book reviews

Chasing the Shadow by Maria V. Snyder

Book Review
48345515Chasing the Shadows 
by Maria V. Snyder

Rating: XXXXX

Published November 18th 2019 by Maria V. Snyder

QUOTE

SPOILER ALERT: Although this review will be spoiler-free for this book, this review and even the following synopsis are full of HUGE spoilers for the first book so if you’ve yet to read the first book and intend to do so without being spoiled for big plot points turn back here, I’ll see you back here when you’re ready to start the second. 

Year 2522. Lyra Daniels is dead.

Okay, so I only died for sixty-six seconds. But when I came back to life, I got a brand new name and a snazzy new uniform. Go me! Seriously, though, it’s very important that Lyra Daniels stays dead, at least as far as the murdering looters, know.

While dying is the scariest thing that’s happened to me, it morphed my worming skills. I can manipulate the Q-net like never before. But the looters have blocked us from communicating with the rest of the galaxy and now they believe we’ve gone silent, like Planet Xinji (where silent really means dead).

A Protector Class spaceship is coming to our rescue, but we still have to survive almost two years until they arrive – if they arrive at all. Until then, we have to figure out how to stop an unstoppable alien threat. And it’s only a matter of time before the looters learn I’m not dead and returns to finish what they started.

There’s no way I’m going to let the looters win. Instead, I’ll do whatever it takes to save the people I love. But even I’m running out of ideas…

After rereading/listening to the first book of the Sentinels of the Galaxy books by Maria V. Snyder in preparation for the release of its sequel, Chasing the Shadows Maria reached out to some bloggers to receive early copies of said sequel in exchange for an honest review in the two weeks surrounding its release. Not only was I lucky enough to receive an ecopy early but my paperback copy arrived early too and I absolutely devoured the whole thing in about a week which is a quick read for me nowadays.

I enjoyed Navigating the Stars (you can check out my spoiler-free review here) but Chasing the Shadows is a whole other ball game, I adored this book. It took all the best parts of the first and just improved on them and gave us more. I think a mix of Lyra having to mature after the events of the last book and perhaps getting used to her inner voice meant that the side of her that could be a little annoying at times was much less present this time around. She made a lot of rash choices don’t get me wrong but I could always see where she was coming from and why she made those decisions. I actually found I was really proud of her in this book, she’s come a long way and she’s learned so much physically and emotionally. Watching her actively take other peoples advice and at least consider her own safety at the behest of those who care for her was really refreshing and a great way of showing how much she’s grown.

book reviews, Older books, spoiler free

Navigating the Stars by Maria V. Snyder

Book Review

42756706._SY475_Navigating the Stars by Maria V. Snyder

Audiobook narrated by Gabra Zackman

Rating: XXXX

Published December 1st 2018 by Maria V. Snyder

“There’s this girl, she’s like a comet – makes the rest of the galaxy seem dull in comparison.”

Terra Cotta Warriors have been discovered on other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. And Lyra Daniels’ parents are the archaeological Experts (yes with a capital E) on the Warriors and have dragged her to the various planets to study them despite the time dilation causing havoc with her social life.

When one of the many Warrior planets goes silent, and looters attack her research base, Lyra becomes involved in discovering why the Warriors were placed on these planets. And, more importantly, by who. 

I first read the first book in Maria’s new Sentinels of the Galaxy series, Navigating the Stars last year. Maria has been one of my favourite authors for a very long time and this month, to celebrate the release of of the second book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy, Chasing the Shadows coming out in under two weeks I decided I would reread the first book, Navigating the Stars via audiobook.

Maria has written in this particular genre before but this time feels very different, we get a lot more tech, world-building and space travel in Navigating the Stars then we did with the Outside/Inside series, I believe Lyra is a little older than Trella and their priorities and dynamics are very different. The blending of futuristic technology on faraway planets with archaeology feels right and I could honestly have read even more about the whole process and I couldn’t get enough of the mystery and wonder surrounding these Terra Cotta Warriors and their unexplained presence throughout the galaxy.

