book reviews, Uncategorized

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Novelisation

Book Review

52306589._SX318_SY475_Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker by Rae Carson

Rating: XXXX

Published March 17th by Century

“Rey,” he said. “That doesn’t sound like you.”
Oh, but it did. Maybe she was revenge made flesh. Maybe she had been all along.”

The Resistance has been reborn. The spark of rebellion is rekindling across the galaxy. But although Rey and her fellow heroes are back in the fight, the war against the First Order, now led by Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, is far from over.

Rey, Finn, Poe, and the Resistance must embark on the most perilous adventure they have ever faced. And this time, they’re facing it together. With the help of old friends, new allies, and the mysterious guidance of the Force, the story that began in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and continued in Star Wars: The Last Jedi reaches an astounding conclusion.

Anyone who even remotely knows me knows that like the other two novelisations I’ve been stupidly excited for this book. I was left feeling a little let-down by The Last Jedi novelisation despite loving the film and so I tried to keep my expectations low with this book where possible but there was so much I felt that was left unsaid in the film or that didn’t feel right and I was hoping that, as is often the case with the novelisations, also called expanded editions that we could get more info, more moments and more closure. As you can probably tell from my rating for this instalment I got all of that and more. Although I tend to keep all of my reviews spoiler-free I will say this might touch on a few vague details here and there so to please keep that in mind when proceeding.

I want to say that I did enjoy the film itself, although it wasn’t without problems, these novelisations do not change events that happen in the film hugely but instead expands on them which is the reason I enjoy these so much. I really feel that Rae has done exceptionally well with the additions made to the story. One of the main problems with the film, in my opinion, was that, despite its length, there just wasn’t enough time to cram everything in well and even with this book being a little on the shorter side than I had imagined at 247 pages it does a lot of those lost moments justice and we get some brilliant insights.

For me, this has definitely been my favourite of the novelilastions, especially of the sequel trilogy; I found The Force Awakens a little too dry and clinical, The Last Jedi lacked heart but The Rise of Skywalker hit all of the right marks and then some. The second two novelisastions were classed as ‘expanded editions’ and as such we expect extra content, for TLJ the extra things felt surplus to requirements for the most part (apart from that one scene with Poe giving his jacket back to Finn) but every extra snippet and piece of information felt right and added to the story in every way in this latest, and for the time being, last installment. Without giving much away there is one particular single line of dialogue that made the ending of this film easier to deal with for me personally and I’m extremely grateful for that as it definitely helped me to come to terms with some heavy moments from the film.

All in all I feel like this novelisastion breathed some much needed love and care to what we saw on screen, it added new layers and just gave it that extra bit of heart that I feel the film itself was lacking and I believe Rae Carson could have easily made this a five ‘star’ read had she been given free range. That being said, it was still a very enjoyable read and everything I had hoped it would be.

If you enjoyed the film but wanted more out of it, weren’t sure how you felt about the film or straight up loved it I think you’ll enjoy this novelisastion, if you hated it it, make sure you don’t come into reading this with the expectation that it will change things on a huge scale but maybe give it a try anyway as you never know what a fresh perspective may bring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

book reviews, q&a, spoiler free

The Unspoken Name

Book Review

45046552The Unspoken Name by A.K Larkwood

Rating: XXXXX

Published February 20th by Tor Books

“Nothing in this world has earned the power to frighten you Csorwe…You have looked your foretold death in the face and turned from it in defiance. Nothing in this world or any other deserves your fear.”

Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honoured title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.

I was lured in by a pretty cover and I stayed for the orc assassin. Usually, I have a good long paragraph at the beginning of my reviews explaining how and why I chose this particular book to review but it’s really that simple and I’m so glad I let my fickle mood reading self, pick this book because folks, it’s a doozy.

I haven’t read a lot of big or high fantasy in a good while, mainly because they tend to be chunky books and I’ve found it really hard to slog through larger books lately and when this turned up I panicked that I’d made a mistake. At over 450 pages it’s not huge but it was large enough to intimidate me a little. Within 100 pages I don’t know why I worried and by the end, I wanted to go back to the beginning and read the whole thing again or even better read the next book immediately (can I have the next one yet? Please. I’m desperate). The pacing was a little slow by the end of the first third but not terribly slow and by the time I was just over halfway through I was ravenously turning pages. I’m someone who procrastinates over the last 100 pages of a book but I’m honestly shocked I managed to accomplish anything else when I still had some of this book to read because it absolutely hooked me in and that last third is crazy. I kept turning to my husband to tell him “There aren’t enough pages left.”

One great thing about The Unspoken name is that although it really feels like high fantasy, to begin with, it has such a great mix of genres swirled in, we have some science fiction and space opera elements even. The world that Larkwood has created is rich, stunning and at breathtaking; the image of all these worlds connected to each other, some thriving and full of life, while others are dying and decaying, is just hauntingly beautiful. The way magic works too, as a warlock player in dungeons and dragons I felt was particularly interesting and alongside the world-building, all of the information is just introduced and explained in such a natural organic way throughout the story.

Pretty much all of the characters in this book are a hot mess, in the best way. There is no one main antagonist and almost every character is a beautiful shade of morally grey in some way or another and honestly, I am absolutely here for it. I love characters that aren’t black and white and don’t tend to fall fully towards particularly ‘good’ or ‘evil’ which I’ve seen a lot of in the high fantasy I’ve read previously which made this book even more of a breath of fresh air. I love the messed up relationship between Csowre and Tal (No hard feelings) and I really hope we get more of that in the next book.

The Unspoken Name is out now and I cannot recommend it enough, especially if you’ve had enough of your garden variety fantasy books! Thank you once again to Tor Books and the ever fantastic Jamie-Lee for sending me this early copy for review. When can I get my hands on the next one?

 

 

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

34895950._SX318_

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!