Review: The Smoke Thieves

April 28, 2018 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 Smoke Thieves The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green
Series: The Smoke Thieves #1
Published by Penguin on 3rd May 2018
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A princess, a traitor, a soldier, a hunter and a thief. Five teenagers with the fate of the world in their hands. Five nations destined for conflict.

In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father, while her true love, Ambrose, faces the executioner's block. In Calidor, downtrodden servant March seeks revenge on the prince who betrayed his people. In Pitoria, feckless Edyon steals cheap baubles for cheaper thrills as he drifts from town to town. And in the barren northern territories, thirteen-year-old Tash is running for her life as she plays bait for the gruff demon hunter Gravell.

As alliances shift and shatter, and old certainties are overturned, our five heroes find their past lives transformed and their futures inextricably linked by the unpredictable tides of magic and war. Who will rise and who will fall? And who will claim the ultimate prize?

I’m not even going to try to explain The Smoke Thieves. Usually, I like to attempt a wee overview but in all honesty, I don’t think I could do this book justice in a summary! So, read the one above!

Told from the perspectives of five characters; Tash, a demon hunter; Catherine, a princess betrothed to a prince she’s never met; Ambrose, a soldier and personal bodyguard to Catherine; March, a servant and traitor; and Edyon, a thief and bastard son of a trader.

I loved this book! I’m often wary of stories that are told through a host of different characters, as sometimes I can feel that we don’t really get to know the characters well enough. Or  I inevitably dislike a character and dread reading their chapter. The Smoke Thieves thankfully bucked that trend. I loved all of the characters, found their voices distinct and felt we got to know them all and the world around them.

I’ll be honest and say that I found the beginning a little slow at times, but before I knew it, I was swept up in this world and in the characters and I couldn’t put the book down.

I think Green has built a fascinating world, one that I didn’t want to leave: Brigant, with its cruel, oppressive king and attitude towards women in contrast to Pitoria with its colour, dance and customs. I’d like to have explored Calidor a bit more but I’ve no doubt that will happen in future books.

This story is packed with intrigue, deceit, and deception. There’s fighting, demon smoke, hatred, political manoeuvres, revenge and even love. I truly didn’t want it to end.

Now, I rarely pay attention to comparisons but when I finished reading I saw this…

“a new epic fantasy series perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Game of Thrones”

and bizarrely, I agree with that! As I was reading I did actually think of it as a YA Game of Thrones.  Maybe it was the travelling, the food, and the multiple perspectives, but I can see where they are coming from with that.

This is a wonderful epic fantasy that stopped my heart at times, made me chortle at others, and made me crave delicious foods!

I loved Green’s writing, this world, her characters and way the book is poised for the next instalment of the series. I seriously cannot wait for book two!

The Smoke Thieves

Image from Goldsboro Books.

Oh and if you fancy getting your hands on a signed, hardback edition I just noticed that Goldsboro Books have some copies available!

four-half-stars

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 Robots WaR: 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 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 Banks The 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: Sleeping Giants

April 21, 2016 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: Sleeping Giants Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Series: Themis Files #1
Published by Penguin on 21st April 2016
Genres: Sci-Fi
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

A GIRL NAMED ROSE IS RIDING HER NEW BIKE NEAR HER HOME IN DEADWOOD, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved - the object's origins, architects, and purpose unknown.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand's code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What's clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unravelling history's most perplexing discovery-and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

This novel is formed through sets of interviews, logs and reports. While the interviewees vary throughout, the interviewer remains the same – anonymous, high powered individual.

When Rose Franklin falls into a crater as a child, she has no idea of the impact it will have on her life and the world as a whole. She landed on a giant, ancient, glowing hand – a hand that appears to be missing the rest of its body.

There is a lot of information in this book. I could imagine it being a bit much for some readers, but generally I enjoyed the information. I also enjoy a good mystery and there are definitely numerous questions waiting to be answered in this book. For this reason, I’m not going into the plot in this post, just some general thoughts on the novel.

