Book Review – ‘Wildcard’ (#2 Warcross) by Marie Lu

This takes gaming to a whole new level.

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 402

From Goodreads:

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

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There was certainly more action and espionage in ‘Wildcard’ than in ‘Warcross.’ Where ‘Warcross’ is about Emika fitting in, ‘Wildcard’ is about how isolated she really is. The only person she can trust is herself. Her world is deconstructed and it’s up to her to piece it back together.

Even though I enjoyed the story, and there is plenty going on in the plot, I wasn’t as engaged with Emika’s plight as I was in ‘Warcross.’ Which is unusual considering it’s in my favourite genre and Marie Lu managed to up the stakes on all counts with this sequel. I’m thinking it has something to do with Lu’s writing style… a more succinct and descriptive construction may have kept my interest? I put this novel down a number of times… or maybe I was just having a “moment?” I will re-read this duology at a later date and investigate this issue further. But for now I’m attributing this phenomena to Lu’s writing style. Which is nothing in judgement of ‘Wildcard’ as it’s subjective and down to personal tastes.

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleEmika was a fun protagonist. She is resourceful and street savvy. Though we don’t get as much of the secondary characters from the debut, this novel deals with only a few core characters in her orbit.

There are a lot of unexpected twists in the plot, and maybe a few of them did not have the gravitas I was expecting. It is certainly unique but did not entirely resonate with me. But I could definitely see this working really well on the small screen as a television series. The pacing is great, there is a lot of action and interesting characters.

The overall tone of this duology is predictable – we want to see Emika triumph over Hideo and an evil corporation… though this is deconstructed fairly quickly – and though the theme is resolved – it is achieved in an unexpected way. So while we get the closure we need, it eventuates in a different form.

I’d recommend this for those who like light science fiction and YA, it is similar to novels like ‘Ready Player One’ and ‘Armada’ with the use of virtual reality, technology, evil corporations vying for control, and the protagonist as a part of a rebellion to even the status quo.

A fun read with a mix of futuristic technology and the implications of their presence on society, but I think I wanted a little more sophistication with the writing. A good solid read for the genre and demographic it is targeted towards.

Overall feeling: Good, but… meh

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Wrap up – The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

An epic sci-fi adventure that left me gob-smacked.The Illuminae Files Wrap Up Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

There was a lot of hype surrounding the launch of this trilogy – and rightly so. It was phenomenal. I haven’t been so captivated by a YA science fiction series in a very long time. Not only does this grab reader’s attention with its format of collated documents to form the narrative, but the pacing jumps from chapter to chapter. I am in awe of Kristoff and Kaufman in creating this collection.

If I wanted to be picky, I’d say there are a lot of character to keep track of – and some may read similar to one another. The mostly have that sarcastic sense of humor and are ballsy hero types. Also with the change in perspective in the second book (‘Gemina’), which felt a bit slower, left me high and dry after I had invested so much into Kady in ‘Illuminae.’ But not to worry, all the cast are brought together in ‘Obsidio.’ Like I said that’s if I was looking for some elements to be critical of. Because of the main cast, their personalities are distinctly different, we get diversity  and a range of special skills that each of them bring to the team. One of them is an artificial intelligence (AIDAIN) who is in front and centre just as much as his fleshy counterparts. All the characters are fallible and make mistakes along the fight for their lives against greedy corporations only trying to save their own behinds and turn a profit.

The Illuminae Files Wrap Up Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

There is always more than one thing going on in the plot, it’s literally everything but the kitchen sink thrown at the main cast. This adds to the tension and pacing. And for a sci-fi it is not bogged down in world building or technical information to support the narrative. Apart from a lull in the first 100 pages of ‘Gemina,’ I did not put these books down except to eat or sleep.

I’m ecstatic to hear Brad Pitt had optioned ‘Illuminae’ for a film adaptation – after seeing how he treated World War Z, I am expecting marvelous things! You can bet I’ll be keeping my feelers out to see how this project develops.

So I won’t go into detail too much about the characters – I don’t want to spoil too much. But you can bet that this is one of my all-time favorites and comes vehemently recommended. I hope Kristoff and Kaufman team up for more similar projects in the future, because I’d add them to my shopping cart automatically.

The Illuminae Files Wrap Up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Illuminae’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/book-review-illuminae-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoff/

‘Gemina’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/book-review-gemina-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoff/

Obsidiohttps://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/book-review-obsidio-3-illuminae-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoff/

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Obsidio’ (#3 Illuminae) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Hold on to your nickers!

