Review: Waking Gods

April 13, 2017 in Book Reviews, Sci-Fi

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Waking GodsWaking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
Series: Themis Files #2
on 6th April 2017
Genres: Sci-Fi
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

Having been left on somewhat of a cliffhanger at the end of Sleeping Giants (see my review here), I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on the second Themis Files book, Waking Gods, ever since.

Waking Gods follows a similar format to Sleeping Giants, a dossier of interviews and transcripts which tell the story. I really enjoy this form of storytelling – it’s different but works well. Perhaps it was my eARC but I did, at times, find it hard to keep up with who was actually talking. Then again, it’s possibly just my tired brain.

I felt that things escalated quickly in this book. Avoiding spoilers, let’s just say that some things kick off! Like book one, Waking Gods is filled with information – which can, at times, feel quite a lot. There are plot twists,

There are plot twists, secrets, and even some answers. I must admit though, that while I enjoyed this book I didn’t really ever find myself completely absorbed by it. I don’t think I felt as connected to the characters in this book for some reason.

That said, I’m glad I read it and to finally have some answers. It’s a very inventive series and I actually learned quite a bit in this book too. That ending though… is there to be a third book?

three-stars

Review: Strange The Dreamer

March 26, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Strange The DreamerStrange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Series: Strange The Dreamer #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 28th March 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around— and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

I actually squealed when my NetGalley wish for Strange The Dreamer was granted (thanks, Hodder!). I accidentally read a sampler to begin with (long story) and was so gutted when I realised as this book caught me up from the very beginning. Thankfully the sampler situation was resolved as I genuinely couldn’t contemplate reading anything else! I had been swept up in Lazlo’s world and Taylor’s writing and didn’t want to leave. I tell you this so you can the see the impact that this book had on me from the outset – I needed the rest!

As ever I’m torn between gushing about this book and avoiding spoilers. So, as I went into this book with only the synopsis, I think that’s all I’m going to leave you. No further plot details, this book is a journey and I don’t want to reveal any of the stops along the way!

However, I am going to allow myself to mention a few non-spoilery details.

First of all, the writing. It is stunning! It’s lyrical, consuming and awe-inspiring. Maraia described it to me as “hauntingly beautiful” and I think that sums it up. I’ve rarely read a book with such a clear picture in my mind of the story – Laini Taylor’s descriptions are incredible!

This book is so imaginative. The world created by Taylor is fascinating. I love the intertwining of history and legend, fact and fable. It’s mysterious and Taylor slowly reveals the secrets of the world.

I loved Taylor’s characters – Lazlo, in particular, being my favourite. My one complaint is that I’d have liked more of some characters, but perhaps we will get this in book two?

While there were parts that I found predictable, this was made up for by the parts that shook me to the core.

I’m completely in awe of Laini Taylor’s writing, her storytelling and her imagination. Strange The Dreamer isn’t a fast-paced book but it’s a book that I absolutely did not want to end. In fact, I’m resisting the temptation to go back and experience it all again right now!

four-half-stars

Review: The Edge Of Everything

January 25, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Edge Of EverythingThe Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
Published by Bloomsbury on 9th February 2017 (UK)
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars

It's been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who's still reeling from her father's shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors' mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods--only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe's evil attacker and others like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone other than his victims, X casts aside the Lowlands' rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.

I drafted a summary but honestly the synopsis above probably covers it best so go read that!

Done? Ok, so Zoe, her Mum and her 8 year old brother Jonah are struggling to cope with Zoe’s father’s sudden death. It’s them against the world!

I actually really liked the relationship between Zoe and Jonah. We get an insight into the grief of not just a 17 year old, but also an 8 year old boy with ADHD. This part of the book, I liked.

I also really liked the concepts in this book. Without saying too much, I enjoyed the detail of the Lowlands, the idea of bounty hunters and this darker side of the book.

However, I really struggled with the romance element. I’ll try to explain why!

The opening of this book is dark, action-packed and I fully expected to enjoy a thrilling read. Then comes the relationship between X and Zoe. Wow, I struggled with this. It was all so ‘instant’. I felt that not only this relationship, but X’s one with Jonah, just lacked detail. I found it unbelievable and unsubstantive. It bothered me the entire way through the book.

I also took issue with the fact that this thrilling, dark opening suddenly changed and lost pace. There was a lull in the middle of the book where I had to force myself to keep reading. That said, the pace picked up again towards the end and it became more of the thrilling read the opening pages promised.