I was slightly concerned that as the story is told through  interview transcripts and logs I wouldn’t connect with the characters. I was wrong though; I think you get a pretty decent feel of the characters of the main players in this book.

Personally, I really enjoyed the first third of the book. However, for me, there was a bit of a dip in the second third. I enjoyed the ending though and it has definitely left me wanting to read on in this series.

All-in-all a good read and I look forward to book two.

Oh and if you’re looking for a signed edition of this book, you can find a signed bookplate edition at Forbidden Planet, while Goldsboro Books have a limited edition with just 750 copies available.  As ever, these aren’t affiliate links, I’m just helping you get your paws on a signed copy! 😀

 

four-stars

Review: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

June 20, 2014 in Book Reviews, Fiction, General 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: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
Published by Penguin Genres: Contemporary
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

‘Elizabeth is missing.’ Maud keeps finding notes in her pockets with this message scrawled on it, but she can’t remember writing it. That said, she can’t remember much these days: the time of day, whether she’s eaten lunch, if her daughter’s come to visit, how much toast she’s eaten. Still, the notes about Elizabeth nag at her. When was the last time she spoke with her best friend? It feels like ages ago...

Frustratingly, no one seems willing to help Maud find her: not the police nor Elizabeth’s son - not even Maud’s own daughter or granddaughter. It’s like they’re hiding something.

Maud resolves to take matters into her own hands, and begins digging for the truth. There are many clues, but unhelpfully, they all seem to point to another unsolved disappearance: that of Maud’s sister Sukey just after the war.

Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance lead Maud to the truth about Elizabeth? As Maud’s mind retreats into the past at a frightening pace, alienating her from her family and carers, vivid memories of what happened over fifty years ago come flooding back to give her quest new momentum

Maud is concerned about her friend Elizabeth. She is missing. The problem is that Maud’s memory is failing her and no-one will believe her.

We journey through the book with Maud. We’re inside her mind, a mind that forgets things – words, people, places. Her pockets are stuffed with notes written in her own writing but she has no recollection of writing them. There are cold cups of tea and an abundance of peach slices in her home, and even her toaster has a note on it telling her not to make toast. Among the many notes she finds on her person is the message that Elizabeth is missing.

The story is written beautifully, the staccato style reflecting the thoughts in Maud’s mind. Things in Maud’s life trigger memories from her childhood. Memories that are clear and fluid, a stark contrast to her memories in day-to-day life. It’s through this that we learn about Maud’s childhood. In essence we follow two stories simultaneously; elderly Maud trying to find Elizabeth and young Maud whose sister Sukey suddenly disappears.

I really like the way this novel works, often flitting between stories as Maud’s brain jumps from one to another. Personally, I feel that Healey has captured beautifully the workings of Maud’s mind.

I have experienced family and friends suffering from dementia. It is heartbreaking. So I really wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book…it is fantastic though. I could relate to a lot of it having seen loved ones go through a similar process. The difference with this novel though is that it makes you look at the world from the sufferer’s perspective, something that I think is truly valuable.

Although this is a far from amusing subject I found myself chuckling as Maud seems to feel everyone around her is mad! The shopkeeper questioning her buying of peach slices, the policeman who seems to know her by name, her daughter who won’t let her boil an egg. She is a determined lady and she will not let her forgetfulness or lack of cooperation from others stand in the way of finding her good friend Elizabeth!

This novel demonstrates experience and understanding of the subject matter. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Maud’s life, both her youth and in her older years. I will admit though that at first I wondered where the book was going, I felt I was getting quite far in & nothing had really happened. However once I accepted the pace and style of the novel I really enjoyed it.

I truly feel that this book opened my eyes as to what dementia sufferers go through. It’s a small glimpse, but it’s poignant.

An electronic copy of Elizabeth Is Missing was received through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely our own and completely honest.
four-stars