Obsidio (#3 Illuminae) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 615

From Goodreads:

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.

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This series is the coolest kid at school. It was everything I wanted an epic sci-fi novel to be. We get all of the characters back in a high stakes battle for survival. The first half is all about the build and moving the chess pieces around on the board. The second half is mind-blowing action, twist and turns. I felt like I was reading this in a wind tunnel. So much going on. I couldn’t put it down.

Though I enjoyed ‘Gemina,’ I missed Kady. But we get her back and all the crazy characters interacting with that same witty sarcasm I’ve come to love. It suited their dialogue, their age, and helped with the heavy tone of the trilogy. Because there is a lot of carnage. Not everyone survives and you never know what unexpected thing is going to happen next to take away someone you love.

Death is handled delicately. It’s balanced with humanity. Everyone is important, everyone has a back story. There are no unimportant characters. I frickin love this aspect about the Illuminae Files. And it shines brightly in ‘Obsidio,’ as the reasons for all those sacrifices takes the forefront.

I’m sad for this series to end because I absolutely loved my time reading ‘Illluminae,’ ‘Gemina,’ and ‘Obsidio.’  But I will definitely be re-reading this sometime in the near future.

Glad to hear Brad Pitt has optioned ‘Illuminae’ for development – it’s a movie I’m really excited to see come to the big screen.

Obsidio (#3 Illuminae) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The use of graphic as a part of the narrative is still something that enhances the story for me. It adds another element, like art, evoking even more emotions than you can get from words alone. The abstract formation of a mentally unstable A.I., to the handwritten notes passed secretly between characters.

I lost a little bit of my love for the series in ‘Gemina,’ new characters, a completely different setting, but ‘Obsidio’ manages to draw everything together and deliver what I was missing. And I am ecstatic about this book. It is one of my favorite sci-fi titles of all time! It has been so long since I was totally engrossed and compelled with a read in this genre. Hats off to Kaufman and Kristoff – you guys are geniuses.

The book is a brick though, my wrists ached from holding it up, and I’m uncertain if you’d get the same reading experience in ebook form because most of the graphics are a two page spread. But it would have made it much easier to read.

I’m not going to talk about individual characters because of spoilers – and this would turn into a 10 page essay. But in comparing the ones who survive to how they were at the start of the series, they have been shaped a little differently, grown up. But are still the teens we know them to be. I will say it didn’t feel like there was this massive transformation – only because it didn’t suit the narrative tone. And well, this isn’t one of those naval gazing types of books. It’s more about action and space wars, there is a hint of philosophy and inward soul gazing, and that’s all you needed for a YA series like this.

My only worry now is what to read next… and is it going to stack up to the glory of ‘Obsidio.’

Overall feeling: OHMYGODOHMYGOD!

Obsidio (#3 Illuminae) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Obsidio (#3 Illuminae) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Warcross’ (#1 Warcross) by Marie Lu

A VR battle royale.

Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlsile.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 402

From Goodreads:

When a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game – it’s a way of life. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. When Emika hacks into the game illegally, she’s convinced she’ll be arrested, and is shocked when she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job.

There was the hype, the gorgeous cover, and rave reviews from Marie Lu’s past titles that had me snapping up ‘Warcross’ as soon as I was able, finding a comfortable corner to escape and read.

I was pleasantly surprised by this title, and it is the first novel of Lu’s that I’ve read. It came on the heels of a similar title ‘Ready Player One’ (and the movie release,) so I was ready to get sucked into a digital fantasy world.

Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlsileAlthough ‘Warcross’ was a little too ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…’ Even though our protagonist Emika was hesitant at times, she was lead throughout the story. I was wanting her to show some more grit and independence.

I was not sure about the Hideko-Emika pairing… what is the age gap? Did anyone else feel a bit creeped out by this?

Definitely my favourite parts were the VR game battles. I could feel the tension; and the pace and writing style kept me gripped to the page.

Nice to see the inclusion of non-abled bodied characters in the team, (yay diversity) and their presence as a matter of no consequence, and even the character (Asher) is considered cute. I‘m bored of disabilities used as a plot device or an identifier; and ‘Warcross’ definitely leaves all that ish behind.

Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlsile.gifThe VR world was built thoroughly, and I loved reading about the digital landscapes and conflicts; but the real world had some missing pieces. I wish the landscape was built more thoroughly as the virtual one was.

