Monday, 11 March 2019

Never Die by Rob J. Hayes

Book Title: Never Die
Author: Rob. J. Hayes
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: E-book copy provided by the authors

Amazon UK, Goodreads 
Plot Summary: Ein is on a mission from God.
A God of Death.
Time is up for the Emperor of Ten Kings and it falls to a murdered eight year old boy to render the judgement of a God. Ein knows he can't do it alone, but the empire is rife with heroes. The only problem; in order to serve, they must first die.
Ein has four legendary heroes in mind, names from story books read to him by his father. Now he must find them and kill them, so he can bring them back to fight the Reaper's war.
Thank you to the author for providing me with a review copy of this book. Also a big thank you goes to Esme over at the Weatherwaxreport for setting up TBRindr.

What did I think?

Rob J. Hayes impressed me with Drones, and this one promised to be a fast-paced fantasy, so I dove straight in.

I was not disappointed.

It's a captivating story, and Hayes is a gifted storyteller. I couldn't put the book down. I did not want to put the book down. Tight prose and short chapters make for excellent pacing.

Never Die shows that a simple story can turn into a memorable tale in the hands of a skilled author. Not a word is wasted. The characters are fleshed out, interesting, and their dynamic feels real.

With its Asian inspired setting filled with plenty of sword fights, Never Die reminds me of playing a video-game.

Hayes' prose is simple, yet accessible. He paints scenes in a vivid, captivating way. Despite lacking the meticulous descriptions which the fantasy genre usually offers, I was able to visualise everything. At times, I felt like I was watching a movie. Hayes' style is super entertaining, with plenty of surprising twists and turns in the story.

I highly recommend Never Die to everyone who loves their fantasy topped with a ton of action. If any of this sounded interesting, give it a shot, it's well worth a read.

Friday, 25 January 2019

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

Book Title: Our Child of the Stars
Author: Gareth Hanrahan
Genres: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 
Source: I own a copy

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot Summary: A group of three young thieves are pulled into a centuries old magical war between ancient beings, mages, and humanity in this wildly original debut epic fantasy.
The city has always been. The city must finally end.
When three thieves - an orphan, a ghoul, and a cursed man - are betrayed by the master of the thieves guild, their quest for revenge uncovers dark truths about their city and exposes a dangerous conspiracy, the seeds of which were sown long before they were born. Cari is a drifter whose past and future are darker than she can know. Rat is a Ghoul, whose people haunt the city's underworld. Spar is a Stone Man, subject to a terrible disease that is slowly petrifying his flesh.
Chance has brought them together, but their friendship could be all that stands in the way of total armageddon.
What did I think?

This book is simply fantastic. First of all, look at this cover. It's beautiful. Second of all, I read this in two days. I couldn't stop. It's innovative, original, and simply a treat to read. I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed The Gutter Prayer. Amazing characters, fabulous world building, and I think every fantasy fan should read this.

Fantasy is rarely unique, but Hanrahan managed to deliver a book that is a breath of fresh air.

Once you start reading, the first thing you'll notice is the use of second-person narration in the prologue. Don't worry. The whole book is not like that, and the second person narration makes perfect sense once you get to the end of the prologue.

Hanrahan's displays his vast imagination by creating developed characters and detailed, intricate world building. All three protagonists have clear, distinct voices. I clicked with all of them almost immediately. I didn't have to warm up to them or the book for that matter. From the very first chapter, I knew I was in for something special.

Even the antagonists are unique. My favourite were the Tallowmen, made of wax, burning. Monsters, inhumanly fast, they will end you with no sign of mercy.

The pacing is great, no dull moment, and the prose is pleasing. In fact, Hanrahan plays with language in a way that I thoroughly enjoyed. A fresh, unique voice.

I recommend this wholeheartedly to every fantasy fan.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Our Child of the Stars by Stephen Cox

Book Title: Our Child of the Stars
Author: Stephen Cox
Genres: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot Summary: A lost child, the family who try to protect him and the secret that refuses to stay hidden . . .
Molly and Gene Myers were happy, until tragedy blighted their hopes of children. During the years of darkness and despair, they each put their marriage in jeopardy, but now they are starting to rebuild their fragile bond.
This is the year of Woodstock and the moon landings; war is raging in Vietnam and the superpowers are threatening each other with annihilation.
Then the Meteor crashes into Amber Grove, devastating the small New England town - and changing their lives for ever. Molly, a nurse, caught up in the thick of the disaster, is given care of a desperately ill patient rescued from the wreckage: a sick boy with a remarkable appearance, an orphan who needs a mother.
And soon the whole world will be looking for him.
Cory's arrival has changed everything. And the Myers will do anything to keep him safe.