I liked most of the characters but didn’t feel a huge attachment to loads of them. Lyra is seventeen but sometimes feels a little younger but I understand that because although I’m thirty honestly I sound a bit like Lyra at times. She’s a bit snarky, very sarcastic and has a knack for getting into trouble, there are a few moments where she effectively breaks the fourth wall and sort of addresses the reader which it took a little while to get used to but honestly I kind of liked it after a while and made it feel like me and Lyra were friends. She certainly made some questionable choices but they always make sense for her character. Gabra Zackman was a perfect choice for the audiobook narration, she really captures Lyra’s snark and in my reread thanks to her I ended up spitting half of a glass of orange juice across my lounge.

I love the world-building for this book, the idea of effectively crinkling space to travel across large distances was explained really well with two different ways of measuring someone’s age as a result which was an interesting concept. I love the Q-net and the way users, especially wormers (like hackers) are able to navigate it, one of my favourite parts being the star roads within the Q-net. Then we get a whole other set of lore surrounding the warrior pits themselves and the things that lurk within but I won’t give anything away!

Navigating the Stars is already out now and it’s sequel Chasing the Shadows officially launches November 18th (my review is coming next Tuesday on the 19th!). You can pre-order the Kindle edition on Amazon now buuuuuut if you want the paperback Maria sneakily made them available to order RIGHT NOW!

 

book reviews

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas

Book Review

31076583._SY475_.jpgA Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas

Rating: XXXXX

Published May 1st 2018

“And in the end though, we’d saved each other. All of us had.”

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have a far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

So I put off reading this for a long time. I preordered this and got it on release but after A Court of Wings and Ruin, I wasn’t really feeling the ACOTAR series very much. I’m not sure if I was burnt out from all the hype or if it just wasn’t a great book but the third book just felt so lacking for me in places (don’t get me wrong, some bits were great, I cried. Multiple times). Anyway, it meant that when this came out I wasn’t really in the mood to read it and it just got left at the bottom of my TBR pile. But then the Starfall Court cosplay group happened.

The Starfall Court is a group of cosplayers from around Europe who cosplay as characters from the ACOTAR books, I stumbled across them when checking out Woodsmoke and Words on Instagram after seeing them cosplaying Molly (from Critical Role) and fell in love with their rendition of Lucien Vanserra. Most of you probably already know that Lucien is my favourite ACOTAR character and that my D&D character is kind of my own AU version of him and honestly folks, Tilda’s Lucien is amazing. I then went on to find out that they were a part of a group called The Starfall Court and that they were filming a fan trailer for ACOTAR and ACOMAF. Those two books really brought me back into reading a few years back so I checked out the group and the teasers for the trailers etc and OHMYGOSH. I was transported back to reading those first two books and reminded about all the stuff that I did love about them. I’ve watched it a good few times since and thanks to those lovely folks I finally felt ready to read this novella so I wanted to give them a little shout out and show you what they’ve been up to so far.

Now on with the review, I promise! Just as warning though although there won’t be any big spoilers for this particular book in this review I don’t reccomend reading this if you haven’t read the first two books and intend to.

I’m so glad I finally picked up this book although I now want to reread the whole damn trilogy (well, the first two at least) damnit. It’s definitely a big nostalgia hit for someone who has been away from the series for a while like myself and I think that might have attributed to my enjoyment of it but I think that’s maybe the point? It takes the fun parts of the trilogy and really amplifies them but not to the point that it’s just fan service for the sake of it. It’s set during the solstice festival so the slight silly-ness I feel is warranted but it also focuses on the scars those of the night court and some beyond, are now trying to come to terms with (in most cases) and it the balance just feels right.

