spoiler free, tbr thursday

April TBR

After March taking forever I’m somehow still in denial we’re now into April, it’s crazy. This was meant to go up yesterday on the first Thursday of the month like usual but it didn’t occur to me what day it was until it was over half gone so although a TBR Friday doesn’t have quite the same ring to it you get the idea!

Some people on Twitter etc have dubbed this month ARC April and although I’m not officially taking part in anything for that I am using April to try and get through my ever growing backlog or ARCs and early finished copies to help give me a nice clean slate, clear some physical shelf space and hopefully improve my currently terrible NetGalley rating! So these are the books I’m planning to read!

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
This is my current read and feels very Vikings meets Game of Thrones so far, I’m enjoying it but it does feel a little predictable at this point, not quite done yet though so we shall see. Gifted to me by Titan books in exchange for an honest review.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
It may look gorgeous with it’s pink sprayed edges but this book sounds seriously spooky and I’m kind of looking forward to it freaking me out a little.  Gifted to me by Titan books in exchange for an honest review.

No Way by SJ Morden
I read and reviewed One Way last year and the ending was left wide open but I had no idea until about two weeks before publication last month when my review schedule was already full to the brim so I’m so glad to finally be able to get around to it at last. Gifted to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton
Much like the situation with No Way, I read the first book The Belles last year and was swamped during its publication date this year. Although I’ve been a little reserved about reviewing the second one I definitely want to get it read and see how the sequel pans out. Gifted to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.

Empress of all Seasons by Emiko Jean
One of the problems of being a mood reader is when you get books like this one that sound totally up your street, look gorgeous etc but when you get them you just can’t get yourself into the right frame of mind to read them and that can really ruin the experience so I’m hoping that now the time is finally right. Gifted to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds
A bit of an older book but with the sequel, Shadow Captain having recently been released I was sent a finished copy of this first book in the series to try out as it sounds like a great fit for me and would love to get in the sci-fi mood ready for Aurora Rising in early May. Gifted to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been a bit behind with my reading of late so I’m really hoping April is a good reading month! What are you reading right now and how are you enjoying it?

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book reviews, spoiler free

Snapshot – Spoiler Free Review

40189384Snapshot by Brian Sanderson

Rating: XXX

Published September 14th 2018 by Gollancz

Snapshot is a Science Fiction detective story following Anthony Davis, a cop assigned to Snapshot Duty. In this vivid world that author Brandon Sanderson has built, society can create a snapshot of a specific day in time. The experiences people have, the paths they follow—all of them are real again for a one day in the snapshot. All for the purposes of investigation by the court.

Davis’s job as a cop on Snapshot Duty is straight forward. Sometimes he is tasked with finding where a criminal dumped a weapon. Sometimes he is tasked with documenting domestic disputes. Simple. Mundane. One day, in between two snapshot assignments, Davis decides to investigate the memory of a call that was mysteriously never logged at the precinct, and he makes a horrifying discovery.

As in all many stories, Snapshot follows a wonderfully flawed character as he attempts to solve a horrific crime. Sanderson proves that no matter the genre, he is one of the most skilled storytellers in the business.

I was sent a copy of Snapshot by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. After devouring a couple of books with prominent “whodunnit” themes and while working on a piece of  writing myself that deals with a group of people in a world full of others who aren’t real I decided Snapshot would be a perfect book to read right now and dug in almost as soon as it arrived on my doorstep.

Snapshot is a novella rather than a full book and at 129 pages much smaller than I had assumed it would be having not checked before hand and remembering the size of the first book in the mistborn trilogy. I’ve been enjoying shorter books recently as they tend to get to the point quicker and I can devour more of these stories in a shorter time period. This book is no exception and dives right into the story with no huge qualms about major world building or even much of a description of our two main characters. This annoyed me a little to begin with but made sense the more I read. The emphasis of the story is on the characters more so than the mysterious and not necessarily too distant future, I found myself wanting a few questions answered but the more I read, the less I realised that it mattered how things outside of the snapshot worked. Some things are explained with just enough detail for you to know the things you need to understand the story and we learn more about the characters through their interactions with each other throughout the story.

To begin with I found it hard to keep track of who was who, I would remember traits but be unsure which character they belonged to, this too begun to fade and made more sense as time went on so if you give this a go and it feels a little difficult at first it’s not just you. The book vastly improved as it progressed and became more interesting with information plots being filled as and when needed. After reading a large number of books in the weeks leading up to this that are targeted at a very different audience it took a while to become invested in the characters for me personally but I doubt this will be the case for everyone. Even being a short book this had a feel of a detective show you would see on TV and felt reminiscent of the first few episodes of Gotham.