What did I think?

I received this book from Netgalley UK.

Imagine an alien spaceship crashes on Earth in the 60's somewhere in the middle of the United States, and the only survivor is a small child.

A boy.

How many people would be after him? Of course, both the government and the FBI would love to get their hands on this child. Awaiting him: experiments galore. Poor thing.

Instead, a caring couple hide him away, adopt him as if he were their own and give him the possibility to grow up in a protected and nurturing environment. But Cory looks nothing like a human child, and sadly, it's impossible to hide him forever.

This story is about family, love, trust, caring for each other, and the good in humanity prevailing.

Cox takes care to build a wonderful home for Cory, expanding on his family life for almost half the book. Despite that, there are no dull moments. The author's prose flows nicely, and the pacing is steady.

However, if you're looking for non-stop action, this isn't the book for you. Cox builds his characters with care, and by the time Cory is in danger you'll have fallen in love with him and his parents.

Our Child of the Stars is uplifting and heart-warming. It's neither groundbreaking nor does it explore any new ideas, but it's a welcome moment of warmth. I highly recommend it to readers who are looking for something comforting in these cold days where the news batter us constantly.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Drones by Rob J. Hayes

Book Title: Drones
Author: Rob. J. Hayes
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: E-book copy provided by the authors

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Plot Summary: In the near future Emotional Transference is the drug of choice.
Garrick is a Drone, going to ever-increasing extremes in order to sell the emotions. But he does it for a reason—because some memories are just too painful to bear.
When his dealer is murdered, Garrick must search for a new way to remove his unwanted emotions, but soon finds himself embroiled in a plot that threatens to go deeper than he ever imagined. Between terrorists bent on preserving the inner space, assassins with a debt to pay, and a social media giant with its claws in the government, can Garrick survive long enough to uncover the truth and let the world know?
Thank you to the author for providing me with a review copy of this book. Also a big thank you goes to Esme over at the Weatherwaxreport for setting up TBRindr.

What did I think?

This is one of those fast paced books where the action almost never lets up, and you can't put it down until you're done. Thankfully, it's a short read and a very entertaining one at that.

I was drawn in by the concept of Drones. Emotional Transference is an intriguing idea, and selling emotions...well, personally, I'd have a lot to offer. Anyone up for some anxiety?

Garrick is a well developed character, flawed, selfish, hurt, and despite all of Garrick's flaws, Hayes managed to make me care for him. The world building is minimal, only what's necessary to tell the story.

Told in first person and present tense, the writing style is perfect for the pace of this book. The reader is right there in the moment with Garrick, giving it a thrilling sense of immediacy.

The author could have explored the premise a bit more. The consequences of transferring emotions, the ethical side of it etc. He does so only superficially, but that hasn't actually bothered me because this book is simply about Garrick. And Garrick is in a lot of pain, and now in a lot of trouble.

If you're a fan of sci-fi/cyberpunk and find the premise interesting, this book will not disappoint. At only about two-hundred pages, it's the perfect alternative to an action film.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Wednesday Watching (1) - Favourite Recent Shows

I'd like to talk about films and shows every now and then because I'm a huge fan of those as well, not just books.

TV is a weakness of mine, and I love far too many shows and love far too many of those precious characters. And I think I invest far too much time...but they're stories as well, aren't they?

In this post, I'd like to talk about a few shows that I've watched in the last twelve months, and that I think are worth mentioning.

I could probably go on and on and on and for hours and list four dozen shows and not stop there.

I'll keep it at ten for now, and might make a second favourite recent shows in a few weeks. 
The ten shows I liked most in 2018.
Grace and Frankie - This is a wonderful show about getting older with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. Their husbands come out to them, after having had an affair for twenty years, and suddenly they find themselves alone, and they don't particularly like each other, at least at first. It's got a lot of heart and is well worth everyone's time. I love the characters a lot and can't wait for the next season. Netflix Original.

Sex Education - Another Netflix Original. This one has Gillian Anderson. Spoiler Alert: I love Gillian Anderson. It just dropped last week, but already I think it's well worth a watch. It's about teenagers, but those teenagers are lovable.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - A musical comedy drama that tackles mental health in a wonderful, wonderful way. Feminist, diverse and uplifting. In the UK on Netflix and in the US on CW.

Transparent - About a transgender parent and her family. This one is an Amazon Original.

The Good Place - NBC, but on Netflix in the UK. A wonderful comedy about four people who died and find themselves in heaven. Tackles philosophy, morals and ethics in a heartwarming way. Have rarely seen anything so innovative.