The novella feels shorter than it looks but I think this is mainly because although the plot does move at a good pace this novella is heavily character-focused. I was initially sad that we didn’t get more Lucien but I think the amount he was involved made sense to the story and honestly how he’s feeling at the moment. There are some really lovely scenes and I forgot how much I actually do really love the relationship between Rhysand and Feyre, there are so many beautiful moments where things that may seem little actually feel kind of big emotionally. They really respect and understand each other and it was nice to get a glimpse into the “happily ever after” side of things. Especially because as one story is ending more is beginning and we get seeds of that spread throughout this book which have made me really excited for the next book in the series which, judging from the sneak peek at the end of this, seem to be centred around Nesta who I’m morbidly curious about.

Overall I really really enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. There was the usual ‘universe-shattering’ sex scene but thankfully only the one, which honestly it wouldn’t have felt right without and it was mostly bearable. I did enjoy the mention of Fae ‘cycles’ which made me laugh a little but I appreciated the lack of tiptoeing around. A Court of Frost and Starlight, for its small faults really dragged me in and was enjoyable to read, it definitely felt like a good example of how well Sarah J Maas can write and is a nice place to end the first trilogy instead of the hot mess I felt that A Court of Wings and Ruin was. If you’ve read the rest of the series, even if you felt disappointed with the last book I would still recommend giving this a go. If anything it’s interesting seeing things from the point of view of other members of the Night Court too.

Have you read the A Court of Thorns and Roses books? If so what did you think of them? I know its a bit of a marmite series for some with people often either loving or hating it. If you’ve read the Throne of Glass books too did you enjoy ACOTAR more or perhaps you haven’t got around to the series yet?

 

Blog Tours, book reviews, spoiler free

Angel Mage by Garth Nix

Book Review

41951611
Angel Mage
 by Garth Nix

Rating: XXX

Published October 17th by Gollancz

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . . 

First of all, I want to say a huge thank you to Stevie and the wonderful people at Gollancz for sending me an advanced copy of this book and for having me on this book tour. I vaguely remembered reading Sabriel (also my Garth Nix) when I was younger and enjoyed it even if I started going to music concerts and sitting in the park with my friends instead of reading not long after and didn’t end up reading any more of the series. Still, as a result, when I heard Mr Nix was releasing a young adult book with an interesting magic system I was instantly interested.

The magic system is indeed really fascinating and described fairly well and in an easy to understand way while still being interesting and leaving room for loopholes here and there. The idea that icons with depictions of different levels of angels allowed mages to summon them for aid with varying costs in the currency of said mages own lifeforce feels quite unique but familiar and I enjoyed each piece of information we were given about them and the tolls and aspects of different angels.

The world-building too was done brilliantly and was my favourite aspect of the book. The world felt very easy to visualise as did the different governing bodies, military forces and general existence as a whole. I liked that with the cardinal essentially in power by way of having the ear of the Queen alongside her force of musketeers (led by a female Dartaghtan) it had a real Three Muskateers feel to parts of it even if the resulting story was very different.

Unfortunately, the plot and pacing felt terribly clunky for the most part. A plot doesn’t always have to be fast-paced obviously but usually, when that’s the case it’s because the book is very character-driven and I don’t know if it was because we had four main characters AND the “big bad” as POV parts but it didn’t feel like especially character-driven either. There are some interesting moments for sure and I did like the characters, Doretea especially but I would have liked more character building with them and maybe less insta-friendship although I do understand the circumstances behind it.

One last thing that I noticed and absolutely wanted to praise and shout about was the fact that a lot of prominent characters who when named or mentioned I would often assume were male were female which was very refreshing. The Cardinal and the Queen who hold the highest power were both female, there was a good amount of gender-neutral language throughout and no-one batting an eyelid at anyone’s differing sexual preferences. Not to mention that all of this just felt organic which was honestly just *chefs kiss* and a standard I would love to see in more books instead of having female, queer and/or POC characters slotted in for the sake of it.

Overall it was still an enjoyable read despite its faults, I don’t think it helps that I’m having trouble getting through longer books at the moment either and this is not a particularly short book. Angel Mage by Garth Nix is out now and definitely worth a read if it sounds like it might be your kind of thing.

