Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (no spoilers, just gifs and a giveaway)

Rating: all the stars
Pub Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult sci-fi space adventure mind fuck
Format/Source: ARC, BEA
Status: book 2 of The Illuminae Files
Link: Illuminae review

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.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

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.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

Blog Tour: Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema

Pub Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: young adult contemporary, sports fiction
Status: standalone
Summary: Lou Brown is one of the fastest swimmers in the county. She’s not boasting, she really is. So things are looking pretty rosy the day of the Olympic time-trials. With her best mate Hannah by her side, Lou lines up by the edge of the pool, snaps her goggles on and bends into her dive… 

Everything rests on this race. It’s Lou’s thing.

… or it was. She comes dead last and to top it all off Hannah sails through leaving a totally broken Lou behind.

Starting again is never easy, particularly when you’re the odd-one out in a family of insanely beautiful people and a school full of social groups way too intimidating to join. Where do you go from here? Finding a new thing turns out to be the biggest challenge Lou’s ever faced and opens up a whole new world of underwater somersaults, crazy talent shows, bitchy girls and a great big load of awkward boy chat. 

Lou Brown guides us through the utter humiliation of failure with honesty, sass and a keen sense of the ridiculous. This girl will not be beaten.

Today on the blog, I have something special to share with you. My friend Jenny Connolly was a competitive swimmer, competing both for the University of Tennessee during her college days and at USA swimming events around the world. Reading Goldfish made me think of her (and miss her tons because we now live in separate states) so for my stop on the Goldfish tour, I'm interviewing Jenny about her days as a swimmer. She gives great advice how to not drown, how to follow your dreams, and some book recs!

My first-ever karaoke night with Jenny & our friend Ootz

Can you describe what an average day in the life of a competitive swimmer looked like for you? 
Jenny Connolly: It looks different for different age groups and different levels of swimmers. But at my highest level (college) I would have morning practice starting at 5:30am and going until 7:30am. Then class and lunch. If I'm lucky, I'd fit in a nap in the early afternoon. I'd have afternoon practice starting at 2:15pm going until 5:00/5:15pm. During some of those practices we would have drylands workouts (strength exercises). Three days a week we would have weights before practice. After afternoon practice we would have our own time whether that was tutor sessions, homework, study hours, eating dinner, and/or relaxing. Then bedtime. Saturday was a whole different story. We would have practice starting at 7:00am and go until about 10:00am, and then have weights for an hour after that. Ending times of practices would fluctuate due to a 20 hour practice limit.

Did you ever have any race rituals or mottos that got you through tough moments?
Jenny: I didn't have any real "mottos" that I'd say... But I did focus on what I could control in that race or practice. In meets I would always say a prayer before every race, and I would tell myself to trust my training and my coach, and then I'd try to clear my head of all thoughts and just focus on racing. In practice I'd just try to focus on the set at hand at that particular practice and tell myself that I just needed to take one set at a time.

What's your favorite stroke and/or least favorite stroke? Why? Also, feel free to share tips how to not drown while attempting the butterfly. 
Jenny: My favorite stroke is butterfly, but I was best at backstroke. Butterfly and backstroke just came naturally to me. I was a powerful swimmer, so butterfly came pretty easy to me. Breaststroke was my least favorite... Either you get the rhythm of breaststroke, or you don't. And I could just never get it down. Tips on not drowning during butterfly.... that can be tough... haha. I think just finding the rhythm and using your walls when you turn to get as much air (and sometimes rest) that you can! :)

Brag about yourself for a minute: what was one (or two!) moment/race/tournament you are super proud of?
I've always been very proud of my Junior and Senior year at SEC's (Conference Championships). It was the Friday night session and I was seeded first in 2 events (100 butterfly and 100 backstroke) and had the 400 medley relay (backstroke leg). That is a LOT of competing at a championship meet for just one session. But I'm proud of that meet because my mind was more powerful than it had ever been and I was the toughest I'd been as a competitor. I won both individual events and my team won the relay. Three event wins in one session. It was pretty spectacular.
I would just like to add that watching Jenny compete was pretty spectacular. 

Who are you cheering for in the Olympics / who is your favorite swimmer?
MOLLY HANNIS. She's a former Tennessee teammate of mine! She made the Olympic Team in the 200 breaststroke. Everyone cheer her on! She's a spectacular person and a great role model.