There were parts I really enjoyed: the concepts, the darkness, the explorations of grief, the twist! But I just couldn’t get beyond the romance that we were just supposed to accept, with little foundation. It grated on me the whole way through and ultimately affected my enjoyment of this novel.

three-stars

Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks

January 11, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The One Memory of Flora BanksThe One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Published by Penguin on 12th January 2017
Genres: YA
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora's brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend's boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora's fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words "be brave" inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must "be brave" if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Flora Banks is 17, but in her head she thinks she’s 10. That’s because she has no short term memory. She had a tumour removed from her brain when she was 11 and it took her ability to form new memories with it.

Flora lives by the notes she has written on her arms, post-its and notebooks. They are her lifelines, as are her parents and her long-term best friend Paige.

But when Flora kisses Drake one night on the beach, she finds that she actually remembers! It’s her one new memory and she believes that Drake may actually be able to help her recover. The thing is, he has moved to Norway. After exchanging emails, Flora decides to take the trip to Svalbard alone to surprise Drake. Armed with just her notes to keep her on track, she sets off to find Drake, and perhaps create some new memories.

This was really quite an interesting book. I’ve read novels centered around memory loss in older people, but never teenagers.

On the whole, I enjoyed it and was really rooting for Flora and her Arctic expedition. The storytelling style worked well, in that we were uncovering the details of Flora’s life along with her. Obviously, there were times when everything was a bit repetitive, as Flora had to keep reminding herself who she was. Yes, it could be a little dull, but there’s a strong message there. This repetition made me think of those who surround those with memory loss. How many times a day must they answer the same questions? They must have so much patience! I think, in some small way, this repetitive aspect allows us to thinks about the support network around sufferers, their families and friends and I liked that.

I also really liked Flora herself. Her bravery and determination in the face of constant uncertainty made me, once again, consider the real-life implications for sufferers. They must spend so much time being scared, and yet this story doesn’t dwell on that. It shows what can be achieved regardless of memory status. It show us how some people face adversity straight on, they keep on fighting to live their lives – even if those around them would prefer to wrap them in cotton wool!

All in all, I enjoyed this book and the messages within. I also now totally want to visit Svalbard!

three-half-stars

Review: Homegoing

January 9, 2017 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: HomegoingHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Published by Viking on 5th January 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader's wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel - the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself.

Yaa Gyasi takes us on a journey spanning seven generations and thousands of miles in Homegoing. We begin our journey in the Gold Coast of Africa, in the time of British occupation, tribal wars and slavery. It’s from this point that we follow the descendants of two women across history and the globe.

Gyasi’s writing is captivating. She creates the most incredibly vivid characters, shares a snapshot of their story with us and moves on to the next generation. Now, when I realised this was the case I wasn’t too sure how I’d like it; journeying with one character/set of characters for such a short period of time before moving on. I needn’t have worried though; each and every one of Gyasi’s characters had me engrossed. I’m no writer, but I can only imagine the immense skill required to write such a huge cast of perfectly formed characters and to tell their stories in a continuing timeline.

I must confess that my knowledge of black history has been poor. I’ve read about slavery, its abolition, I’ve watched documentaries, but truly I’ve never managed to fit it all together in my mind. This book takes us chronologically through hundreds of years of history. While, I assume, the characters themselves are fictional, their situations and experiences are definitely not.

I hold my hands up and admit my shocking ignorance on the subject. I learned a great deal from this book – facts, yes, but also, importantly, seeing life through our characters.

Gyasi packs so much into this relatively short novel. We follow a family whose history is steeped in slavery, and another family whose societal position keeps them free. We pass from generation to generation, exploring and meeting the challenges of the day.

This book gives a real insight into some of the treatment of black people through the years: challenges faced, prejudices against them, ‘ownership’, segregation, police brutality.

I found myself so saddened while reading this to realise how far we have yet to go: that despite the passing of all this time, so much of this still rings true. Since I read this book, we’ve seen global events that have only increased racism, with society feeling that it’s actually moving backwards rather than forwards towards equality.

I could write about this book all day, but it’s a book you need to experience for yourself. Nothing I can write here can do justice to what is contained within the pages of Homegoing.

It’s a very readable, beautifully written, intimate and honest novel. Personally, I found it educational too. It’s a book I will be urging everyone to read. It’s a 300-something page journey through time and place that simply MUST be embarked upon.

five-stars