book reviews, spoiler free

The Starlight Watchmaker review

44097002The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James

Rating: XXXXX

Published July 15th by Barrington Stoke

“Doesn’t it get tiring being judged for who you are all the time?” Ada asked, “and treated like you’re less than other people?”

Wealthy students from across the galaxy come to learn at the prestigious academy where Hugo toils as a watchmaker. But he is one of the lucky ones. Many androids like him are jobless and homeless. Someone like Dorian could never understand their struggle – or so Hugo thinks when the pompous duke comes banging at his door. But when Dorian’s broken time-travel watch leads them to discover a sinister scheme, the pair must reconcile their differences if they are to find the culprit in time.

A wildly imaginative sci-fi adventure from YA star Lauren James, particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+

At the Quiet at the End of the World event a few months back Lauren announced that she would be releasing a novella with Barrington Stoke later this year and as time went on we got a title, a cover reveal and synopsis for The Starlight Watchmaker which I’ve been excited for ever since.

I don’t normally go into much detail about publishers but I really wanted to rave about Barrington Stoke for a moment. They are a fantastic publisher who have been helping dyslexic and reluctant readers for over twenty years by working with writers and illustrators to publish super readable books as well as adding little adjustments like using a unique, dyslexia-friendly font specially created to make reading easier, Accessible layouts and spacing stop the page from becoming overcrowded and even Heavier paper with a gentle tint helps reduce visual stresses, their motto is every child can be a reader and I think reading can be so daunting for young children today that we need to do everything we can to create a space and opportunity for all readers, including those who might be reluctant or have difficulty reading for pleasure. I had read a couple of Non Pratt’s books published by Barrington Stoke previously and loved the shorter book format and just how effortless they felt to read which can be really motivating and confidence building.

I reached out to Barrington Stoke about Lauren’s new title and the lovely Kirstin sent me a proof to review in exchange for an honest review. At just 128 pages it is an extremely short read but oh the wonders Lauren can work with 128 pages. The Starlight Watchmaker is set in a universe that feels like magic and science, the academy that Dorian attends and Hugo works at is incredibly diverse, full of all kinds of sentient creatures from across the galaxy. It was absolutely refreshing to read all of these fantastic descriptions of different races and species, I was fascinated in particular with one of my favourite characters, a student like Dorian called Ada (Lady Ada de Winters – short for Adedeneumdora) who is essentially a mountain that can walk around and will eventually become a planet all of her own just like her mother, the planet Zumia. She’s well spoken, smart and fantastically quirky as well as being a brilliant departure from the usual humanoid looking alien lifeforms we usually see.

Hugo is an android and an absolute sweetheart who I love, he’s a hard worker making the best of a bad situation who enjoys what he does and is mostly content but finds himself yearning for more, things like friendship and freedom, not to mention he really likes plants. Our other main character, Dorian is a fifth-year student but also a Duke who comes to Hugo for help but comes across a little brusque at first and perhaps a bit to forward which could be misconstrued negatively but I think he really grows and learns over the course of the story and you learn more about him as well as Hugo and see how they react to each other.

Somehow, even in under 200 pages Lauren managed to fit a nice little twist into the story, the plot is simple but honestly all the more enjoyable for it, the narrative is fast flowing and straight forward but conveys every detail and emotion needed. This entire book is akin to a nice chilled glass of juice on a hot day or that feeling when you step out of your morning shower, it’s refreshing and soothing and the moment I finished it after reading it the first time I managed to put it down for five minutes before I decided to pick it back up and read it all over again. The story is well rounded and unlike with some short-form works where I find myself  wanting more in an unsatisfied way, I found The Starlight Watchmaker to be the perfect bite-size piece of cake, it felt complete and whole and I felt like I’d been on a journey after reading it which is why I read, to be whisked away on adventures and feel a better person at the other end. This is a beautiful tale of friendship and I cannot recommend it enough.

The Starlight Watchmaker will be available on July 15th, don’t let it’s smaller size fool you, it’s a fantastic little read and one that can definitely be enjoyed by a variety of ages.

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book reviews

Queen of Air and Darkness

40696414Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Rating: XXXX

Published December 4th 2018 Simon & Schuster Ltd

“Every choice has a long afterlife of consequences. No one can know the eventual outcome of any decision. All you can do is make the best choice you can make in the moment.” 

What if damnation is the price of true love?

Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the disease that is destroying the race of warlocks. Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they could never have imagined. Caught in a race against time, Emma and Julian must save the world of Shadowhunters before the deadly power of the parabatai curse destroys them and everyone they love.

