Things We Like: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files 01) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Every so often, a book comes along thatĀ makes you want to retroactively drop the ratings of pretty much all your books on Goodreads by a star, because now you know what five stars really looks like (pretty much all; not actually all… *cough* JK Rowling and Patrick Ness and Laini Taylor are exempt *cough*).

ILLUMINAE is that book.

Illuminae Ray V6FrontOnlyA2A_V3.indd

It’s a five star book. Really, it’s six stars. All the stars, in fact, and appropriately enough, because this is, simply put, a rollicking, gripping, adrenalin-rushing, heartrending and emotionally bad-ass space novel. It’s YA sci-fi, in space, and then some. No spoilers here, but the novel opens with an attack on a remote mining outpost, deep in space. The occupants scramble to escape as space fights erupt in the skies above.

Space fights, people. Space fights.

The survivors make their escape on three different spacecraft, but the attackers won’t give up so easy. The rest of the novel unfolds from there in a relentless and thrilling story that Never. Lets. Up. It keeps evolving, spinning, reversing, tricking you, lulling you, surprising you, breaking your heart, and you JUST CANNOT PUT IT DOWN.

Seriously, when a book contains awesome space stuff and what scientists are describing as ALL THE FEELS, how can you be expected to live your life and go about your normal business?! You can’t — you can only keep reading as the authors build and build their tension to unbearable levels… and then keep building it some more.

And then some more.

Essentially, this book checks every box you could think of, and plenty that you would never imagine. It goes way beyond what you’d expect: it has pictures, diagrams, beautifully creative layout and typography. Its form often reflects its content in a poetic, mesmerizing way; it’s endlessly creative in the way it presents its story. And it’s not a gimmick that it does this, or that it’s composed of emails, surveillance reports, IM chat transcriptions, etc — it’s entirely necessary, and with a story as unstoppable as this one, Ā you barely notice that this isn’t a traditional narrative.

ILLUMINAEĀ is something we’ve never seen before, and Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff need all the praise for that. They are amazing writers who know how to tell stunning, emotional and epic stories. They’ve made something extraordinary here.

Here are some awards that this book wins:

  1. Best space scenes in YA sci-fi (intergalactic travel, awesome spaceships, insane battles, the majesty of the universe, etc)
  2. Best use of nonstop, brutalĀ sarcasm in stressful situations
  3. Most thrilling novel of 2015
  4. Coolest novel of 2015
  5. Most “when you’ve finished, turn back to page 1 and read it again” novel of 2015
  6. Best Artificial Intelligence in popular culture since HAL in 2001 (that NEEDS to be voiced by David Tennant in the Brad Pitt-poduced movie adaption)(seriously, Brad Pitt is producing the movie adaptation)
  7. Best Brad Pitt movie adaption of all time (to be awarded at some point in the future)


Six out of five space battles

ALTERED and CORRUPTED new covers alert!

We’re really excited to reveal all new covers for ALTERED and CORRUPTED! Here they are… feast yer eyes on these beauties!



We love them; they really capture the tone and feel of the books. We hope you like them too! If you want to find out more,Ā check out the details below!



ALTERED: Buy For Kindle US

ALTERED: Buy For Kindle UK

ALTERED: Buy For nook

ALTERED: Buy Paperback

ALTERED: Buy For Kobo




ALTEREDĀ is book one of the YA sci-fi seriesĀ ALTERED SEQUENCE.

Reese has a plan: keep his grades up, work hard on the basketball court, apply to his favorite Ivy League college, and don’t get arrested.

There’s just one problem: Reese knows things no one should know. He always thought he just had good instincts, but he’s noticed that it’s been getting worse. Lately it seems like something else.

Something more than instinct.

And he’s not the only one that has noticed.

They’ve been waiting.


And now it’s time.

With his life in danger,Ā Reese needs a new plan:





CORRUPTED: Buy For Kindle US

CORRUPTED: Buy For Kindle UK

CORRUPTED: Buy For nook

CORRUPTED: Buy Paperback





CORRUPTEDĀ is book two of the YA sci-fi seriesĀ ALTERED SEQUENCE.

Reese and Erika are on the run in the shadows of Detroit.

They need to find Reeseā€™s father, because hard as it is to admit, Reese has never needed him more.

But his fatherā€™s past might be the biggest threat of all.

They thought Wilcox was the real danger, but others are hunting them too. And Reese and Erika have no idea just how lethal those hunters can be.

