Review

Review: Fellside by M.R. Carey

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Well, this was incredibly disappointing.

After the absolutely astonishing book that was The Girl With All The Gifts, I expected something just as amazing from M.R. Carey the second time round. Sadly, it was not to be.

I wouldn’t call this horror, not in the same way that The Girl With All The Gifts was. It’s more paranormal, but it’s also just very odd. Jess Moulson finds herself in prison after a fire, a fire that she apparently caused whilst high. When Jess finds out what happened during the fire, she decides the best thing to do is to end her life, and goes on hunger strike. She is teetering on the very edge of life and death when she suddenly starts to hear voices and see visions, a figure from her past that might hold all the answers.

To be honest, I think my main issue with this book was Jess. She was just a bit of a limp character, and there didn’t seem to be much to her. I also found the whole explanation for Jess’s visions to be a bit of a let down. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but with the way that the book was going I had started to suspect the reason behind them (it is very difficult to write about this book with giving anything away to be honest, which is why this review is so short!), regardless it was still disappointing and almost felt as though the involvement of Jess’s case was entirely pointless. And if, like me, you’re more interested in prison dramas after Orange is the New Black – this ain’t that.

As with The Girl With All The Gifts, Carey’s writing is excellent. It was just the story that did not work for me this time – it wasn’t even creepy like the blurb claimed. I will still read his next book with the hope that it will live up to the first, but I feel sadly disappointed by Fellside.

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Review

Review: Speak by Louisa Hall

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I was initially drawn to Speak through its cover – I frequently do, in fact, judge a book by its cover. Having just re-watched the film Ex Machina for Sci-Fi Month 2015, it immediately struck me as sounding similar, plus the figure on the cover looked a little like Ava, the A.I. in the film. I’ve always been intrigued by A.I., but my recent exploration into the sub-genre of science fiction had me interested.

And so I dove into the book, expecting something dark, technologically very clever, and most of all, exciting.

I hate to say it, but I came out very, very disappointed. Speak is not a novel as much as a collection of diary entries and chat logs, all from different time periods, all linked together by artificial intelligence. However, the link felt tenuous at best, meaning that it felt more like a collection of random stories, all told in different chapters. One diary was of a 16/17th century teenage girl, making the journey from England to the New World. Another was a chatlog between a chatbot and a paralysed teenaged girl. There was also the diary of the creator of a certain artificial intelligence.

In some ways, maybe they were linked. Both in others, not at all. I didn’t find any single chapter or event to be particularly interesting or exciting, there was no real chance to get to know any character and I was, quite honestly, rather bored of it all by the end. It’s a shame, because Speak looked so full of promise, but despite the beautiful writing it ultimately felt like a lot of loose ends with no real conclusion.

Review

Review: Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1) by Trudi Canavan

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Yet again, I have found a book that I really wish I had picked up earlier.

Thief’s Magic had been sat on my Kindle for a while, one of my many Netgalley requests from when I was still really getting to grips with the whole system (i.e. not thinking through what I could read and when…). Unlike some of these requests, it was one that I knew I’d get around to – the question was just when.

A story that features archaeology? Check. A setting that includes a magical school/university? Check. Those are pretty much the two main factors that drew me to this one, and although the archaeology element is very minor, it was a good way to set up the story and introduce the reader to Tyen and Vella. Thief’s Magic is, at its current place in the series, more like two separate stories that do not really meet, but sooner or later you know they will. Although the two points of view did not combine as I hoped, they showed two very different worlds in which magic is seen and treated in two very different ways. In Tyen’s world, magic keeps things running – literally. It pretty much does the job of electricity in our own world. It is not seen as a negative thing. In contrast, Rielle’s world sees magic as something only Angels, and their priests, can use. If anyone else uses magic, they are seen as ‘stealing’ from the angels, and are punished.

However, in both worlds the use of magic has a similar result – a black cloud or void in the area where the magic was used, the size of the cloud depending on the strength of the magic. In Rielle’s world it is known as the ‘Stain’, reflecting the negative associations with magic, whereas in Tyen’s it is just referred to as ‘Soot’, a byproduct of industry. I personally enjoy magic systems where the use of magic demands a sacrifice of some kind, such as in The Name of the Wind. Whilst the magic in Thief’s Magic did not, I have a feeling that something will come into play later on in the series that reveals what the ‘Stain’ or ‘Soot’ actually is, and it won’t be a good thing.

Whilst at the beginning of the book I much preferred Tyen’s chapters, Rielle’s really started to pick up later on, and I was just as happy to read either point of view. Tyen’s world had a sort of fantasy-steampunk feel to it, whilst Rielle’s felt more like a ‘traditional’ fantasy world. From Tyen’s chapters especially I got a real sense of exploration and adventure, and overall found Thief’s Magic to be an extremely fun read. It made me feel as though I hadn’t read a good old fashioned fantasy adventure novel in a while, and I was glad to amend that.

Strangely enough, it seems I actually picked the right time to read this – the second book in the series is due to be published next month. I will definitely be looking out for it!

Review

Review: Tracer (Outer Earth #1) by Rob Boffard

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Recently, I decided to give The 100 another shot. I’d given up on it by episode three when it aired on television, but I was in the mood for that sort of science fiction. I devoured both series in a matter of weeks, and I was still hungry for more. Then I saw Tracer on Netgalley, auto-approved for me, and grabbed it.

And Tracer satisfied that hunger pretty well! It begins with one of the most fast-paced action scenes I have ever read, Riley’s every leap, spin and landing painted vividly for the reader. Although the action slowed down at points, it was still there, and for me that was the high point of the novel.

