Book Review (Super Spoilery Edition): Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.


So for whatever reason, I decided to reread Illuminae. I’ve been meaning to do so for a while but never got around to it – probably because I felt pressured to read all the other books on my TBR (pressure I put on myself). After struggling to get into another book, I decided it was time to reread an old favorite and remember why it was a favorite, as well as whether I still feel the say way about it almost 5 years after reading it for the first time.

Now, I do already have a review for Illuminae, However I wanted to write another one (without looking at my previous one) to see how different this review ends up being from the original one. This will also contain more spoilers, because this is going to be part review and part reading journal. So without further ado, here is my new and, hopefully, improved review of Illuminae.

Ilumminae starts off on the illegal mining colony planet Kerenza, everything is business as usual when all of a sudden the planet is attacked by a BeiTech fleet (which is a huge corporation in this world), people are dying but several thousand make it off the planet safely – including Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, our main characters who also broke up several hours before the start of the book. There are three ships that make up the fleet: war vessel Alexander, science vessel Hypatia  and freighter Copernicus. Their goal is to make it to the Heimdall jump station before they are caught and taken down by the Lincoln, a BeiTech vessel that will show no mercy, but they might have trouble on their hands amongst themselves, and especially with the Alexader’s AI, AIDAN.

Just like it did the first time, it took me about 20 pages to get into Illuminae, but after that it is very quick-paced! However, I deliberately took my time with readint it because I wanted to savor it. It’s also amazing what I ended up remembering from the first time I read it, and what I didn’t remember.

First, I forgot how much the leadership kept the evacuees in the dark about what was going on – I get that they were trying to keep people calm. Also Captain Torrance is a major jerk with how he tries to strong arm everyone!!

Also I forgot that Kady is a strong character and how she is willing to do whatever it takes to discover the truth of what is going on – however, she is kind of morally gray considering the fact that she doesn’t seem to really caree who takes the fall for her actions.

And I forgot that at the start of the novel there were there were three ships of Kerenza evacuees…now I know why… AIDAN goes rogue and forces the Alexander to destroy the Copernicus because there is a threat of a virus on board and it determines it is the “best” outcome. It is interesting to see how it has become somewhat sentitent, but in a selfish way.

I had also forgotten about how the Phobos virus was the result of a bioweapon that BeiTech had dropped on certain parts of Kerenza. It was interesting to read, especially since I was reading it in the height of COVID-19.

I also love how we are finding out the information along with the characters over time, especially regarding what really happened on the Copernicus before it was destroyed.

I also forgot how ruthless AIDAN, like it knows that it’s job is to protect the fllet and wants to do so, but it also doesn’t want to be shut down again It’s answer to get rid of the very people who have the power to do so is to release the quarantined people who have the Phobos virus and are deranged as a result, to go after the leadership of the Alexander, as well as expose everyone to the virus. It’s almost like it thinks it is a merciful thing to do, especially since the Lincoln will comeback to destroy them. I think it is interesting that AIDAN keeps repeating the phrase, “Am I not merciful?” when it really isn’t. But it also can’t tell the difference between right and wrong because it is an AI, but yet it is sentient of the fact that it does not want to be shut down again and seems to be protecting itsef – almost as if it feared death. It definitely reminds me of HAL300 from 2001:A Space Odyssey, which is a book I really need to read since I’ve only seen the Stanley Kubrick film. In fact, whenever AIDAN speaks or we read from it’s perspective, in my head I read it in the same voice as HAL3000. The same kind of chilling, calm monotone voice, that has a “perfect” explanation for it’s actions.

What’s even more intersting is when it threatens to destroy the Hypatia when it tries to get as far away from the Alexander as it can. AIDAN’s logic is faulty, but then again it doesn’t really have feelings -although it seems to have some sense of self-preservation and revenge.

The way Ezra describes some of the scenes of what he sees the “afflicted” doing on the Alexander seem to be like something out a horror movie, but it doesn’t faze me much…maybe there are some types of horror I can endure? Who knows? I don’t think I want to try and find that out.