 

book reviews, Graphic Novels

Finding Home Vol. Two by Hari Conner

Book Review

45876539._SY475_Finding Home Vol. Two By Hari Conner

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 1st 2019 by Hari Draws Books.

“You always say ‘I’m fine’ when you look like you’re falling apart.”

Torn between the fae and human worlds, Chepi got used to being alone – that is, until he met Janek. Janek is unguarded, straightforward, and longs to return home to his friends and family – but there may not be a place for Chepi in Janek’s old life.
As they grow closer on their long journey together, Chepi struggles with anxiety, past trauma, and now his complicated new feelings for Janek. Janek doesn’t understand his new friend’s hesitance and is unsure if the spark he feels between them is even real. With time running out before their journey ends and dangers lurking on the path before them, can they make it home at all?

You may have seen that I reviewed Volume One: The Traveller of the Graphic Novel “Finding Home” last week (spoiler-free review here) and at the weekend I finally got time to sit down and read Volume Two: The Healer in two sittings and oh my. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer because although I did very much enjoy the first book, its sequel absolutely blew it out of the water.

Like Volume One, The Healer is almost purely character-driven. As Janek and Chepi continue their long journey together we begin to learn more about each of them and we see their relationship grow as they become more comfortable with each other and begin to open up about their pasts. There is a little story to it in places, much like The Traveller but it is very much not the main focus and it does a fantastic job of moving the plot along when it needs to without feeling convenient

Everything feels totally stepped up in this volume including the number of pages, it’s larger at 196 pages to volume ones 149. The Traveller had some funny moments but there were just so many moments where I honestly laughed out loud in this book. One particular moment when Janek is pretty exasperated (see below) had me in fits and I actually had to put the book down for a few moments to compose myself. The facial expression and mannerisms were just spot on. As our pair of protagonists have become more at ease around each other they have also begun to tease each other a lot more, there are in-jokes and the snark is honestly priceless.

There are some beautiful, sweet and close moments with others being so thick with tension you could cut it with a knife. There’s some serious longing going on in Volume Two and I’m very much here for it. Speaking of which, as before each chapter preface showcases a type of fauna that sprouts from Chepi throughout the course of the story and I’m glad we finally see what the little yellow primroses are (scroll past next picture if you don’t want to know yet!).

Alongside all the wholesome good feelings we delve further into Chepi’s bad memories and emotionally abusive past relationship. These are some hard moments for those who have experienced anything similar but I feel that Hari has really done these parts and Chepi’s panic attacks justice in the way they are portrayed.

This was a fun, gorgeous, sweet and deeply emotional book. I think while reading this may have been the first time I’ve ever cried at a graphic novel. I’m desperate for the third and final volume in the series but also apprehensive because I don’t want it to end!

If you like the sound of Finding Home you can purchase Volume One and Volume Two at Hari’s Etsy store. They also have a Patreon here where you can receive sketchbook updates, AU comics, sneak peeks and can read NEW pages and chapters up to 100 pages in advance. I’ve just signed up and there is SO much great content.

 

 

book reviews, Graphic Novels, spoiler free

Finding Home Vol. 1: The Traveller by Hari Conner

Book Review

40922848._SY475_Finding Home Vol. 1: The Traveller by Hari Conner

Rating: XXXXX

Published June 2018 by Hari Draws Books

“It’s like there’s things that haunt you. Ghosts of feelings that follow you around. Echos of memories you can’t get rid of. A wall between you and the world.”

Finding Home is a slow-burn romance/drama comic set in a fantasy world, with a focus on nature, emotion and the small moments that change how you feel about someone.

Having abandoned his wood nymph family and spent a disastrous few years failing to fit in among humans, Chepi now travels alone, avoiding making friends or staying anywhere too long. That is, until he ends up on the road with someone he can’t seem to keep his distance from – Janek.

