Review

Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Because I don’t have a lot of space for storing books, I do quite often donate them to charity after reading if they aren’t favourites or I don’t think I will re-read them. This allows me to buy even more without taking up more space, so my book collection pretty much remains at the same size. Revolution was in my ‘donate after reading’ pile, and as I will soon be moving I’ve been trying to work through more of these so I don’t need to take them with me.

I’m not really sure what I expected when I picked up this book. In fact, after a couple of chapters I almost DNFed it because of the main character, Andi. The book opens with Andi hanging out with her friends, and they immediately seemed so pretentious and ridiculous, but I decided to keep going. And whilst I finished the book, Andi was definitely not my favourite of characters. I loved that she was so passionate about music and art, and really knowledgeable, but at times she felt elitist and a bit of a snob. Not to mention the whole very ‘try hard’ emo style she was going for. I get that she’s grieving. I get that she’s gone through this horrible event. But it kind of felt lazy for the author to use the emo look to portray someone who is struggling to get over the death of someone close to them.

However, Revolution was a clever story. I thought the use of the French Revolution, and entwining both Andi and Alex’s stories to be very well done. I maybe didn’t enjoy reading Alex’s journal entries as much as I’d expected – they just didn’t flow as well – but it was nice to revisit this area of history that I studied in detail eight or nine years ago.

Overall, this was a quick and easy read, and actually a lot more enjoyable than I’d reckoned – but let down in places by the portrayal of the main character.

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2016: Blogger Panel #2

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2016, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or with the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

It’s time for the second blogger panel, where I pose a science fiction related question to a selection of book bloggers! If you want to answer the question as well, let us know your response in the comment section below. 🙂 The question for this panel was:

If you had a time machine, where/when would you go, and why?

Anna @ There’s Always Room For One More

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Anna (@imyril) has been reading for nearly as long as she’s been walking, and arguably with greater success – or at least fewer bruises. She has a lot of very heavy books about archaeology and/or King Arthur on her shelves, most of which she has read, along with a glorious amount of more portable speculative fiction that she can read on the Tube. Favourite things beyond books include movies, cats, whisky and getting lost. Her musings can be found on her blog and on Twitter.

If I had a time machine…

As Rinn knew when she posed it, this is one of the most difficult questions you can pose an archaeologist. Even a recovered archaeologist (who am I kidding? You never recover). I studied archaeology because of all the things we don’t know, and I am fascinated by the gaps. The chance to examine one – just one – historical or mythical moment is a choice that makes my heart explode. My blood pressure has gone up just considering it.

But in some ways, it’s easy. I can get agitated and rattle off so many places and times (Justinian’s Constantinople; Troy VI; Crete after the eruption of Thera; Akhenaten’s Egypt), but I specialised in Dark Age economics (an academically acceptable option for an undergrad fascinated by Arthurian lore) so there can only ever really be one outcome. We know more than we ever have done about Anglo-Saxon ’invaders’ and the enduring links between post-Roman Britain and the Mediterranean, etched in broken amphorae and plague-carrying ship rats, but we still don’t know what to believe about Arthur.

If I set my time machine for Camelot, I have to assume it would draw a blank. The myth is just that – a beautifully illustrated body of stories concocted across Europe over centuries. But if there’s one thing the Doctor has taught me about having access to a time machine, it’s that you get to cheat a little. The transformation of post-Roman Europe is fascinating in its own right: I’d like to take a journey through the 5th through 8th centuries looking for the truth behind the myths and the realities of life in the ‘Dark Ages’. And maybe – just maybe – find a war leader who united the British and led them to victory against their enemies… even if it’s Vortigern, not Arthur.

There’s still a bit of me that’s shouting GO TO THE FUTURE. But at the moment, I’m not sure whether spoilers would really make me feel any better, so I’ll stick with my ancient past.

Jorie @ Jorie Loves A Story

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Jorie is a book blogger and passionate reader at Jorie Loves A Story. She says that her blog was ‘inspired into creation due to a reader’s love and passion for the written word’.

She can be reached either through her blog or via Twitter (@JorieStory).

Such a curious question to be asked as this is something I have personally contemplated for such a long time – especially moreso now that I’ve become a book blogger and have regularly sought out stories which either travel through time or bend time within the narrative arc where the journey of the character has an equal foothold in both the present and the past; sometimes even within the future or an alternative variant of said future. Through my readings, I have garnished a healthy appetite of questioning my own opinion on the matter – would I travel through time if the opportunity presented itself? Or would I yield to understanding it’s best to live our lives forward rather than disappear back inside the past?