I love how there’s a conversation with the phrase “O Captain, my captain,” and it bother refers to the poem by Walt Whitman and the movie Dead Poets’ Society (which is a great movie and I highly recommed it) even though that conversation ends in a sad way.

RIP James McNulty! The scene with his last will and testament is so sad! There are so many side characters in this book (and series) whose deaths are so gut-wrenching. I almost cried several times during my reread.

Even though AIDAN is the villain, it is interesting to get it’s persepctive of the people descending into madness because of the virus, and even it is kind of surprised by it. I find it fascinating that it beleives that what it is doing was for the greater good, even though a lot of the chaos that takes place is it’s fault. It’s also interesting because there are moments when it seems like AIDAN is having an existential crisis even though it is merely an AI,

Even though Kady at first seemed to be morally gray, she has a good sense of what is right and what is wrong. She willinly sacrifice her life for the several hundred survivors still left on the Alexander, as well as the lives of those on the Hypatia. It’s interesting how AIDAN cares for Kady and it cannot bear the fact of anything bad happening to her and does what it can to stave off enemies. Even as an AI, it clearly is grappling with some kind of emotion, an it’s confused by it because it is something that it had not previously known. It’s also interesting how the ship serves as AIDAN”s body. Thankfully, the bad guys, the dreadnought Lincoln, are blown to smitherens and the Hypatia is able to continue on her journye to the Heimdall Jump Station.

I found it interesting that near it’s impending doom, AIDAN seems to be scared of “death” or going offline.

I completely forgot the big reveal in the last 10 pages… we sicover that Ezra’s mom is the Executive Director of BeiTech, which definitely adds a whole other dimesnsion to why Kerenza was attacked, especially since we are told that the reason Ezra and his dad moved to Kerenza was to hide from her!

I really loved my re-read of Illuminae – in fact, I read it a lot quicker than I thought I would. Once again, I enjoyed the format of a dossier folder with mixed media text. It definitely kept me engaged the whole time.

I am planning on doing reviews like this for both Gemina and Obsidio, so stay tuned for those, especially since I decided to marathon them since I have not read them back to back before. 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Movie Review: Dumplin’ (2018)

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is a movie review on Dumplin’ which was released in 2018.


Instead of jumping into a summary of the movie (which is the same as the book), I’m jsut going to jump into my review.

The opening scene is really great with a flashback to a scene with Willowdean and her Aunt Lucy, and of course, a Dolly Parton son. It also shows the beginning of her friendship with Ellen. I also love the foreshadowing of what happen to bully Patrick Thomas later on.

Also, I really love how they kept the influence of Dolly Parton in the movie, especially by playing her music in the background.

Jennifer Aniston does a great job in her portrayal of Willowdean’s mother. I also like how her character is a lot more three-dimensional than what was given in the book. I also like how we get to see more of how Willowdean feels like a disappointment to her mom.

There is also a lot more development between her and Bo, also he keeps going to Holy Cross as opposed to transferring to Will’s school, which happens in the book.

I love th scene of  sign-up day for the pageant. I especially love the following quote that Willowdean says to her mom, “A swimsuit body is just a body with a swimsuit on it.”

Then there is the scene when Bo and Willowdean watch the meteor shower and she schools him on Dolly Parton. Also when things get awkward between them when they kiss because she becomes self-conscious of him feeing her back rools and freaks out about it.

I also liked how Willowdean and Ellen’s argument is based on more than on Ellen signing up for the pageant, the movie shows it as rooted also in sight jealousy when her mom shows Eleen attention that she wants from her. It was sad to see how her mom doesn’t really suppot her participation in the pageant.

Bo is a sweetheart, especially when he tells Willowdean that he loves her the way she is.

I also liked how the movie focuses more on preparing for the pageant.

There is also a scene where Rosie (Willowdean’s mom) realizes that she never really knew her sisters and that if it wasn’t for Lucy she probably would not have won the pageant. We see her coming to terms with her sister’s death. And then during the pageant we finally see that she is proud of her daughter.

