Giveaway, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2016: Titan Books Giveaway

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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.

The excellent SFF publisher, Titan Books has provided some amazing prizes for this year’s Sci-Fi Month! There are two sets of prizes to be won. Unfortunately, these are limited to UK only – however I will be having an international giveaway at the end of the month, so please keep an eye out for that if you’re based outside of the UK!

The first contains the following titles: New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey and Escapology by Ren Warom.

New Pompeii escapology

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The second contains the first two books in the Vicious Circuit series by Robert Brockway: The Unnoticeables and The Empty Ones.

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Thank you to Titan Books for the prizes! 🙂

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? 😉

Review

Review: Powers – The Secret History of Deena Pilgrim by Brian Michael Bendis

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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 love superhero stories. All the classic comics, plus more recent novels. So when I was offered this for review, I leapt at the chance. It takes a classic detective story and adds superhero elements, based on the comic book series of the same name by Brian Michael Bendis, and an hour long show on the Playstation Network. However, whilst it seemed that I would not be at a disadvantage being unfamiliar with the Deena Pilgrim universe, I definitely felt I would have enjoyed the book a lot more were I more familiar with it.

Also, I feel like this book may have suffered slightly from bad timing. I began reading it at the same time as I was reading Calamity, the third book in the Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson. Reading two books about superheroes at the same time – especially when one of them is from a series you really love – you’re sure to compare the two, and unfortunately The Secret History of Deena Pilgrim didn’t quite live up to it.

Overall, I didn’t particularly enjoy this one – the detective element or the superhero element. There wasn’t much involvement of superheroes, apart from a link with the murders that Deena investigates. The whole mystery felt a bit of a mess, and rather than drawing me in and encouraging me to work things out for myself, it just really confused me. There was an entire chapter where one character was referred to by three different names, constantly alternating – which had me convinced for a while that there were in fact two characters present, instead of one. I found myself reading this book only at lunchtime at work, mostly just because it was smaller and easier to fit in my bag than the other book I was reading…

It’s a shame that this one didn’t work out for me. If I’d previously read the comic and understood more of the back story then perhaps I would have enjoyed it a lot more – so I’d love to hear if anyone has read both, and enjoyed them!

Review

Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

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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.

A tale of magic versus science, All the Birds in the Sky had me gripped from the very first page. It was a truly enchanting story, all the more wonderful for going in pretty much unaware of the plot, or anything about the book (apart from the pretty cover).

There was something really wonderful about Charlie Jane Anders’ writing. She added in all these unnecessary details, so small and yet they made the story all the more intriguing, the world all the more vivid. I have previously spoken about how I like magic systems that require some sort of sacrifice, rather than just saying some words or waving a wand and casting a spell, but here this system seemed to work quite well. Patricia’s magic required no sacrifice, but that felt natural. I felt that the book would not have benefited from an explanation of how the magic worked – it would have just distracted away from the story.

Although All the Birds in the Sky did lose its wind a bit in the last quarter or so, I was gripped throughout almost the entire story. It was a truly lovely story of two ‘weirdos’ who come together, united by their social awkwardness and alternative interests. As you can see by how short this review is, I just don’t feel I can truly tell you how wonderful this was – so go out and read it yourself!

Blog Tour, Guest Post

Blog Tour: A Gathering of Shadows + Guest Post by V.E. Schwab + Giveaway

Gathering of Shadows blog tour

I’m really excited to say that today I am hosting V.E. Schwab, author of the Shades of Magic series, as part of her blog tour for the release of A Gathering of Shadows. I read and reviewed the first book in the series, A Darker Shade of Magic last April, and absolutely loved it. I finished A Gathering of Shadows just a few days ago and loved even more than the first… it’s worth the wait, everyone! I hope to have my review up in the next couple of days. For her post today, Victoria will be answering the question:

If I was a character in A Gathering of Shadows, who would I be and why?

‘This is a hard question to answer, because there’s a difference between who I’d LIKE to be — who I find aspirational — and who I think I actually am. Delilah Bard is flawed in many ways, but she’s also strong in ways I wish I was. She’s unencumbered by fear, doesn’t psych herself out, is willing to shoulder risk for reward. And while I am these things to a certain degree, I know that I’m much more like Kell: neurotic, perpetually concerned by the world around me, and searching for my place in it.

If I had to choose a new character instead of a continuing one, though, I’d say that I’m most like Alucard Emery, the captain of the Night Spire. Alucard is the onion of the series, a character wrapped in layers upon layers, and even in AGOS, we only see the first few. He’s different things to different people, a performer shifting to fit the audience. He knows his strengths, and guards his weaknesses, and he wants to win.’