It’s a multi-layered question – as if you go by popular commentary found in fiction, television and motion pictures – you’ll find the discourse is not only actively commentated about but it’s a working thesis that has a variety of avenues to explore. One particular TV series comes to mind – it wasn’t inherently about ‘time travel’ but you knew going in something was ‘amiss’ on the time spectrum if the facts within the newspaper were meant to be found by one particular person who could impart his perception of those facts and events by making the best possible choice regarding what to do with the information. The series was called Early Edition and on a similar vein of Dr Beckett travelling through the quantum leap of time itself – both men strived to right wrongs and put people’s lives back on track. They did this from a genuine belief that they were given an ability to do good and it was their personal mission to fulfill that purpose.

When you approach it from a singular point-of-view, of personally travelling through time you have to re-consider the affect this is going to have on the continuum of time itself and how one individual person could effectively alter something that was originally non-existent in their timeline – either lived or unknown from their ancestral past as expertly explored in the new TV series Timeless, which embarks on exploring how individuals who are propelling themselves backwards through time’s arrow for a distinct purpose of stopping someone from aggressively altering history itself. Yet, as foreseen early into the series, each ‘step back’ leads to a ‘new tomorrow’ for their own timelines and histories – wells, technically in the beginning it only affected one character’s life, but evenso! It begged the question – are we meant to travel back or are we meant to continue to learn from the past without personally travelling there ourselves?

During Sci Fi Month 2014, I read A Stitch in Time by Amanda James wherein I revealed this:

A theory on time, the traveller who knits it back together, and the reality of time travel:

James reveals the basis of her running theory on the full dimension of being a time traveller and one who intends to not only travel along the meridians of time but on fusing time as a broken structure of record back together again; with a propensity of precision generally relegated to knitters or sewers. I, personally, loved what the time traveller’s mentor and guide is called inside the story (as a Time Needle sounds ever so posh) as ‘needling with time’ simply made a heap of sense to me! Time travellers by definition can either muck up an alignment of the continuum itself OR they can create positive contributions by causing a deviant of order as they re-distribute a level of calm within the chaos. I even liked how she parlayed her theory within the title of the novel itself, by using a Stitch in such a clever execution of a person’s job rather than rely solely on prior knowledge the reader may or may not have had as far as vetting information on the subject for themselves.

And, this is exactly my point. If a time traveller can effectively cause a positive outcome from their meddlings in time, then I think there is validity to time travel. However, it begs the question – how many who’d travel in time honestly consider the consequence of leaving a light footprint and not interfering when it’s unnecessary to do so? How many would have that kind of self-restraint?

Since 2014, I have also consumed the duology of Eruption and Reclamation by Adrienne Quintana, The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack and an alternative timeline of history in Kate Johnson’s The Untied Kingdom. In each of the stories, you are given valid arguments where time travel is a valid method of resolving something that has been left unresolved. Even in Doctor Who we are constantly reminded of the consequences of ‘spoilers’ a la River Song and of the key reasons why travelling in time is so very dangerous to one’s soul (i.e. the main reason the Doctor is older rather than younger is due to personal anguish for what he couldn’t change nor resolve the memories of those he had lost); yet where does that leave any of us to understand our own personal desire to re-visit the past?!

For me, I used to think having conversations with historical persons I had admired was the best way to chart a course into the past – my admirations for these women and gentlemen have never diminished, however, as I have started to journey into my own ancestral past as an Ancestry Sleuth inside my own family, I must lament there is a strong curiosity to re-visit my own ancestral roots through walking alongside my own ancestors at moments where they made key life decisions or lived moments of their ordinary hours where they were simply themselves caught up in the moment of living their lives.

To re-step through their footsteps – as I am only two or three generations away from the patriarchs of my family who immigrated to America, to see how they braved the ocean and conquered their fears to re-settle so far from their homes whilst uncertain of what they’d find once they were here is quite compelling. Even to go back to the late 1800s and walk through the hours with my great-grandmother of whom was my first best friend and watch as she took in the dawning of the 20th Century and how it shaped her thoughts and experiences from a Victorian upbringing would be incredible. To even go back further, to when the Fortune sailed from England to Plymouth and how my ancestors had to work off seven years of debt in order to stay in New England as the Fortune came without supplies would be incredible.

