Resistance, by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

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Title: Resistance (Divided Elements #1)
Author: Mikhaeyla Kopievsky
Rating: 5/5

Blurb (taken from Goodreads):

The Announcer calls my name, but she does not speak to me. This macabre spectacle has nothing to do with me. And everything to do with them. This is all for the thousands below – the compliant citizens of Otpor, the witnesses to my Execution, the silent and transfixed. This is their moment. Their reconditioning.

In a future post-apocalyptic Paris, a rebellion threatens to upset the city’s perfectly-structured balance and plunge its citizens into anarchy.
Two generations after the Execution of Kane 148 and Otpor’s return to Orthodoxy, forbidden murals are appearing on crumbling concrete walls – calling citizens to action. Calling for Resistance.

The murals will change the utopian lives of all citizens. But, for Anaiya 234, they will change who she is.

A Peacekeeper of the uncompromising Fire Element, Anaiya free-runs through city’s precincts to enforce the Orthodoxy without hesitation or mercy. Her selection for a high-risk mission gives Otpor the chance it needs to bring down the Resistance and Anaiya the opportunity she craves to erase a shameful legacy.

But the mission demands an impossible sacrifice – her identity.

***

Review:

During my Utopian (or rather, Dystopian) Literature class, I had the pleasure to read “We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin. I remember falling in love with this book for what the dystopian regime did to the characters; stripping them of their identity only to mold them into the citizens they need them to be. That same trope is explored in Kopievsky’s “Resitance”, where Anaiya’s entire personality, her entire world, is reshaped in order for her to infiltrate the resistance movement through society. But where I found myself almost unable to relate to Zamyatin’s characters, Anaiya became very dear to me. If I would only have to choose one compliment to give this novel, it would be: Wow, what an impressive character development!

Thankfully, I don’t need to limit myself, so here we go.

The world building, although rather confusing at first, is eventually what made me rate this book a five star. I know it’s not the first book to add elemental qualities and faults to human beings (does this remind anyone else of the “Which Element Are You” quizzes?), but it was done very well. Of course, the Fire Elementals shone in their glory, seeing as though the protagonist herself has the Fire element ingrained into her from birth – you can even see the superiority complex that comes with such an element.

Also, the ending left me gaping. I dashed to Goodreads to find when the next book would be published… and then it dawned on me that this book is only due to be published in late January 2017. The wait will be a sweet torture, but I am certain to pick up the next book in this series. It just ends so, so well – I can already tell that the next book will be as spectacular!

I recommend this book. Pre-order it now!

I’d like to thank KIRIJA, Patchwork Press – Cooperative, as well as Netgalley, for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Hello Me, it’s You, by Anonymous, Hannah Todd

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Title: Hello Me, it’s You
Author: Anonymous, Hannah Todd (Editor)
Rating: 4/5

Blurb (taken from Goodreads):

“Keep smiling and being you. Don’t let the world change you”

Hello Me, it’s You is a collection of letters by young adults aged 17-24 about their experiences with mental health issues. The letters are written to their 16-year-old selves, giving beautifully honest advice, insight and encouragement for all that lays ahead of them.

This book was produced by the Hello Me, it’s You charity, set up by the editor, Hannah. Hannah was diagnosed with depression and anxiety whilst at university and found comfort in talking to friends about their experiences, realising she was not alone in her situation. This inspired the idea for the charity and book. Through the creation of materials such as this, the charity aims to provide reassurance for young adults (and their families) who are experiencing mental health issues and give a voice to young adults on such an important topic. The result of that will hopefully be a reduction in the negative stigma surrounding mental health and an increase in awareness of young people’s experiences. All profits go the Hello Me, it’s You charity, for the production of future supportive books.

Trigger warning: Due to it’s nature, the content of this book may be triggering. Contains personal experiences of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, trichotillomania and other mental health issues, as well as issues such as assault.

