Saturday, August 25, 2018

Book Review: Lady Olivia and the Infamous Rake by Janice Preston


Title: Lady Olivia and the Infamous Rake
Author: Janice Preston
Publication date: 23rd August 2018
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Review copy via NetGalley

Description: 'He’s completely unsuitable… he’s a rake.'

After being plucked from peril by resolute bachelor Lord Hugo Alastair, Lady Olivia Beauchamp is secretly outraged that he doesn’t even try to steal a kiss! He’s a notorious rake amongst the ton and as a result, utterly forbidden to an innocent debutante like her. But their attraction is magnetic. Will she risk her reputation for a passionate encounter?

My thoughts: Lady Olivia Beauchamp has had a very fortunate life. Her family are high in British society, she has two older brothers to secure the future of the family, they're well off financially and her father is able to provide a good dowry for her so she needn't worry too much about her future husband being wealthy himself. She knows how to behave in public to appear as a proper young lady, but in private she's a little more rebellious. Her brothers have always overshadowed her, and she feels like her sex has held her back from a lot of opportunities in life. That leads her to the situation at the beginning of the book where she has disguised herself and persuaded her brother to take her to Vauxhall Gardens one night while their father is away. Unfortunately, things go wrong, and Lord Hugo steps in to rescue her.

They then meet several times through various circumstances and despite knowing he has a reputation as a rake, Lady Olivia finds herself very attracted to him. I liked Olivia for her daring, and the way she balanced the lady she needed to appear as to society against the person she was inside. There are a couple of times in the book where she makes very silly decisions, without really thinking about possible consequences, which was a bit frustrating but I think that's an accurate reflection of the fact that she's eighteen and just doesn't have a clear picture of the harsh realities of the world yet.

While you don't get to see much of what the secondary characters are up to, there are references to some adventures which I think must play out in the other books in this sequence, called 'The Beauchamp Heirs'. I'd be interested to read more, I think, but I'm not necessarily going to seek them out over other historical romance books that might be available to me when I'm next choosing something.

Lady Olivia and the Infamous Rake was a light, easy read and that was exactly what I was looking for. It's nicely written Regency romance, and I'd read other books by Janice Preston in future. I'm giving this book 6 out of 10.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Book Review: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett


Title: Foundryside
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Publication Date: 23rd August 2018
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Divine Cities trilogy #1
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: The city of Tevanne runs on scrivings, industrialised magical inscriptions that make inanimate objects sentient; they power everything, from walls to wheels to weapons. Scrivings have brought enormous progress and enormous wealth - but only to the four merchant Houses who control them. Everyone else is a servant or slave, or they eke a precarious living in the hellhole called the Commons.

There's not much in the way of work for an escaped slave like Sancia Grado, but she has an unnatural talent that makes her one of the best thieves in the city. When she's offered a lucrative job to steal an ancient artefact from a heavily guarded warehouse, Sancia agrees, dreaming of leaving the Commons - but instead, she finds herself the target of a murderous conspiracy. Someone powerful in Tevanne wants the artefact, and Sancia dead - and whoever it is already wields power beyond imagining.

Sancia will need every ally, and every ounce of wits at her disposal, if she is to survive - because if her enemy gets the artefact and unlocks its secrets, thousands will die, and, even worse, it will allow ancient evils back into the world and turn their city into a devastated battleground.

My thoughts: I haven't read anything by Robert Jackson Bennett before, but I thought the blurb sounded interesting, so I was excited to give Foundryside a go. It starts with a young woman called Sancia stealing a mysterious object for her unnamed client. She wouldn't normally take a job this big and complex, because the consequences if she gets caught could be death or the painful loss of a limb, but this time the money was so good she couldn't say no. She duly gets hold of the box, but she can't resist the urge to look inside - despite having been told specifically not to by the client - and see what someone would go to all this trouble for. It turns out to be a magical object that's totally different from anything else, and Sancia realises her client wont let her live with any knowledge of it.