The story telling, despite its short length is intricate and twisting culminating in a spectacular couple of plot twists that I didn’t see coming until they hit me in the face. I love it when I don’t see things coming and being shocked and surprised are some of my favourite aspects of reading. This little book drew me in very quickly in the end and despite my early thoughts really proved itself. Snapshot is very much worth a read if you enjoy multi layered plot stings and/or enjoy character driven reads.

Blog Tours, book reviews, spoiler free

The Blue Salt Road – Spoiler Free Review

40200607The Blue Salt Road by Joanne Harris
Illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins

Rating: XXXXX

Published November 15th by Gollancz

An earthly nourris sits and sings
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairn’s father,
Far less the land that he staps in.
(Child Ballad, no. 113)

So begins a stunning tale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas, and drama on the land. The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless, wild young man.

Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there – without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed.

Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. When I heard Joanne had written another book in the same vein as her 2017 release A Pocketful of Crows (which I reread and reviewed Tuesday) I was hugely excited! I fell in love with the wonderful prose contained inside the tale of a nameless wild girl of the travelling folk and we are met with a slightly different style, that is no less captivating for it, about a nameless, young selkie man entrapped by a young woman and it does not disappoint.

I read The Blue Salt Road in a few small sittings over a couple of days and it has been an absolute joy to read. Joanne has an innate talent to bring hope and compassion into even the darkest of tales and this book is no exception. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of twists and turns throughout, one problem that I think stories that read like old tales can often suffer from is predictability but with this book while feeling familiar is also refreshingly new and strangely relevant to the world we live in today despite being set in a different time.

The prose is in a different style to A Pocketful of Crows but like it’s predecessor it evokes it’s subject perfectly and you can almost feel the wind and the sea spray against your face as you read about the waves, the different types of whales and other sea life, Joanne has a remarkable and magical way of describing nature and it really works well in The Blue Salt Road. We are also once again we are treated to some absolutely gorgeous art throughout by illustrator Bonnie Hawkins helping, even more, to bring the story to life. It is also hard to really pin down a true villain despite many of the characters doing despicable things but this just helps to bring it in line with reality, this is a perfect example of a new, yet old tale and I would happily read more like this.

book reviews, spoiler free

A Pocketful of Crows – Spoiler Free Review

34913762A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne Harris
Illustrations by Bonnie Helen Hawkins
Audiobook read by Joanne Harris

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 19th 2017 by Gollancz

“If only I had patience. If only I could sleep till spring. If only I were the hawthorn tree, too old to love, too wise to hate.”

I am as brown as brown can be,
And my eyes as black as sloe;
I am as brisk as brisk can be,
And wild as forest doe.
(The Child Ballads, 295)

So begins a beautiful tale of love, loss and revenge. Following the seasons, A Pocketful of Crows balances youth and age, wisdom and passion and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl.
Only love could draw her into the world of named, tamed things. And it seems only revenge will be powerful enough to let her escape.
Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.

In the run-up to the release of the beautiful “The Blue Salt Road” (Out this Thursday, November 15th) which although not a direct sequel to A Pocketful of Crows is also based around a Child Ballad poem and is full of the same beautiful illustrations and wonderful, whimsical writing. Not to mention this book this book is a perfect Autumn read and we are well into the season of crunchy leaves, knitted cardigans, scarves and magic by now.

Although I read this last year I’m rereading this now in the form of the captivating audiobook read by Joanne Harris herself. I love good audiobooks and this one is so exception, the joy of listening to a book narrated by the author themselves is you can hear how it was meant to be read, obviously everything is open to interpretation but there’s just something exceedingly special and magical listening to the words in the way they sound to the author themselves creating a whole other level of storytelling harking back to the roots of stories themselves.

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A Pocketful of Crows has a magical quality to it, in the story itself and in the telling of it and feels different from almost any other book I’ve read before, it feels old and mysterious and reads like something between a poem, a ballad and a spell. The writing and the language are absolutely beautiful and the story itself would be interesting no matter how it was told but Joanne’s hand has given it an extra flourish that makes it wonderous and allows you to feel the damp earth underfoot, smell the changing of the seasons and hear the sounds of the animals in the forest, it is truly an experience.

Although I primarily listened to the audiobook this read through I did take time to look through the physical book itself once again because the illustrations by Hawkins are simply gorgeous and something about the style and the black and white colouring just really brings them in line with and evokes the style of this new but ancient book.

A short read, the audiobook clocks in at just over four hours and it is a book that can fairly easily be read in one sitting and one I recommend to anyone feeling witchy or like they want to swept up in a magical and mysterious story about a wild girl who refuses to be tamed.