Some other drawbacks I had with the narrative was the low key, slow to build in the first half. I wanted it to build quicker, or drop some interesting cookies to keep me interested. ‘Warcross’ was mostly predictable, and did not feel altogether original. I think since ‘The Last Starfighter’ and ‘Tron’ movies back in the 1980’s anything using this plot device will feel ‘done’ unless the author can put a new twist on it.

Marie Lu has a great writing style, but was hoping for some more witty banter. I like me some witty banter. Or sarcasm.

Did I mention the cover art? OMG the cover! Drooling.

Warcross’ ends on a cliff-hanger – doh! Miss Lu executes a mic drop and leaves the room. Yeah thanks for that. Now I have the agony of waiting for the sequels release. Not to mention reviews of ‘Wildcard’ ARCs making rounds of the blogs – it’s torture.

Overall feeling: I want to be a hacker too!

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Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlsile.jpg

© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Gemina’ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Teens surviving a shit-storm in space – Excellent!

Gemina Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 608

From Goodreads:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

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It has been an age since I was eagerly anticipating a book release – and it just had to be a massive space soap opera! Maybe I’m flashing back to my childhood and the Star Wars days? Anyway, I cracked the cover and started reading ‘Gemina’ as soon as I had unboxed it. I found I was missing the characters from ‘Illuminae.’ We get a few glimpses of them, but this sequel deals with a whole new cast – and there are so many new characters! It took a bit to keep track of them all and focus on what’s happening – especially with the format of collated documents.

The story feels slow to start with, and was a little difficult to capture my interest, especially after my disappointment at not reading more about Kady and Co. After I got past the first 100 pages, I settled into the new environment, got to know our protagonists Hanna and Nik, things started to get better and better. The anty just kept getting one-upped. Just like ‘Illuminae’ I was completely engrossed.

Hanna is a real balls-to-the-wall kind of girl. A cross between a pampered princess and an Amazonian. She called to all the joys I have about reading a take-no-prisoners heroine. Only because I wish I could be that kind of person, instead of passing out after one push-up.

I appreciated the humour mixed into the narrative and laughed out loud man many times. Though sometimes it felt forced and unnecessary. But I can understand the characters need to crack a funny – to release tension and teenagers are always inappropriate and the worst of times. But still…

Nik – I guessed his backstory well in advance, something about how he was written gave it away. But I still really liked him, even if he was predictable. If I had to nit-pick I’d say he was the weakest part of the novel.

Ella was cute and reminded me of Iko and Winter from the Cinder Chronicles rolled into one.

The plight of the teens under terrorist attack, a bio threat, wormhole issues, incoming destroyers… it was all enough to reduce you into a puddle of your own making. The tension builds and builds, the pace quickened expertly. For such a large novel, I flew through the last half in a matter of hours. Such an expert mix of action, adventure and science fiction. Even with the mixed format of collated documents, you still got a sense of urgency and multiple points of view which only added to the story.

That ending tough – by the time I got there, I thought anything could happen and wasn’t certain about any predictions… I like to be kept guessing, so the conclusion was simply brilliant. I’m desperately hangry for the next release ‘Obsidio’ to be dropped next year.

Overall feeling: So. Much. Stuff. Happening!

Gemina Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Gemina Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Freelancer’ by Jake Lingwall

Great promise but poor structure and execution for a novel.

Freelancer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 224

From Goodreads:

Kari is a freelance hacker, taking jobs from clients to design anything from art to security software. In a world where 3D printers, drones, and computers connect directly to the brain, Kari finds keeping her expert programing skills secret while trying to finish high school almost impossible. With the threat of the second Civil War looming, Kari must decide how far she will go to keep herself, her family, and her friends out of harm’s way, even when her choices might have consequences she’s not ready to face.

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I was really excited to read this – I conversed with the author and loved the premise of the novel. There was so much going for it… and then I started reading…

Freelancer’ is difficult to get into at the beginning – bogged down with technical details and simulations instead of getting on with (and setting up) the story. Lingwall missed a proper introduction to the novel and jumped right into the middle part.

The protagonist, Kari, is hard to relate to and her motives difficult to understand. The more I read, the less I cared about her. She was coming off like a paranoid prepper – which was weird mixed in with all the teen high school angst. There was little background given or inner monologue leaving her actions as mere plot devices directed obviously by the author. One thing I will applaud was that it was good to read about a diverse character, though, unfortunately, her heritage played absolutely no aspect in the narrative (or her identity) whatsoever. A prime opportunity to create conflict and tension missed. Sadly this trend of little or no character development is also prevalent in the remainder of the cast.