I really love Victoria’s answer – especially her description of Alucard as the onion of the series! He was definitely my favourite character of the book, and I can’t wait for more of his layers to be revealed! 😉

Thanks so much to Titan Books for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for sending me a copy of A Gathering of Shadows, and thank you also to Victoria for writing a piece for the blog and of course, writing the book itself! A Gathering of Shadows is out to buy now!

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Review

Review: Midnight Never Come (Onyx Court #1) by Marie Brennan

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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.

Oh, what high hopes I had for Midnight Never Come. Having read Anne Lyle’s The Alchemist of Souls in October last year, I was smitten with the idea of a fantasy Elizabethan court. There’s something about that particular era that really lends itself to the idea of magic and faeries, so when I was offered a copy of this by Titan Books I snatched it up. Sadly, I found it to be lacking.

I know I enjoy Marie Brennan’s writing – A Natural History of Dragons was excellent. But with Midnight Never Come I often found myself tuning out and not concentrating on the story a little too often – I just never quite got into it. The time skips were also really disorientating, jumping here and there very suddenly, and I had no real sense of how much time had actually passed in the story. I didn’t feel attached to a single character, neither fae nor human, and none of them felt particularly developed.

I had two main issues. The first was the name of the faerie queen: Invidiana. I had to say it so many times out loud to work out how it was pronounced, and still I’m not sure – any way sounds weird. In-vid-ee-ana? In-vid-ee-ah-na? I don’t know, and every time I came to the name in the book, I had to pause. And my second issue: when it is revealed whom Lune, the main fae character, has been disguised as in the human court, it didn’t mean anything. I hadn’t had enough time with this human character to know anything about her or suspect what was going on.

Whilst I love love love the idea of a fae court underneath the human Elizabethan one, this just did not work for me as well as I expected. I’ve given it three stars – but it’s more of a ‘disappointed’ three stars than a good, solid rating.

Review

Review: Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory

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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’ve been flitting about this review ever since I read the book, unsure what to really say about it. So this will probably be a short one!

The premise for Harrison Squared is an unusual one, to say the least. The protagonist, Harrison Harrison (hence Harrison Squared), moves back to the town of Dunnsmouth with his mother, a marine biologist. Having lost his father when he was younger, Harrison is very close to his mother, and after his first day of school in this new town, she goes missing.

Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound so unusual – a Young Adult mystery tale. But what was so different about Harrison Squared was what inspired it. The stories of H.P. Lovecraft, and his tale of Cthulhu, were obviously great inspirations for Daryl Gregory, and the town has a real Lovecraftian vibe to it. It was so refreshing to read a paranormal Young Adult tale without vampires, without werewolves, but instead with sea creatures as the main element.

It was also interesting to have a protagonist with a disability – Harrison only has one leg. I can’t think of many save perhaps She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgewick. Additionally, I have read so many Young Adult books with female perspectives that it was actually quite nice to read one from a male perspective instead.

I did have a couple of issues with the book. The conclusion was definitely quite rushed, the ‘villain’ felt a little too comedic to present any real threat and the school kids of Dunnsmouth felt a bit Midwich Cuckoo creepy at first, but that soon changed. I think it would have been even better if many of them stayed that way, keeping up the feeling of something within the town not being quite right.

However, this was a good, solid read, with a unique and rather strange premise. Definitely something to delve into if you’re looking for a fresh take on Young Adult paranormal fiction.

Review

Review: The Empress Game (The Empress Game #1) by Rhonda Mason

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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.

Lately, I’ve had this really bad habit of receiving fantastic looking books, making plans to read them as soon as possible, and then ignoring said plans. And almost every single time, when I finally get round to the books, I wonder why it took me so long. The Empress Game was another fine example of this.

The focus of the story is the Empress Game itself, but it was so much more than that. The titular event sees all eligible young ladies – ladies of nobility – fight in arena matches in order to win the position of Empress Apparent. These are not matches to the death, but they can be brutal all the same, and it was interesting to see a society (or societies, rather) where the nobility, particular female nobility, were trained in such combat. It is an interesting way of choosing the right person for such a position, and whilst the reason why is never fully explained, one can imagine the kind of person it would produce: ruthless and ready to make the tough decisions that come with ruling.

Kayla is selected to take part in the Empress Game, not as herself but fighting as Princess Isonde, a fair claimant to the position with moralistic ideals, but sadly lacking the combat skills to prove herself worthy. Wearing a hologram, and with the help of some biometric/technological alterations, Kayla is able to take part in the Game. As the story progresses, the reader learns more about Kayla herself, her reasons for hiding, the history of her people and the future that may come to pass. What originally seemed like a book about fighting for the position of Empress soon turned into a book about fighting for what was right.