As they try to keep each other and those they care about alive, one word keeps coming back to haunt them: Equinox.

The cold never bothered us anyway…

Now that CORRUPTED has hit the virtual shelves, we’re getting ready to gearĀ up for book three. It’s definitely a busy time here at Croucher Towers. We’re finishing up a rewrite of the movie script we wrote last year, which placed quite well in a few competitions. We got some great feedback and notes on it, which gave us some good stuff to think about and work on… so we dived right back in to really pull it apart and put it back together again. Although the central character through line is unchanged, each of the three acts has been heavily restructured, some substantial new scenes added, and we’ve cut out a LOT of what was there before. Editing is ruthlessness. You have be cold, like Elsa. (Or Captain Cold in The Flash). There’s no room for sentimentality or “but I love that scene”. The story becomes your master and you have to obey (but not in a 50 shades kind of way). It’s a thrilling process as you clear away the lines and scenes that you realize are slowing things down, and the script takes its final, streamlined shape.

Once that’s done, the final planning for and writingĀ of book three will begin in earnest, as we take all the ideas we’ve been developing for our characters’ arcs and work out where to add robots and aliens. WE LOVE WRITING!!! šŸ™‚

Back to the index cards and flip charts and laptops and iPads and iPhone notes!

New YA Sci-Fi Alert! Altered Sequence Book Two Now Available!

Hey everyone. CORRUPTED, book two of our YA sci-fi series ALTERED SEQUENCE, is now available! It picks up right where ALTERED left off… And just in time for the holidays, right now ALTERED is $0.99, and CORRUPTED is $2.99. Details below!

Surrounded by threats, Reese wants to hide.

Erika wants to fight.

On the run, searching for safety in Detroit, Reese has never needed his father’s help more.

But his father’s past might be the biggest threat of all.

And as danger closes in, one word keeps coming back to haunt them:


CORRUPTED is available for Kindle at Amazon US and nook at Barnes & Noble.

Also: Buy For Kindle UK

Get CORRUPTED in paperback!

Altered Sequence Book One: ALTERED

ALTERED is available for Kindle at Amazon and nook at Barnes & Noble.

Also: Buy For Kindle UK

Get ALTERED in paperback!


A dystopian thriller that crackles with tension, THE COMPOUND is a stunning debut for YA author S.A Bodeen. In its content, as well as its very existence, this novel is a testament to the power of perseverance: the author wrote nine novels before this one was accepted for publication. Writers: never, ever stop. A similar truth faces Eli, the 15-year old narrator of THE COMPOUND.

The Compound

Six years ago, Eli’s family entered the Compound as nuclear war broke out across the world. Most of his family, that is. Even in the very opening pages, Bodeen delivers heartbreak and pain as not all the members of Eli’s family make it to the underground lair before the doors are sealed shut.

We jump from that first night to six years later. His family have fallen into their sanity-preserving routines, but the cracks are beginning to show, and there are dark, terrible secrets lurking in the shadows, behind closed doors and in mysterious labs. The Compound was constructed by Eli’s billionaire father, Rex. The family have accepted everything he’s told them thus far. But increasingly, things are not as they seem, and truth always has a way of making itself known.

From these few initial hints and clues, Bodeen spins a tense thriller, keeping the pace pounding and the atmosphere electrifying as Eli digs deeper into the real nature of the Compound, and why they are there. This novel races along, the characters are sharp and authentically awkward, the emotions are shocking, and Bodeen choreographs all the elements into a thrilling finale. It’s hard to stop reading, and impossible to resist immediately picking up the sequel, THE FALLOUT. If you’re looking for a great piece of YA sci-fi that thrums with the power of believing in yourself and your possible future, as well as delivering that page-turning, “what’s going to happen next?” urgency of all great YA, this is the book for you. A fantastic debut indeed. We’re lucky that Bodeen believed in herself and this tenth book enough to write it. You should believe in it too.

MORE THAN THIS: Patrick Ness, YA sci-fi and the Carnegie Prize

Here is the boy, drowning.

Thus begins MORE THAN THIS, Patrick Ness’s third novel this year, a dazzlingly brilliant piece of YA sci-fi that must surely win him his third Carnegie.

More Than This, by Patrick Ness. Inevitable Carnegie not pictured.

More Than This, by Patrick Ness. Inevitable Carnegie not pictured.

