Book Review – The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The Girl from Everywhere, the first of two books, blends fantasy, history, and a modern sensibility. Its sparkling wit, breathless adventure, multicultural cast, and enchanting romance will dazzle readers of Sabaa Tahir and Leigh Bardugo. 

As the daughter of a time traveler, Nix has spent sixteen years sweeping across the globe and through the centuries aboard her father’s ship. Modern-day New York City, nineteenth-century Hawaii, other lands seen only in myth and legend—Nix has been to them all.

But when her father gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. Rae Carson meets Outlander in this epic debut fantasy.

If there is a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place and any time. But now that he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, the year before Nix’s mother died in childbirth—Nix’s life, her entire existence, is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years.

Review:

Wow, so I don’t even know where to start with this book because I adored it so much. I’d hit around 10% complete and was already recommending it to friends because it was just so fantastic and engrossing.

Now, this book is about time-travel and maps and for those that are not aware, I absolutely adore maps and so will instantly adore anything that uses them as an important plot device and the fact that maps were included in the book just made me even happier. Indeed I want to buy a physical copy of the book just so I can sit and adore the pretty maps even more.

Anyway, the main plot of the story is that Nix’s father is trying to get back to 1868 Honolulu to be reunited with Lin, Nix’s mother, and so they are in a desperate search to first find, then acquire, a map that will let them do this as all previous attempts have failed. In order to do this, they travel to all sorts of wonderful locations, both real and mythological. Most of this novel is set in Hawaii and you can really tell how much the author loves O’ahu thanks to her beautiful descriptions of the people and places located within it.

One thing that I really appreciated about this novel is that at the end, there is a section listing the various mythological items that appear and some background on them, along with mentioning some historical information regarding Hawaii.

I’ve not spoken about the characters yet because it’s so hard to do them justice as I loved them all and the interactions between them all were fantastic. Kashmir is by far one of the best and I would happily read a book focused entirely on him and his adventures as he’s so interesting. I was slightly annoyed at the fact that the book contains a slight love triangle as they’re something I hate, but it was handled really well and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book at all.

There’s so much I want to say about how much I enjoy this book, but one of the things that made me enjoy it so much was going in knowing almost nothing and being constantly delighted and enchanted on every page. The book is rather long at almost 500 pages, however I had no idea as I read it on my Kindle and just devoured it – I stayed up until around 2am because I just couldn’t put it down.

I highly, highly recommend this novel and for those taking part in the Fantasy Bingo challenge, it fits several squares (I’m personally using it for the time-travel square). Also, at the time of writing, it is currently only 99p on Kindle and that is incredible value for how great it is!

Book Review – The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The nation of Garnia has been at war for as long as Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupris can remember – this time against neighboring Vinzhalia. Garnia’s Air Signal Corp stands out as the favored martial child of the King. But though it’s co-ed, women on-board are only allowed “auxiliary” crew positions and are banned from combat. In extenuating circumstances, Josette saves her airship in the heat of battle. She is rewarded with the Mistral, becoming Garnia’s first female captain.

She wants the job – just not the political flak attached. On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat – a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. He’s also been assigned to her ship to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision. When the Vins make an unprecedented military move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself to the top brass?

Review:

I got this as an eARC and was so delighted to get it because a steampunk novel with a female airship captain? Yes please! Not only that, but that cover is absolutely fantastic and if I’d seen it in a shop, I would have bought it for that. Also yes, those on the cover are not white – although skin colour is rarely mentioned for most of the crew, the one pale skinned character is seen as different which suggests that the rest are all POC.

This novel follows Josette and the adventures on her new airship as she gets to know both the ship and her new crew. The airship itself is fantastic and I really enjoyed the descriptions of it, along with the interactions between the crew and Josette. The characters were all great too, and I enjoyed seeing the character growth of several in particular such as Bernat who really matures after experiencing actual war.

The action is very fast-paced and as it involves a lot of battles, it’s not afraid to let characters die, but it moves so fast you don’t have time to linger on that and just keeps on going. It never seems too violent or gruesome despite the constant battles. The novel is also pretty funny at times albeit with rather dark humour most of the time.