The book hooked me quickly, with Sancia's street-smart attitude and a lot of action that painted a good picture of the city and how the magic in this world works. Be warned, it's not a short book. I found the 10-20% section dragged a bit, but then things picked up again and I got sucked right back in. The last 30% flew by, and where part way through there had been moments where I wasn't sure if I'd continue with the series after Foundryside, by the time I finished reading it last night I knew I need to read the next book!

The majority of the book is focussed on Sancia, but there are occasional short paragraphs from some of the other key characters. There are a variety of narrators, and I think Robert Jackson Bennett did a really good job at giving the main characters distinct personalities and motivations. I liked the character development of all the key players over the course of the book, and I'm interested to see what happens to them in the sequel.

With Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett has created an exciting, believable world and a plot full of twists. It picks up momentum as it goes along, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the second book in the series has in store for readers. Overall, I'm giving Foundryside 7 out of 10.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Mini Book Review: Big Bones by Laura Dockrill


Title: Big Bones
Author: Laura Dockrill
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: March 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Borrowed

Description: The latest teen novel from the sparkling Laura Dockrill, introducing Bluebelle, and her moving, hilarious take on food, body image and how we look after ourselves and others

A heart-warming teen story from the unique voice of Laura Dockrill, about Bluebelle, aka BB, aka Big Bones - a sixteen-year-old girl encouraged to tackle her weight even though she's perfectly happy, thank you, and getting on with her life and in love with food. Then a tragedy in the family forces BB to find a new relationship with her body and herself. Moving, memorable and hilarious. 

My thoughts: Big Bones opens with Bluebelle at the doctor's, being told she should keep a food diary because of her weight. At first she refuses, but then makes a bargain with her mum: if she keeps the diary all summer, her mum will let her start an apprenticeship in the autumn rather than going back to school. Each chapter is named for a food, usually something BB eats during that chapter. But rather than just a list of foods, she also brings in memories of that food in her childhood, feelings associated with particular comfort foods, people associated with certain things, etc etc. It's a lovely look at the importance of food in a life beyond just sustenance.

It's very body positive, which is great to see in a young adult book. BB's attitude and thoughts are shaken a bit after an accident in the family. I found it interesting to read about how her opinions developed over the course of the book. Overall, it's a nice, upbeat book with a good message but it's not going to be something which stands out to me in December when I think back over what I've read this year. I'm giving Big Bones 6 out of 10.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: Snakewood by Adrian Selby


Title: Snakewood
Author: Adrian Selby
Publication date: 19th January 2017
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Traded with a friend

Description: A LIFETIME OF ENEMIES HAS ITS OWN PRICE

Mercenaries who gave no quarter, they shook the pillars of the world through cunning, chemical brews, and cold steel.

Whoever met their price won.

Now, their glory days are behind them. Scattered to the wind and their genius leader in hiding, they are being hunted down and eliminated.

One by one.

My thoughts: I heard Adrian Selby read from this book last year at Super Relaxed Fantasy Club in London, and thought the concept mercenaries who drank potions to help them in battle, then suffered various side effects from those potions, was really interesting. It sat on my wishlist until a friend was giving away his copy earlier this year, and I snapped it up. At the beginning of the book, two friends who used to be part of an elite group of mercenaries are going into a fight, and one of them gets shot, leaving him with a wound which they both know will be slowly fatal. They start to make the long journey across the country so that he can die at home, but quickly discover that they might have bigger things to worry about when the leader of their old band sends them a message to say that members of the group are slowly but surely being killed off.

For a fairly simple core concept, this book is full of drama, twists, and huge fight scenes. It's brilliantly executed, and had me absolutely gripped from the early chapters all the way through to the end. It's a fantasy novel which sprawls across a continent, with multiple narrators, including the 'baddie', flashbacks to the glory days of the mercenary band, and past events which shaped the motivations of some of the key players.

It's hard to find a uniquely new idea within the fantasy genre, but I think Adrian Selby has pulled that off with Snakewood. The tension stays high through the whole book, and I was really rooting for the characters. I laughed, I cried, and at the end of the book I was recommending it to anyone within earshot. It's one of the best books I've read this year, and I think all fantasy fans should pick up a copy if they get the chance. I'm giving this one 10 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Book review: Ravencry by Ed McDonald


Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for Ravencry by Ed McDonald!

