Friday, September 16, 2016

Book review: Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

Title: Revenger
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Release date: 15th September 2016
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

Blurb: The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilisations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives. And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them …

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded with layers of protection – and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

My thoughts: I don't read much sci-fi but when I do it's usually space opera and I love it. I was excited to read about Revenger and never having read an Alastair Reynolds book it seemed like a good place to start. Revenger is narrated by Fura Ness, who is on the verge of adulthood when the story begins. I definitely felt like there was a YA turn to this book for the first section but having finished, I think it's a clever reflection of who Fura was then, and her innocence, and gives another way for Alastair Reynolds to show how she changes over the course of the story.

This is not a happy story. To start with, there's some adventure, some tension, but it's still quite fun. Then things get dark, and they stay pretty dark and tense for the whole story. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that something happens with the crew of Rackamore's ship and it sets Fura on a path to seek revenge. She becomes very determined, to the point of being single-minded, in that pursuit. I found that as the book went on, I worried more and more for Fura and who she was becoming, as well as finding her less likeable. 

I agree with what Sarah says about Revenger in her review: a lot happens in the book and I would have liked it to slow down in some places and focus more on some big events. With fitting in so much to the story, some parts felt rushed. 

If I sound negative here, I don't mean to - it was an incredibly action-packed book that I could hardly put down, as my co-workers will attest. I really enjoyed the story and was on the edge of my seat on many occasions, waiting to see if characters would get through the next scrape. The writing was very good, as you'd expect from someone with Alastair Reynolds' experience and I'll definitely be reading more of his work in future. I feel like there might be a sequel down the line as the ending definitely left lots of potential for a continuation of the story but the main conflicts of Revenger did all get wrapped up. This was a nail-biting adventure through space with all the danger and wonder you would hope for in a space opera. I'm giving it 8 out of 10, and I definitely recommend it to sci-fi fans. 


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book review: The Hatching, by Ezekiel Boone

Title: The Hatching
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Genre: Horror
Publication date: 5 July 2016
Publisher: Gollancz
Source: Won (from Blackwell's)

Description: Deep in the jungle of Peru, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

My thoughts: I'm not a horror movie (or book) fan at all, and thinking about spiders makes me a little bit twitchy & paranoid but for some reason I had to know what happened. I'm so glad I gave it a go because I ended up loving this book.

It's a classic horror movie in book form. You know pretty much by reading the blurb what's going to happen. You know very early on that there are going to be killer spiders spreading around the world, especially as characters do really dumb things which the reader/audience can clearly spot. And there are the classic horror film protagonists: a scientist (actually several) with issues in her personal life; an FBI agent who only has occasional visitation rights with his young daughter; a newly engaged couple in a rural location. Will the scientist(s) save the world or make things worse? (A bit of both.) Will the father crack the case and also build a much closer relationship with his daughter? (Not sure yet, we'll have to see how book 2 goes.) Will the couple manage to survive in their quiet location or will one die while tragically trying to save the other? (Again, we're waiting for the sequel, but this is a sweet couple in a horror story... I don't fancy their odds.)

There's nothing too complicated about The Hatching which is partly what I loved about it. I knew a lot of what was going to happen but at the same time I had to keep reading to see how it happened, and whether anyone would figure out how to stop the spider before it was all too late [dun dun DUUNN]. There is a sequel, called Skitter, which is due out in the spring next year. If you're a fan of horror films, or just want an easy read, I definitely recommend this. I read it in one sitting on a 4 hour train ride and really enjoyed it.

Overall I'm giving The Hatching 7 stars.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Book review: All Is Not Forgotten, by Wendy Walker

Title: All Is Not Forgotten
Author: Wendy Walker
Release date: 14th July 2016
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: HQ
Source: ARC from publisher

Description: You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime.

Jenny’s wounds have healed.
An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack.
She is moving on with her life.

That was the plan. Except it’s not working out.
Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching.
And she’s getting worse.
Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial.

It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack.

My thoughts: I've read a few thrillers over the past year and file I find them fast reading and a good change from what I normally read, they don't tend to stand out very much. All Is Not Forgotten felt different, for a couple of reasons. 

