Monday, 19 April 2021

Kate In Waiting by Becky Albertalli

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli

What is it about?

Contrary to popular belief, best friends Kate Garfield and Anderson Walker are not codependent. Carpooling to and from theater rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.

But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off script. Matt Olsson is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.

Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship.

My thoughts: This sounds like such a cute and adorable feel-good read, and I'm in desperate need of more of those. The world is dark enough, I can do with a bit of cute in my fiction. Of course, it's my own fault that I so often pick grimdark fantasy reads filled with ancient evils rising...

I've added Kate in Waiting to my list to read on a rainy Saturday afternoon when I need a pick-me-up.

Thank you to the WriteReads (and the publishers of course) for organising this blog tour and feeding my bottomless to be read pile which is threatening to suffocate me in my sleep.

About the author: Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (film: Love, Simon). A former clinical psychologist who specialized in working with children and teens, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta. You can visit her online at Twitter: @beckyalbertalli

Check out the following reviews of this book: Steph over @ bookslovereaders, Mehek over @ The Critiques of a Fangirl, The Romance Bloke, Ellie @ readtoramble

Saturday, 3 April 2021

What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson

Book Title: What Beauty There Is
Author: Cory Anderson
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller, YA
Source: Blog Tour

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Jack Morton has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he'd do anything for. Even die for. Now with their mother gone, and their funds quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison. He chooses the money.
Ava Bardem lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one. Trust no one. Now Victor Bardem is stalking the same money as Jack. When he picks up Jack's trail, Ava must make her own wrenching choice: remain silent or help the brothers survive.

What did I think?
What an absolutely stunning and beautiful book is basically what I thought while reading the third (!) page because Anderson's debut (!) is just that well written.

The sparse and lyrical prose immediately drew me in, and at times it almost felt like reading a very long poem. Anderson's writing is captivating and dark, laced with both beauty and despair.

I didn't know what to expect from this book, but I was completely blown away by most of it. At times, I was speechless. A haunting experience.

The three young characters are filled to the brim with trauma and their anxiety drips from the pages, squeezing my heart with every sentence. They're so young and raw, and yet they have to be brave if they want to survive. And they are. Oh so brave!

Ava, Jack and Matty are beautifully crafted, and I just wanted to step inside this novel and protect (adopt) them. Most of the novel is written from Jack's point of view, and his relationship with his younger brother Matty was possibly my favourite aspect of this book. It's heartbreaking to see how much Jack loves Matty, and Matty looks up to Jack.

The entire novel is a rollercoaster of emotions and the predominant themes are: darkness, pain, and hope. 

The pacing is on point, and I couldn't put this book down. The short chapters and the sparse prose invited me to fly through the chapters to the point where I had to force myself to slow down and enjoy the poetry in Anderson's words.

I can't recommend What Beauty There Is enough to all fans of contemporary thrillers. (For those of you who need trigger warnings, please have a look before picking it up.)

A special thank you to Dave at TheWriteReads for organising this blog tour, and to Netgalley for allowing me to read this one early. As always: I appreciate it and my review is honest.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Aether Ones by Wendi Coffman-Porter

Book Title: Aether Ones
Author: Wendi Coffman-Porter
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Blog Tour

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Leilani Falconi is a top agent for the Imperial Investigative Service, tasked with policing the veil between two realities.

Long ago, the Great Sundering tore the universe into two mirrored halves; aether space, which progressed using magical energy or eldrich, and kuldain, which advanced via electromagnetic technology.

But now a series of suspicious deaths stretching back more than a decade has the agent trapped directly between secretive bureaucracies and their peoples. If she can't solve the mysterious crimes in time, existence as she knows it could erupt into chaos.

What did I think?

I'm a huge science fiction fan and the concept of two mirrored halves—one using magical energy, and one with electromagnetic technology—immediately drew me towards this book.

Just look at that gorgeous cover.

This is a gripping novel where the two opposing worlds are each convinced of their supremacy. Leilani Falconi, the protagonist, spits sarcasm for a living—I'm a sucker for a well-written sarcastic main character as they sadly often come across as condescending or just asshats—and she's willing to sacrifice everything to set things right.

I was rooting for her throughout. She's an excellent main character, who feels real and is three-dimensional.

There is no wasted word in this book. It moves at a breakneck pace, making it almost impossible to set the book down and just breathe. It's almost confusing at first since Coffman-Porter just drops you right into the action without much of an explanation and you just sort of have to learn how to swim.

The world is intriguing and complex, filled with rich detail. One part I especially enjoyed were the military aspects, and it didn't surprise me to find out that the author comes from a military family.

I recommend this book if you're a science fiction fan who doesn't mind a pinch of fantasy. This is a gorgeous mash-up, and I hope Coffman-Porter writes many more books.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Inscape by Louise Carey

Book Title: Inscape
Author: Louise Carey
Genre: Cyberpunk, Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Paperback from Publisher

GoodreadsAmazon UK

Plot: Warning: use of this gate will take you outside of the InTech corporate zone. Different community guidelines may apply, and you may be asked to sign a separate end-user license agreement. Do you wish to continue?
Tanta has trained all her young life for this. Her very first mission is a code red: to take her team into the unaffiliated zone just outside InTech's borders and retrieve a stolen hard drive. It should have been quick and simple, but a surprise attack kills two of her colleagues and Tanta barely makes it home alive.
Determined to prove herself and partnered with a colleague whose past is a mystery even to himself, Tanta's investigation uncovers a sinister conspiracy that makes her question her own loyalties and the motives of everyone she used to trust.
What did I think?

"Louise Carey's dystopian future is chillingly plausible." - Claire North.