Title: Ravencry
Author: Ed McDonald
Publication date: 28th June 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Raven's Mark #2
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: For Ryhalt Galharrow, working for Crowfoot as a Blackwing captain is about as bad as it gets - especially when his orders are garbled, or incoherent, or impossible to carry out.

The Deep Kings are hurling fire from the sky, a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady has begun to manifest in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power while the city burns around them.

Galharrow may not be able to do much about the cult - or about strange orders from the Nameless - but when Crowfoot's arcane vault is breached and an object of terrible power is stolen, he's propelled into a race against time to recover it. Only to do that, he needs answers, and finding them means travelling into nightmare: to the very heart of the Misery.

My thoughts: Blackwing, book 1 in the series, was one of my favourite books I read last year. I was eager to hear more about the world, and what might have happened following the events at the end of book one. It's four years on from the end of Blackwing, and fortunes have changed a bit for Ryhalt and his companions: they've got a large office building, their rank is acknowledged across the city, and there's not been too much trouble from the Misery recently. But when Ryhalt goes to meet an old acquaintance and ends up almost shot, it leads to a horrifying discovery.

Favourite characters from Blackwing play an important part, including Nenn and Tnota, and I enjoyed reading the insult-strewn camaraderie between them. There are also some new faces, including a 14-year-old orphan who does odd jobs around the office, and a smart woman who looks after all the accounts, and tries to look after the team as well. They're all interesting, three-dimensional people and I'll love to read more stories about each of them, which I think is a good test for how well built a character is.

One of the best bits about Blackwing was the pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you plot twists, which would send the characters scrabbling to adjust their plans. Ravencry was just as capable of surprising me, although I was a lot more on the lookout for twists, and was a bit more nervous than Ryhalt when he thought he had everything figured out a couple of times. There's a lot of action at the begining and end of the book, but there's a bit maybe three quarters in set in the Misery which I found a lot slower, and not as interesting, although it did feel very appropriate to be reading about people slogging through a desert while I was crammed into a hot commuter train.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ravencry. Ed McDonald has produced another fantasy novel packed with action, foul-mouthed characters and enough twists and turns to keep you constantly on your toes. I'll definitely be recommending it to other fantasy fans, particularly if you enjoyed book one in the series, and I'm now anxiously waiting for the next book in the series. I'm giving Ravencry 8 out of 10.

Have a look at the banner below to see the other stops in the Ravencry blog tour.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Book Review: Ocean Light by Nalini Singh


Title: Ocean Light
Author: Nalini Singh
Publication date: 14th June 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Series: Psy-Changeling Trinity
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh dives beneath the surface of her Psy-Changeling world into a story of passionate devotion and selfless love...

Security specialist Bowen Knight has come back from the dead. But there's a ticking time bomb in his head: a chip implanted to block telepathic interference that could fail at any moment - taking his brain along with it. With no time to waste, he should be back on land helping the Human Alliance. Instead, he's at the bottom of the ocean, consumed with an enigmatic changeling...

Kaia Luna may have traded in science for being a chef, but she won't hide the facts of Bo's condition from him or herself. She's suffered too much loss in her life to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking. And she carries a devastating secret that Bo could never imagine...

My thoughts: I look forward to each new Nalini Singh novel, but there were a couple of things making Ocean Light one which I was particularly eager to read. Firstly, it's only the second book in her new 'Psy-Changeling Trinity' series arc. We're still very much setting up the big conflicts and establishing the focus on the main players involved in the Trinity Accord and the new ruling council. There were some parts in Silver Silence which I didn't think were as strongly written as Singh's previous books, but Ocean Light is a return to force, which was a relief. The other big thing drawing me to this book was its focus on the BlackSea clan, who we knew very little about until now. They're a group of sea-based shapeshifters who largely keep to themselves, and there had only been tantalising glimpses of them in the earlier books set in this world. I've always been intrigued to learn more about them, so I was excited to get stuck in.

