Fantasy/Sci-Fi

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.

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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.

Book Review: Thy Killer’s Keeper

You’d be forgiven for believing this is an ordinary detective novel. I thought it was throughout most of the book, honestly. But there are some vital and very unique aspects that are definitely science-fiction, even bordering on paranormal.

Detective John Salton is sent to work on a homicide case near Eureka. The case has no clear links to previous cases, but John is certain that it is the work of the same killer of almost a dozen other cases over the past nine years. The only link is the killer’s strange, morbid sense of curiosity – expressed through acts of violence toward the victim after they’re already dead.

At the same time, John is visiting his autistic son at the new care centre in Eureka. He admits to his partner, Ruby, that he believes the death of his wife – perpetrated by his own son – was also somehow caused by this same serial killer. But how is that possible?

This was truly exciting and intriguing throughout, and I was always waiting to see what happened next. Links to the fertility clinic were soon suggested, which added even more intrigue and excitement. It was superbly clever and incredibly unique. I’ve certainly not come across anything like this before.

At the end especially, the sci-fi elements became almost overpowering. It stopped feeling like so much of a deterctive/crime novel and more of a paranormal thriller or something. I personally thought it was a bit too paranormal, too far-fetched almost. But again, it was well thought out and clever. Though some parts were not particularly well explained in my opinion and kind of went over my head, honestly.

There were a fair few typos and spelling mistakes, such as names being spelled differently, which gave the novel a bit of an amateurish feel. I received an ARC though (thanks to Hidden Gems), and so the final publication may not include so many mistakes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the detective side of this novel, but the sci-fi aspects became a bit too overwhelming. 3.5 stars.

 

Book Review: Dark Fantasy Stories

Dark Fantasy Stories (Illustrated) by S.S. WolffA huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with the opportunity to read this anthology!

I haven’t read a huge amount of anthologies but am becoming increasingly fond of them. I like having a collection of similar but unique stories all in one place. I was under the impression that these would be quite creepy/scary stories, but they were only slightly ‘dark’ in my opinion. They all had fantasy elements, as the title would suggest, and were all rather good.

Of course, as it’s an anthology, I’m not really reviewing the individual authors’ writing. Instead, I’m going to focus on the editing and the selection of the stories included. The chouces are definitely quite unique, all fantasy tales with supernatural elements. There were some that I especially enjoyed, and some I was not quite so fond of. Overall, I think there was a pretty good range of stories.

As for the editing, I did notice some strange mistakes. There was misplaced punctuation, for example, and I saw a few letters replaced by ‘lookalikes’ – such as replaced by rn. As the copy I own is a review copy, it is possible that the mistakes I noticed were edited out in the final publication, though.

It was a rather short book, which can be seen as both a good and bad thing. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: Two Skies Before Night

A huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with a copy of this book in return for my review.

At first I thought this was a detective novel, but I soon realised that it was far more sci-fi than I anticipated. This combination of science fiction and detective elements was really unique and honestly, I loved it.

Initially, Detective Lang is working on a double murder case. It seemed quite simple at first, if a bit strange what with all the bizarre descriptions of characters. It got a bit confusing when Lang began commenting on the ‘undersky’ and people from ‘Above’ and ‘Below’, but I soon figured it out. All these different elements made a thoroughly intriguing story, and things I didn’t think were important at first turned out to hold quite a deal of significance.

The Powers were really interesting. The few that were described were so strange, and I loved them. The few times these Powers interected with citizens of the City were strange, too, and I was really intrigued to see what the Powers actually did. They were like gods, feared but almost worshipped by everyone. I would have liked to find out a bit more about them – perhaps there will be a sequel that will reveal more.

There are a lot of intertwining details, which I always appreciate. It was definitely a unique story, with a lot of exciting moments and unexpected discoveries.

One issue I had with this book was that there were a few mistakes, misplaced commas and so on. The copy I received was a review copy, so I can’t be sure whether these mistakes are in the final publication, but I thought I should point them out just in case.

Overall, this was a really interesting book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 4 out of 5 stars.