Review: WaR: Wizards and Robots

February 1, 2018 in Book Reviews, Sci-Fi, 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: WaR: Wizards and RobotsWaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am, Brian David Johnson
Published by Penguin on 25th January 2018
Genres: Sci-Fi, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars

When a young man breaks into her home claiming her life is in danger, Ada Luring's world changes forever. Geller is a wizard, on the run from his father's hidden clan who want to kill Ada and her mother. Sara Luring is the scientist who will create the first robot, the wizards' age-old foes.

But a robot has travelled back in time to find Ada, and will lay everything on the line to protect her, as she may just be the key to preventing the earth's destruction in the future.

Ada, Geller and the robots must learn to work together to change the past and secure the future. But they don't have much time before a mysterious enemy launches its attack on Earth...

Well, for the first third of WaR: Wizards and Robots I thought my brain might explode – wizards, robots, high school kids, three times in space – I was somewhat overwhelmed! But once I started to get my head around things I actually quite enjoyed the story – it certainly is action packed!

I made a real attempt to write a synopsis for this book, but quite honestly it hurt my head, so I can only imagine what it would’ve been like for you to read! So, here’s a basic rundown. We have a teenage girl, Ada and her Mum who is a doctor of AI in the 21st century. We have a castle under siege in the 16th century. We have wizards, including a boy called Geller. We have a robot, Kaku, and the world under siege from aliens in the 31st century. There’s magic, technology, time travel, distrust, friendship and the desire to save the world.

This is a fast-paced read which crams a lot into its 320 pages. Because of this, I don’t feel we ever make real connections with the characters – I certainly didn’t. For me, this book is kind of all over the place. We jump between times, characters and scenarios very quickly. It feels like watching a film at 30x speed. That said, I was never bored- there wasn’t time for that! It’s packed full of action and is actually a quick read. But I can’t help feeling it could’ve been more. The underlying story is good – a bit of a fantasy/sci-fi/YA mashup. However, I’m left feeling that there are many threads unexplored, a lack of depth and hence of character building. It could’ve been far more cohesive, but instead looking back it feels kind of a jumble – with the main story tacking its way through the pieces.

All that said, despite feeling overwhelmed – and kind of shocked – for the first third, I did find this book entertaining. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read WaR.

three-stars

Review: The Girl In The Tower

January 20, 2018 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: The Girl In The TowerThe Girl In The Tower by Katherine Arden
Series: Winternight Trilogy #2
Published by Ebury on 25th January 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in a convent. Vasya
will choose a third way: magic...

The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.

Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior's training, recognises this 'boy' as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical...

Having read (and loved) the first book in this series, The Bear and the Nightingale last Christmas, I saved my  early copy of book two, The Girl In The Tower for over the festive season. Set in the Russian winter, this is a tale that’s perfect to read at this time of year. But truthfully, Arden’s writing will transport you to the Russian winter no matter the season outside.

If you haven’t yet read the first book, then make sure you check out my review of it here and go pick up a copy! This post will inevitably contain mild spoilers for that first book.

Where The Bear and the Nightingale was set in rural Russia, The Girl In The Tower takes us on an adventure through the rural landscape and into Moscow itself. Continuing from the first book, we follow Vasya who, with accusations of witchcraft lingering at home, looks to follow her dreams, break with convention, shun marriage or the convent and travel.

We also spend time with her older brother Sasha, the monk, who I personally really liked in the first book, as well as meeting other characters – old and new!

Once again, Arden engulfs us in a beautifully written tale, built around Russian history and folklore. Through Vasya she continues to explore the lives of, and expectations towards, women at this time in Russian history – weaving historical fact within her fiction.

Having become familiarised with the conventions of rural Russia, we arrive in Moscow as overwhelmed as Vasya herself. Together we uncover the lay of the land, the customs, expectations, and requirements of the upper echelons in the Russian city.

The development of the characters in this second novel is fantastic. I love the progression of Vasya’s character – she’s everything I hoped she would be!

Arden’s writing is once again a highlight for me. Her descriptions, turn of phrase and writing style swept me up. I felt I was, once again, there in the Russian snow. I loved the continuation of the story. For me, it felt more action-packed than the first book, filled with deception, death… and a sassy horse!

The story itself is unforgettable, the writing enchanting, what more can I say? It’s a must-read for fans of The Bear and the Nightingale!

five-stars

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

January 5, 2018 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: The Tattooist of AuschwitzThe Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Published by Bonnier Zaffre on 11th January 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tätowierer– the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.

His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the result of years of interviews between the author, Heather Morris, and Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. Originally written by Morris as a screenplay, she has now adapted her work to create her debut novel – and what a debut it is! Based upon Lale’s own harrowing story, this is a book that needs to be read and shared, with subject matter that should never be forgotten.

I actually wrote a whole draft review upon finishing this book, but honestly, I just didn’t feel like it did the book justice. I’m actually of the mind now that nothing I write will properly convey my feelings on this book. So, please, stick with me as I try to string some words together.

Lale was 24, a smart, linguistic young man from a Jewish family living in Slovakia. Every family in Slovakia was forced to provide one child over the age of 18 for work detail with the Germans. Lale volunteered himself to save his family, to prevent them from being rounded up into a concentration camp. Not knowing where he was headed or what would face him, Lale left home impeccably dressed as always, ready to face his fate.

This was how Lale found himself crammed into a cattle carriage with other men, headed for Auschwitz. Lale was assigned to the sister camp, Birkeneau and there made a promise to himself that he would survive. His intelligence and charisma meant he was noticed among thousands of others and assigned the role of Tatoweirer, the tattooist – a position which offered him a slightly better life in the camp, but with the traumatic task of marking every prisoner for life with their assigned number. It was through his role as Tatoweirer that Lale set eyes on Gita, a young lady who compounded Lale’s determination to stay alive.

