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

City Of Ghosts

40512862City Of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Rating: XXXX

Published September 6th by Scholastic

“People think that ghosts only come out at night, or on Halloween, when the world is dark and the walls are thin. But the truth is, ghosts are everywhere.”

Cassidy Blake’s parents are The Inspectres, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspectres head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn’t sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn’t belong in her world. Cassidy’s powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

I’ve heard great things about Victoria Schwab’s books. I own A Darker Shade of Magic, This Savage song, A Dark Duet and Vicious but have never managed to read them yet which is crazy because they sound like books I’d absolutely love and I’m gutted I’ve not gotten around to them yet. When I heard about City of Ghosts, I wasn’t sure about it as I don’t really read a lot of Middle Grade genre books but as time went on and I heard more about it I became intrigued. One of my local Waterstones had copies out much earlier than the cited release date in the UK of 6th September and after seeing the cover in the flesh I couldn’t resist.

I was freaked out by this book quite early on, I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily inherently scary but is certainly very spooky and quite chilling in (quite a few) places. Being one of the first “Middle Grade” books I’ve read since I was part of the target audience I wasn’t sure what to expect but really enjoyed it and I will certainly be picking up the next book! Cassidy is 12 years old and I thought I would find that a little jarring to read as an almost 30-year-old but honestly she felt like she could have been almost any age to me and I hope that will make this book easier to read for older readers as well as still relatable to the younger, intended readers.

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City of Ghosts is, like many MG books, a little on the short side but to me personally it felt a good length for the story it needed to tell. Information was presented very well and felt natural without having to have a ton of flashbacks or explaining which sometimes I wish we could experience more in other genres because I feel like it left more room for the thoughts and reactions of the characters without getting too bogged down by loads of details.

The narrative and story itself were interesting, filled with intrigue and spooky goings on but also some revelations and tense moments, City of Ghosts is a very well-rounded book and although I think I would have enjoyed it more if it were a genre I read more regularly it is still a very good book and one I think younger readers, especially those who are interested in ghostly paranormal tales will highly enjoy. I’m already very much looking forward to the sequel!

 

book reviews, spoiler free

Vengeful – Spoiler Free Review

40139338Vengeful by V.E Schwab

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 25th 2018 by Titan Books

“How many men would she have to turn to dust before one took her seriously?”

Eli Ever and Victor Vale were only medical students when their mutual discovery that near-death experiences can, under the right conditions, manifest extraordinary abilities.

They were best friends, and rivals, and then enemies. They were dead, then alive, and then—Eli killed Victor, once and for all.

Or so he thought—but Sydney Clarke felt otherwise, and used her own superpower to tip the scales. Now, a trio hides in the shadows, while another takes advantages of post-death life to take over the city of Merit.

If there can be life after death—will there be calm after vengeance, or will chaos rule?

It feels amazing to have finally held this book in my hands that has been in the making for five years and like both Eli and Victor has been made and remade. The taster in the form of the first chapter at the end of the special edition version of Vicious that was out this year was wonderfully tantalising and it’s fantastic to have finally dug into Marcellas story and the continuation of Victor and Eli’s world.

This book is pretty huge, at almost 600 pages compared to the 360 odd of Vicious I felt a bit daunted when I sat down to read it. I needn’t have feared though as the story moves so well and so quickly the pages fly by and when you finally look up you realise it’s dark out and you’ve not moved for a good few hours. This book is an absolute work of art that feels beautifully polished and perfected, you can almost feel all the immense hard work that’s gone into it and the result it fantastic.

We get multiple points of view including that of a couple of new characters and the return of some from Vicious, including Dominic who we had only recently met previously and is, like all of the characters in Vengeful extremely intriguing and in-depth but not uncomfortably so. We delve into the lives of these characters and the goings on of the past five years between the two books and although I enjoyed the way these were presented I did have trouble keeping track on where we were in the timeline a few times and found it easier to refer to these parts as then and now instead of trying to fit them in precisely.