The only concern I still have – as a time traveller of stories and of an ancestral sleuth of memories – it is hard to turn-off the knowledge I have gained about how even one breath spent in the past can affect the future of tomorrow. Is it right to have the curiosity lead us into uncharted territories where our conjoined living histories could be altered like they are becoming in “Timeless” or is there a way to broker a foothold into the past without erasing the moments which already were lived yet give us a gain of entrance to observe? Perhaps the truer answer is meant to be left unknown. As how would any of us know exactly how we’d react if the choice was presented to us tomorrow? Would we lean on our foreknowledge or would we impulsively act on the hope of what we’d dare to find as seen in the film Midnight in Paris?

Tammy @ Books, Bones and Buffy

I think most people would probably choose a time from the past to visit, but me? I would most certainly want to visit the future. Even though things are looking pretty bleak on Earth, I think I’m enough of an optimist to envision a future filled with marvelous technology, alien visitors (the nice kind, of course) and a better quality of living for all. I’d like to think that scientists would have figured out the global warming problem and Earth would still be habitable in the next several hundred years or so.

I’m also very curious to see what my future ancestors (wait, is that a thing?) would be like, will my kids grow up to have kids of their own? And will they grow up to have kids? I’d love to visit my future relatives and see where everyone ends up. And wouldn’t it be cool to jump ahead in time and be able to see your present life as the past? What cool technology do we have today that will most certainly become obsolete in the future?

Plus, I really really want to visit some of the science fiction worlds I’ve read about in books, and who’s to say those worlds won’t become reality someday? Of course, I could jump ahead to the far future and wind up in a swirling mass of volcanic fire, but like I said, I’m an optimist…

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Tammy Sparks blogs at Books, Bones & Buffy, and tries to read and review as much speculative fiction as she possibly can, while working full time, raising two teens, and volunteering for her kids’ various school activities. You can also find her on Twitter: @tammy_sparks.

Claire @ Bitches With Books

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Claire blogs at Bitches with Books. She can be reached via her blog or Twitter (@BWithBooks).

Ok, so my magical time machine is even better than that, it can move back between worlds (fictional or real) and throughout time!

So on first instinct, I think I’d go to The Shire and visit Hobbiton or even Lothlórien at its founding, before the Ring of Power was made. It just seems like a peaceful time in the stories and I’m imagining such lush, beautiful nature and good food. I’d basically just hit up a bunch of pubs or sort of convince hobbits, men and elves that I’m an awesome guest and that we should all have a massive feast! Is it bad that all I want to do is eat a good meal like I was at Bilbo Baggins’ birthday party? On second instinct, I’m not sure that’s a terribly good idea because I imagine that my appearance and dress and loud manner would be quite shocking and unappealing for some?

My third instinct is to go to the world of magic (like in Harry Potter) and visit Hogwarts when it was first founded by the great four, to travel to my home country in the Caribbean and see the magic that happened there with the melting pot of cultures, to go throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa to see how magic was explored and transformed with culture and time. I think that would be the best, to see that kind of awesome magic!

Let me know your own response to the panel question in the comments below! 🙂

Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2016: Review of New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2016, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or with the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

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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.

I can actually remember when I first heard about New Pompeii. I’d just finished reading A Darker Shade of Magic, and flicked to the back of the book to read about upcoming titles from Titan Books – and there it was. A Jurassic Park style element involving ancient Romans? Err, yes please and thank you. I felt my little archaeologist heart drop a little when I saw the words ‘Expected publication 2016’. It felt so far away!

Fast forward to a year later, and what turned up on my doorstep, courtesy of Titan? My very own shiny copy of New Pompeii. Obviously when you’ve been waiting for something for so long, your expectations are pretty high, and I was actually worried that after all this time that it might not live up to my own hype – but as it turns out, there was no need to worry.

There have been a lot of stories of people undertaking foolish activities and studies, where you know things are going to go wrong – Jurassic Park is obviously the big one. But there’s something quite terrifying about that scientific project that could potentially go catastrophically wrong being human beings. The main error that NovusPart make is that they don’t seem to see the citizens of New Pompeii as actual people; they’re from the past so naturally they’re less intelligent, less developed, less civilised (ha!). These were the people who were responsible for so many human advances, so many things we’d be so stuck without now, and the people of NovusPart saw them almost like cavemen. New Pompeii raised some really interesting questions relating to this – what rights do these people have? But also, most terrifyingly – what effect will their presence have on the future?