Lale used his relative freedom in the camp to help others, to source and deliver food to keep his fellow prisoners alive, but such actions put him in great danger.

Lale seems like such an incredible man. His attitude, philosophies, and kindness shine through in this novel. I feel that Morris has done a brilliant job of telling this story – I couldn’t put this book down. Despite the horrors within its pages, this is also a tale of love, friendships, and hope. It’s a story that made me stop and think about the individual stories of other prisoners in these camps, what they had to do to stay alive and who they lost along the way. Stories that we will never know but that we should never forget existed.

This is a short novel but it packs a huge punch; the combination of Heather Morris’ storytelling and Lale’s unforgettable true story make this book impossible to put down.

PS I still don’t feel like my words have done this book justice, so just please READ IT!

five-stars

Review: Everless

December 14, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, 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: EverlessEverless by Sara Holland
Published by Orchard Books on 4th January 2018
Genres: YA Fantasy, Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

In the land of Sempera, the rich control everything - even time. Ever since the age of alchemy and sorcery, hours, days and years have been extracted from blood and bound to iron coins. The rich live for centuries; the poor bleed themselves dry.

Jules and her father are behind on their rent and low on hours. To stop him from draining himself to clear their debts, Jules takes a job at Everless, the grand estate of the cruel Gerling family.

There, Jules encounters danger and temptation in the guise of the Gerling heir, Roan, who is soon to be married. But the web of secrets at Everless stretches beyond her desire, and the truths Jules must uncover will change her life for ever ... and possibly the future of time itself.

I’d heard so much love for this book among fellow reviewers who’ve also been lucky enough to get early copies so I was excited to delve into this new fantasy series. However I must admit, I started reading Everless with a little trepidation. Could this book live up to the early hype? The simple answer, for me, is yes.

I actually had a whole section written to try and describe this book but honestly my draft was long and I just didn’t feel it did the book justice. So we are just going to skip that bit and I refer you to the synopsis above!

This is a hard book to put down, and yet I didn’t want it to end. The concept of time as a currency, extracted from the blood is so creative. I’ve never read anything quite like it. Sara Holland has created a fascinating, rich world where the gulfs between rich and poor are not only measured in monetary value but in time, lifespan.

There’s so much to like in this novel. The storyline is absorbing and mysterious, with characters that I certainly became invested in. It’s a clever, well-written novel that may on the surface appear like others in the genre but is actually quite unique. It has a fairytale-esque feel to it, with the same looming darkness our favourite tales contain.

All in all, this is an excellent, addictive read. I genuinely cannot wait to read the second book in this series. I really think Everless will be hugely popular in 2018. Expect to see this book everywhere.

five-stars

Review: The Cruel Prince

December 7, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, 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 Cruel PrinceThe Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Series: The Folk Of The Air #1
Published by Hot Key Books on 2nd January 2018
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him—and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Jude is a child living with her parents, her twin Taryn and her older sister Viv when a stranger appears at their door and kills her parents before her eyes. The murderer? Her Mother’s faerie ex-husband Madoc who has come to retrieve his daughter (Viv) whom he previously thought dead. He takes the two human twins with him, returning to Faerie and raising them all as his own. That’s the background.

Madoc is the High King’s General; because of this he has the power to demand that the human twins be treated as his own. So Jude and Taryn are educated with the Faerie gentry, schooled in swordsmanship by Madoc and attend functions at Court. Madoc has remarried, his new wife Oriana is not Jude’s favourite person, but she very much loves her younger brother from this union, Oak.

But not all of the faeries are happy to have humans in their midst, least of all humans with privilege and protection of the General.

Jude dreams of becoming a Knight – a fanciful ambition for a mortal in Faerie but one that she is determined to fulfil. She knows she can’t live under Madoc’s protection forever and if she wants to stay in Faerie rather than return to the mortal lands she is going to need to find some power of her own. Her twin is content with finding a marriage to keep her in Faerie but Jude wants to follow her own dreams.

Jude is educated with the High King’s son Prince Cardan, and his group of gentry faerie friends. They are not fond of humans and even less so of the twins, making life difficult for the twins. This animosity between Jude and Cardan is a theme that runs throughout the novel.

When the High King decides to leave his throne, a succession must follow. Any one of the King’s offspring could wear the Blood Crown, but it’s Prince Dain that the High King has chosen.

So when Dain makes a proposition to Jude, she realises that this could be her chance to find power and forge her own destiny.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the progression of Jude’s character and the quick escalation of the issues she had in front of her.

Through Jude, Black explores what it’s like to be different in society, to stand out from the crowd and to suffer the consequences of such differences.

Black’s land of Faerie had me thoroughly enthralled and I loved the contrast of the normalcy of going to Target in the mortal lands and the magic, and darkness, of Faerie.

While this book begins somewhat sedately (well, aside from the brutal murder of Jude’s parents) everything soon escalates to the point that you just want to keep reading. It’s a book full of betrayal, loyalty, families, scheming, ambition and secrets.

It is packed with fantastic characters. I’ll admit to being somewhat confused by the different court and placing some of the characters to begin with – I was a bit overwhelmed by names at the start. One of these thoroughly interesting characters is Prince Cardan who is at the heart of the cruelty, taunting and abuse that Jude encounters in Faerie.

I think of the things I liked most about Black’s characters is that they are flawed. No-one is perfect, each has their own stories and desires. Couple that with Black’s descriptive writing, fantastic world building and captivating plot, it’s hard not to love this book.

five-stars