Blog Tours, book reviews, spoiler free

CTRL+S by Andy Briggs

Book Review

45437425CTRL+S by Andy Briggs

Rating: XXXX

Publishes November 28th by Orion Books.

“Escape is easy. Staying Free – That’s harder.”

Life in the near future’s NOT ALL BAD. We’ve reversed global warming, and fixed the collapsing bee population. We even created SPACE, a virtual-sensory universe where average guys like Theo Wilson can do almost anything they desire.

But ALMOST ANYTHING isn’t enough for some. Every day, normal people are being taken, their emotions harvested – and lives traded – to create death-defying thrills for the rich and twisted.

NOW THEO’S MOTHER HAS DISAPPEARED. And as he follows her breadcrumb trail of clues, he’ll come up against the most dangerous SPACE has to offer: vPolice, AI Bots and anarchists – as well as a criminal empire that will KILL TO STOP HIM finding her . . .

When I received an email asking if I would like to receive a copy of this book I took one look at the synopsis and practically made grabby hands. I’ve been working on a piece of writing for about three years now which share some similarities and I decided that this book would be the perfect read for during NaNoWriMo as I often find it hard to read books of a different genre to what I’m writing or it has a habit of taking me too far out of the story and I have to ease back in every time. A huge thank you to Orion for an advanced finished copy in exchange for an honest review.

I will admit that to start with I wasn’t sure about this book. We had the hard done by main character who was a bit of a dick, the angry, only female friend the main character has a crush on with the high up and/or well respected dad who just wants her freedom, the confident guy friend who may or may have had a thing with said only girl and the shy guy who doesn’t want to take risks but ends up doing so anyway. Sounds familiar right? We even get the crappy relationship between the main character and his struggling single-parent mother who he tends to refer to just as ‘Ella’ instead of Mum. It’s not that it was a bad start, it just felt very predictable. Flash forward to me a few days later frantically reading as I walk the three minutes to my son’s school because I just could not put it down. 

The characters are definitely their stereotypes but it was easy to forget at times as we did get further insight into them, the main character especially and although I still don’t particularly ‘like’ any of them but they’re still interesting characters who DO develop throughout the story which only spans less than a week anyway so I wasn’t expecting any huge and major changes, I don’t feel like they’re meant to be idea ‘loveable’ characters and I kind of like that about them because it’s very easy to see our own flaws in them and it gives them a whole other level.

The plot itself is the real MVP here, again there are moments that seem predictable but to honest having read a fair amount of sci-fi and seen a hell of a lot of sci-fi films and TV shows that is absolutely bound to happen, almost every story has been told before but this if the first time it’s been told by Andy and I really loved the twists and turns we got along the way and how each clue had to be found and then unravelled. As well as the plot, the writing is at times incredibly fast-paced and has you right at the edge of your seat which is probably my favourite thing about this book, I’m shocked I don’t have any ripped pages and apparently I was impossible to talk to while reading because I was just SO engrossed with the events. We have some downtime, obviously but it fits well with the pacing and isn’t too slow as we get information in that downtime, as well as some character development and some new (awesome) allies.

Another aspect I really enjoyed was the world-building, it’s a not too distant future and incredibly believable in pretty much all aspects for me, the good and the bad. Not only do we get to see the good things that have changed like the way we as a human race impact and care for our planet and it’s animals, finally accepting how important the earth and it’s ecosystems are but we also see how such technological advances could develop going forward and how, like everything that exists it has the potential to do great good but also evil too. There is a fair bit of ‘technobabble’ but most of it seemed easy enough to understand and where needed we get extra information anyway so if you’re used to reading sci-fi this shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad I gave it the chance it deserved. It was addictive and possibly one of the most satisfying books I’ve read in a while. I highly recommend it, especially if the synopsis catches your attention.

CTRL+S releases in just two days time on Thursday, November 28th. Make sure you check out the other wonderful book bloggers also taking part in the blog tour over the next week!

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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, spoiler free

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

Book Review

42867937
The Girl the Sea Gave Back 
by Adrienne Young

Rating: XXXX

Published September 3rd 2019 by Titan Books

“He knew that I’d bring death since the moment he first laid eyes on me. And he was right.”

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

I was gifted an early finished copy of The Girl the Sea Gave Back by publisher Titan Books in exchange for an honest review, despite not being blown away by Sky in the Deep, the debut book by the same author I decided to give this second book a go as there defintley felt like potential and the cover and name of the book completely won me over.