As for Kayla herself, I really liked her. At first she is very suspicious of those who employ her services, and she sees Princess Isonde as a total snob. Her fierceness covers up a hidden past, and her protectiveness of her younger brother Corinth is admirable. Soon, she begins to warm up, and even starts making friends. Isonde herself is shown to be a good person, not just someone who wants a powerful position for the sake of it. And Malkor, the agent that finds Kayla in the first place, provides support and friendship for Kayla.

A good chunk of the book is Kayla working through arena matches (within the Empress Game there are thousands). Mason manages to keep up the interest throughout, even whilst Kayla is just fighting as a day-to-day activity. The action and fight scenes were wonderfully written, with each movement feeling so fluid and easily to visualise.

There were a few little issues with the book: the conclusion was over too quickly in my opinion, although it did have its tense moments, and the romance was rather predictable. I do also worry that the title/parts of the blurb will make people think the story is something like The Hunger Games, with a fight to the death, last one alive pronounced the victor. However, let me assure you that The Empress Game is nothing like that at all. It turned out to be a fantastic read and I’m so excited to find out what happens in the second book. Whilst it feels like a classic space opera, it is also not too ‘heavy’, making it a great read for all types of science fiction fans. Whether you’ve just started reading the genre or you’re a hardcore fan, The Empress Game comes highly recommended.

Review

Review: Fable – Blood of Heroes by Jim C. Hines

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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.

Being a bit of a sucker for video game novels (or well, okay, video games in general…) I had to accept this one from the wonderful Titan Books when it was offered. The Fable series is a fantastic one, allowing the player to take control of a hero and decide the destiny of Albion, as well as their very own fate. However, this concept is lost in the transition from game to book.

I can’t fault the book for its readability though. I felt like no time had passed and suddenly I was 50 pages in. The Fable series of video games is known for its sense of humour, which was incorporated into the book, but sometimes it felt just a little too silly.

The story begins by introducing the reader to four Heroes. Then suddenly, a good 100 pages in, four more Heroes appear with no real introduction – the book just suddenly switches to their POVs. The link between the two groups is not immediate, and when finally shown feels very weak. With eight points of view, this felt like far too many, especially because they were pretty much indistinguishable from the other. No single hero stood out, and they felt a little ‘cookie cutter’ – perhaps though, they suffer from being based on video game characters that perhaps have less room for development.

Ultimately, whilst I enjoyed Hines’ writing style – and am still very interested in reading his Libriomancer series – I found the story to be rather unstructured and the characters lacking. Perhaps more of a book for only the biggest of Fable fans.

Review

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

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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.

I still have yet to read Vicious by V.E. Schwab, but when I heard about A Darker Shade of Magic I knew this was one I had to read, so imagine my delight when I was offered a copy by Titan Books! Plus those covers… I could stare at them all day.

I really love the concept of different versions of our own world, filled with magic, and it’s definitely something I haven’t read enough of. A Darker Shade of Magic is technically about three different worlds, one of them our own, within each of which London has the same name and location, despite differences everywhere else. Grey London is our own world, so named for its lack of magic. Red London is where magic is embraced, whereas White London is where magic is almost feared, and those who brandish it are not to be trusted. There was a fourth London, Black London, but it was destroyed by magic. Kell, as a Traveller, can move between the three worlds, passing messages on for the monarchs.

Kell was a bit of mystery although his intentions were always good. Lila was a bit of a contrast, a somewhat morally ‘grey’ character just trying to survive. The contrast between the two of them was nice, and I feel like they could both really help each other. I desperately wanted more back story for both, so that better come in book two!

I have to say, V.E. Schwab has some serious talent. Her words paint such rich and vivid scenes: I could practically see the foggy, shadowed streets and smell the scents of beer and roasting meat pouring out of the taverns; each London was so markedly different. Too often, books featuring magic make it seem so easy – wave a wand, speak a few words and bam, magic. When a magic system requires some sort of sacrifice, that’s when I really love it, and this particular system requires blood. It makes magic something to be feared, reinforced by the destruction of Black London, something that is not easy to control. And despite the fact it is about magic, it makes it more believable, in a way…

My only issue with the book was, ironically, the setting, or at least the setting in a larger context. Because Kell’s visits to every world were limited to London, and we didn’t see or even hear much of the worlds past London, it felt very small. Therefore if something were to happen to the people of one of those worlds outside London, it wouldn’t feel ‘real’, if that makes sense.

But apart from this small issue, A Darker Shade of Magic was a wonderful read. Vivid and original, it’s only convinced me further that I need to get my hands on a copy of Vicious and sample more of V.E. Schwab’s fantastic writing.