Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Book Review: The Astonishing Colour of After

The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan – Published March 22nd 2018 by Orion Children’s Books

Another book I read almost four months ago now (oops!). I think it’s time to get this review written!

I was immediately drawn to this book when I read the blurb. Leigh is a young woman struggling to accept her mother’s suicide. She finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her mother’s parents, where Leigh discovers more about her mother and her family than she ever expected.

This book was written beautifully, with colours expressing emotion. Leigh is an artist and thus pretty much thinks in terms of colour. It’s also an amazing mix of real-life, sorrow and loss, and fantasy. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but Leigh is convinced her mother is visiting her even after her death, but in a very different form.

As well as all the emotions surrounding the loss of her mother, Leigh addresses the issues around being a “half-blood”. As a child of mixed-race parents myself, I found some of the things in this book incredibly relatable. But it wasn’t an overbearing part of the story though, which I thought was fantastic.

This was a really emotional book, fantastically written. It was sad but heart-warming. 5 stars; I loved it!

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl – Published February 4th 2010 by Penguin Books (first published December 1st 2009)

So I finally got round to reading this a little while back. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the movie on TV, but never really knew what it was about. It is quite a romance-based story, but I enjoyed it more than I anticipated.
Again, I read this quite a while ago, so my review is only going to be short.
Ethan has nightmares where he loses someone – someone he’s never met before. And then one day she appears. She turns up at school, the niece of the creepy guy who lives in the creepy mansion. She’s not exactly normal herself, either. The other kids at school pick up on this immediately, and she becomes the centre of attention. And not the good kind.
I’m not going to tell you the whole plot, but it’s full of mystery and magic and a fair bit of romance. There’s even loss; there is one particular moment toward the end that I found particularly poetic. (If you read it, here’s a hint: it’s to do with Macon and rain.)
The ending in particular left me wanting to read on. I’m actually putting this series on my Christmas wish list! 4.5 stars.

Book Review: The Shadow Girl

First of all, I’d like to say a huge thank you to the author/publisher of this book for providing me with a free copy in return for my opinion. (I desperately searched through my emails so I could send a link but hopefully you see this anyway!)

The Shadow Girl by Misty Mount
Published March 2019 by Between the Lines Publishing

This is a young adult book, with 13-year-old Zylia as the protagonist. She’s a fair bit younger than me, which can sometimes impact my enjoyment of a book. However, I didn’t have too much of a problem with it in this case. Mount managed to capture the young girl’s voice fantastically – it was like being inside Zylia’s head – but with a dark, more mature undertone. In fact, I think this may actually be a little too dark for most 13-year-olds.

I was immediately reminded of All the Lonely People when I read this. Not in a bad way, though; it wasn’t too similar that it was boring or anything like that. I just found it interesting to note that the two shared a similar premise, based on fading out of existence due to basically being forgotten or erased.

There were a few important social issues sprinkled throughout this book which was a nice touch. Underage smoking and even bullying and self-esteem problems were the key ones I picked up. If a younger person were to read this, I think these are great topics for them to be educated on.

I did notice quite a lot of spelling mistakes and typos which was a shame. Editing can really make or break a book!

Overall, I did enjoy this. It started off a bit slow, coming to quite a big crescendo near the end. 3.5 to 4 stars.

Book Review: Dawn to Dark

Dawn to Dark – eBook – Published March 30th 2019 by Lauren Dawes–Vixen Publishing

A huge thanks to the author/publisher for providing me with the opportunity to read this book via Hidden Gems.

This book is a compilation of various authors’ works. They are all based on different fairy-tales, most retold in a more modern setting or some other unique way.

The title suggests that these retellings are darker than the original (or more widely known) tales, but actually this wasn’t always the case. Some of the stories were modernised, but were still romantic or sweet. I was a little disappointed by this, honestly. That said, some were more sinister, though, and those were definitely my favourites!

Throughout all the stories I noticed quite a lot of typos and spelling mistakes. I can’t be sure if these are present in the final publication, but I thought I’d point it out just in case.

As the stories are all by different authors, it’s hard to give an overall rating – but I will try! None of the tales were particularly bad, but none overly wowed me either. I think 3.5 stars is an accurate rating, rounded up to 4.

Book Review: The First Time Lauren Pailing Died

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd – eBook, Published July 11th 2019 by HQ

Wow. Wow.

I don’t like discussing the plots of books too much because of spoilers, but I don’t think I’d actually be able to describe this one even if I wanted to. There isn’t really a single plot – as there isn’t even a single reality.

At first, Lauren is a young girl who sees strange visions of different realities. Sometimes they include the people she knows, sometimes they’re complete strangers. Sometimes the worlds she sees look so similar to her own that she thinks she may be seeing the future.