Unfortunately, where the book suffered was the characters. Tracer is told from three points of view: Riley, Prakesh and Darnell. Riley’s viewpoint is first person whereas the other two are told in third person. This was an interesting technique, focusing in on Riley as the main character, but I didn’t really feel a connection to her or any one else. If, in a book, characters are faced with a life or death situation, I need to care for them, I need to hope that they make it through. I just wasn’t feeling it for any of the characters in the book.

However, the plot was really great and that’s what pulled it through, along with the fantastically written action scenes. There are a lot of science fiction novels out there which focus on the ‘last humans’, but rarely is the threat to these survivors other members of their own race, rather than an extra-terrestrial species. THAT’S what’s scary – not an alien invasion, but human beings turning on each other.

Although I would have loved some more character development, this was a really fun science fiction novel, and definitely the sort of thing I was looking for. If you’re suffering from The 100 withdrawal, you might want to give it a try too!

Review

Review: Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

A road trip comedy, based on the works of Homer, featuring gods, monsters and creatures of Greek myth and legend, based in modern day America? I definitely had to request this one!

Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest had all the humour I expected. The mythology-based puns, the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) references to previous Greek heroes, legendary ferocious beasts being not quite as tough as expected. It is a silly and fun comedy about a teenage girl, who just happens to also be a minotaur, and a teenage boy who are thrown together by a Lost God to go on a quest and retrieve some artefacts for him. In true heroic quest style, they are given little indication of what to do, where to go and how to get there.

Yet for all its humour, it does actually go a little deeper. Helen’s constant worries about her appearance and how others perceive her, due to her minotaurism, will be relatable to many a reader – although perhaps for reasons other than being a minotaur… She worries about what would happen if her and Troy ended up together, more about how people would see him than her. Both Helen and Troy are genuinely good people, but I didn’t feel I got to know much about them, past the scope of their interest in each other.

However, this was a good and light-hearted read, that I really appreciated due to all the mythology references. Considering my thesis involves classical religion and mythology, it was really nice to read something about it that wasn’t all stuffy and academic! Fans of Greek mythology will especially enjoy this, but I’m pretty sure it will appeal to anyone looking for a road trip story that’s just a bit different.

Review

Review: Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Leviathan Wakes was the science fiction Book of the Month for my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks. It had been on my radar for a while: I previously recommended it for fans of the TV show Firefly and plenty of my friends had read and enjoyed it. As a result, I set out with some rather high expectations.

Some science fiction novels take quite a bit of getting used to, with their unusual and unique terminology and technology, but not this one. It is both immediately accessible and understandable whilst retaining a futuristic feel. We’re made aware of terraforming, ‘faux food’ (this is one of the things that scares me about the future. No delicious real food!), and hand-held communications terminals – but as of yet, no faster than light travel. From the very beginning it is packed full of political backstabbing and corruption, with elements of crime noir and horror. Whilst it’s not big on the action, there are plenty of tense moments to grip the reader. It feels like a science fiction novel that covers many boundaries and could appeal to many different types of people, not just fans of science fiction.

The crime noir element is thanks to Miller, a cop assigned to tracking down a young girl and one of the point-of-view characters. He feels like a bit of a cliche: slightly more than occasional heavy drinker (brought on by the stresses of the job), rocky relationship with his ex-wife, practically married his career and putting it before everything else. Throughout the story he shows signs of perhaps not being particularly emotionally stable, and the case takes a real toll on him. The reader watches him fall, and it’s both heart-breaking and a bit of a relief for a combination of reasons. His obsession with the case, and the young girl he is meant to be searching for, becomes all-consuming, and his descent into madness puts more than one person at risk. A talented and dedicated policeman becomes a creepy, obsessive character with little or no morals in about five hundred pages, and it was the sudden reversal of my feelings about Miller that really got me.

As for the rest of the characters, it would have been nice to have some more background information. Holden and Naomi were great, along with the rest of a good cast of more minor characters, but where were their detailed back stories? There may be more in the next books, but it would be nice to have something from the beginning.

At times, Leviathan Wakes reminded me more of Alien than Firefly. The latter part of the book was very tense, dark and gave me a real claustrophobic feeling – as if I were the one trapped aboard a spaceship with some mysterious extra-terrestrial life. I would definitely recommend it to fans of writers such as Alastair Reynolds and Arthur C. Clarke, as well as those who like a horror aspect with their science fiction!

Review

Review: Mass Effect Ascension (Mass Effect #2) by Drew Karpyshyn

Mass Effect: Ascension by Drew Karpyshyn

2 out of 5 stars

After finishing Mass Effect 3, I wanted to immerse myself in all things Mass Effect, I suppose because the trilogy is now over, and the ending was rather disappointing. I first picked this book up in the library two years ago or so, and found it very dull. But I thought I’d try it again, and I somehow made it through.

It reads like a fanfiction. Not an awful one, but not a great one either. Karpyshyn’s writing style is merely mediocre. The only reason the story was remotely interesting to me is because it is set in the Mass Effect universe, and involves Grissom Academy and Kahlee Sanders, who appears in Mass Effect 3. The book is very, very simply written and there is almost a complete lack of character development.

I would give this 1 star, but I’ve given it another simply for being Mass Effect related (yeah, fangirl). Although Karpyshyn tries to explain terms to people who haven’t played Mass Effect, I get the feeling that if you’ve never touched the games, some elements of the story might be confusing.

I think a Mass Effect book series following Commander Shepard, or at least the Normandy would be great – but then there is the issue with being able to create your own custom character, both in appearance and personality. Although there are the default Shepards, they would not be Shepard to those people – like myself – who create our own versions.

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