Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Book Review: Fearless (Eye of the Beholder #2)

I may have done it again. I read a sequel without reading the rest of the series. I am so sorry. I really need to be more careful!

I was given the opportunity to review this thanks to Edelweiss+, so a huge thanks to them and the publisher/author for providing me with it.

This begins with an intro note from the narrator, Grace, which immediately set the scene perfectly. It was actually really convincing, and definitely a strong start to the novel.

It was immediately clear that I was in the dark due to not reading the previous book. However, I think the most impoprtant things were recapped in enough detail that I was still able to follow and enjoy this book. There were still references I didn’t get, though, which is a shame. I wish I had read the other book.

I’m not going to discuss the plot. What I will say is that it seemed incredibly plausible. I was taking some sociology exams while I read this, one of which contained questions on the topic of religion. This book tied into that perfectly. The future described was so realistic, and the details about secularisation and such were spot on. It was a bit too similar to my sociology books at some points, as in it almost felt like an assignment to read at times. That was only at times, though, when the political system of the rebel group was being outlined, for example.

The relationships in this book were a little inconsistent in my opinion. I thought Grace was really connecting with someone, and then suddenly she was almost falling for her ex again. I don’t know, it just seemed a bit wishy-washy to me.

This was a really clever book, and I did thoroughly enjoy reading it. There were a few things I wasn’t particularly keen on, but nothing that really put me off. 4 stars; I would suggest reading the first novel, Sinless, beforehand though.

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Book Review: Rebel Song

First of all, thanks so much to the Hidden Gems ARC programme for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this book!

Rogan Elwood is a teenage orphan who owns a vineyard in Arelanda. He’s pretty normal – his most noteworthy trait is being the son of a rebel martyr, who he is inevitably following in the footsteps of. The Cause, as they call themselves, are deeply unsettled. They want change, and were not disheartened by failed previous attempts at uprising.

And then along comes El. She’s beautiful, and definitely from a family with power (and money). Rogan meets her by chance, but the pair agree to meet again, and again, and again… The couple soon become close, and El decides it’s time for Rogan to know who she really is.

The heir to the throne. Princess Elyra Ballantyne.

They know that continuing their affair is dangerous – almost a certain death sentence – but they can’t stay away. And when things don’t seem like they could get any worse, Elyra discovers Rogan’s link with the rebels working against her family.

There’s a lot of politics and strategy, and no shortage of corrupt individuals in powerful positions. Sometimes there were a few too many characters and details to keep track of, but overall it was a thoroughly intriguing story. I felt genuine hatred for some of the characters, and sadness at the loss of others. I was even quite invested in El and Rogan’s relationship, which is rare for me as I don’t tend to like romance.

Elyra was perhaps a bit too naive and headstrong, but she exhibited fantastic character growth. Rogan was probably my favourite character, though he definitely had his flaws.

My main criticism is the grammar and punctuation throughout this novel. There are a lot of mistakes, and it was a bit frustrating at times. Other than that, I really enjoyed this. The writing was good, and I felt real emotion for the characters. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: Station Zero (Railhead Trilogy #3)

I did it again. I requested a book that concludes a trilogy I haven’t read. Oops.

Because I didn’t read the previous books in this series I’m afraid my review is probably going to be a bit more critical than if I had read them. The first thing I’m going to say is that I had problems immersing myself in the world set by Reeve, and a lot of the concepts, characters and terms used took a bit of getting used to. For wanting of a better phrase, I “had trouble getting into it”.

I do believe that the best books, whether part of a series or not, can be read as standalone novels. There should be enough detail in a book for any reader to follow and enjoy it without having read the previous books. This was not particularly easy to follow at first, but I did begin to enjoy it after a short while.

As this is a conclusion to a trilogy, I really don’t want to give too much away. It begins with Zen Starling sneaking onto an alien train – as this is set in a universe with intergalactic railways. He’s sent a mysterious message, which he believes to be from an entity called Nova. I eventually learned that this was a “Motorik” that Zen fell in love with. She was trapped in the Black Light Zone (which I’m afraid I can’t really explain at all). Anyway, Zen wants to find her. But it turns out that there’s more to the story than just her.