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Blog Tours, book reviews

Skyward – Blog Tour Spoiler Free Review

36642458Skyward by Brandon  Sanderson

Rating: XXXXX

Published November 6th by Gollancz
(I received  a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

“Alas poor space junk,” M-Bot said. “I would have pretended to know you, if I were capable of lying.”

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

There are SO many great books coming out right now and this is another one I’ve been excited about for a little while now, after dabbling in Sanderson’s Mistborn series previously I couldn’t wait to see his take on what promised to be a Sci-Fi tale right up my street and I was not disappointed, this book is, surprisingly probably no one, absolutely fantastic.

The world building is done brilliantly, any info dumping is done well and at just the right moments but most of the information we get to help create the world in Skyward and help us to understand it is expertly layered into the narrative like brushstrokes to help create the overall picture that is is the Defiant civilisation, their history and their customs. I enjoyed that it wasn’t just the epic moments that were talked about either, there were brilliant small moments that really added to the characters and quite often the world building itself led to some great character development instead of just a general history.

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Skyward has many great facets, one of them is most certainly the characters with even the smallest being memorable and easy to identify. Most characters were refreshing and weren’t cornered into stereotypes, everyone had their own stories and their goals which were surprisingly simple to keep up with but the characters, their emotions and choices felt no less complex for it.  I usually try to refrain from mentioning my favourite characters for fear of giving away spoilers or favouritism but although I loved all the characters I have to say for me personally, M-Bot totally stole the show in the best way. It’s funny, sincere and the most precious, heartbreaking A.I I have ever had the pleasure to read (AIDAN is a close second but that’s another story).

The pacing is spot on and almost constantly has you on the edge of your seat for one reason or another, this is an absolute page-turner and I often found myself totally immersed to the point where I decided to read a little before bed around ten thirty and finally put the book down around three in the morning, it just sucks you in. The battles and even the flight training are particularly fast-paced but written in such a way that they are easy to understand well even when reading at speed which is perfect because if you’re anything like me you will be practically inhaling the words. I was worried the ‘flight speak’ would get repetitive or boring but found that actually, it meant that I was much better able to process the information and I honestly think if you showed me a diagram of a DDF Poco class fighter I could name a good amount of the parts and what they’re used for. Although I enjoy Star Wars I hadn’t initially been sure how I would about the fighter elements parts which a fair bit of the story is comprised from but I feel that Skyward hit the perfect spot where it was exciting and that extra understanding just really helped boost that enjoyment.

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The overall story is interesting and certainly piqued my interest many times as a truly good book should, there are some great little twists and turns throughout, some brilliant friendships between the characters and I genuinely felt myself being pleasantly surprised at the turns a lot of the story took. This book is a great sci-fi gem and I don’t think I have ever read such a large book at such a fast pace. Skyward is certainly a story that will stay with me, its humour, it’s important messages, the teamwork, the hope and the thrilling ride.

skyward tour graphic

 

 

book reviews, spoiler free

One Way – Spoiler Free Review

34326051.jpgOne Way by S.J Morden

Rating: XXXX

Published August 23rd 2018 by Gollancz

Eight Astronauts.

One Killer.

No Way Home.

ONE WAY opens at the dawn of a new era – one in which we’re ready to colonise Mars. But the contract to build the first ever Martian base has been won by the lowest bidder, so they need to cut a lot of corners. The first thing to go is the automatic construction… the next thing they’ll have to deal with is the eight astronauts they’ll sent up to build it, when there aren’t supposed to be any at all.

Frank – father, architect, murderer – is recruited for the mission with the promise of a better life, along with seven of his most notorious fellow inmates. As his crew sets to work, the accidents mount up, and Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all. As the list of suspects grows shorter, it’s up to Frank to uncover the terrible truth before it’s too late.

I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Following on with the theme of murder and mystery I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read One Way which features both of those things IN SPACE. Count me in!!

This was one of those books I absolutely devoured at every opportunity I could. There were shocks and twists around each turn and I enjoyed that you were never really sure who you could trust, this is one of my favourite things in any kind of murder mystery or “whodunnit” type story and although by the time we find out who the killer is I think I was a little underwhelmed as it seemed fairly obvious by that point and was certainly an option I had considered fairly early on. One way is, however still full of tense, suspenseful moments throughout.

We are introduced to Frank Kitterridge, our main character who is in prison for killing his sons drug dealer, he is a well described and somewhat relatable character considering he is a murderer and I feel we get a really in-depth look into his background and characteristics, we understand him very early on. When he takes a job that will send him to Mars with a group of other cons he ends up at a training camp and meets his team of other inmates there. This is one of my favourite chunks of the book, a part that would probably be nothing more than a training montage if it were a film was insightful and at times just as tense as some of the moments on Mars. We get a little background on some of the other prisoners and learn a few important things about them, their characteristics and what kind of role they will potentially play on Mars.