As for the writing itself, the book was really accessible and did not resort to overly complicated terminology or anything like that to explain exactly how the process worked. It was simplified, and maybe not fully explained – but it’s science fiction. We’re already believing that people can be brought back through time, we don’t then have to criticise the how. And to be honest, I was much more interested in the clash of modern and ancient cultures and the idea of Nick trying to fit in with these people to learn from them, than the sciencey mumbo jumbo behind how they got there.

Overall, maybe New Pompeii didn’t feel quite as fleshed out as I was expecting. But it was a really good, fun novel, with plenty of action-packed scenes, I absolutely LOVED the concept and wouldn’t hesitate to read a sequel. What I would give to walk through those streets and interact with genuine ancient Pompeiians… A very strong four stars from me – or should I say IV stars? 😉

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Time Travel

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

As an archaeologist, time travel is an exciting thought. Being able to go back in time and see if your theories are right? Being able to experience those past cultures and civilisations that you’ve studied and obsessed over for years? Yes please. This is one of the main reasons why I love science fiction that features time travel. However, the thought of heading to the future is just as thrilling. I’m always eyeing up the technology on screen in sci-fi films and shows – how cool would it be to get a chance to use some of it?

But the thought of travelling through time is also terrifying.

What if you get stuck in the past or future, unable to return to your own time? What if you change something in the past, however unknowingly or however small, and it has huge consequences on the future? Or even if they are not consequences that affect you, they could drastically alter the life of someone else. What if the people of the past or future see you as a threat or an enemy?

To enjoy time travel in science fiction, you often have to forget about these questions, and just accept it as it is presented. It is such a fantastic element, and I’ve read so many wonderful books featuring time travel:

All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin Terrill The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Of course that’s not all of them – it would take forever to list them all! Those are just recent reads or particular favourites. And there are several titles involving time travel that I really want to get my hands on:

Loop The Time Machine 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Of course, I don’t just love time travel in my books.

One of my favourite television shows, Doctor Who, is based around the concept of time travel. I discussed my love for the show in the first Sci-Fi Month, and also wrote a short guide to the series for new fans. However my interest has waned a little with the Twelfth Doctor, and that’s something I’ll be discussing this month.

Hmm, sorry Doctor, but I won't be taking your reading advice.

Hmm, sorry Doctor, but I won’t be taking your reading advice.

And not forgetting films!

One of my most recent favourites that used time travel was Looper. It was clever in that it didn’t feel too high tech for most of the film, with the majority of it set in an isolated farm house surrounded by cornfields. Now I feel like that is something I should rewatch this month…

I’m having slightly more trouble thinking up video games that feature time travel though. Most science fiction video games that I’ve played involve space travel, rather than time travel. Can anyone help me out here?

If time travel was possible, there’s a chance that my career would become irrelevant. What would be the point in researching history and archaeology, digging up evidence or hunting through ancient documents if you could just travel back to a certain period in time and see what actually happened? So maybe it’s for the best that time travel is fiction. 😉

Do you enjoy science fiction with the element of time travel? What are some of your favourite titles?

Review

Review: Time Salvager (Time Salvager #1) by Wesley Chu

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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.

How do I review Time Salvager? Well I know there’s one thing I can say: this book swept me away, completely and utterly.

The basic premise is that, by the 26th century, the Earth is toxic, a wasteland. Thanks to humanity, it has been pretty much destroyed. Within this future is a company called ChronoCom, who employs ‘Chronmen’. These Chronmen travel back in time in order to retrieve important things – technology, documents, natural resources – but never people. That is, until the protagonist James decides to rescue a scientist from an exploding research base, bringing her from the 21st century to the 26th. That’s when things get messy.

Elise, the scientist that James brings back with him, is ripped from a time where mankind is finally fighting its wrongs – with peace, medicine, etc – and placed in one that feels like it could almost be the past, not the future. The Earth she knows and loves has been ravaged, and is now covered in pollution and smog. I really liked Elise, she was intelligent and quickly adjusted to this new time period. She was a wonderful contrast to James. And speaking of James, it was nice to have a flawed protagonist. No-one is perfect.

From the very first page, I was gripped. I’m a big fan of time travel in books, film and television, especially when it involves travelling BACK in time, rather than just forward. Sometimes it’s hard to pull off. Sometimes the author feels the need to overexplain. Chu doesn’t explain one bit how time travel works in this universe, and to me, that didn’t matter. Everything felt so established: ChronoCom, the Time Laws, James’ slow spiral downwards, that I didn’t really feel a need to know how the time travel worked. It just did.