Overall, this was a great adaptation of the book, in some ways I like it better than the book. I just foudn the different relationships presented in the movie were a lot more dynamic than they were in the book, especially the relationship between Willowdean and her mom. There were some notable differences between the book and the movie, firstly, the character Amanda wasn’t in it at all. And second, Willowdean’s first boyfriend, Mitch was also missing, which I was fully okay with because I didn’t really like that plot point in the book. Honestly, I really like the movie a lot more than the book. 4/5 Stars.

Happy reading and watching,

Janelle L. C.

First Line Fridays #22 – Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another installment of First Line Fridays hosted by Hoarding Books.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang


“My parents told me that America would be this amazing place where we could live in a house with a dog, do whatever we want, and eat hamburgers till we were red in the face. So far, the only part of that we’ve achieved is the hamburger part, but I was still holding out hope.” 

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy.


Dumplin’ is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for several years, especially when the movie came out. Confession, I have already seen the move, so I already knew the basic premise, although there are some difference between the book and movie, which I will explore in a review of the movie. I also read this because it was suggested as a read-a-like for The Princess Diaries on NoveList.

Dumplin’ follows self-proclaimed fat girl, Willowdean Dixon. Even though she is fat, Willowdean is confident and owns it. However, she struggles to live in the same house as her mother, an ex-beauty pageant queen, who runs the local beauty pageant and is constantly trying to “encourage” Willodean to lose weight. Willowdean works at a local fast food restuarant and has a crush on her co-worker Bo, but knows that he would never go for a girl like her. But then one day he starts showing interest in Willowdean and her confidence starts to crack.

She also decides to enter the Miss Blue Bonnet pageant after discovering that her Aunt Lucy – who died 6 months prior to the start of the novel – had wanted to enter the pageant but was dissuaded from doing son. Willowdean wants to prove that anyone can enter a beauty pageant and do well regardless of their body type. She is joine by three other girls from her school: Millie, who is also overweight; Amada, who walks with a limp; and Hannah, who has buck teeth. And then Willowdean is also dealing with some drama with her best friend Ellen , and is forced to make new friends.

I enjoyed Dumplin’ for the most part, especially since I found that I related to Willowdean a lot. But I also found her to be kind of a jerk sometimes, especially to Bo and Ellen. But her relationship with her mom was kind of relatable because some of the discussions that they have are similar ones that I have had with my own mother over the years. I also enjoyed watching her realize that it really doesn’t matter what other people think, especially when it comes to relationships. I also loved how Bo liked Willowdeanregardless of her size or if people think they are an odd matach because of it.

I also enjoyed getting to know Millie, Amanda and Hannah and I am looking forward to reading more about Millie in the companion novel, Puddin’.

And even though Willowdean’s mom was aggravating at times, I also know that she meant well, even if her intentions were misguided.

There were also some great quotes throughout the novel, here are some of my favorites:

“I sit down to eat and liberally spread salad dressing across my plate, because on the eighth day God created ranch dressing” (13).

“All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on. Fat. Skinny. Short. Tall. It doesn’t matter” (33).

“My body is the villain. That’s hows she sees it. It’s a prison keeping the better, thinner version of me locked away. But she’s wrong” (133).

“…but good friendships are durable. They’re meant to survive the gaps and the growing pains” (204).

“Beautiful, he says. Fat, I think. But can’t I be both at the same time?” (318).

Overall, I really liked Dumplin’, even though it had its moments where I lost interest. This is a great read for plus-sized young women who want to see that it is okay to be comfortable and confident in their own skin. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Mini-reviews #7

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another installment of my mini-reviews for some of the books that I have read in the last few months.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill 


The Dept. fo Speculation was an interesting little book. It is a story told in small paragraphs and seems very much to be stream of consciousness, with random facts interspersed with scenes and thoughts from the main character (only known as “the wife”) who we see get married, have a child who is very fussy, and eventualy deal with an unfaithful spouse. It was pretty good and I immadiately requested Jenny Offill’s latest release from the library. 4/5 Stars.