I really enjoyed the worldbuilding in this book, in particular, the focus on females in the army and how they were meant to be assigned harmless roles but of course, that’s rarely very practical and usually ignored.

This is an excellent novel and I really enjoyed it and definitely hope that there will be more. I would definitely recommend it to fans of Fantasy novels and it’s also a fantastic choice to read for the Fantasy Bingo as it fits several categories. I personally chose to read it for the Steampunk category but it would also be great for the Debut space or 2017 release.

Book Review – First Love by Gwendoline Riley

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From “one of Britain’s most original young writers” (The Observer), a blistering account of a marriage in crisis and a portrait of a woman caught between withdrawal and self-assertion, depression and rage.

Neve, the novel’s acutely intelligent narrator, is beset by financial anxiety and isolation, but can’t quite manage to extricate herself from her volatile partner, Edwyn. Told with emotional remove and bracing clarity, First Love is an account of the relationship between two catastrophically ill-suited people walking a precarious line between relative calm and explosive confrontation.

Review:

I’m currently trying to work my way through the shortlist for the Bailey’s Prize and as this one looked the shortest, I figured I may as well cross it off first.

I didn’t read the synopsis before starting this book, but the book is basically exactly what it says. It’s a series of snapshots of Neve’s life showing her daily activities and her emotionally abusive relationship. There’s not much plot, it’s rather an in-depth character study of Neve and we slowly learn more about her, and her relationship.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of these types of novels however the writing was absolutely excellent and I can definitely see why it was shortlisted. Unfortunately, this was just not a book I enjoyed reading. The abusive relationship between her and her husband, Edwyn, was quite painful to read and I would definitely say to be very careful when reading it if you’ve been in an abusive relationship yourself as it distressed me greatly and brought back memories I try and not think about. Of course, the reason this distressed me so much was because the characters were so well written and it was so realistic to me.

So yes, although I personally did not enjoy this book at all and was greatly distressed by it, I do recognise how brilliant it is and it’s an excellent and realistic portrayal of a woman who is stuck in an abusive relationship. If that is something you feel comfortable reading about, then I would definitely recommend it but with heavy, heavy trigger warnings for domestic abuse.

Book Review – The Explorer by James Smythe

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A tense, claustrophobic and gripping science fiction thriller from the author of The Testimony.

When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers.

But in space, nothing goes according to plan.

The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod. They mourn, and Cormac sends a beautifully written eulogy back to Earth. The word from ground control is unequivocal: no matter what happens, the mission must continue.

But as the body count begins to rise, Cormac finds himself alone and spiralling towards his own inevitable death … unless he can do something to stop it.

Review:

This is a rather difficult book to review as it’s very, very easy to spoil it (indeed the majority of reviews on Goodreads spoil it without even including any warnings) and so I can’t really say too much about it.

First up, this seems to be a very polarising book. The reviews tend to either be 1-star or 5-star and I seem to be one of the few that was rather indifferent towards it. One major complaint is that it’s nothing like the synopsis I just posted above, however I feel that’s not quite accurate. The start of the novel certainly follows the synopsis with the crew slowly dying of various causes and Cormac dealing with all this. However, after a certain point the focus of the novel changes and so I think that’s where the complaints come from, but due to the nature of the story it’s difficult to give an accurate synopsis without spoiling things.

One thing that did bother me a lot was that the author gets a lot of his science really wrong which can be quite jarring and makes it hard to get lost in the plot because there’s things like “stopping the engines means they stop moving” ignoring how space actually works. If that’s something that bothers you, you’re not likely to enjoy this novel as it happens quite a lot and requires a lot of suspension of belief.

I did quite enjoy the actual story, I enjoyed the tense atmosphere of who’s going to die next and how are they going to die and each reveal was always very interesting. Obviously, I can’t say much about this for spoiler reasons but it certainly kept surprising me and was a fun read.

I’m not quite sure whether I’d recommend this, as it seems to have such different opinions. I just found out that there’s a sequel and I don’t really have any desire to read it as although I enjoyed this book, I’m still very indifferent towards it and it’s not one I’d choose to re-read. One thing I would strongly advise is to not read the reviews on Goodreads if you think you might like it as most don’t use spoiler tags.