This was a book that made me want to do nothing but sit down and read it for long periods of time, and it’s been a while since I’ve felt like that, thanks to my studies. The last few chapters were incredibly tense, and the ending was very open, allowing the reader to make their mind up about what happened.

Time Salvager feels like the sort of science fiction I’ve been yearning for. To me, it is on par with greats such as Hyperion and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It’s clever, it’s fast, it’s action-packed, but it also carries a message. And most of all: it is DEFINITELY worth your time.

Also, below you can find a sample of the Time Salvager audiobook!

Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2014: Review of TimeBomb (TimeBomb Trilogy #1) by Scott K. Andrews

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2014, an event hosted by myself and Oh, the Books!. You can keep up to date by following @SciFiMonth on Twitter, or the official hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

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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.

TimeBomb was certainly a fun read. Throwing the reader into this crazy revelation of time travel along with the characters meant it got straight into the action, no holds barred. And despite its super speedy pace, I was given a strong impression of each of the three protagonists almost right away.

Dora is naive and sweet, but stubborn. As a girl from the sixteenth century who is suddenly thrown into the twenty-first, she obviously has a lot of questions, but she learns fast. She’s sharp and witty, and was definitely my favourite of the three. Kaz is kind-hearted despite his difficult past, and although he lacks confidence he seems to grow throughout the book. Finally, Jana, the girl from the future, oozes confidence but was quite frankly a little annoying and blunt.

For a fairly short book, the story seems to cram in several genres: science fiction, historical fiction, adventure and thriller. It was pretty exciting how the three protagonists occasionally encountered their future selves in a variety of situations, allowing the reader to take a guess at what might come next. I also really appreciated one of the characters pointing out that they shouldn’t leave future objects in the past, to avoid confusing archaeologists!

However, the concept behind the time travel seemed like a really lazy explanation, and the way the three actually travelled through time just struck me as… odd. At times, the fact that they could time travel was a very overused deus ex machina. And despite the fact that you’d imagine a world in which you can time travel would feel huge, it actually felt strangely small.

Whilst I enjoyed the book, the conclusion was frustrating and I didn’t much care for the time travel explanation. Regardless, I think I would pick up the second book in the series when it comes out, just to see how Dora copes, although it won’t be my highest priority!

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #16 – Doctor Who

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: Doctor Who.

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The adventures of The Doctor, an alien time traveler – a Time Lord – from Gallifrey. Together with his companions they travel through time and space in the TARDIS, battling evil where they find it.

I’ve covered Doctor Who in this feature before, but there are so many different books to recommend that I’m going to be featuring it several times! For now these mostly cover time travel, but in a later feature I may target specific episodes.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Although 11/22/63 by Stephen King involves something the Doctor would NEVER do – changing the course of history – it’s very much a timey-wimey novel. I also feel it fits in well with the beginning of series six in that it’s set in 1960s America, although Maine instead of Utah. Like the episode The Impossible Astronaut, it weaves the story into a major historical event – the moon landing in 1969 in the case of Doctor Who versus the assassination of JFK in 1963.

Timeline by Michael Crichton

Timeline by Michael Crichton

‘Timey wimey’ is today’s keyword. Timeline by Michael Crichton is about a group of historians who go back in time to 1357 in order to answer a distress call sent all the way to 1999. The book switches between the medieval period and the modern day (or rather, 1999), and the main idea is that quantum computers can be used to ‘fax’ people to different timelines. Ah, if only it was that easy… I was also amused to read about the ‘high tech computer game that should hit the market in 2000’ when reading about this book, so naturally I had to find a review of said game. Actual quote from IGN: “We wish we could go back in time and remake this game.”. Not to worry, the book has MUCH better reviews…

Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1) by Dan Simmons

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

I can never recommend Hyperion by Dan Simmons enough. One of my favourite sci-fi books EVER, it’s got some INCREDIBLY trippy, timey-wimey content – although that’s not the only reason I’m recommending it for fans of Doctor Who. I feel like the Shrike would be a pretty good fit with the villains of the show. It’s both terrifying and horrific, but at times it actually shows sympathy or some sort of kindness towards a few people. It protects a young girl later in the series. It may be scary, but it’s also misunderstood, just like many of the Doctor’s adversaries.

Are you a fan of Doctor Who? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?