Maybe because of the major issues I had with the narrative style and basic novel writing tools, Kari’s skills felt unrealistic – I guess if there was better world building and character development I wouldn’t have felt this way. Additionally, because of this, the number of times Kari was put in jail felt more like she had been sent to her room for being a bad girl – it didn’t feel like she was being threatened, punished or even all that frightened about the turn of events.

It is obvious Lingwall knows what he is writing about when it comes to the science fiction aspect of the story – very cool concepts of technology. It can also be said that his action scenes are excellent.Though, it was like this book was written around a number of action scenes without any thought to the characters and how to structure a novel. Fun, but needs A LOT of development.

Elements of great political intrigue leading up to a civil war (I’m presuming – the writing wasn’t very precise). Only because of no world building for the political climate either – am I just meant to accept it what is going on? I was a little frustrated by the halfway point. If it weren’t for the personal attachment with David (Kari’s love interest), and his family I may have not even bothered.

Consequently, I could have skipped first half of the book. It did little to set up the characters, their motivations, what they stood to lose, and the climate/world. So many essential elements in writing a novel overlooked. The formatting with frequent italicised thoughts were distracting and not needed. One chapter actually started with “Insert chapter nine text here.” Inexcusable! Where was the proofreading! So many elements giving me a very bad impression. ‘Freelancer’ needs a heavy hand from a professional editor. So much promise but no delivery.

It’s a pity because this book has a great climactic ending, though the note after the dramatic scene felt lukewarm and as directionless as the start of the novel. Reactions from the adults in this scenario felt contrived and unrealistic. With phenomenal action scenes, amazing plot, I wish it was executed with precision.

I know that this is a debut for a series, but I won’t be continuing on, or recommending this to anyone. A few shining moments, but the rest just gave me a headache.

Overall feeling: oh no…

Freelancer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Freelancer Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

 

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This book will blow you apart, infect you and melt you into a pool of your own making… sci-fi wizardry!

 Illuminae Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 599

From Goodreads:

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.

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I was excited to get this book. All the hype around its promotion and some great reviews from fellow bloggers had me all in a tizzy. But I held off until I had a decent chunk of time to really delve into ‘Illuminae’ and I’m so glad I planned it that way… and luckily I remained spoiler free, so the ride was even more delectable.

This book is a little bit different; and I’m not just talking about its formatting. With expert pacing and tension building to an explosive conclusion there is a lot to like. I was yanking up my feet as our protagonist, Kady climbed, Dodging in my chair as the love interest, Ezra fired on the enemy in his Cyclone fighter drone. I even felt comradery with my laptop at the heroic actions of the ships artificial intelligence AIDAN. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a book so thoroughly.

With a narrative consisting of a collection of documents – conversations, logs, IM’s, emails – it does not detract from the story at all. Some parts are thoroughly artistic in their expression as words placed unconventionally on the page. It was a refreshing and delightful reading experience.

Illuminae Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgKady had me sold from the first page. She’s capable and focused without that whole rude sassy thing. Her never-give-up hacker attitude added some of the best reading I’ve experienced in while as she faced some incredible odds. This chick rocks! I think the omnipotent POV allowed the action and pacing to excel without long winded inner dialogue from our heroine, just as it lent varying emotions in more intimate and lonely moments.

Ezra blew me away. He’s not the most capable of boys, but he’s got major kahoonies. He’s the kind of book boyfriend I love to read about. Even though he and Kady are separated for nearly all of the story, there is no sense of distance in their relationship even though he’s an ex – which is a feat in itself when you consider this story is told in snippets of reports, dialogue and documentation. Kaufman and Kristoff – we are not worthy! With moments where Ezra was so terrified he was going to soil his space suit, to sending out words of encouragement, we really see Ezra dig deep to survive in this all out hailing storm of excrement.

AIDAN : What a strange binary fellow. As a character he/she/it goes through the most significant change. I finished the book feeling both creeped out, and endeared about AIDAN. And I’m still not sure if he was simply misunderstood for playing the bigger game throughout the plot, or if evolution through computer error showed us his humanity (maybe it was both?) But I think I’m most looking forward to finding out about AIDAN in the upcoming sequel.

This was also my first introduction to the writings of both Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (and proud that they are fellow Aussie authors) and am adding there back catalogue to my collection – and if anyone can tell me if there is a way to pause time so I can indulge in my reading addiction without wasting weeks on end, hit me up.

A true masterpiece and I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy right away! This sci-fi geek girl just about spontaneously combusted.

Overall feeling: It’s like my brain was on crack

Illuminae Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Illuminae Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.