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You might remember back in April I reviewed Sky in the Deep (you can find my review here) and I found it really predictable and didn’t hugely enjoy it too much as a result but I am pleased to report the sequel of sorts/companion story The Girl the Sea Gave Back felt like a vast improvement. If you haven’t read Sky in the Deep however do not despair as they can be read as separate books and you do not have to have read Sky in the Deep to understand and follow TGTSGB. I would say, however, that it is beneficial and gives the story much more depth. It is certainly a good story in its own right but I found I was already attached to other characters because of their involvement in the first book, especially Halvard who is a main character this time around and I had already decided I would lay my life down for him in Sky in the Deep.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back, for me at least, defintley benefited from having a little more of a fantasy element to it. The main character, Tova, is a truth tongue, she can communicate (in a way) with the spinners who carve fate into the tree of Udur and thus she can cast runes and use them to determine futures and outcomes. This really gave it a more interesting depth and the fact that Tova from a Kyrr, (a member of a mysterious clan from the headlands who keep to themselves) living among another clan called the Svell made for some brilliant narrative and conflict within as she tried to find her place. I really like that although Tova is young and relatively inexperienced she made smart choices and was an easy character to mesh with and see the world through her eyes.

Halvard is all grown up ten years after the events of Sky in the Deep and he is almost impossible not to love, he’s grown up to be honourable and thoughtful but as one of the first generations to have not seen battle in the fighting seasons, instead being taught merely to fish and hunt instead of fight he sometimes feels he is lesser and not worthy of responsibility placed on him by those around him. He is as wholesome as ever in this companion story and the love I already had for him only grew as he makes hard decisions and proves himself to be who his family and his village already know him to be.

The plot was paced fairly well, with sprinklings of battle here and there which were written very well, being both exciting and easy to follow. There is the smallest sprinkling of romance involved and I was worried that it would be very predictable and irritate me but honestly, it was okay and not made a huge deal of which I think was for the best. I found moments surprised me and I became quite invested in the outcome of all involved, The Girl the Sea Gave Back is a solid and enjoyable read.

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Tea Dragon Society

Book Review

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The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 18th 2017 by Oni Press

“Memories don’t just live inside you, Minette. They live in all the people and objects you share your life with.” 

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

This book has been catching my eye on the shelf in varying shops for YEARS and when I was approved to review the sequel (review coming soon) I knew it was finally time to throw myself headfirst into the world of Tea Dragons. The Tea Dragon Society began life as a webcomic that upon completion was compiled into its own stunning graphic novel by Oni Press and as well as featuring the first complete story it also features an illustrated, well detailed, almanack full of information about Tea Dragons and the different kinds which I enjoyed almost as much as the initial story itself.

The story is broken down into five parts with a part for each season, beginning with Spring and an epilogue both broke it up into chunks nicely and really helped to show the passing of time in an easy and natural way. This is a story about friendship, following your dreams and cherishing those of others, respecting peoples traditions and cultures and supporting those around you. It’s sweet and beautiful with each page being a gorgeous work of art on its own.

There are a cast of beautifully varied characters, in personality and appearance which is refreshing, I loved that each character had their own feel and quirks with no one character being absolutely ‘perfect’ each had realistic flaws and brought different things to the story. I especially liked that we got to see into each characters backgrounds in unique ways and got to know them better as well.

Although you can read the story in individual parts via her it’s own gorgeous website here, I can’t recommend the hard copy enough, not only does it actively support Katie’s work but it’s a beautiful book to have around, it’s an A4 hardback book with high-quality paper pages, the lack of a glossy finish that a lot of graphic novels have really helps add to the natural feel too and just gives it a whole other layer, honestly it’s beautiful. The Tea Dragon Society is out now and it’s sequel, The Tea Dragon Festival is out this September so this is the perfect time to start reading!

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Paper and Hearts Society

40853731The Paper and Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

Rating: XXXX

Published June 13th by Hodder Children’s books

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that any book lover in want of a good book will always find one in a library.” 

Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in. She doesn’t want to go to parties – in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book.

It’s like she hasn’t found her people …

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books. What could go wrong? EVERYTHING – especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body.

But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back. Maybe it’s the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties or Ed’s fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself …

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

I had already seen a lot about The Paper and Hearts Society on Twitter, including when it was announced so it’s been exciting watching as the synopsis and covers were revealed etc. I’ve also recently been hearing about this book from a lot of blogger friends for a while now too so I made sure to preorder and started it the evening it arrived. I was so in the mood for something a little softer, something fun and sweet.