Goldie Vance Volume 2 by Hope Larson 


This was a great follow-up to the first volume, even though this follows a different story arc. This time Goldie and her friend, Cheryl, discover an unconscious astronaut washed up on the beach. However, soon both the astronaut and Cheryl disappear and it’s up to Goldie to try and find them. But she also discovers that there is a lot about Cheryl that she didn’t know about. This a cute graphic novel with great artwork! 5/5 Stars.

Goldie Vance Volume 3 by Hope Larson 


This volume follows Goldie when she is hired by her archnemesis, Sugar Maple, to help find whoever might be trying to sabotage her racing car. Slowly, Goldie realizes that there is more to Sugar than what meets the eye, as well as a lot of family drama. Yet another great installment in this series! 5/5 Stars.

Goldie Vance Volume 4 by Hope Larson 


I ejoyed this volume in the serie and I am sad because it seems like the end of the series, especially when it seems like it kind of ended on a cliffhanger, but I hope I’m wrong because this is a really great comic series. In this volume, Goldie goes up against the KGB, who are trying to use radio frequency waves with music to cause widespread blackouts, and they’re planning on using a local music festival to cause even more chaos. 5/5 Stars.

The Gospel Comes with a Housekey by Rosaria Butterfield


I picked this up because this recommended in a sermon I heard last year. While it was good and provided some good food for thought there are some things that I would disagree with the author on, and a few things that she talks about that are questionable. 4/5 Stars. For a more comprehensive view on these issues than what I could articulate here is a balanced review on the book:

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.


First Line Friday #21 – The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another installment of First Line Fridays hosted by Hoarding Books.

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith 


“On the first day of September, the world went dark. But from where she stood in the blackness, her back pressed against the brassy wall of an elevator, Lucy Patterson had no way of knowing the scope of it yet.” 

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan.


The Girls of Atomic City has been on my radar ever since I read The Radium Girls by Kate Moore almost two years ago. Even though it took me a while to pick this one up, I’m glad I finally did!

The Girls of Atomic City is a non-fiction book that follows the lives of several women who worked and lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during World War II. Oak Ridge was a secret government reservation where research and manufacturing of uranium was done for the Manhattan Project. Those who lived and worked at Oak Ridge knew very little about what they were doing, some know more than others, but they were not allowed to talk about it for fear that there were spies among them who might get confidential information and pass it along to the enemy. While there were men that worked there, there were a lot more women due to the fact that many men had been sent to fight in the war. This book follows the lives of the people of Oak Ridge and how almost everything they did was a secret, how they were willing to do what the could to help end the war and the shocking discovery of what they had been working on after the bombing of Hiroshima.

I enjoyed The Girls of Atomic City, I found it fascinating to learn more about one facet of the Manhattan Project and just how it affected the lives of those who worked on it. It was interesting to see how secretive everything was and just the effect it had on the people of Oak Ridge, especially marriages were the husbands were not allowed to share anything with their wives, and the wives struggle to trust that they are not being unfaithful.

While the book mostly follows what happened at Oak Ridge, Denise Kiernan also provides information about the various discoveries that were made regarding uranium, fission and atomic energy, as well as the women who helped with those discoveries.

Kiernan does a good job of discussing a topic that is controversial from a neutral point of view, but it is still compelling! There are times when the book slows down, but the payoff is worth it!

The Girls of Atomic City is non-fiction, but it is part scientific, part thriller, part mystery and even slightly part horror, however it provides the story of the women who’s only goal was to help bring the war to an end even if they didn’t know what exactly they were doing, or how their jobs contributed to the overall Manhattan Project. I recommend this for those who enjoyed Kate Moore’s Radium Girls, as well as those who are interested in World War II history and those who wish to learn more about the Manhattan Project.

I loved reading the story of these real-life women and I hope to visit Oak Ridge sometime and to learn more about life there. 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.




Book Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.


I feel like Stargirl is one of those books that was really popular when I was in middle school, and then it gained popularity again when it was announced that Disney was making an adaptation of it. For whatever reason, I never picked it up as an adolescent, however after watching the movie trailer, I knew I wanted to read the book before watching the movie. Also, shout out to my husband for waiting to watch the movie until I finished reading the book.