It was brilliant to see more from my favourite dysfunctional family although I’m a little gutted we didn’t see more done with them, especially as a group but found Sydney really coming into her own and I hope if we get a third book that perhaps this one will focus on her a lot more. Also Mitch. I love Mitch to pieces and he was kind of relegated to just the tech guy here but I still enjoyed whenever he was around and that he’s still breaking stereotypes, no chocolate milk mentioned this time though sadly. I found Eli A LOT more interesting this time around and he actually became one of the characters voices I enjoyed the most. He really developed and getting into his back story really explained and gave a new depth to him that I think we were missing before, he was absolutely perfect and as obsessed with Victor as always. Victor himself I found more interesting but he’s even more one track that Eli and although I did enjoy the journey he went on I’ll admit I was too preoccupied with Eli and everyone else to obsess over him much.

As for the new characters, wow. We meet Marcella Riggins who is an amazing character, she’s just such a powerful, badass breath of fresh air. She’s an EO who doesn’t try to run or hide herself away, who is comfortable in her power and embraces it and the authority to demands with it and her presence. Villain or not she is was an absolute joy to read and I just couldn’t help enjoying it when she took down all the men who continued to underestimate her again and again. We also meet June the shapeshifter who is still a bit of a mystery and I’m desperate to know more. She’s a prominent voice in the book who we hear from quite a bit but we still know so little about her, just the snippets she chooses to share here and there, we get enough to know what she’s up to mostly and how some things make her feel but we don’t really know anything about her past or her real goals and I need to know more!

I could honestly go on about this book for a lot longer but it’s definitely one that needs to be checked out, much like the first book which if you enjoyed obviously you need to read this but also if you enjoy x-men and the like, especially the relationship between Charles and Erik which is echoed in a new and different way in these books. The writing in incredible, the characters are alluring and the book is addictive, you need to read this.

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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book reviews, spoiler free

The Last Namsara – Spoiler Free Review

32667458The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 12th 2017 by Gollancz

Asha lured the dragon with a story.
It was an ancient story, older than the mountains at her back, and Asha had to dredge it up from where it lay deep and dormant inside her.

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

I actually received this in a FairyLoot Box last year and it turned into one of those books I had to read but took forever to get around to, now with The Caged Queen coming out on the 25th September I figured this would be a great time to get it read so I’m all ready for the next book in the Iskari series.

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First of all can I just say…Dragons.

I was pretty sure from the get go that I would enjoy this book but I hadn’t been prepared for just how much. I love the interweaving of the old tales interwoven throughout the story and I would love for Kristen to write a whole book of tales because even stand alone they were interesting, beautifully written and captivating. The writing in the rest of the book is very good as well obviously but there was just felt like a particular kind of artistry to the tales that really made them feel like they had power.

 

The characters in The Last Namsara are well-rounded and fleshed out, each have their particular flaws which were not shied away from and helped to build their character and give them a richness. Asha was a particular favourite for me, she had a real fire to her and goes to show that great characters can be hugely unsure of themselves but still confident, physically strong but smart and most importantly not always right. I really loved seeing her attitudes change as she uncovered things throughout the story and how she reacted to situations. I feel like Asha is a fantastic example of a strong woman in fantasy without a lot of the stereotypes that usually get pinned to those kind of characters. She is a character that I think will stay with me for a long time.

The plot is intriguing if not a little up and down. The political intrigue side of things was a little slow to get going and become of any real interest but Asha herself kept the first half of the book going single-handedly (I think I honestly may be in love with her) and then by the second half of the book a lot more other characters began to come out of their shell, stakes got even higher and it felt like everyone had more purpose. The romance begins to get a little heavier in the second half as well and I’m usually not overly interested in that side of things I feel that the relationship was done very well and was a well thought out plot point all of its own that felt very well handled.

The Last Namsara is a refreshing take on fantasy and a fantastic debut from Kristen Ciccarelli and a book I highly recommend checking it out! The sequel, A Caged Queen, is out in the UK tomorrow September 27th.

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book reviews, book talk, spoiler free

Only Love Can Break Your Heart Review

37903962.jpgOnly Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

Rating: XXXXX

Published August 2nd 2018 by Walker Books Ltd.

Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free… Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colours of the Californian desert. It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you…

From the title I kind of figured this book would break my heart. What I experienced instead was so much more and although I love a good cry from a book (and there was certainly that don’t get me wrong) Only Love Can Break Your Heart was so much more than heartbreaking, it was infuriating and confusing and uplifting, heartwarming, wise and special. The only other book I’ve read that felt similar to this for me was Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman and although it doesn’t quite cover mental health and other aspects in quite the same way the book made me feel some of the same things and left the same feeling in my gut when I finished it, like a deep breath as you ready yourself for whatever the future holds.

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Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a tough book to read in some ways, well at least it was for me. It may look deceptively pretty, fluffy and not too big a read but let me tell you the stuff that is in this book kind of blew my mind a little. For the longest time I did not like Reiko and certainly not Seth.They are, however written FANTASTICALLY! It’s hard to describe because it’s not a case of I love to hate them or anything and they’re certainly not nice people but you know what ARE ANY OF US? A big thing I took away from this book is absolutely none of us are perfect and that’s okay! We learn when we mess up, we deal with things and sometimes we need help and only we can really choose what we take away from the day-to-day events in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Getting towards the end of this book and looking back at the person I was when I started reading it was startling, my feelings changed so much throughout and I wish I had taken more notes because it was a rollercoaster of a ride. I love a book that can make you feel and a book that can make you think but isn’t weighed down by the weight of it. This book deals with the death/loss of a loved one on a very personal level and approaches a lot of other things like self-worth and the way you want others to perceive you along with more I’m sure I’ve missed.

This is definitely a book worth reading, the characters are developed well and very easy to visualise and remember. They are some gorgeous settings and moments throughout and as someone who hates dry sand and the heat it’s made me want to go explore the desert. Katherine’s writing style is smooth and flows with a particular brilliance to it, scenes move well and she’s great at moving the story along and trimming the parts that are important enough to be mentioned but not enough to need a play by-play without making us as readers feel like we’re missing out. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, another favourite I feel and a solid XXXXX  rating.

book reviews, spoiler free

Undead Girl Gang

35707056Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Rating: XXXXX

Published May 8th 2018 by Razorbill

“Spells are just prayers with more steps and a name that scares people.”

Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There’s not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.

So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of Undead Girl Gang when I brought another book from the same stand at YALC this year. Originally I found an enamel pin badge as shown on the cover, fell in love with it and then searched for the book it was from which the stand only had in ARC form if you brought another book so I ended up with two books and pin badge for the price of one book! This was a wise choice and I’m so glad it caught my eye!

This book absolutely has it all. Death, Witches, Romance, Mystery, Zombies, Magic, Betrayal, Cats called Thackery Binx, multiple funerals and …Mushrooms. This book has it all and is easily one of my favorite books released this year. I expected to enjoy it but what I had not realised when I started reading was as follows:

– That I would then be up until the small hours the next morning reading by the light of the street lamp outside my bedroom window.

– That I would get in a genuine huff the next day when I had to go get my hair cut and therefore had to stop reading.

– Actually be glad about an hour and a half wait for a bus because I could read more.

– Consider stabbing my husband with a spoon if he didn’t stop trying to talk to me while I was trying to read

– Become traumatized by mushrooms.

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Undead Girl Gang was full of great surprises, genuine mystery and some great whodunnit vibes which kept me guessing the whole way through. The zombie magic was well done without being overly gross and the teenage witchy/wiccan side to things was interesting as someone who went through a similar phase when was a youngling so a lot of things sounded familiar, especially Mila’s attitude to the practise to begin with. One of my favourite things about this book is actually the relationships and family dynamics, especially between Mila and the other girls which change throughout the narrative. There are some other subtle themes throughout as well that I was pleased to see along with a funny, capable plus sized leading lady.

This book feels well rounded even with a dash of everything thrown in. The characters are memorable and it’s enjoyable to learn more things about them throughout the story and each have their own distinctive voice. I feel like Mila’s responses to some events and circumstances felt especially genuine and relatable, I couldn’t help but laugh every time she was distracted by a pretty boy because that was very much what I was like as a teenager. This is one of those books that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with but find it hard to describe in a few paragraphs without repeating myself because I don’t think I can pinpoint one or two things that made me love it, this book is a culmination of great things that net it a very easy XXXXX rating from me. Well worth a read if you enjoy stories about sisterhood, all things witchy, funny zombies, murder mystery and some VERY tense moments.

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