Book Review – Kabu-Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Kabu Kabu – unregistered, illegal Nigerian taxis – generally get you where you need to go, but Nnedi Okorafor’s Kabu Kabu takes the reader to exciting, fantastic, magical, occasionally dangerous, and always imaginative locations. This debut short story collection by award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor includes notable previously-published short work, a new novella co-written with New York Times bestselling author Alan Dean Foster, and a brief forward by Whoopi Goldberg.

Review:

So, collections of short stories are always a bit difficult to review because there are obviously so many stories you can’t discuss them all (I mean you could, but that would end up with a very long review) and indeed in this I’m not going to be mentioning all the stories because I just wouldn’t have space.

First off though, if you’ve read any of Nnedi’s books before, then you’re going to enjoy this collection. It has short stories set in the worlds of several of her books although none of them contain spoilers so it’s also totally okay to read if you’ve never read any of her work before. There are several Windseeker short stories in here that I adored despite not having read Zahrah the Windseeker.

The collection starts off with a story entitled “The Magical Negro” and it’s fantastic. It’s then followed by the titular story, Kabu-Kabu which again I adored. Having started off so strong, I was apprehensive about the rest of the collection but it just kept amazing me. Usually in a collection of short stories there will be a few you adore and a few you’re indifferent towards (or even dislike) but I adored every single story in this collection. I can’t even pick my favourites as they are all so fantastic. I must however give special mention to Asunder due to the fact it’s a love story that I adored as I’m not a huge fan of love stories but this one, this one is so great and powerful.

Nnedi’s writing, like in all her books, is fantastic. It’s descriptive and magical and you don’t want to stop reading until you finish. Every book of hers I read makes me more determined to read the rest of her work because I enjoy reading her writing so much. Her ideas are fantastic, I adore her characters and all the stories are just such a joy to read.

I highly recommend this collection of short stories to everybody, as they would serve as an excellent introduction to her writing and they’re just a joy to read. I had to force myself to stop several times just so that I could properly enjoy each story instead of rushing through. This is also the first of my Fantasy Bingo challenges I’ve completed which is “A collection of short stories”.

Book Review – The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In a world beset by amassing forces of darkness, one organization—the Regional Office—and its coterie of super-powered female assassins protects the globe from annihilation. At its helm, the mysterious Oyemi and her oracles seek out new recruits and root out evil plots. Then a prophecy suggests that someone from inside might bring about its downfall. And now, the Regional Office is under attack.

Recruited by a defector from within, Rose is a young assassin leading the attack, eager to stretch into her powers and prove herself on her first mission. Defending the Regional Office is Sarah—who may or may not have a mechanical arm—fiercely devoted to the organisation that took her in as a young woman in the wake of her mother’s sudden disappearance. On the day that the Regional Office is attacked, Rose’s and Sarah’s stories will overlap, their lives will collide, and the world as they know it just might end.

Review:

So, I got this as an eARC because female assassins? Yes please! Unfortunately, I was not a huge fan of this book as I felt it focused far too much on action and not enough on the characters themselves. I would have enjoyed seeing more training and more interpersonal relationships but, as seen in the name, it mostly focuses on the attack.

The book focuses between two POV characters – Rose who is one of the attackers and Sarah who is one of the defenders. It shows the history of both characters and how they ended up in the positions they are in, then the outcome of the attack. Interspersed through this are comments from a fictional book detailing the downfall of the regional office. I really enjoyed these sections and felt they were definitely the best parts of the novel as although it was fun reading about Rose sneaking down to infiltrate the office, there wasn’t much depth to it. I feel this is a novel that would work much better as a film because of all the action scenes. I was also not a fan of most of the characters in charge – they were very manipulative of the young women, using them for their own purposes. The book also felt a bit too long – if it had been shorter I probably wouldn’t have minded as much and just viewed it as a quick, fun read but unfortunately, it was a bit too long for that at over 400 pages.

Overall, this is not a book I’d recommend although if you’re a big fan of action scenes then perhaps it might be for you. A lot of the reviews I’ve seen have mentioned that they didn’t even finish reading though, so if you do plan on reading it – I recommend getting it from a library so you don’t end up regretting your purchase!