“…both beautiful and necessary” Sarah Franklin

***

Review:

For many sixteen year olds who are struggling with personal issues such as the ones mentioned above, this book could save their lives. I’m just echoing what other people have said, here, but it’s such an important collection of stories. To everyone who submitted a letter and especially to those who took the time to personally reflect on their experience and to share all these details with the entire world: you are beyond brave. You have made me reflect on what I could tell my sixteen year old self. You have made me study how far I’ve come from the girl I was in high school, on the choices that made me who I am today, and on the mistakes I’ve made. Needless to say, I wish these had been collected and published eight years ago, but hey.

Although this book deals with heavy subject matters, it contains an overwhelmingly positive message: it gets better. Life gets easier. Accept the help that is offered to you. It’s a book that every high school library should keep on hand to help out struggling youth, just like the Chicken Soup series has helped me all these years ago.  

However, I did find that by the 20th letter, the stories were blurring into one another for me, and I could barely differentiate one experience from the next. I think a better diversity could’ve been achieved by enlarging the age group of the writers and adding individuals with more life experience to the mix. Also, I believe that this is the type of book that you pick up when you are having an off day, and it is not meant to be read in one sitting (like I attempted).

“Hello Me, it’s You” is also a charity. Their mandate is very dear to me, and I urge you to purchase a copy of the book if you are interested in reading it. The money is going toward a good cause!

I’d like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Timekeeper, by Tara Sim

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Title: Timekeeper
Author: Tara Sim
Rating: 4/5

Blurb (taken from Goodreads):

Two o’clock was missing.

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

***

Review:

I remember some of my English teachers attempting to drill the “show, don’t tell” concept in fiction. “Don’t say he was scared! Show his hands trembling! Explain that his heart is racing!” I find that Tara Sim does this wonderfully. I lived this story right along with Danny, the protagonist, because the “showing” aspect was so well done. From the first sentence of the story, I could tell that this book would be very well written, and it did not disappoint.

 This was a Netgalley book. I was at first obviously drawn by the beautiful cover’s artwork, and I only read the blurb’s first few sentences before requesting it. Therefore, I had no idea that the clock tower spirit would be important, and I had no idea this was an LGBT book! Heck, I hadn’t even considered that this book would contain romance, so when I saw a love story develop along with the mystery and the suspense, I was very pleasantly surprised! The balance within this book was very well done: a bit of romance follows a bit of action — rinse and repeat.

The world itself was so well thought-out. The clock towers, the mechanics, time, and the intricate connections between them warmed me throughout and made me crave more books from this series. Also, the characters were well-rounded, with obvious flaws and just as many redeeming qualities.

My only annoyance with this book (and it took me a long time to figure out) would have to be the pacing. Sometimes, the book felt like it dragged on and on over menial things. It’s unfortunate, since a good third of the book is written at that pace.

Still, it was an excellent book and I would definitely recommend it. I’d like to thank Sky Pony Press, as well as Netgalley, for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp

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Title: This Is Where It Ends
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Rating: 4/5

Blurb (taken from Goodreads):
10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.
10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won’t open.
10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.
Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

***

Review:

The only time I was ever in a car accident, I laughed. I hadn’t been the driver, and no one was hurt, but I remember doubling over in the backseat and giggling for the longest of times. After everything was done, I felt terribly guilty, because the situation wasn’t funny — but everyone who hears this story replies, “You’re human, and you don’t know how you’ll react under shock.”

I think that’s what made me love this book. There are little moments throughout that made my heart jump in my throat because the characters feel so real to me, and they are dealing with a terrible situation the best way they personally can. It’s human to think of the cute girl, or to suddenly realize you’re in love with your best friend — it happens during every day life, so why not in the middle of a tragedy?
If you are the type to feel empathy, this book will connect with you on many levels.

It is, of course, a very controversial book with themes and characters and concepts that resonate differently with every individual. I’ve read five star reviews that glorified this book, while I’ve also read scathing critiques, and I understand how reviews are so all over the place. It’s a book that you have to experience yourself to know if you will love it or hate it. I think it’s the type of novel that you have to say, “I want to read this for me”, and ignore every single review that’s out there to make your own opinion.