Bojack Horseman - This is animated, but it tackles mental health, depression and anxiety in a heartbreaking way. It's very dark and sad, but also such an important piece of art. Netflix Original.

Glow - Netflix Original. Women wrestling in the 80's. It's amazing, believe me.

Dark - A German series about time travel that simply blew my mind. Possibly the most entertaining and mind-fucking experience of 2018. It's on Netflix. It's worth watching in German with subtitles.

Bodyguard - BBC. A UK minister and her bodyguard with politics, terrorism and quite a bit of intrigue.

Killing Eve - BBC America/BBC. An assassin and the woman who hunts her. Funny, dark, wonderful. A treat to watch.

I'm always looking for recommendations. What TV shows do you love the most? To give you an idea of some of my all-time favourites, these are the four shows I'd take on a deserted island that happens to have electricity.
  • Parks and Recreation (if you're into comedy, this is gold)
  • Mad Men (possibly the best show I've ever seen)
  • Battlestar Galactica (my favourite sci-fi show, but I've not yet seen Babylon 5)
  • Cold Case (crime, but so so so good!)

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The Pendant Path by Jane Barlow Funk and Steven Boivie

Book Title: The Pendant Path
Author: Jane Barlow Funk, Steve Boivie
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: E-book copy provided by the authors

Plot Summary: Kenji Okado has a secret. Trained since birth to be the ultimate weapon against a threat that might not even exist, he is struggling to navigate high school. His world changes for the better when popular student Hyrum Decker becomes his lab partner, but little does Kenji realize how his newfound friendship will be tested when he and Hyrum discover the hidden potential of a family heirloom.
Elsie, an apprentice clockmaker, is struggling to achieve Journeyman status in a place where being half British isn’t an asset. Recently, she can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching her. But that’s the least of her problems, now that her brother Xan has stolen a priceless artifact from the local crime lord.
Two teenagers. Two parallel worlds. Destined never to meet until they stumble upon the secret of the pendant path.
Thank you to the authors for providing me with a review copy of this book. Also a big thank you goes to Esme over at the Weatherwaxreport for setting up TBRindr.

What did I think?

While it sounds absolutely great on paper, it never really fully grabbed me.

The first thing I noticed was the stunning cover. I would love to own that pendant, even though I rarely wear jewellery. The second thing I noticed was how impeccably this book is edited. The prose is straightforward and very pleasant to read and the plot moves along with a good pace.

However, there's a lot of exposition and quite a bit of telling. The opening pages describe Kenji's bedroom and morning routine in detail, and that's not something that will hook me.

While I didn't think the characters were particularly well developed throughout the story, they did start out strong and distinct. I enjoyed the friendship between Kenji and Hyrum a lot. I'd love to see more friendships like this between young adults and teenagers.

The world building is interesting, and I appreciate diversity a lot, but at times it felt like Kenji's Japanese culture was shoved into the reader's face so to speak. Diversity should be a natural aspect of any setting and every story but not something that stands out like a sore thumb, at least in my opinion.

I think this a solid debut and am excited to see what else these authors will come up with.

The Pendant Path is a light and easy read that will definitely appeal to younger readers. Recommended to any YA fantasy fan who is intrigued by the synopsis and likes portal fantasy.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Book Title: Rosewater
Author: Tade Thompson
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: I own a copy
Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Plot: Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless—people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.
Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn't care to again—but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.
What did I think?

Rosewater came with high praise, and when I attended a comic convention in London last November, I just had to buy a copy and get it signed by the author, Tade Thompson. What a lovely, kind man. It was a pleasure to meet him.

I highly recommend Rosewater, though I do not think it will be for everyone. It's speculative science-fiction, plays with flashbacks, is confusing at times, and the narrator is a very peculiar character. Personally, I never felt lost, but I totally understand if others struggle with the different timelines and the constant flipping between years.

Rosewater is a town in Nigeria, built around an alien biodome which opens once a year and heals everybody nearby. Some people have started developing powers, and one of those individuals is Kaaro, our protagonist.

The story is told in the present tense from the point of view of Kaaro. He's an unreliable narrator and a bit of a jerk, but still I found myself rooting for him and wanted him to succeed. He's an incredibly well written character.

The prose is interesting, and I can picture Kaaro talking just like this, but it took me some getting used to it. The world building is intriguing and innovative, and I loved finding out about Kaaro's power and the alien that has surfaced or landed on our world. I've got a ton of question still, as do all the character and therefore can't wait for the sequel.

I am extremely curious to find out where Thompson takes this story in the next few instalments of the series.

Recommend to all sci-fi fans who like their stories placed on earth and don't mind complex timelines and mysterious aliens.