Number one: the narrator. At the start of the book, you might think it's a 3rd person, omniscient narrator. But very quickly you learn that someone specific is telling the story, and that got me interested: who would know what this person knows about Jenny? And if it's a character telling the story, how many strands of the picture can they really know about? You do find out a couple of chapters in and I think it's a perfect person to be telling a story like this. I also enjoyed that while you are mostly getting the full story, as you get further in, I questioned the reliability of the narrator more and more.

Number two: The basic premise of a treatment that could block the memory of something traumatic, and the questions that come up around the use of something like that. The decision to give Jenny a medicine that will wipe out the memory of her rape is taken while she's unconscious. It was never her decision but her parents thought it was best. That's a topic on its own, and is dealt with a little bit, but the main concern of the story is on what the effects of the treatment are. Jenny can't move on, even though the memory is blocked - quite possibly because the memory is blocked. Certain things - smells, sounds - make her body react in fright but she doesn't remember why those things are setting off the panic.

The book is based around this exploration of consequences and I found that really interesting. I will say, the first chapter is gruesomely detailed and I felt physically sick reading it. Push past that, or skip it altogether - you really don't need to read it for the rest of the story to make sense. After that, it's a very fast read, exploring the treatment and how other aspects of the family's life are pulled apart by the consequences of it. It was a very interesting read. I'm going to give All Is Not Forgotten 7/10.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Book review: Fahrenheit 451

Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Science Fiction (Traditionally, although today most people would say dystopian)
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Source: Free copy via the publisher

Description: Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

The classic novel of a post-literate future, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ stands alongside Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.

My thoughts:
*contains spoilers*

I've wanted to read this for a while, as it's one of those stories everyone references and sounds like it was a significant milestone in the genre. I liked the premise: books are banned and firemen have the job of burning them.

I was pretty disappointed.

From the first page, the writing is overly flowery, using five words where one would do. It turns out Guy Montag, the fireman, is married to an idiot zombie, who is attempting suicide one day and completely dismissing the events the next. He meets a strange girl and starts to question thing, but it quickly becomes clear that he was questioning and acting on those questions before that meeting, after all. He runs away, finds book keepers in the wilderness, then the city is blown up. Yes, Bradbury shows a future which is looking more and more possible every year, with superfast cars, surround television and atomic warfare, but it is the setting that is the interesting part. To me, the story itself was not.

I give Fahrenheit 451 4 stars out of 10.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Review: Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan

Title: Brighton Belle
Author: Sara Sheridan
Publisher: Constable
Genre: Historical (mystery)
Series: Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries #1
Source: Bought

Description: 1951. Brighton.

With the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (retired Whitehall secretary) thinks her skills are no longer required. After her lover's death she retires to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when the case of Romana Laszlo - a pregnant Hungarian refugee - comes in, Mirabelle soon discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from insurance clerk Vesta Churchill, they follow a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns and corpses that only they can unravel.

My thoughts: This is a fairly straightforward mystery story, with a fun time period setting. Mirabelle gets tangled into the case of Romana Laszlo when her boss goes missing. Following clues, at first alone, she finds many things which don't seem to add up, despite the fact she knows they must be connected. Needing a bit of help, she enlists Vesta, who works in the same building as her.

The characters were likeable and the mystery was interesting. Aside from the interesting time setting though, nothing jumped out at me as being particularly exciting or brilliant about the story. If I stumble on the sequel, I'll probably give it a go, but this one didn't leave me wanting to rush out and buy it. If you're looking for a nice mystery story, give it a go.