I received this book through the Big Library Read and I read it in two different sittings, all in the span of about three hours — I only took a quick break to go wipe my face because this book made me cry. I connected with the stories, with the heartbreaks these characters experienced. For that, I cannot give this book below four stars. I would definitely recommend it — to me, this book was a heartbreaking, suspenseful story that kept my heart racing from the first page onward.

Please note that it is a very triggering story, so do your research carefully before picking it up.

Armada, by Ernest Cline

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Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Rating: 4.5/5

Blurb (taken from Goodreads):
Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

***

Review:

I would debate anyone who claims that the geeks don’t have their own culture… and my main argument would be Ernest Cline’s books. As a moderate gamer myself, I find that picking up his novels feel like coming home. They give me the same comforting buzz that a good video game does. Thank you, Ernest Cline, for forever convincing me that reading and gaming are more similar than most people think.

What I soon realized about this novel is that the writing feels incredibly real. When Zack puts on his headpiece and sits down at his console to play Armada for the first time, it feels like a real game. Ernest Cline put so many details into creating the two main video games (Armada and Terra Firma) that I had to Google them to make sure they weren’t real (and that my boyfriend hadn’t been playing them in front of me for the last year, or something).

Anyways, moving on from that little failure.

I found myself loving the the characters as much as I loved them in Ready Player One — I guess I have a fondness for gamers who kick ass. They are such well-rounded characters and they grow on you so fast. I think that’s probably what I love most about these books.

I’m less into spaceships/aliens types of games, so naturally, it was a bit hard to get into the book. There’s a thorough history of space-related video games at the beginning of the book, and that was hard to get through… which then went into the concepts for Terra Firma and Armada. By the time I was done with those (maybe the first 20% of the book?) I was ready to cut my losses, but… I loved Ready Player One. So I persevered, and boy did I not regret it. I wish I’d paid more attention to the first 20% of the book, though, because I feel like I missed a lot more of the book than I should have, and the dreaded library deadline crept up too fast for me to go take the time to reread the beginning.

So pick up a copy of this book and take your time reading it. Enjoy the details, enjoy the plot, and enjoy the masterpiece and the super cool ending.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

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Title: Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Rating: 4.5/5

Blurb (taken from Goodreads):

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

***

Review:

I picked up this book after being told, repeatedly (by several, several, several people), that it was the best book they’ve read all year… and that it made them cry. A lot. I’m happy to say that they were right; this book was right up my alley and snuck its way into my favourite reads of 2016.

This is the type of book that you pick up despite knowing how it will end. If you have read past the first quarter of the book and you can’t tell, from the heavy foreshadowing, what will be the fate of Patroclus and Achilles, then I’m sorry for your poor heart. Clearly, this book is a masochistic romantic tragedy, where they build up something beautiful only to tear it all down at the end… and you enjoy every moment of it.

What I love about this book is that the classics become familiar. Some may feel a bit intimidated when they hear Homer, or the Iliad (or even poetry terms such as “dactylic hexameter”, perhaps?), but Madeline Miller presents this story in the form of a wonderfully-crafted novel. The tale becomes accessible to all types of readers, from teenagers to older adults. The writing is very well done and easy to follow. There’s even a glossary of characters at the end of the book, so don’t do like I did and struggle to remember who is who!

It’s also, of course, a coming of age story. It’s about a friendship that blossoms into romance, about young boys who form a strong companionship that will make you rethink your own friendships. It’s also about children losing their innocence as they heads into a war they aren’t sure they will return from. I hope you will root for Patroclus, the protagonist, as much as I have.

I would definitely recommend this book.

Immortal Writers, by Jill Bowers

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Title: Immortal Writers
Author: Jill Bowers
Rating: 5/5

Blurb (taken from Goodreads):

Young up-and-coming author Liz McKinnen has no idea that her life is about to change forever when she comes home from her first book tour. When she’s kidnapped and told by her captors that she has to kill her fantasy book’s antagonist, she thinks that she’s fallen into the hands of crazy, dangerous fans… until her antagonist sends a real, fire-breathing dragon after her. Liz is quickly initiated into the Immortal Writers, a group of authors from throughout time whose words have given them eternal life, and whose prose is so powerful that it’s brought stories over from the Imagination Field into the Reality Field. As Liz meets authors such as William Shakespeare, JRR Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jane Austen, she has to learn how to control magic, fight dragons, and face her own troubled past before her power-hungry villain takes over the world. Will she survive the ultimate battle against the dragon lord whom she created?