On Mars the situation is dire and there was a real sense of panic that came across in the pages that had me turning them frantically. There were times though when there was just driving happening or a lot of explaining of the tech stuff that I feel could have been used a little less, I understood some of it but I just ended up glossing over it because it just felt like it went on a little too long or was a little too wordy. The “techno babble” as it were may be fantastic for people who are interested in those fields or enjoy that kind of thing but it reminded me of food being described in G.R.R Martin books. I would much rather have had more information and development from the other characters who at times felt like walking stereotypes which is a shame as I would have liked to get to know some of them better, especially Zeus and Marcy.

Despite some of the little problems I had with the pacing and the fleshing out it was overall a really good book, as mentioned before the tense moments are done really well and its an interesting story that I’m glad I got a chance to read.

book reviews, spoiler free

The Caged Queen – Spoiler Free Review

40873495The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 27th by Gollancz

Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. When they were angry, mirrors shattered, and when they were happy, flowers bloomed. It was a magic they cherished – until the day a terrible accident took Essie’s life and trapped her soul in this world.

Dax – the heir to Firgaard’s throne – was responsible for the accident. Roa swore to hate him forever. But eight years later he returned, begging for her help. He was determined to dethrone his cruel father, under whose oppressive reign Roa’s people had suffered. Roa made him a deal: she’d give him the army he needed if he made her queen.

Together with Dax and his sister, Asha, Roa and her people waged war and deposed a tyrant. But now Asha is on the run, hiding from the price on her head. And Roa is an outlander queen, far from home and married to her enemy. Worst of all: Dax’s promises go unfulfilled. Roa’s people continue to suffer.

Then a chance to right every wrong arises – an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Relinquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa can reclaim her sister for good.

All she has to do is kill the king.

Having heard about The Caged Queen at the Orion blogger Brunch earlier in the year I was already pretty excited for this book and jumped at the chance to receive a review copy from the lovely people at Gollancz.

Having not long ago finished The Last Namsara which I ADORED, I was so very ready for more of the same in The Caged Queen and although I really enjoyed it, The Caged queen is quite a different type of book. This isn’t a bad thing but something I wish I had thought of before I dived straight in expecting loads of fight scenes, more dragons and more characters like Asha (I think I may actually be in love with her at this point to be honest.) I hate to compare books but it’s hard not to with them being sequels and I think it’s very important to understand that although Roa is another brilliant, strong character like Asha is and she can certainly fight she is different and this is her story which is fairly different kind of story. Whereas Asha’s story was, like her, a bit more wild and urgent Roa’s story is complex and complicated, filled with lies, deceit and pain (but also some fun sword play, more interesting characters, plots for treason and hard choices) and I like that each story really feels like a part of the characters.

The Caged Queen is a little slow to start and takes a little while to gain traction. This plot is very political and needs some setting up which takes some time but is worth the pay off for it later on. This does mean that the first half can appear a little slow at times but it’s peppered throughout with little “stories” a bit like the tales we had in The Last Namsara. We hear the tale of the skyweaver but most of the other are back story about Roa and her sister Essie, quite a few of which also feature Dax. These little flashbacks break up the sometimes less exciting or heavier chunks of the story without fluffing it out which is greatly appreciated and I think works extremely well. The second half of the book starts to pick up the pace a bit and the stakes are raised ever higher but like it’s predecessor the book really comes into his own in the last third. Secrets are revealed, everyone starts to show their hand a little more, there’s a bit more action and feeling to it and it just blew me away. The twists in the story are brilliant and I shed a few tears as well as gasping in shock a time or two.

At this point we already know a great deal of the characters but like with many sequels we really get to know them much better in this book. Roa and Dax were amazing and although on a very different level to Asha they shine in their own ways and despite the storyline still managed to have pretty amazing chemistry I feel. We had some new characters that were introduced and although we don’t get to know them as well as the ones already established they’re certainly no less interesting or memorable.

There is definitely less of a fantasy element to The Caged Queen but it is still present and I feel just the right amount for this kind of story where I think too much of it would have drowned or removed focus from the plot which I think some fantasy, especially adult high fantasy can have a tendency to do. The Iskari books feel like a much more diverse and rich version of the first few Throne of Glass books and I honestly cannot wait to get my hands on more of them. Once again Kristen has done a fantastic job, The Caged Queen is well written, intriguing and painfully pulls you in every direction, a very well worth it read!

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