As the story begins, Janek just wants to get home and is happy to have a travelling companion on the way. But the closer they become, the more he’s drawn to Chepi, and the more he finds out about his nightmares, magic and troubling past…

I’ve been captivated by Hari’s art whenever I’ve come across them at MCM London and I kept seeing mentions of their graphic novel “Finding Home” and although it was on my list of things to get I often found that it had been so popular over the convention weekend that it was sold out when I went to get a copy on my breaks etc. When the Kickstarter for Vol.2 went live I backed it immediately and ordered myself a copy of Vol. 1 as well at last! I’ve been rammed with book reviews and other things the past few months since I received them but I finally made room for them a few weeks ago and took to spending a little time each night reading Vol. 1 and speedily falling in love with Janek and Chepi.

The artwork throughout is incredible, the landscapes and forests especially are my favourites, they honestly feel magical. The colours used throughout, those used to illustrate past memories, in particular, were done exceedingly well and added such an extra layer and feel to them. The only artwork issue I had at all was that I’m not great at reading some forms of cursive and had to spend a good amount of time trying to decipher a couple of parts that were written in letter form as although the handwriting looks beautiful it did take a few goes to get any good at reading it.

The story is a slow one and it could be said not a great deal happens but this isn’t an action-filled book. This is a soft narrative, slow burn of a tale and the pace itself just feels like it flows so naturally along with Chepi and Janek’s personalities. Time is taken to lay seeds, to ask questions, to hint at things and elaborate little by little as the characters get to know each other. One particular detail I absolutely adored was the fact that when Chepi feels different emotions strongly it seems to manifest in the form of different blooms throughout his hair, it’s just such a perfect little touch.  Although in a magical land, Chepi’s emotions feel so real and raw I was utterly transfixed, not to mention Janek’s caring, calm nature. Even when he’s a little flustered, nervous or worried Janek honestly feels like such a soothing presence and without giving too much away, his actions later in the book made me want to weep with joy because he’s honestly the sweetest soul I’ve ever encountered in fiction and I adore him with my whole heart.

The first and second volumes of Finding Home are available via Hari’s Etsy which you can find right here. Don’t forget to check out their other books and items too!

There have been hints of something brewing in the narrative past the characters and I feel like we might get some answers in the second book as well as hopefully Janek and Chepi opening up to each other a bit more, I’ll report back next week with my review for volume two!

 

 

 

book reviews

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book Review
43453718._SY475_The Deathless Girls 
by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Rating: XXX

Published September 19th 2019 by Orion Children’s Books

Gothic, intoxicating, feminist, darkly provoking and deeply romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

A few months ago now I heard about a new feminist teen YA series from Hachette Children’s Group, called Bellatrix with an aim to “engage readers with stories, voices and characters that demand to be heard in the modern world”, said the publisher. Then at YALC I saw that one of the first titles would be The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, the gorgeous cover pulled me in and when I read it was a feminist retelling of the brides of Dracula I was giddy with excitement! As such, I requested it on Netgalley as soon as I was able and I finally read it this week (my backlog is immense people).

First off, I would like to say that The Deathless Girls is well written. I enjoyed the narrative style, the world was, although hugely similar to a lot of fantasy YA books has great potential as did the characters who I think I could have grown to become attached to but it was just..missing something? (slight spoiler incoming) If you had asked me what that was at around 60% I would have said, Vampires. It was missing vampires. “But”…I would have said, “don’t worry they’re coming soon, I know it!”

There are mentions and tidbits spread throughout a lot of the book that kept edging me on and thinking “the vampire stuff can’t be far off now, stuff is gonna go dooown.” As a result, I read this fairly quickly but in reflection, it feels like this was because the plot was effectively a carrot on a stick, teasing something that, in my mind at least, it just failed to deliver.

The Deathless Girls is not inherently a bad book and I’m not sure if it is purely my own expectation that ruined it for me because it sounded amazing and I did enjoy it as I read it, I almost felt invested and but it just ended up falling short. I feel it really needed to elaborate on that ending.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave is out now and although I didn’t enjoy quite like I thought I would plenty of other people have and maybe it will be your thing too? If you enjoyed The Deathless Girls, sound off in the comments and tell me what you loved about it!