I'm rating this one 5/10.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Beyond Ecstasy (Beyond #8) by Kit Rocha

Title: Beyond Ecstasy 
Author: Kit Rocha
Series: Beyond #8
Genre: Dystopian romance
Source: Review copy from the author

Description: The O’Kanes have a reputation for working hard and playing harder—except for Hawk. He joined the gang with one goal: to ensure his family’s survival through the impending war with Eden. It’s been years since he had the luxury of wanting anything for himself. Now, he wants Jeni. From the first moment he saw her, he’s been obsessed with making her his. Not for a night-forever. 
Jeni’s been lusting after the former smuggler for months, but he keeps shutting her down. She’s almost given up on getting him in her bed when he offers her the last thing she ever expected—a collar. Accepting it means belonging to him, body and soul. It’s a reckless gamble, but Jeni can’t resist the chance to slip under Hawk’s armour. 
The only thing more shocking than the dark, dangerous pleasure they discover is how right it feels. But falling in love is even more reckless when forever is far from guaranteed. Because they aren’t just at war, they’re out of time—and every breath could be their last. 

My thoughts: 
Note - this review is spoiler free for Beyond Ecstasy. However, it’s book 8 of the series, so there are spoilers for earlier books.

Regular blog readers will know I really enjoy this series, although there have been times in the past where I felt the books were just falling slightly short of their potential. Beyond Ecstasy, along with the previous book, Beyond Ruin, prove that Kit Rocha has come into her own with the series. There were no disappointments in this book, and it genuinely brought out so many emotions for me. 

The romance in Beyond Ecstasy focusses on Hawk and Jeni. They weren’t a couple I was particularly desperate to read about (unlike some I could mention *cough*Nessa*cough*) but the glimpses of Hawk in Ruin made me more interested in him. Hawk is a farmer and smuggler, here to help his family back in Sector Six and recently slightly obsessed with Jeni. Jeni dances and bartends but her most defining feature before this book was her loneliness. Luckily for her, things get going pretty quickly… possibly too quickly. 

We’ve barely spoken, Hawk. I know we’re attracted to one another, but what you’re talking about - a collar? That’s different. … You can’t commit to someone you don’t know.”

Thank you, Jeni (& Kit Rocha, of course) for saying that. I’m really not at all a fan of ‘insta-love’ so Jeni saying this had me cheering for her. As the book goes on, they find a way to start talking and getting to know each other more, so it’s believable when they do get to the stage of a collar and looking beyond that. Even so, the speed of things in the book is a big issue for Jeni. The background of the war means everyone is trying to seize the moment and romance can get a little messed up in that atmosphere. There are, of course, some very sexy scenes - Jeni is submissive and Hawk has never been with someone like that. His learning curve is very fun to watch ;) 

Then there’s the war. And I can’t lie to you, there are some heartbreaking moments in here because of it. Beyond Ecstasy starts a few weeks after the end of Beyond Ruin and as Jasper and Hawk walk around the electricity-free sector at night, you can see how the war is affecting the ordinary people. This book very much shows the pain of war for those who are a little further away from leadership than we normally see in the Beyond series. Hawk visits his family in Sector Six, bringing Jeni with him, and I loved seeing the extended family network on the farm and how happy everyone was. I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t say any more except that the scenes on the farms were the most significant for me in this book. 

If you haven’t discovered this series already, you can get the first three books in a bundle. If you’ve been eagerly waiting for this, it’s out now! You can get it in a variety of places, including amazon: click

This book is one of my favourites in the series. I’m giving it 9 out of 10, I loved it. After the glimpses into Nessa & Ryder’s heads in this story, I’m desperate for the next one, of course! So if you love the series, Beyond Ecstasy is Kit Rocha at her best so far, sexy and sweet against the harsh backdrop of war. Make sure you have your tissues ready. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine

A book I'm looking forward to is:
A Torch Against The Night, by Sabaa Tahir

This is the sequel to An Ember In The Ashes, which was one of my top four favourite books last year. You can read the first chapter of A Torch Against The Night here.

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. 

Following the events of the Fourth Trial, an army led by Masks hunts the two fugitives as they escape the city of Serra and journey across the vast lands of the Martial Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—and save her brother, whose knowledge of Serric steel is the key to the Scholars' future. And Elias is determined to stay by Laia’s side...even if it means giving up his own chance at freedom. 

But Elias and Laia will have to fight every step of the way if they’re going to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike. 

Helene’s mission is horrifying, unwanted, and clear: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape...and kill them both.


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