I have no idea why this picture happened, but okay. 
Boss lady friends are the best kind of friends.

What advice would you give to someone who is pursuing their passion?
Don't stop! You're in charge of your future. So decide to take charge, dig deep, and just do it. You'll be amazed at what great experiences and memories you'll have and create.

And, finally, do you have any book recommendations?
Not for swimming... But I'm totally going to brag here- my sister, Rebecca Connolly, is a published author. She writes clean historic romance novels (Regency Era). They are AWESOME. Very witty. I couldn't put her books down! So far 3 are out in this series. They are called An Arrangement of Sorts, Married to the Marquess, and Secrets of a Spinster. Look her up!

So... the mc's name in Secrets of a Spinster is Mary. Jenny, did your sister base that book on my life?? Thank you, Jenny, for taking the time to answer my questions! *sends all the long-distance hugs*

Purchase Links:
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About the Author:
Nat Luurtsema is a BAFTA-nominated screenwriter, a BAFTA Rocliffe alumni, stand-up comic, author, actor and a third of sketch group Jigsaw.

She has just finished directing WYRDOES, a comedy feminist ‘Macbeth’, with backing from Film London, Film4 and the British Arts Council. It will be a part of the Shakespeare Lives worldwide tour, which will play to an audience of 500 million.

Nat plays Tallulah Bankhead in FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, directed by Stephen Frears.

Nat is developing two feature films and adapting the novel Spilt Milk Black Coffee by Helen Cross, for Mighty Atom Entertainment.

Nat’s latest book is a Young Adult novel – GIRL OUT OF WATER – to be published June 2016 in the UK, Germany, France and Italy. It will simultaneously publish as GOLDFISH in USA.

Author Links:

Giveaway: Ghostbusters by Nancy Holder

Today I have something fun to share with you all: a giveaway for Ghostbusters, the novelization of the franchise reboot featuring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth! Even though I wasn't born when the original Ghostbusters was released, as the youngest of four with pushy older brothers who I worshipped, I saw the original film fairly young. Nerds saving the world? I'm all for that. But now a quartet of badass ladies is at the helm, and if there's anything I love most in this world, it's badass ladies saving the day. So check out the book and see a couple stills from the film, and then enter my giveaway for your own copy of Ghostbusters before the movie hits theaters next Friday!

Author: Nancy Holder
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: science fiction movie novelization
Status: standalone
Summary: After Dr. Erin Gilbert is disgraced at a job interview for her belief in ghosts, she is roped into investigating a haunting by her former colleague, Abby Yates and Abby’s new co-worker, Jillian Holtzmann. The three scientists soon discover that some specters do far more than go bump in the night.

MTA employee, Patty Tolan, finds that New York City’s subway tunnels are becoming a hive of ghostly apparitions. She calls on Erin, Abbey, and Jillian to investigate, revealing that paranormal activity across New York City is swiftly becoming a disaster of near-biblical proportions

Together, these four would-be paranormal investigators are determined to find out what’s going on, save their city, and maybe make a profit while they’re at it. The team must stop a mysterious evil known only as Rowan from destroying the barrier between this life and the next and turning Manhattan into a literal hellscape. 

Available from:
 photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg  photo 111AD205-AA04-4F9E-A0F4-C1264C4E9F30-1855-000001A1E8CEB6D7_zps9b730b94.jpg  photo KoboIcon_zps515cdc1a.jpg  photo B1426D4C-9EEC-4C0B-A1FB-90524B03C0CA-1855-000001A1E82B3B3E_zps17d98f4d.jpg

One winner will receive a copy of Ghostbusters and a special Ghostbusters tattoo. US/Canada only.

Blog Tour: Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

Pub Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: young adult contemporary/sci-fi/humor
Summary: Brimming with humor and one-of-a-kind characters, this end-of-the world novel will grab hold of Andrew Smith and Rainbow Rowell fans.

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been called to NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster. He knows how to stop the asteroid: his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize--if there's ever another Nobel prize awarded. But Yuri's 17, and having a hard time making older, stodgy physicists listen to him. Then he meets Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he's not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and save a life worth living.

Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with questions of the universe.