This was a lovely easy, comfortable read, it felt like a perfect summers day. The characters feel real enough to jump out of the pages to give you a hug or go shopping at the book store, which would be fine with me, I love them all so much with Ed being my absolute favourite, he’s hilarious but a nice mix of silly and compassionate, he’s going on my list of characters I would die for. Each character had different interesting traits and flaws making them easy to recognise and remember, everyone is a memorable individual, for example: “This is Oliva she loves Jane Austen and making lists, she can be a little two focused but she’s supportive and lovely as well as enthusiastic.”

I found the plot a little predictable but it didn’t really lessen the feel of the story for me, especially as part of me was just waiting for certain things to happen and I figured they would happen at some point but not when so that kept me on my toes and there were some bits that still shocked me! As a result, I think I read this so quick out of a mix of enjoyment and anxiety! The writing style is lovely and I found a lot of Tabby’s thoughts similar to my own even now I’m probably almost double her age.

The Paper and Hearts Society is a love letter to the friends we make in the bookish community and as an older reader it made me wish I had gotten out of my shell a little more when I was younger, I hope the teenagers reading it today will open up a little more after reading this like I should have done years ago and found amazing friends like main character Tabby does in this book because although it’s taken me time I’m so glad to have finally found my people, both in real life and via social media.

The Paper and Hearts Society is out now and a sequel has already been announced titled The Paper and Hearts Society: Read with Pride and I already can’t wait!

 

 

book reviews

The Girl in Red

43550676.jpgThe Girl in Red by Christina Henry

Rating: XXXXX

Published June 18th by Titan Books

“She was just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that didn’t look anything like the one she’d grown up in, the one that had been perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.”

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined. 

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods…

You know that author you keep putting off reading? Not in an unkind way, but in an “I WILL get around to reading one of their books” muttered every time you see them because you just know they’re going to be great and you then something comes up and you for whatever reason the thought slips your mind again and again and again. This is Christina Henry for me so when the lovely Julia from Titan Books asked if I wanted to review The Girl in Red by Henry and take part in the Instagram book tour in I jumped at the chance! I love retellings at the best of times but this sounded like a really interesting inspiring take on the Red Riding Hood Story.

I found The Girl in Red to be slightly terrifying, absolutely creepy as heck and wholly addictive. It reminds me a lot of the human element to the earlier episodes of the Walking Dead when you begin to realise it’s not the zombies, or in this case, the cough that are the things you have to watch your back for it’s the survivors, most of who have become desperate or cruel (if they weren’t already) since the crisis. It’s not a unique tale by any means and is a little repetitive and predictable in some places but forgivably so because the real star of this book for me (other than main character Red herself) was the amazing way Henry builds tension. I found I was holding my breath, clenching my teeth and I had trouble reading it in my house alone, at one point my phone rang (a rare occurrence) while I was reading and it was during such a tense moment in the book that I screamed so loudly I woke up my four year old. On the slightly negative side, I did personally find the ending very rushed and a little unsatisfying but the book, even on reflection was no less enjoyable for it.

Red has possibly become one of my favourite fictional characters. She is a fantastic mix of badassery and compassion, she will kill and make tough choices to survive but she doesn’t let herself become dehumanised for it which I found a really refreshing balance, when she has to fatally defend herself she doesn’t relish it, when she has to take supplies she takes what she needs and likes to make sure that there is enough left if someone else needs them etc. Red often overthinks things, often to a fault and often thinks herself round in circles to inaction which is a habit I am also extraordinarily guilty of, so seeing it portrayed in this fantastic character who acknowledged that her obsessive and sometimes paranoid thinking could be debilitating like that felt incredibly eye-opening and has really helped to keep my own obsessive thinking in check by being able to identify it.

Main character Red is also an amputee and obviously, I can’t speak to the accuracy of her experience or identify with it but I found it really enlightening and I hope it helped people who find themselves with prosthetics feel seen and represented as well as hopefully helping to educate others. There is a line that is said in relation to someone question how much Red is capable of due to her amputation and Red replies with “Stop treating me like half a person…I am missing my leg below the knee. My brain is still functioning. I know what I can do and what I can’t.” and this feels SO important and relatable for anyone who is judged, babied and looked down on because they’re differently abled.

The Girl in Red is out in stores and online today!

 

Blog Tours, book reviews, spoiler free

Summer Bird Blue – Blog Tour

35716237.jpgSummer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Rating: XXXX

Published: April 4th by Ink Road

“Becasue it turns out music isn’t just keeping me alive – It’s keeping Lea alive too.”

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying. What to eat, where to go, who to love. But one thing she is sure of she wants to spend her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea. Then Lea dies in a car accident, and Rumi is sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii. Now, miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, feeling abandoned by her mother, and the aching absence of music. With the help of the “boys next door” teenage surfer Kai, who doesn’t take anything too seriously, and old George Watanabe, who succumbed to grief years ago Rumi seeks her way back to music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish. With unflinching honesty, Summer Bird Blue explores big truths about insurmountable grief, unconditional love, and how to forgive even when it feels impossible.