Book Review – Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

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Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s not until you’re broken that you find your sharpest edge

A brilliant new series from the bestselling author of PRINCE OF THORNS.

“I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin”

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Review:

So, I was a bit hesitant about reading this book as I didn’t really enjoy Prince of Thorns however the description was enticing enough I decided to give it a try. I was hooked from the first page as it has an absolutely fantastic opening (which I won’t post as I don’t want to spoil it for you). The opening is set in the future then it jumps back to the start to explain how we got to the situation we saw in the prologue and after such a great prologue, you’re hooked on finding out what happened.

The main character, Nona, is absolutely fantastic. She was about to be hung due to trying to kill a man that was harassing her friend and immediately I adored her. Nona is all about caring about her friends and wanting to help them and if there’s anything that will make me adore a book it’s female friendships and this book has plenty of them. It also has rivalry too, which is natural given that the characters are a group of girls being trained in a variety of skills so there will be competition between them. The rest of the characters are all really lovely too and I enjoyed seeing them all grow and their own motivations.

Because the setting is mostly at the convent, we don’t get to see too much of the world but we get a lot of tantalising glimpses of the worldbuilding which is fantastic and I’m definitely keen on finding out more about the world and the history of it. The main feature is that there were four different tribes that settled the area and every so often, children are born with the blood of one of these tribes prominent. Nona has Hunska blood which gifts her incredibly fast speed. The world is mostly covered in ice with just a small corridor of land that is suitable for living although some groups do also manage to survive out on the ice.

Tying all these fantastic elements together is some absolutely beautiful prose. It was a joy to read and I constantly found myself staying up late reading it as I just couldn’t put it down. I enjoyed this book so much that not only will I be eagerly awaiting the next in the series, but I’m going to go back and re-read Prince of Thorns and the rest of the Broken Empire books just because I enjoyed the writing so much.

If you enjoy Fantasy, I would definitely recommend this book although I doubt I’ll need to do that much given how much interest I’ve already seen focused on it (Also it would make an excellent choice for the Fantasy Bingo as it would fulfill a couple different squares).

Book Review – The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Goodreads Synopsis:

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal — but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals — a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency — are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

Review:

I got a copy of this from NetGalley to review and I was very excited as I really enjoyed Redshirts and have a lot of Scalzi’s other books on my TBR list. It’s been a while since I read a space-opera and this reminded me just how much I love them.

I won’t say too much about the plot, because I loved it so much that I don’t want to spoil a thing for anybody as it kept me gripped right until the end and I could barely put it down. The writing is fantastic, it flows so well and really helps you immerse yourself in the novel. The dialogue between the characters is great and they all have their unique voices.

The characters though, the characters are what really made me love this novel. Cardenia is the reluctant Emperox and I’m not usually a fan of the whole “reluctant ruler” trope but here it worked really well. I also loved how she was fully represented, including at one point describing how awful her cramps were from her period which is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen mentioned in a Sci-Fi novel before and I adored it. Then there’s the fantastic, sex-positive Kiva who will sleep with anybody and is very open and unashamed about it. At one point she’s trying to decide which of a pair of siblings would pleasure her the most. Her sexuality is never mentioned, but she’s definitely not straight (I read her as bisexual). These are the two main POV characters and so it was excellent getting to read a space-opera mostly from the view of very well-written women. The final of the three characters is Marce, a scholar from the planet End, whose father studied the Flow and he’s also great fun to read about and in particular, I really enjoyed his interactions with Cardenia.

The worldbuilding is excellent and I really like the system that has been set up with powerful families and guilds having monopolies on different items making all the systems dependent on each other, which of course is a massive problem now due to the issues with the Flow.

This is a book I would highly recommend and not only did I adore it, but it’s made me put the rest of Scalzi’s books to the top of my TBR list because I just really enjoy his writing style.

Book Review – Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The year is 1850 and Great Britain is flourishing, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. When a new mage is discovered, Royal Society elites descend like buzzards to snatch up a new apprentice. Talented mages are bought from their families at a tremendous price, while weak mages are snapped up for a pittance. For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Ben’s life and their own livelihoods.