So let me get started by saying I love the Shadowhunters books, it took me longer to come around to reading them than I would have liked but once I did I was hooked, Jace is my ultimate book boyfriend and I love so many of the characters with a fierce passion. I fell in love with The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices broke my heart and now I’ve finally finished the concluding book in the third series of shadowhunter books, The Dark Artifices and…I don’t really know how that makes me feel.

I have to say, actually, that, among other things, I do feel a little relieved, I started reading Queen of Air and Darkness on the day it released in December and I only finished it maybe a week ago. Six months. This book took me six months to read. Don’t get me wrong it’s an absolute tome so I didn’t expect it to be a quick read but this third book in the series just really didn’t grab me like any of the others across the whole of the range of shadowhunter books have, it was easy to put down and forget about. Because of its size, I also found it incredibly uncomfortable to read so decided to purchase the audiobook petty early on which I did for Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows as well. James Masters is a brilliant narrator for it and definitely made it a lot easier to get through, I’m sure it would have taken much longer without.

Despite it taking me six months to read I’ve still given Queen of Air and Darkness an XXXX rating because although it certainly had problems, especially with pacing etc there were just so many parts I liked about it as well I think there was just too much crammed in for one book and that maybe some cuts should have been made or the book split into two, I feel like this could have been done fairly easy as it did feel like two halves of a story put together and I do wonder if maybe the Dark Artifices was meant to be another longer shadow hunter series like The Mortal Instruments but trilogies are popular and it was decided everything needed to be shoved into this last book?

There are a lot of moments in QoAaD that feel a little like fan service but I suppose when you have so many characters all existing in one world and close timelines it makes sense that they interact with each other but it did make this instalment feel like another book in the Mortal Instruments series as much as it’s own trilogy. I can’t deny that some of these moments, however, were some of my favourite parts, partially for the nostalgia and in part because some of the older characters feel almost like dear friends after eleven or so books.

A large part of QoAaD is the romance, mainly the relationship and swirl of emotions between Jules and Emma but honestly I still couldn’t summon up much of any kind of emotion past mild irritation for their relationship which felt like a shame as I love Emma but Julian has just really gotten on my nerves for all three books. I did like the other relationships throughout this book and this trilogy in general, especially the polyamorous relationship between Kieran, Mark and Christina which was a huge highlight for me, it felt like it was done exceptionally well and it was lovely to see a lovely, healthy polyam relationship in YA. We, of course, had Alec and Magnus too and I honestly fell back in love with the two of them in this book which is perfectly timed for me as The Red Scrolls of Magic is likely to be my next Shadowhunter read.

Even with the horrid pacing, I do have to say that balancing SO many characters is no mean feat especially with so many of them having pretty good arcs, I actually liked Alec’s entire arc in the Dark Artifices more than I did throughout most of TMI. We have at least eight main characters and over thirty other characters that I would say are still relatively important and I feel like we get some pretty good content for all of them. Overall I loved the story we got but as I’ve said I would have much preferred it had perhaps been spread over two smaller and better-paced books.

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I want to talk a lot more about this book but there are just many spoilers that I would need to go into so I’m considering making a spoiler-filled book talk video like I’ve done in the past for Lord of Shadows.

Have you read any of the Shadowhunter books? If so do you have a favourite? I’m not sure I could pick one!!

book reviews, spoiler free, Uncategorized

The Devouring Gray

Devouring Gray.pngThe Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

Rating: XXXXX

“Being invisible when you used to be seen…it’s like being dead, but no one mourns you.” 

Branches and stones, daggers and bones,
They locked the Beast away.

After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.

Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray—a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.

Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.

The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities—before the Gray devours them all.

After hearing about this book going around Twitter I became quickly intrigued by the creepy aesthetic and almost political intrigue based in a small town where four founding families are primarily in power, respected and revered. A lot of people referred to it as a mix of Riverdale and Stranger things, of which I have seen neither but had heard good things about. I was gifted this book by Titan in exchange for an honest review and I was so excited when it arrived, the UK paperback as a chilling cover design alongside hot pink sprayed edge pages! Not to mention as an extra spooky treat there were four tarot cards including at important parts to do with each card already placed inside the book which I kept in place and collected as I read through to give the book an extra dimension.

The Devouring Gray is aptly named because I absolutely devoured this book. I was slowed down a little by the fact I didn’t read it much at night because it was mega spooky in places but I found any spare time I could to read it during the day. There were just so many great aspects to this book I had trouble putting it down.