Welcome to the Learning to Swear in America tour! Today, in honor of Katie, Yuri, and Dovie, we are celebrating destroying the world stories about destroying the world. So sit back, relax, and let's blow up the planet! (Dear NSA / FBI / super top secret alphabet agencies who may be reading this: I'm just kidding about the whole blowing up the planet thing, but feel free to send the Avengers down here just in case)

Remember that time Alderaan exploded? Ah, the good old days.

Mary's Favorite Apocalyptic Stories
Okay, so first of all, Independence Day. I like my “the world is about to end” to come with an extra-large side of funny with sassy sauce to spare. ID4 has this in spades. From Will Smith welcoming an alien pilot to Earth with a knuckle sandwich to the face to the fat lady singing, Independence Day provides the laughs. Also, I like that literally everyone does something heroic. There’s a president with the most motivational speech I’ve ever heard that makes me want to kiss babies and fly a jet; a stripper with, yes, a heart of gold (fyi, she OWNS that job like nobody’s business); an alcoholic washed up crop duster who is, erm, let’s say intimately acquainted with the aliens; a cranky Jewish dad and his super-nerd son; etc. It’s an amazing ensemble cast that includes Tinkerbell (her voice, that is), Ian Malcolm, Jayne Cobb, and Eleanor Waldorf, and I am obsessed (FYI, none of those names are the actors. Look them up if you don’t know them, and then give yourself a Netflix education!). There is literally nothing to not like about ID4 except maybe its long-awaited-but-surely-disappointing sequel.

Not from ID4, but the sentiment remains.

I do like my funny stories, but I’ll forgive a lack of humor if there’s an excessive amount of fight sequences and also gratuitous Idris Elba, and Pacific Rim has those in spades. Basically, more bad aliens invade the earth so countries create ginormous machines to play rock em sock em robots with these dudes. One of the Jaegers (the human-controlled robots) literally picks up a cargo ship and uses it like a baseball bat to smack one of the monsters in the face. It’s quite glorious, if you haven’t seen it. Plus, it’s full of delicious trope-y goodness: a cranky mentor, a reluctant hero, a badass babe, adorable fighting nerds, etc. BRB, fangirling!

 Told you.


You're welcome. 


It wouldn't be a true apocalypse post without mention of one of the most popular causes: zombies. I couldn't handle The Walking Dead because of reasons and stuff, but again with the humor. Shaun of the Dead is an irreverent spoof of all things zombie. I enjoyed much of Zombieland, but instead of going sincere the way that one did, Shaun of the Dead is basically non-stop ridiculousness. Simon Pegg is brilliant as the atypical action hero leader-of-the-resistance, and I love how the movie juxtaposes his perfectly mundane British existence with the end of the world.

Now auditioning for "Thriller"

Step 1: open this video in youtube & let it play while you read this.
I saw Terminator 2 when I was crazy young (not sure how my parents okayed that, but whatever), and I still adore it. Arnold plays a not-quite-cuddly-but-all-around-good-guy-robot who has come from the future to save John Conner (John Connah, if you're saying it in Ahnold's voice like I am rn) from the clutches of an evil robot from the future and thus, save the world simultaneously. T2 merges the takes-itself-a-little-too-seriously apocalyptic flick with the silly as teenage punk John attempts to teach the terminator a little bit of pop culture and humor even as he just runs around blowing shit up. FYI, you should pretend the series ends here bc things are so worse later on, but also RIP Anton Yelchin, who was WAY better as Kyle Reese in Salvation than I expected. Mad respect, man.

*cries forever*

No list about the apocalypse would be complete without mention of the greatest treasure of the 90s (behind Nickelodeon, Jurassic Park, Independence Day, etc etc): Armegeddon. 10 year old Mary had a huge crush on Ben Affleck, and 28 year old Mary still has a huge crush on 1998 Ben Affleck. Again, this movie takes itself waaaay to seriously, but at least the supporting cast kept things fun. From Owen Wilson as a drugged up cowboy to Michael Clarke Duncan as the lovable Bear in touch with his emotions, Steve Buscemi as a sexed up maniac to Peter Stormare as the cranky and bitter Russian, the movie kept some humor, which I appreciate. Plus, Bruce Willis is so stereotypical action hero dude, and I love it!