Bo wakes up from a coma to find himself on board a BlackSea station anchored deep beneath the surface of the sea. Before the accident at the end of the last book, the chip in his head which stops anyone reading his mind had been rapidly deteriorating, and a scientist on the station thinks she has a possible solution. If it's successful, the deterioration of the chip will stop but if it's not, Bo could be left with his mind badly damaged. The process will take a few weeks, and in that time he falls in love with the station chef, Kaia. Kaia is deeply distrustful of all humans due to events in her past and the recent kidnapping of some of the most vulnerable BlackSea changelings. One of the most recent to go missing was a good friend of hers, and before he did, he shared evidence that pointed to the Human Alliance being firmly involved in the kidnappings. Bo and Kaia have a lot of problems to work through in order to set their relationship on the right tracks, with the impending horrible consequences if the experiment on Bo's chip goes wrong, and Kaia's difficulties in trusting him.

On top of that there are the problems of a new human being accepted on the station, or not, given the tension between BlackSea and humans. Bo is trying to investigate allegations against the Human Alliance and get to the bottom of a serious betrayal, all while stuck underwater on the station. I think Ocean Light is a true return to force for Nalini Singh. She strikes the perfect balance between the romance and a tense, twisting but still believable politically-anchored plot. It harks back to the early Psy-Changling books: a newcomer tries to adjust to a Changeling society which has good reason to be hostile towards him; a tight-nit, intriguing cast are introduced; and ultimately, working together and love are a key part of the solution. There's still a whole lot to learn about BlackSea in future books, but there were some particularly memorable characters in Ocean Light, such as Kaia's host of cousins, who I'd love to see staring in future books.

Ocean Light had all my favourite things about the Psy-Changeling world, and I'm relieved that Nalini Singh certainly isn't running out of steam with the world. I'm giving it 9/10, and as ever, I'm left eager to read the next one.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Book review: What Fresh Hell by Lucy Vine


Title: What Fresh Hell
Author: Lucy Vine
Publication date: 8th March 2018
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher via NetGalley

Description: Lilah Fox has just returned from the hen party from hell, vowing to actually spend time with her boyfriend and focus more on herself. Then she gets the whatsapp from her best friend Lauren to say she's just got engaged. And as maid of honour, Lilah just signed up for weekend wedding fairs and weekly planning meetings for the next year.

Just when she thinks things can't get any worse, she's about to discover a new fresh hell.

My thoughts: What Fresh Hell is a contemporary fiction book about Lilah, who comes home from a horrible hen do, sick of weddings, only to be asked to be a bridesmaid for one of her best friends. In fact, her whole coming year seems to be full of people getting married. It's all putting a lot of strain on her relationship with her boyfriend, and her finances. Add to this some problems at work and with the old folks social group she helps to run, and Lilah really isn't having a great time.

I have to say, I didn't love this book. A lot of the so called 'friends' who Lilah goes to hen parties with, or sits with at weddings, seem completely horrible and I couldn't understand why she was willing to keep putting effort in to those friendships when the other people were treating her horribly. I also got frustrated with Lilah herself over how much she's neglecting her boyfriend. He clearly really loves her, and is trying to do nice things for her and carve out some alone time for the two of them together, but Lilah is completely oblivious to that. She consistently puts him last, and I didn't like that.

It's a relatively light story, about the ups and downs of friendships, the importance of friends, and how the wedding industry can affect some people so much that they seem to turn into a completely different person. I think a lot of people will enjoy this as a light, funny, read-on-the-beach book. Perhaps in a couple of years when more people I know are getting married, I'll find it a bit funnier, but at the moment I like to think that if anyone in my friendship groups was treating others the way some people in this book do, they would be called out on their nonsense. 'Friends' who treat you like crap and take advantage of you are not friends. Despite my problems with the book, though, it was well written, and I will keep an eye out for more of Lucy Vine's books. I'm giving What Fresh Hell 6 out of 10.
 

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