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.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Book Title: Doors of Eden
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Four years ago, two girls went looking for monsters on Bodmin Moor. Only one came back.
Lee thought she’d lost Mal, but now she’s miraculously returned. But what happened that day on the moors? And where has she been all this time? Mal’s reappearance hasn’t gone unnoticed by MI5 officers either, and Lee isn’t the only one with questions.
Julian Sabreur is investigating an attack on top physicist Kay Amal Khan. This leads Julian to clash with agents of an unknown power – and they may or may not be human. His only clue is grainy footage, showing a woman who supposedly died on Bodmin Moor.
Dr Khan’s research was theoretical; then she found cracks between our world and parallel Earths. Now these cracks are widening, revealing extraordinary creatures. And as the doors crash open, anything could come through.

What did I think?
Adrian Tchaikovsky is one of my must-buy authors. He effortlessly moves between science fiction and fantasy, and he makes it look easy. His vast imagination is mindblowing, and his ideas always turn into fascinating thought experiments.

Unlike Children of Time, Doors of Eden probably isn't considered hard science fiction since it deals with parallel worlds and some of what slips through the cracks and into our world is beyond what we can possibly imagine.

Those familiar with Tchaikovsky's work won't be surprised to hear that there's an immense amount of evolutionary biology within these pages. And some of the creatures have far too many legs.

Let me be blunt: if evolutionary speculation and the analysis of how life on our world could have evolved differently isn't your jam, then this book is not for you. If, however, you enjoy evolutionary thought experiments and always wanted to know what the world would look like if there were more lemurs or giant centipedes, then pick Doors of Eden up right now!

Tchaikovsky delivers a very diverse cast. I always enjoy reading about lesbian and trans characters that feel fleshed out and three-dimensional.

I'd argue that Doors of Eden is possibly a bit on the nose politically. Tchaikovsky's worldviews basically drip from the pages, but I'd say the same is true for Children of Time and its sequel.

While the plot and especially the many parallel worlds are complex, Doors of Eden never feels overwhelming. My knowledge of science is a tad lacking to say the least, yet Tchaikovsky never lost me. It's a compelling read and despite its size I read it in two days because I simply didn't want to put it down.

I recommend this book to everyone who has an interest in parallel worlds and sometimes stands in front of the mirror wondering how different the world might look today if evolution had gone a different way. (Yes, yes, I do that. Poor mirror probably thinks I'm a bit...odd.)

I mean the New Scientist reviewed it and that is not the place I usually look for my next read.

Basically: read this! It's one hell of a ride.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Stormblood by Jeremy Szal

Book Title: Stormblood
Author: Jeremy Szal
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley and paperback from publisher

Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Plot: Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper, a bio soldier fighting for the intergalactic governing body of Harmony against a brutal invading empire. Now, he fights against the stormtech: the DNA of an extinct alien race Harmony injected into him, altering his body chemistry and making him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. It made him the perfect soldier, but it also opened a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.
But when Harmony tells him that his former ally Reapers are being murdered, Vakov is appalled to discover his estranged brother is likely involved in the killings. They haven’t spoken in years, but Vakov can’t let his brother down, and investigates. But the deeper he goes, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes, and Vakov discovers that the war might not be over after all. It’ll take everything he has to unearth this terrible secret, although doing so might mean betraying his brother. If his own body doesn’t betray him first.
What did I think?

I wanted to read this book because of the themes it tackles.

Firstly, Stormblood talks about drug addiction in an incredibly clever and futuristic way. Stormtech is DNA harvested from an extinct alien race that allows its user to become the perfect soldier, but they pay a price: addiction to aggression and adrenaline.

Secondly, I am a sucker for loyalty, chosen (found) families, and brotherhood. (I also love me some extinct ancient alien race.)

I'm not the biggest fan of military science fiction and prefer space operas to hard SF, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover the themes of friendship and brotherhood are far more important to this novel than any of the action scenes. That's not to say there aren't any action scenes. Stormblood offers plenty of incredibly well written action.

And that's probably my only complaint, and also an outright 'it's not you, dear book, it's me,' - I'm not a fan of lengthy action scenes and during certain scenes I was beginning to skim...however, every time I did, Szal almost immediately managed to capture my attention again.

When I read a book, I don't see the scenes played out in my head, so for me it's hard to stay engaged reading fighting scenes. Just tell me who won, okay? Obviously, that's never the book's fault, and I must say Stormblood's action scenes are incredibly lively and well written.

Szal's prose is smooth and his descriptions are vivid. The world is rich and layered. Exploring it reminded me of the times I was playing Mass Effect.