Ness broke onto the YA scene with his CHAOS WALKING trilogy (the conclusion of which bagged him his first Carnegie), a series of books so incredible in stature and impact that he almost single-handedly destabilized the publishing industry in favor of YA. Literary fiction had nothing to offer that could compare to YA at this level. It fought back, sure, swinging the occasional dizzying heavyweight punch: Hilary Mantel’s WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES, Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. No problem, thought Ness, as his devastating follow-up to CHAOS WALKING, A MONSTER CALLS, put a second Carnegie on his mantelpiece.

However, possibly sensing the unfairness of his actions, he returned to his literary roots earlier this year with THE CRANE WIFE, an impossibly beautiful and haunting fable that righted the imbalance that he himself had created. It belonged with the Mantels and the Murakamis, joining them to form a group of books that, much like the Avengers, came together in unlikely fashion to save the world (of literary fiction).

The beautiful full UK cover of The Crane Wife

The beautiful full UK cover of The Crane Wife

With balance restored, Ness took a quickĀ detour into the world of Doctor Who, publishing a novella featuring the sixth doctor as part of the show’s 50th anniversary year. It was a humorously inventive and pleasant read, and felt just like a lost Peter Davison episode.

All seemed well.

Until now.

Because MORE THAN THIS is something extraordinary.

On its surface, it’s a smooth, propulsive read, elegantly written, with a narrative that flows. Below that beautifully-crafted surface, it has terrifying conceptual and emotional undercurrents that could pull you under, were it not for the fact that this novel overflows with compassion and hope. Those contradictions create a beautiful paradox, a knife edge of possible realities, a thrilling state of flux that Ness keeps us in throughout this novel.

The novel opens in chilling style, with the brutal and shocking description of the violent, irrevocable death by drowning of the lead character. It’s a bold, stunning opening, made even more so by the fact that, one page later, Seth seemingly wakes up, somewhere far removed from where he died.

As Seth explores his surroundings, Ness plays with the possibilities; is this purgatory? hell? another chance at life? something else entirely? This deceptively simple story engine – where is Seth and what has happened to him? – creates a powerful momentum that never lets up. Seth’s journey and memories give Ness the perfect opportunity to weave in his themes of hope and redemption. Bad things have happened to Seth and his family in the past, some of them because Seth happens to be gay. His sexuality, and the less than welcome reception it provokes in the outside world, is treated in a heartfelt and heartbreaking way by Ness. Seth carries a crushing amount of guilt; he’s destroyed by it. This novel is, in part, the story of how he comes to understand the nature of the guilt, and see the possibility of putting it aside.

The more Seth learns about himself, his past, and his present, the more we come to realize that the apparently dystopian landscape that he wakes up in is not as deserted or lifeless as he thought.

Ness is willing and able to fully embrace the potentially science fiction elements of his story (as he said in a recent BBC interview, he’s not snobbish about any element that a story might need). The book deals with ideas that bring to mind elements of THE MATRIX, TOTAL RECALL, even INCEPTION, but the key thing is that Ness absolutely knows it. He plays with it, dances with it, even has the characters comment on the movie-like story beats. It’s meta, but it also goes way beyond meta. Which is totally Ness’s point – what is reality? Yes, Patrick Ness isn’t afraid to totally get ontological up in here.

MORE THAN THIS is, in a way, old-school, well-crafted, classic YA sci-fi, that brings to mind Melvin Burgess and David Almond with its strong simplicity and its other worlds. But it’s also all new, all now, all just ahead of us; a hugely original piece of writing that uniquely elides past, present and future with its knowingness, its playfulness, its lacing of potential bleakness with light and heart and warmth, its colliding of sci-fi and contemporary, and its witty characterizations.

It is an intriguing, moving and ultimately hopeful experience. There is sadness, there are tears, but there is also warmth, laughter, companionship and compassion. The sci-fi is seamlessly woven into the emotional narrative, making it even more compelling. It’s such a human book; full of what it means to be human. To feel. To love. To lose. To die. To live.

Ness had better make sure there’s room on his mantelpiece for that third Carnegie, because this is surely the YA book of the year.

Still time! YA sci-fi giveaway!

In the mood for some free YA sci-fi? Craving a fast-paced, gritty tale of genetically modified superpowers? Enjoyed Chronicle, Arrow and The Amazing Spider-Man, and feel like something kinda similar? Then head on over to Reading Lark, because those lovely peeps are giving away THREE copies of ALTERED!