One thing I got excited about early on is all the fantastic rep in this book. There were not one but two bisexual characters who both mention attractions to same and different genders with one such character not having even experienced an actual relationship with anyone before and all of this is an absolute breath of fresh air in my queer lungs because both happen so rarely in books, let alone together and it is a GIFT. Speaking of gifts, arguably my favourite character, Harper Carlisle is also representing with some disability rep by being amazing with a sword and still managing to kick butt all while being her awesome self and missing one arm from the elbow down. I could honestly talk about her forever.

I don’t say this a lot but, I LOVED all of the romance spread throughout the book too. It’s not super obvious and although it’s threaded through the plot in places it doesn’t take it over and I find all the different dynamics interesting enough that I’m always interested in more and I enjoy the little moments we get here and there whereas often in a lot of books I can’t wait for said moments to end. I’m fully invested enough now that I would read a sequel to find out what happens with who for that alone at this point (although I am looking forward to the second book for other reasons as well of course).

The plot is twisty and I found myself constantly second-guessing myself and being unsure who to trust and/or believe thanks to four different POV’s not all of which are clued up on events or what I could call, particularly reliable narrators and that all just adds a whole other twisty angle to it that really got me turning pages like my life depended on it. The Devouring Gray is a familiar kind of story but author Christine makes it her own. This will be a book I don’t think I’ll be shutting up about for a while and now desperately await its sequel!

 

 

 

 

book reviews, book talk, spoiler free

Adrift – Spoiler Free Review

35959734Adrift by Rob Boffard

Published: June 5th 2018 by Orbit

Rating: XXXXX

“Sorry.” Stop saying sorry. She tries again, still failing to bring up the main menu. “It’s my first day.”

In the far reaches of space, a group of tourists board a small vessel for what will be the trip of a lifetime – in more ways than one…
They are embarking on a tour around Sigma Station – a remote mining facility and luxury hotel with stunning views of the Horsehead Nebula.


During the course of the trip, a mysterious ship with devastating advanced technology attacks the Station. Their pilot’s quick evasive action means that the tour group escape with their lives – but as the dust settles, they realize they may be the only survivors . . .

Adrift in outer space, out of contact with civilization, and on a vastly under-equipped ship, these passengers are out of their depth. Their chances of getting home are close to none, and with the threat of another attack looming they must act soon – or risk perishing in the endless void of space.

So I have a really bad habbit of spending a lot of time browsing Net Galley when I have other books to read and then something catches my eye and I need to have it, Adrift was one such book. I had just finished The Illuminae files and I was hungry for more SF, this was a little different to the hordes of YA I’ve been reading lately as it’s an adult book (with a lot of varried aged characters) but it peaked my interest and I requested it. A little while later my request was accepted and I dove right in and I’m so glad this book caught my eye.

This is such a well balanced book, the writing was interesting and engaging, chapters were perfect snappy beats with a few longer ones slotted in when neccesary and the language not only helped move events along, create tension and evoke emotion when needed but also helped world building elements to feel natural and organic.

The story itself is mysterious and is covered pretty well in the blurb above, I love a book where you don’t really know who you can trust and at some point you end up suspecting pretty much everyone and this is no exception. I like to learn things piece by piece and enjoy stepping back and looking back at the big picture at the end and thinking “oh yeah!”

There are multiple narrative points of view which I found really interesting as they were all very different from each other. We had Corey a ten year old boy, Hannah a teenager on her first day working as a tour guide, Jack, a hotel reviewer with some baggage, Lorinda an eldery widowed ex miner and the mysterious Roman. Each character has a distinctive voice and style to them making the POV swaps very easy and not jarring at all. In addtion to the events they witness on board we also get insightful glimpses into each ones backstory and things that have helped shaped who they are now and how they react and deal with situations. In some circumstances the past events would probbaly feel like filler but they helped to develop a bond and understaning with each character and I found them to be a great addtion.

Overall although the story is great I think its the characters that really made this for me. It was nice to see (as we seem to more often in SF – possibly why I love it so much) a couple of same sex relationships featured in a normal off hand way as well! Without going into spoiler territory I would like to say also that I was fairly happy with the ending, especially for a stand alone which I’m begining to love more and more. We do have a a small part that is missing however and although I assume this was done for effect I was a little confused and dissapointed at first and wrote it off as lazy writing, it doens’t detract from the over all enjoyment of the book and is something I’ve seen happen in films and the occasional book before, I just hadn’t anticpated it at the time.

Adrift by Rob Boffard is available today and well worth checking out if you love SF and like a little mystery/thriller. Thank you to Orion books and Net Galley for my digital advance copy.