 Also, in case you didn’t know, Mr. Malfoy plays the genius in this one. 
How I feel every time I watch Armageddon

Now for the bookish portion of my list. We'll start with Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff's weird, sassy, space opera mindf*ck. Illuminae starts off with the destruction of a planet, and things just go down from there for the main characters. You could argue this series isn't *quite* apocalyptic because there is still a society and other worlds, but there's some stuff that happens in Gemina and WOO BUDDY, come at me. This book will tear a hole through your mind faster than a wormhole can tear a hole through the universe so.... yeah. You have that to look forward to. Go with God, friends.

I liked Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey books, but I *love* The Blood of Eden series. Written in a time when both vampire books and dystopians had worn out their welcome, you wouldn't have thought a series like this could be successful or original, but nope. The Immortal Rules and its sequels proved that you CAN take popular and even tired elements and combine them into something fresh. The world is one I would not want to be in. It's hostile to just about everything and everyone, and your options (for humans) are to be a blood slave or die horribly. Also, three cheers for another badass warrior chick who has to save the boy sometimes, super snark (thanks, Jackal), and a beautifully if horrifically created world full of intrigue and danger.

Again with the zombies. I could have put Warm Bodies on the movie list because I like both the book and its movie. Warm Bodies is sweetly unexpected for a zombie story. The way to create an interesting zombie mc is to have one who can think and dream and change. Although the book faintly alludes to Romeo & Juliet, the book stands on its own merit with complex characters and an intriguing (if slightly squicky because zombie romance???) premise. The long-awaited sequel release next year, and I hope it addresses more of the world.

Remember that time they made a movie of my favorite book of all time? Let's pretend that did not happen. Say what you want about Stephenie Meyer, but she did so much good for YA and continues to help support female creatives. Plus, in all honesty, I love her books. The Host is a NOT YA (I get irrationally angry when I see in the teen section at bookstores or libraries) story about aliens taking over the planet. The first 100 pages are basically equal to pre-Hogwarts in Harry Potter, but the rest of the story is so full of heart and excitement and intrigue. It's part sci-fi, part romance, part survival story, and all amazing. Ian O'Shea is one of my favorite literary dudes, and both Wanda and Mel kick absolute ass as co-MCs (but in v different ways!). Sure, the love square is messy, but hey, it's fiction. It's science fiction. Messy is implied. At the end of the book, I feel satisfied by Wanda and Mel's story arc, but I would like to see more of the world, so Steph, if you're not to busy, can you please publish The Seeker and The Soul already? That'd be great.

Bonus: Video Game Round
I have a particular love for the Halo series. The original trilogy is fantastic and fun to play, and the story is engrossing. Plus, it contains so many of the elements I love about the movies and books listed above (action, adventure, humor, aliens, zombies), and honestly, sometimes it's incredibly soothing to be the one controlling the explosions. Halo: Reach is actually a prequel to the main series featuring Master Chief John-117, and it tells the story of an elite squad of super soldiers known as Noble Team (they're basically SEAL Team Six) who go on missions to protect cities, recover stolen intelligence, and generally kick alien ass and take names. It's a heartbreaking game because one by one, team members die, and the game actually ends when you, the last team member standing, die all alone surrounded by alien assholes. Then, you know, the planet is destroyed. I cry all the time when I play Reach because you don't save the world... but because of your actions in the game, you set in motion events that save the universe. A++

So here you have it: Mary's favorite apocalypse stories. In case you couldn't tell, there are a lot of similarities among all these stories. I adore stories that feature characters with heart and definitely lots of humor. Also nerds. And that is what Learning to Swear in America is. I have not yet had a chance to read it, but ohhh, I am here for this. I am really excited to meet Yuri and Dovie, and discover how their relationship works because normal girl + super-smart boy (I'm thinking a less-weird, less-preying-mantis-looking Sheldon Cooper) makes me really happy. So check out Learning to Swear in America, check out my favorites, and enter to win some cool stuff below!

Purchase Links:
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Tour Schedule:

July 5: Gone Pecan (guest post)
July 6: Ex Libris (excerpt)

About the Author:
Katie Kennedy is a college history instructor. She used to teach in a fire station. When the alarm rang, the entire class jumped up and ran out of the room. She became an LPN in order to write more accurate medical scenes. She has been lost in Moscow, and rousted by the KGB for sitting in Red Square to eat her ice cream. She has been bitten by a fish.

Katie lives in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with her husband, daughter, and son, in a town with a million bats. LEARNING TO SWEAR IN AMERICA comes out July 5, 2016, from Bloomsbury.

Author Links:


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