Vakov is a relatable character with a damaging and traumatic past and his voice is unique. I cared for his well being almost from the start. He is witty, sarcastic and clever. An addict fighting his inner demons and riddled with PTSD. I can't think of a more intriguing and interesting protagonist.

Stormblood is a fast-paced debut, set in a vivid world, filled with brotherhood, comradeship, loyalty, and chosen family.

I recommend it to every science fiction fan who is intrigued by the premise. (And why wouldn't you be?)

Friday, 22 May 2020

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Book Title: Wanderers
Author: Chuck Wendig
Genre: Science Fiction, Apocalypse
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: ebook & audiobook

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.
For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.
Read this review by Julie Ann Rea, written for Three Crows Magazine. It's one of our best reviews, and Julie is a lot more eloquent than I am.

Wanderers is a huge book, and you'll see it compared to The Stand everywhere. They do have a lot in common, but Chuck Wendig's approach to a pandemic that'll wipe out humanity is, at least in the beginning, a lot gentler than King's.

This novel has the usual fanatics any fictional apocalypse needs, but it also has heart. A lot of heart. Strong relationships, loyalty, dedication, cooperation. And the science is incredibly well researched and fascinating. (Also a bit terrifying!)

What might put some people off liking Wanderers is how political it is. If you know Chuck Wendig and follow him on Twitter, none of it will come as a surprise, and he doesn't bury his message, doesn't attempt to veil it. It's right there on every page. 

While The Stand offers some biblical themes and, at least in places, a theistic worldview, Wanderers trusts science. Faith is a crutch, something to overcome.

The book is perhaps overly long in places, but if King can bring out an uncut version of The Stand, filled with random scenes and bits that could be (and originally were) cut, then I'm sure we can forgive Wanderers for being slow. Especially in the first half.

I enjoyed the characters and the writing so much that it never bothered me, and I gladly went along for the ride, even if the screaming, murdering, and dying didn't start until halfway through.

Oh and the president sits on her hands and does nothing...sound familiar?

Highly recommended to all fans of the apocalypse who don't shy away from a doorstopper.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Goldilocks by Laura Lam

Book Title: Goldilocks
Author: Laura Lam
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.
The team is humanity's last hope for survival, and Valerie has gathered the best women for the mission: an ace pilot who is one of the only astronauts ever to have gone to Mars; a brilliant engineer tasked with keeping the ship fully operational; and an experienced doctor to keep the crew alive. And then there's Naomi Lovelace, Valerie's surrogate daughter and the ship's botanist, who has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity to step out of Valerie's shadow and make a difference.
The problem is that they’re not the authorized crew, even if Valerie was the one to fully plan the voyage. When their mission is stolen from them, they steal the ship bound for the new planet.
But when things start going wrong on board, Naomi begins to suspect that someone is concealing a terrible secret -- and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared.
I got a review copy from NetGalley; this is my honest review. HOWEVER, I'm strongly considering buying it for my partner on Audible. This is exactly the kind of book she reads!

What did I think?

I'm torn somewhere between three and four stars.

The premise is great. Goldilocks is set in the near future in a world that is on the brink of collapse and women are being forced out of the workplace due to conservative governments. So, it comes as no surprise that Valerie steals the spaceship that was supposed to be hers and takes her all female crew into space despite them having been forced out at the last minute.

The theme of the novel is pretty clear, and I'd even go as far as to say say that the author is throwing it in your face: we're destroying our planet (yup) and conservative governments are a threat to civil rights (no kidding?).

While the theme is a bit on the nose, the antagonist, unfortunately, is similar. Just a bit too much; just a touch too ruthless. To the point where I couldn't quite believe anyone in this position could turn out to be quite so monstrous! (You have to be very angry and bitter to go to the lengths the antagonist goes to and I could never root for someone like that.)

Overall, I felt like only one character (Valerie) was truly fleshed out and interesting, and all other characters, even the narrator remained somewhat bland. For a slow-burning book that centered around the characters for at least the first half, they were just a bit too flat.

However, I couldn't stop reading.

The prose is gorgeous, and I didn't want to put the book down; it kept me interested throughout. There's not a dull moment, and I just had to know what happens.

The science aspects were super interesting, and I enjoyed the relationships between the characters. And I must admit, most of the twists and turns managed to surprise me!

Recommended to all science fiction fans who find the blurb intriguing.