As the title suggests, Lauren dies. But then suddenly she awakes in a slightly different world – one where her mother is slightly less pretty, and her accident was damaging but not fatal. She lives a wonderful life, despite feeling slightly out of place. But then she dies again, and wakes up as a mother of two children who she barely recognises. This time, her memories of her past lives slowly begin to make some sense.

I’ve focused on Lauren a lot there, but actually a large portion of this book follows other characters; her mother from one reality, her father from her first, and even her husband from her second life. It’s all rather confusing but there are small ties throughout the book which I found to be wonderfully clever.

It was amazing and surprisingly emotional to see all these different outcomes of everyone’s lives. Lauren’s mother goes on to have a wonderful life, while in another reality she can’t bear the grief and ends up committing suicide.

There is one constant throughout every reality, though; Lauren’s father’s boss, Peter Stanning, is missing. I’m not entirely sure why this became quite so important, why it was tied to Lauren’s strange situation. But I was relieved to find some closure for that particular thread of the story in the end.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

My two main criticisms of this book are that it is really quite confusing and hard to follow at times, and there are also a lot of mistakes and missing words. As I received an ARC I cannot be sure whether these mistakes will be printed in the final publication or not, though.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this. It was heartbreaking and lovely and unique and strange. 4.5 stars!

Book Review: All The Lonely People

All The Lonely People by David Owen – eBook, 320 pages – Published January 10th 2019 by Atom

This was quite different to how I anticipated it to be. In a good way, I think.

The protagonist is Kat, and young feminist who loves Doctor Backwash and the YouTuber Tinker. As a fan of Tinker, Kat becomes the victim of a lot of online abuse. Slowly, she has to delete her entire online presence, including her YouTube account and her personal, custom-designed website. For so long, the online communities have been the only place she really felt she belonged. Now it was all gone.

And so was she.

The ‘fade’ that Kat experiences is very interesting. Suddenly nobody remembers her. Except one of the boys responsible for her disappearance, Wesley. He’s determined to find out what happened. Even if it’s just to alleviate his own overwhelming guilt.

There are a lot of important messages throughout this book, mostly about feminism and masculinity. The theme of sexism and abuse is huge. I did feel like it was maybe a bit exaggerated in places, but actually it does happen like that, sadly.

Kat also finds herself building a vital relationship during the fade, with another girl who is fading. Safa was one of a group of people, called ‘the lonely people’, who actively tried to fade. Like Kat, she is all but forgotten by the rest of the world.

The magic realism was great. It really felt like this was possible, if rather improbable. It was intriguing and exciting, especially when Kat discovers that a extremely sexist YouTuber is planning something bad. How is she going to stop him when no one can even see her?

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

I really enjoyed this book. It had emotional moments, funny moments, and plenty of endearing moments. Wesley is a problematic character but he learns from his mistakes, and definitely grows more mature throughout the book. I’m giving this 4 to 4.5 stars.

Book Review: The First Time I Died

The First Time I Died by Jo Macgregor – ebook, 413 pages

Thank you to Hidden Gems for providing me with a copy of this book in return for my review!
I expected this to be quite an angsty, sad and maybe romantic novel. While it did have some of these aspects, it turned out to be far more of a detective novel than I ever anticipated.
I hate including spoilers in my review, and this isn’t strictly a spoiler at all, but I found the anticipation leading up to the revelation of Colby’s murder to be fantastic. As the reader, we are slowly given tiny bits of information, glimpses into the past, as Garnet recalls his disappearance. And after finding out that he was, in fact, dead, I was absolutely hooked on finding out what happened.
Toward the end of the book, Garnet seems to link everything together pretty fast. I’m not sure if it was too fast, honestly, but it’s not a huge issue.
There was also a lot more behind his death than I’d ever anticipated, in terms of legalities and the family business. This was quite interesting, though in retrospect perhaps a little obvious.
The ending of this book was also nice – neat, satisfying, but not overly sweet. There was no big reunion between lovers. It just simply… ended.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! A strong 4 stars.

If you’re interested in this book, check it out here on Goodreads, or head over to Smashbomb to read reviews and write your own!

Book Review: Dragon Called

Dragon Called (Deadweed Dragons #1) by Ava Richardson – eBook,

A huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with a copy of this book!

This is the first book in a fantasy series by Ava Richardson called Deadweed Dragons. It follows a young woman called Dayie, who is working for a family of Dragon Traders that purchased her after the death of her foster parents. She finds herself stealing an egg from the Torvald dragon caves for them, which hatches prematurely. Miraculously, Dayie bonds with the dragon immediately, and within weeks it’s grown bigger than a horse.

Dayie travels to Dagfan in hopes of joining the Training Hall, but is disappointed when she sees the reality of it. With the help of her old owner’s son and a rather disgruntled young man named Akeem, Dayie attempts to fix the ways of the Hall, while fighting the deadly spread of deadweed.