Review:

What an excellent concept to write about. I feel as though the topic of an author visiting into their written work has been done to death; it was the first time that I read about the characters from an author’s novel crossing over into this world. By incorporating landmarks such as Niagara Falls, Jill Bowers creates a strong universe with infinite possibilities.  

I think the highlight of this book for me was the characterization of every single character. The presence of all these famous authors made me laugh from beginning to end. Jill Bowers imagines their personality and shapes them into very intriguing characters (my personal favourite being the downright weird Edgar Allan Poe and his constant search for company during his yearly trek to his own grave). The novel is also full of references to their work, including a quite hilarious bit where Tolkien reminds the readers that he has taken on Smaug, insinuating that Liz’s dragons are inferior.  

The protagonist’s characters are also very well made, and their synergy is strong. It’s very easy for the readers to become attached to them, just as it’s easy for Liz herself to fall even more in love with her own characters. Even the antagonist is well-crafted; although he is absent for most of the novel, he is as well-developed as the rest of them.  

The book finishes off with a teaser of the next book in this series. It doesn’t seem to follow Liz and Curtis, but the story looks even more action-packed than this one!

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone — there is also a book club discussion guide at the end of the novel, so this is perfect for your club (or classroom’s) next read! I would like to thank Blue Moon Publishers and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Assassin Game, by Kirsty McKay

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Title: The Assassin Game
Author: Kirsty McKay
Rating: 3/5

Blurb (taken from Goodreads):

Who will be left after lights out?

At Cate’s isolated boarding school, Killer is more than a game- it’s an elite secret society. Members must avoid being “Killed” during a series of thrilling pranks, and only the Game Master knows who the “Killer” is. When Cate’s finally invited to join the Assassins’ Guild, she know it’s her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.

But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save the Guild. But can she find the real assassin before she’s the next target?

Originally published in the United Kingdom by Chicken House in 2015 under title: Killer game

Review:

For those of you who don’t know, The Hunger Games is one of my favourite YA series. I also have a love for boarding school mysteries, and after reading Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns earlier this year, I decided to request this book as well… It is, basically, a sort-of “hunger games” in a boarding school; how can it go wrong?

Let’s rip the band aid off quickly, shall we? From the first chapter, I told myself I couldn’t possibly like this book. I read the following quote, and immediately lost all connection with the protagonist: “…most of the girls and a handful of the boys go gooey for Alex. He’s blond and tall and good-looking in a screwed-up Hitler Youth kind of way, and that’s obviously not my type on a typical day.”

Dear me.

The characters were very unmemorable and flat. The protagonist’s “best friends” are barely even present through the book. No one is really developed to their full potential, so I never got to actually like any of them.

This, I think, leads to the main problem I had with this book: it wasn’t consistent. Sometimes, the protagonist and storyline are extremely immature, and then it gets very intense. Sometimes, nothing happens for pages on end, and then everything happens within a paragraph. Sometimes, you feel like dropping the book and never picking it up again…

And then it surprises you and actually gets good.

Changes in pace and registry are common in books; in this one, though, I felt like it was a bit too irregular. I just overall didn’t love the pacing and the found the jumps between some events to be too jarring.

Once I got over the disappointment that the cover art is conceptual and doesn’t actually pertain to a scene in the book, and that the pranks are borderline boring, I realized that the author has a pretty decent mystery going for her. That, I could definitely appreciate!

There’s the game of “Killer” that the kids play (the pranks mentioned above), and then there’s an actual wannabe-killer who is a proper psycho. I did enjoy looking past what I mentioned above to try to figure out who was who; especially the virtual component of the game, where everyone has screen names. You do feel a bit of whip lash as the “prime suspect” gets changed from one person to another (as the protagonist becomes more and more paranoid, also), but the mystery does get resolved and you can see the bits and pieces of foreshadowing in the story.

