowing I wasn’t sure anything could ever come up to standard.
Thankfully, ‘Gemina’ came through for me. There was something about picking it up and leaping back into the unconventional, characteristic setup that had my blood singing so much those lamina would have sensed me from half a universe away.
- Characters of zing
- World-building of awesome
- Plot of intricate amaze-balls
Hooray, ‘Gemina’ happily thumbed its nose at the Seriously Sucky Sequel Syndrome. Want to know more? Brace yourselves and read on…
This year I committed to reading a dino-load of books and absorbing, by capillary action, every awesome aspect I could find within them. I managed to read 60 Young Adult and Junior Fiction books this year, and I’m overjoyed with that.
So, what were my favourites? In precise alphabetical order, by author (that’s the librarian in me coming out…) here they are:
Young Adult Contemporary
Powerful. This got into my head. Beautifully written.
See my review here.
‘Illuminae’ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Young Adult SciFi
Like nothing I’d ever read before. Mind-blowing.
See my review here.
Young Adult Fantasy
Hello Fantasy and welcome back into my life! This was addictive.
See my review here.
Junior Fiction Historical
Beyond powerful. A must-read that both broke and filled my heart.
See my review here.
Junior Fiction Fantasy
Love love loved this series! It reminded me of landmark books of my childhood and left me filled with joy.
I haven’t published a review yet, I want to figure out how it all worked…
Young Adult Dystopia
When a book helps define a genre, you expect fireworks and meteor-shower-spectaculars from it. I got everything I was looking for with this one. And more.
No review though, because I read it well before I started this blog… sorry you’ll just have to read it yourself… if you haven’t already!
So there they are, my best reads from a very good year!
Happy New Year Everyone!
Seriously. If Unputdownable and Awesome met and had a book baby, it would be ‘Illuminae‘ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. If you’re wondering whether to read it, just take this as a fist-pumpingly enthusiastic, big-brass-band in the background YES!
And go away now and read.
However if, like me, you now want to dissect the story structure and see what made it mind-blowing, then read on my friend.
I think the key areas where ‘Illuminae’ shines are:
- Story structure cranking the tension.
- Plotty plot plot + plot + more plot
- Challenging narrative structure
- Characters you bleed for.
And that’s not even mentioning how often it made me laugh out loud.
I cried too. My emotional control is about equal to that of a caterpillar, so this isn’t all that unusual, but there is understated beauty in the way ‘Illuminae’ is written.