After reading and falling in love with Starfish and Akemi’s writing last year I have been SO excited to read her newest book Summer Bird Blue, the story of Rumi Seto grieving for her sister and trying to navigate her feelings and learning how to live her life again. I know I always mention this, but I don’t read a lot of contemporary books and was more than happy to break out of my norm to read this. I was lucky enough to be gifted an early finished copy from the lovely people at Ink Road Books and invited to take part in the blog tour 💙

I decided as this is a blog tour post I would spice it up a little so before we get to my review I want to play a little game. In Summer Bird Blue Rumi and Lea love to write songs together so I’m going to show you how to create your own using a book!

1. Pick your favourite book OR count along your bookcase or e-reader library etc until you get to your age and pick the book you finish on. I’m going to use Summer Bird Blue.

2. Take that book and look at the blurb and note down the word of the first three sentences or close your eyes and pick three words at random. This is the title of your song. (If there is no blurb then you can use the first three chapter names or three words to describe the cover perhaps?)

3. Next use your date of birth to choose which pages you’ll use to hunt for song lyrics. You can pick any two lines from each page or the first and last. I.e for me, my birthday is 25/12/1988 so I would use pages, 25, 12, 19 and 88. (Edit: page 12 is blank so going to pick the closest one with words)

4. Write them down in any order you like, it can make as much or as little sense as you like.

5. Your song is now complete! What kind of song do you think it is? A rock ballad? A punk-pop hit? Maybe it has a country feel to it? Let me know in the comments of you try it out! You can check mine about below:

Help Grief Sister

“Happy Birthday,” I say
The only thing dark in Hawaii is me
I feel like I hate everyone
A wish is a wish after all
I’ll never be able to reach her, not really
I’m not sure I understand what any of it means
I almost forgot what this felt like – to be lost in the music
“Is she going to stop?” I ask.

Summer Bird Blue is a powerfully evocative, intensely beautiful and heartbreaking story. At its core it feels a little like a coming of age over the summer kind of story but is so much more and although I am fortunate enough to be unable to imagine anything close to the all-consuming guilt Rumi feels and therefore cannot comment much on the accuracy of those emotions I feel like there are messages throughout this book for everyone, whether they have lost someone or not. It teaches a lot about grief but also mental health, confidence in yourself and others, identity (sexuality or otherwise) and feeling comfortable in your own skin as well as being able to let yourself rely on others and being there for them in return not to mention family, the good and the bad.

Akemi has absolutely hit the nail on the head with her second novel, it’s a brilliant mix of heartbreak and hope. I cried at this book a lot and in under ten pages – this book does not pull its punches. But although I can remember each and every moment that made me cry and hurt for Rumi and her family I can remember so much happiness too. There are some fantastic, organic moments throughout the book that just make it feel so real and make you really remember the good moments in spite of the painful ones and I think it’s an amazing parallel to a great approach to life, things can be bad and painful but we can’t let ourselves forget the good too.

Every single character in this book is memorable and I love them all. Kai is the most perfect male character I think I have ever read. I’m not saying he’s perfect because he’s gorgeous and can do no wrong, he feels perfect because he is flawed and he has problems like we all do and he doesn’t always deal with them in the best ways but that is life and I love him so much. I also love Mr Watanabe, who again I love more because of his flaws, he is quite possibly my favourite character in this book and maybe in any contemporary book I’ve ever read, he is an absolute gem. I also learnt about Hawaiin pidgin which a lot of the Hawaiin characters speak, first of all, I thought it was a written as it sounds accent kind of thing but then looked into further and realised it was its own language of sorts. I stumbled over reading it to begin with but it quickly became second nature and I really loved it.

Considering a fair amount of this book, especially the first half, is rather internal it moves really well. The internal parts are often scattered with memories of Rumi and her sister which helps to break it up some and everything else just moves in such a way that it feels really balanced. I found it really hard to put this book down and read it in about two days which is pretty fast for me and the poor book suffered from spine wrinkles which from me is a sign of an enjoyed book. I feel like I’ve been on holiday to Hawaii for the past five weeks and learned some important life lessons, I think this is definitely a book I’ll revisit in the summer.

Thank you so much to Ink Road books for my gifted early copy in exchange for an honest review and for having me on today’s stop for the blog tour! I hope you’ve enjoyed this review and if you’d like to check out more stops on the tour you can find them all in the graphic below!

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