But Benjamin Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect.

When she discovers a nefarious plot by the sinister Doctor Ledbetter, Charlotte must use all her cunning and guile to protect her family, her secret and her city.

Brother’s Ruin is the first in a new gaslamp fantasy series by Emma Newman.

Review:

I got this as an eARC from NetGalley and was extremely excited because the setting sounded fantastic! Steampunk Victorian London with magic? Count me in!

The story follows that of Charlotte who is gifted with strong magical powers however she has been hiding them due to the fact that in their society, mages are “bought” by the colleges and are then trained and no longer have their own freedom. Charlotte doesn’t wish this to be her future and so she hides her magic. Unfortunately, at one point it is noticed and blamed on her brother. The penalties for false reporting are high and their family are desperate for money so Charlotte uses her powers to aid her brother in the mage tests so that not only will her secret remain safe, but they will receive a higher price for her brother.

During all this however, there are events going on in the background involving rogue mages and Charlotte becomes entangled with these while attempting to help her father out of his debt.

The story itself was really great and I enjoyed the strong sibling bond and found Charlotte a fantastic character. Through the tests, we were given glimpses of the different schools of magic and a brief idea of the society that they lived in. I really enjoyed the worldbuilding and definitely felt that the author had created a rich, vibrant world. The characters were all well written too and had their own agendas which were interesting to see and figure out.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and it was one that I didn’t want to end. It’s a great introduction to a fantastic world and I’m eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

Book Review – Sea Foam and Silence by Lynn E O’Connacht

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Be careful what you wish for…

She warned of the pain. She did.
But no warning can prepare you.
Nothing can.

How could I have known
What it is like on the dry sand?
We just watched.

It’s hard, not being able to ask
Questions, though I have learned some speech
With my hands. ˆ_ˆ

I miss my sisters.

I have made friends here.
I have laughed with them,
Learned with them, played with them.
I love them.

She said I would die if he loves someone else.
Will I die? At the beginning I wanted to. It hurts
So much. Life isn’t easy, will never be easy, but…
I don’t want to become sea foam.

Review:

This is another book I read thanks to the fantastic Ace Book Club on Twitter and when they announced it I thought it sounded amazing! A little mermaid re-telling in verse with an asexual character? Wow! Unfortunately, this book was just not for me, however, the reasons I didn’t love it were all personal to me and so other people will likely love it for the exact reasons I didn’t enjoy it.

First I’ll start with the writing itself. It’s written in verse and I’m a huge fan of verse novels. Unfortunately, this is in free verse and so to me and my background in very strict forms it was something I struggled with a lot. However, to people that aren’t used to verse novels then free verse is the perfect way to introduce them to the concept because it’s much easier to read. It’s also written in first person and I’m also not a big fan of that. There are also a lot of emoticons used in the text and again, that’s just my personal preference but all these things combined to make me really dislike the way it was written but since it was so short, I kept reading the entire thing. What I’d say is that the extract from Goodreads is a perfect example and if you enjoy that, you’re likely to enjoy it all.

Now that we’ve got the parts I didn’t like out of the way, let’s focus on the amazing parts. For example, the world building in this is really, really good. Unfortunately, we’re restricted a lot in what we see due to the first-person narrative and so just get wonderful glimpses of mermaid society. I also really enjoyed the characters and their interactions and although the main character seemed incredibly naive at points which is something I usually dislike, it makes total sense for somebody not used to human society to appear very naive. I shouldn’t really need to mention it given that it was for Ace Book Club so seems self explanatory but obviously the fact that there are asexual characters was another fantastic inclusion and I really enjoyed that interpretation (Not only is the main character asexual, she also definitely seems aromantic too)

Despite personally not being a fan, I would definitely still recommend this to others because it was just my own personal preferences that stopped me from enjoying it and there was nothing objectively bad about it – I’m just super picky in my verse narratives and found it difficult to get over that. However, for those that enjoy free verse (or have never read any verse narratives) then you should definitely read it as the world and the characters are just enchanting and you’ll be left wanting to know so much more and wishing you could spend more time with them in the fantastic world that has been created.