I figure that it’s a decent book; I was just definitely not the intended audience. I would recommend it for younger teenagers, perhaps. It was just a bit too immature for me to give it higher than a three star review.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Foxlowe, by Eleanor Wasserberg

Title: Foxlowe
Author: Eleanor Wasserberg
Rating: 5/5

Blurb (taken from Goodreads):

A chilling, compulsive debut about group mentality, superstition and betrayal – and a utopian commune gone badly wrong

We were the Family, and Foxlowe was our home. There was me – my name is Green – and my little sister, Blue. There was October, who we called Toby, and Ellensia, Dylan, Liberty, Pet and Egg. There was Richard, of course, who was one of the Founders. And there was Freya.

We were the Family, but we weren’t just an ordinary family. We were a new, better kind of family.

We didn’t need to go to school, because we had a new, better kind of education. We shared everything. We were close to the ancient way of living and the ancient landscape. We knew the moors, and the standing stones. We celebrated the solstice in the correct way, with honey and fruit and garlands of fresh flowers. We knew the Bad and we knew how to keep it away.

And we had Foxlowe, our home. Where we were free.

There really was no reason for anyone to want to leave.

***

Review:

I think that the perfect word to describe this book is “haunting”. Not only will it haunt your thoughts as you read it, but it will also linger with you after you’ve put it down. It’s the type of book that makes you rethink subjects such as family, love, devotion, and beliefs. It’s a gripping book that you need to read slowly to comprehend. It’s hard to read long sections because of its intensity, while at the same time it is difficult to walk away because it’s so interesting.

It left such an impression on me that I rounded up my 4.5 stars to 5 despite the book’s main flaw: it leaves much to the reader’s imagination. When writers don’t supply us readers with all (or at least most of) the answers, the book generally loses a bit of its magic for me. Although I was disappointed by the book’s inability to fill in those gaps, I had a pretty good general idea of what happened, and for once, it didn’t affect how I enjoyed the story.

I have read other reviews that have compared this book to “Room” by Emma Donoghue, although with a darker spin. I’ve never read “Room”, but I know that both stories are mainly told through the eyes of a child. The narrator is Green, a young child at the beginning of the book who grows into a troubled young woman deeply affected by her past. To Green, elements of her narrative don’t require an explanation: the Spike Walk, the Bad, the Solstices… these were all part of her life, her core experience, and thus she didn’t always go into details when explaining these types of things. As I mentioned above, for once, it didn’t remove anything from my reading experience.

If the blurb above interests you, I would highly recommend this book. It’s not for the faint of heart — there are rather graphic descriptions of injuries and such — but it’s an intense book that has left a wonderful impression on me.

I received this book from a giveaway through Goodreads. Thank you, HarperCollins Canada!

The Last Star, by Rick Yancey

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Title: The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3)
Author: Rick Yancey
Rating: 5/5

Blurb, taken from Goodreads:

The enemy is Other. The enemy is us.

They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.

But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.

***

Review:

I had a lot of expectations for this last book of The 5th Wave series, but I also had a lot of hopes.

My expectations: a plot twist tying in all the loose ends and a depressing ending. My hopes: a happy ending (after all the horrible stuff that these kids have gone through, sheesh).

What I got: a plot twist tying in all the loose ends and (to me) a heartbreakingly beautiful ending. It was sad in its way (I did cry, yes) and yet I closed the book with a smile on my face. It was a far cry from what I expected out of this series and yet it was still a wonderful way to close it off, and I am very happy I read this series to the end.

I pray for a movie adaptation, because that would be so, so cool! I loved the action, I loved the characters, and I loved the entire dynamics of this book. I found that it was an excellent mix of the first two books in relation to atmosphere and suspense, with nice twists to keep you reading at a fast pace.

I loved it. I don’t have much more to say than that, really. I would recommend this trilogy to anyone who is looking for a good science fiction story!