Friday, 17 April 2020

Blood and Ballet by Melissa Mitchell

Book Title: Blood and Ballet
Author: Melissa Mitchell
Genre: Paranormal Romance
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Author

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Plot Summary: In Anghor Manor, there is always a choice. When ex-ballet dancer Celine sees something she shouldn’t in the alleyway outside of Vienna’s hottest nightclub, Fluxx, owned and frequented by vampires, she is offered three choices.
Each choice is as frightening as the next. Unable to make up her mind, Cece bides her time. She wrestles with memories of her old life, a life she was forced to abandon when a devastating injury ended her ballet career.
Now she must pick up the broken pieces and move on, but moving on offers its own challenges, especially when Caius, lord of Anghor Manor, offers her something more precious than gold.
Blood and Ballet is a young adult novel with a fresh take on vampires, blending together the world of ballet with age old ideas, while adding a dash of Roman history. Transport yourself to Anghor Manor nestled in the countryside just outside of Vienna, where vampires lurk, blood rules, and romance awaits.
What did I think?

Somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars.

When the author asked me if I'd review Blood and Ballet, I said yes because of the ballet. I wasn't disappointed. The dance scenes are enchanting and a big part of the book, and the passion for ballet basically drips from the pages.

Blood and Ballet offers a refreshing take on vampires, with an added dash of gladiators, and a compelling love interest with an interesting back story.

I'm not a fan of insta-love, and Mitchell took her time to develop both characters and the relationship between the two of them in a believable way. Plus, I'm actually a fan of the enemies to lovers trope, especially when it's well written like here.

The romance oscillates between heart-warming and steamy, and is contrasted by heart-pounding tension throughout.

It's a quick read and the prose is pleasant and engaging. It might feel a bit stilted at first, but it quickly finds its pace.

This is a satisfying read for fans of paranormal romance with vampires.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Sanctuary by VV James (Paperback release!)

Book Title: Sanctuary
Author: V. V. James
Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Paranormal mystery
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Hardback

GoodreadsAmazon UK 
Plot: To Detective Maggie Knight, the death of Sanctuary's star quarterback seems to be a tragic accident. Only, everyone knows his ex-girlfriend is the daughter of a witch - and she was there when he died.
Then the rumours start
Bereaved mother Abigail will stop at nothing until she has justice for her dead son. Her best friend Sarah will do everything in her power to protect her accused daughter. And both women share a secret that could shatter their lives. It falls to Maggie to prevent her investigation - and Sanctuary itself - from spiralling out of control.
I originally received a review copy from NetGalley; this is my honest review.

HOWEVER, I own the special edition hardback, and my other half owns the audio book.

[I posted an early version of this review last August.]

What did I think?

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Vic James, author of the Dark Gifts trilogy, [Here's my spoiler-free review of Bright Ruin.] and I was super excited to hear that she was releasing a new book.

Big Little Lies Meets Witches is probably the most accurate tagline.

I swallowed Sanctuary whole. Just like that. I couldn't put it down. Gripping from the very first page, just like Big Little Lies, I had to know what happens next, and I did not stop until the very end.

While reading the last 20% I thought I'd figured it all out. The secret, the culprit, the motive, and for one long minute I felt incredibly smug, but of course, I was wrong.

Sanctuary is filled with twists and turns, but it's the characters that make it.

The cast is diverse, and everyone is complex, filled with a drive to do what they think is right.

And this is what James is so very good at: showing us people whose actions we disagree with, people we loathe, people we think are utterly wrong, and making us see why they do it.

They're not bad people. They truly believe they and their families are in grave danger, and that they're the only ones doing something about it. They believe they're doing the only right thing.

Perspective matters!

A small, peaceful community can unravel in a matter of days...and James takes it all the way to the terrifying end.

As usual in James' work, nothing is black and nothing is white. Most of these people are grey, and I believe we're all grey, and the author is a master at portraying that emotional baggage we carry with us. Those mistakes we've all made, and how they sometimes haunt us.

But we're still good people, right?

The element of magic and witches is cleverly folded into the world building, and it feels entirely plausible that if witches were real, this is how they'd operate. You're feeling tired? You can either visit your GP or you can go to your local witch. Both will be able to help you.

I can't discuss the themes in Sanctuary too much without spoiling the plot, but they're incredibly interesting: Innocent until proven guilty is a cornerstone of our society, but what happens when a mob thinks the justice system is failing them? What if a small community decides the police aren't handling things as well as they should?

From mass hysteria to mob mentality and vigilante justice, this book has a bit of everything.

It's human not to trust what we can't understand, but accusing someone of murder just because of who they are is wrong...and, of course, the president is tweeting.

I recommend Sanctuary to everyone who is looking for an interesting mystery filled with twists and turns and witches.