This was a very enjoyable book, with an interesting plot and some good characters. There were a lot of mistakes that I noticed, but this may be due to my copy only being an ARC and not the final release copy. I also found some of the language to be awkward and unnatural, and there was some repetition in areas. Dayie and Akeem are both young adults, older than most protagonists of similar novels, but the writing was slightly young in my own opinion. Still, I did enjoy this book and am interested in finding some answers to a few things brought up by this book! So I’m giving this 3.5 stars out of 5.

TRILOGY Review: The Firebird Chronicles

The Firebird Chronicles is a children’s/young adult fantasy series following two young Apprentice Adventurers, Scoop and Fletcher.

Rise of the Shadow Stealers (The Firebird Chronicles #1) by Daniel Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published January 25th 2013 by Our Street Books

The first book, Rise of the Shadow Stealers, follows the confused youngsters as they make sense of their surroundings. Neither has any memories of who they are or where they come from, and with the help of their mentor, the Yarnbard, they slowly piece together the story of their past.

Throughout the book, Scoop and Fletcher are held back by Grizelda, an evil old woman who’s determined to take control of the land. They are set monumental tasks by the mysterious Storyteller – the creator and controller of the world they live in. Grizelda desperately tries to prevent them from succeeding at every turn.

My immediate reaction to this book was that I was too old for it. I always emphasise the fact that children’s books can still be good books, enjoyed by any reader. This was, in all honesty, not fantastic. The plot wasn’t bad, and it wasn’t exactly hard to read, but the writing wasn’t particularly outstanding and there were tons of grammatical errors. One recurring mistake I noticed was the misuse of “passed” and “past”. Little things like that really affect how professional a book feels, or how immature the writing comes across.

2.5 stars for this book. The plot was okay, but the characters and speech were overly childish and didn’t feel authentic.

The Nemesis Charm (The Firebird Chronicles #2) by Daniel Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published May 27th 2016 by Our Street Books

The second instalment of this series is The Nemesis Charm. While this book had similar issues with character development, speech and grammar, I found it slightly better than the predecessor.

After rediscovering their identities, Scoop and Fletcher have settled into their lives and begun building a relationship with their parents. But of course, this calm does not remain for long. Soon, citizens are falling ill with a mysterious sleeping disease, the Storyteller’s Princess among them. Yet again, Scoop and Fletcher are tasked with saving everyone.

Grizelda continues to fight them at every step, while raising her own army and attempting to take control of the world (again). Scoop and Fletcher find themselves travelling with a Dark Pirate towards the Threshold, the Uncrossable Boundary to a mysterious world beyond.

There is also a whole other side to their story – the real Storyteller, if you will. A girl in Leeds called Libby, who is continuing the story her missing mother began.

I got strong Inkheart vibes from this series. The main difference was that this seemed a whole lot more immature, and amateurish, honestly. There were still so many mistakes, and Grizelda really felt like a typical children’s villain. I think this is supposed to be ‘cheesy’ and predictable to a certain extent, as it is playing on the idea of stories and heroes and so on, but it was hard to take it seriously at times.

2.5 to 3 stars for the second Firebird Chronicles book. It was alright, clever and exciting, but still had its faults.

Through the Uncrossable Boundary (The Firebird Chronicles #3) by Danial Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published November 30th 2018 by Our Street Books

The final book in this trilogy is called Through the Uncrossable Boundary. I think you can guess what that means.

In my opinion, this was the strongest book of the three. Again, it still had a fair few errors, but it was unpredictable and unique. Everything was finally explained in full, and the ending was tidy and satisfying. There was loss and heartbreak, and massive revelations.

Basically, Fletcher and Scoop end up in our world. While this is a little predictable, and some of the following events may be a little cheesy, I think it was quite good. It was a nice ending to the trilogy.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

3 stars for the final book.

Book Review: Rivers of the Sky

A huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with the opportunity to access a copy of this book!

This was pretty different from books I normally read, and it took a little getting used to. But once I was into it, I really was immersed in the world created by Liguori. I found myself growing fond of the protagonist (if you can really call him that) as his emotions slowly came out.

It had the feel of a traditional fantasy tale, a story of rogue outlaws travelling through cities and towns and wilderness. Their camaraderie builds throughout their journey, and the relationship between the three men is really quite heartwarming by the end of the novel.

Much of the novel seemed realistic, like an alternative universe somewhere that didn’t differ too much from our own. But then the real fantasy elements came into play – magic, almost. Deities and the River of Transmigration, not to mention Adrian’s ‘curse’. Soon, the original goal of the men is abandoned, and a new focus is attained; curing this curse of Adrian’s. This new journey brings about some unexpected revelations, which somehow even I hadn’t seen coming.

There are faults with this, but nothing that took away from my overall enjoyment. I’m giving this book 4 stars.