Stargirl follows Leo Borlock, who lives in sleepy Mica, Arizon, where it seem like everyone just exists and sticks to the status quo. That is until the day Stargirl Carraway arrives at Mica High School, and immediately she stands out, she is unique inside and out. With her effervescent personality and her unique outfits, Stargirls starts to shake things up, mainly by bringing school spirit to Mica High. Everyone seems to love her until one day she does something that makes everyone turn on her. Even though Leo loves Stargirl, he tries to pressure her into being ordinary – even if it could destroy her.

Stargirl is one of those books that while it is short, it does pack a punch. It explores topics such as non-conformity, fitting in, bullying, standing up for what is right, being kind and being yourself. It also shows how sometimes we meet people that are larger than life, and/or seem magical.

As far as characters go, Stargirl is good, especially since she tries hard to remain true to herself, her only seems to be to bring joy to others with random acts of kindness.

While the title of the book seems to make out that she is the main focus of the book, while she is, it is not her character development that we follow…rather we watch the impact that she has on Leo throughout the novel.

Leo is an interesting character in that at girst he is enchanted by Stargirl and sticks with her when she “falls from grace” with her peers. However, he is kind of a jerk when he askes her to be ordinary in order to fit in, even it kills the very essence of who Stargirl is. However, in the end he learns the importance of individuality and how sometimes you need to be willing to stand by those who might be social outcasts because they do not fit into the status quo.

One other character, I really liked was Archie – one of the only prominent adults in the novel. I liked him because he does not talk down to Leo, but yet he passes on some great nuggets of wisdom to Leo.

Overall, I really enjoyed Stargirl, although I found that I had a lot more questions than I did answers when I finished reading, namely about Stargirl. However, I do know that Jerry Spinelli did write a sequel called Love, Stargirl that follows what happened to Stargirl after the events of this book. Stay tuned for a discussion post/review of the movie in the next week! 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Mini-reviews #6

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another installment of my series of mini-reviews. Here are some books that I’ve enjoyed in the last few months!

The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex by Sheila Wray Gregoire


As a newly wed I am really appreciative for this book. Not only does it have good information about the wedding night and early days of marriage about sexual intimacy. I also loved that it emphasized the need to have a good friendship with your spouse in order to have good/great sex. I also appreciated how this book covered issues that can affect both women and men when it comes to sex. This was from a Christian perspective without being to preachy. I recommend this for every Christian bride-to-be and wives! 5/5 Stars.

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison


I picked up this book because I was in the mood for something light-hearted and funny, and told in epistalory format. However, I found it really annoying, the humor often grated on me (and it wasn’t because it was British humor either!). I found Georgia to be rude and obnoxious and just not a great character. Honestly, I was kind of disappointed. 1.5/5 Stars.

Goldie Vance Volume 1 by Hope Larson 


This was a cute introduction to what seems like a great graphic novel set during the early 1960s. It follows 16 year-old Goldie Vance who works at a hotel in Florida that is managed by her father. She helps out with the on-site detective agency, as well as a valet driver. She has to help find a missing necklace, but when the ownder of the necklace disappears, Goldie Vance is on the case, even if it means going up against Russin spies in order to find him. 5/5 Stars.

Children of the Whales Volume 1 by Abi Umeda 


Children of the Whales is an interesting fantasy post-apocalyptic manga. This was a great introduction to the series, I loved getting to know Chakuro and the rest of the people that live on the Mud Whale and how their lives are shaken up by the arrival of Lykos, who’s existence is surprising to the people on the Mud Whale and could be a threat to their very existence. 5/5 Stars.

Children of the Whales Volume 2 by Abi Umeda 


This was a great follow-up to the first volume, which ended with the Mud Whale being attacked. Once the attack is over, we learn some more about Lykos and some of the history of the Mud Whale – especially since there are some things that the elders are keeping from the rest of people. We also discover that these elders are insane and see the only way out of their situation is to destroy the Mud Whale, but Chakuro and his friends try to stop them before it’s too late. I cannot wait to read the next volume. 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.