That's the blurb on the cover, and Claire North is one of my favourite authors, which is why I wanted to review a copy of Inscape. As always I thank the publisher, Gollancz, for the opportunity.

This is Louise Carey's first solo book, and I must say, I hope she'll write more.

I wasn't sold at first. Especially the main character, Tanta, rubbed me the wrong way, mostly because it felt like she was incredibly meek and submissive. Her reaction to her mentor's praise made me cringe. I didn't think she could carry the story.

Turns out, this is all part of the plot. I can't say more without revealing too much, but I enjoyed Tanta's development a lot. Carey digs deep into developmental psychology and the story is utterly fascinating because of that aspect alone.

The book deals with important themes such as loyalty and, more importantly, how to manipulate and abuse said loyalty in a world where corporations and money matter more than anything else. "You care about them, but they don't care about you."

But Inscape isn't just about Tatana, it's a page-turning cyberpunk thriller, painting a horrific future. Carey's prose is smooth and reads well. Despite a future dominated by tech, the author uses neither technobabble nor infodumps. The reader's knowledge develops alongside Tatana's, each page revealing another piece of the puzzle.

I really liked this book. The pacing is somewhat slower in the first half but quickly picks up, and the story is immersive with excellent action scenes, and I recommend Inscape to fans of Deus Ex and Cyberpunk, and books like Gibson's Neuromancer.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

Book Title: Left Handed Booksellers of London
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Urban Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn't get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.
Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.
Susan's search for her father begins with her mother's possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.
Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan's. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.

What did I think?

Reading The Left-Handed Booksellers of London was probably some of the most fun I had throughout 2020. It didn't turn into one my favourite books, but it let me escape the real world and fly away into an alternative London.

This book is good, light-hearted fun with plenty of humour, and likeable protagonists. It's easy entertainment, basically written for a year where everything is so terrible all you want to do is give gifts to your animal neighbours living on an island inside your Switch.

Don't expect a lot of depth from the story, or well-developed characters, although the world-building is great, and I really enjoyed the premise of left-handed and right-handed booksellers. (The left-handed ones fight, while the right-handed ones think.)

Susan, the protagonist, never really grows into a fully fleshed out character, and I never felt like I really got to know her, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment.

This is only my second Garth Nix novel. and I didn't get along with Angel Mage despite being intrigued by the premise. So, really, I should say this is my first Garth Nix novel. Sabriel is waiting on my shelf, and I'm quite excited to pick it up after having read this.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

Book Title: Amari and the Night Brothers
Author: B.B. Alson
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Blog Tour

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Amari Peters knows three things.
Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.
No one will talk about it.
His mysterious job holds the secret.
So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon.
Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives, and when each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent – one that the Bureau views as dangerous.
With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.

What did I think?

Just look at this gorgeous cover.

This MG novel is incredibly well written and easy to read. Alston nailed Amari's voice and made her an incredibly funny, yet empathic character. He created a magical journey, one that I hope many young readers will embark on.

Amari is a likeable protagonist. Most readers will find something of themselves in her, whether it be her curiosity, her strength, or her determination. She's the kind of protagonist I'd like my son or daughter (if I had any children) to root for. Amari is a fighter, independent, and determined to prove herself.

Elsie, her new best friend, quickly turned into my favourite character. Possibly because she's supposed to turn into a fire-breathing dargon.

The plot is tight and not a word is wasted. And the magic is fun. So much fun and also bizarre in places. Alston shows off his incredible imagination on every page.

The main themes are standing up for yourself (including prejudice) and camaraderie. I really enjoyed the friendships in this book.

The story is filled with twists and surprises and all of them are beautifully foreshadowed. Personally, I did see the big twist coming, but that's hardly a fair comment from a seasoned fantasy reader like myself.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed every minute of this brilliant romp.

To summarise: This explosive start to a new middle grade fantasy series is absolutely action-packed and filled with a cast of brilliant characters. I highly recommend this gem to every MG fan.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Every Sky A Grave by Jay Posey

Book Title: Every Sky A Grave
Author: Jay Posey
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Mankind has spread out and conquered the galaxy by mastering the fundamental language of the universe. With the right training, the right application of words, truth itself can be rearranged. Language is literally power.
Peace reigns now. Order reigns.
For if a planet deviates too far from what the authorities plan, an agent is sent out to correct that. To quietly and with great skill, end that world.
One such agent is Elyth – a true believer.
But on a clandestine mission to stop an uprising before it can truly begin, Elyth comes to realise she hasn’t been told the whole truth herself. There’s so much she doesn’t know. How can there be people whose truth is different to that of the authorities?
Elyth’s faith in the powers that be is shaken just when she needs it most. While on her mission, a dark and unknown presence makes itself known at the edges of the galaxy – and it cannot be controlled, for nobody knows its name.

What did I think?

Every Sky a Grave was my first time reading anything by Jay Posey. The fact that language is power in this world won me over. The cover is beautiful, and the publicist said it's perfect for fans of Mark Lawrence. (Although I must admit that I don't really see the similarities, apart from maybe the prose.)

Posey is a skilled writer. In fact, the prose is what I liked most about this book. At times, it was like reading poetry.

The world building is intricate and creative and reminded me of the epic scope of Alastair Reynold's House of Sun. 

The protagonist is a smart, knowledgeable and curious woman. She's intelligent and I quickly found myself rooting for her. She's fiercely independent, loyal at first but grows into her own as the plot progresses.

Unfortunately, I thought the middle dragged somewhat, and I struggled coming back to this book.

The ending, however, is strong and I'm definitely interested in reading the sequel.

This is an intriguing science fiction novel for fans of Alastair Reynolds who don't mind a slow middle.