As I can’t give the plot away too much I’m going to have to be really vague with my review. The most notable thing may be how Reeve portrays technology. For example, the trains in this book seem to be conscious. All phenomenons are carefully explained through science, and there is even a theme of discussion over whether Motoriks are people or not. I thought this was really interesting, and definitely a relevant topic to include in a sci-fi novel. There is also the theme of aliens being people, too, rather than being seen as lesser beings.

My favourite characters (if they can be called that) may actually have been the trains. I won’t give anything away, but I seriously admired them!

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The bigger themes in this novel were a bit confusing to me. For example, the Railmaker. I understood what it was (kind of) but I didn’t really get why it was quite so important. And Raven. I had no idea who he was at first – he was obviously introduced in an earlier book, and so the reader was expected to be familiar with him by now.

There were a lot of really interesting, well-developed concepts in this, and I really admired how most things were explained through science and not left to ‘magic’ or some unknown force. I am aware that I would probably have a different opinion if I had read the rest of the series first, so I am very sorry I was unable to do that. As a standalone novel I’d give this 3 stars, but as it is not actually a standalone, I will give it 3.5.

Graphic Novel/Illustrated Book Review: Petit (The Ogre Gods, Book #1)

Thank you to Edelweiss+ for providing me with a copy of this book!

This book was a sort of combination of a graphic novel and a novella. The ‘current’ plot was portrayed through a series of comics, while stories from the past were written out with a few illustrations here and there.

The concept of this book was really interesting. While being viewed as a runt by most other ogres, Petit was seen by his mother to be the savior of his kind. His grandmother, on the other hand, was hopeful that Petit would be able to live a human life, rather than be one of the ‘monsters’.

There was a slightly creepy, disturbing feel to some of this, especially where Petit’s mother wanted him to “breed” with human girls. Petit’s own relationship with one girl was a little confusing to me; I thought he really liked her, but then he went on to have a relationship with another ogre instead. In general, this was a little confusing to me. But I must say that this may be partly due to my edition being a draft copy, and so the layout was not quite correct.

I really liked this story, and really wanted to like it, but was left a little lost at times. For this reason, I’m giving it 3.5 stars.

Book Review: All Rights Reserved

I finally got round to finishing this book a little while back, and I am so glad I did! As usual, I will avoid going into too much detail regarding the plot so as to prevent spoiling it for any potential readers. 

The protagonist in this novel is Speth. Her name was chosen for it’s low price – the world she lives in charges citizens for everything. After the age of 15, a special cuff tracks speech, gestures, purchases and so on, and fines the individual accordingly. It’s copyrighting to the extreme. And, sadly, it really doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.

Click on the image to be redirected to the Amazon product page.

On Speth’s fifteenth birthday, she has her speech prepared and sponsors ready with products to advertise at her party. But a friend of hers suddenly takes a drastic move, stunning Speth into silence. And so, unintentionally, Speth begins a revolution.

Speth continues to uphold her silence, even when offered money and even attacked. Miraculously, she runs into a near-mythical group of people – the Product Placers. Nobody has ever seen them before. There is no footage of them, even in this world of constant monitoring and recording. And, even more miraculously, is that the Placers decide to help her.

Along with her own issues, Speth is trying to solve problems in her own home. Her parents have been taken to repay an old, old family debt, while her sister has been sued for looking too much like a famous actress. People – the Silents – begin to look up to her as a leader, and there are lawyers who are willing to pay good money to stop her “rebellion”.

There is a lot going on in this book, as you can probably tell from this brief summary. The development of Speth’s relationships is really interesting, considering she can’t speak or communicate in any way. I was also really quite surprised with how the romantic plot went, honestly. And toward the end… there is a huge blow. I definitely was not expecting that to happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It took me a while to get round to finishing, but not because I found it tiresome or anything like that. I found myself actually struggling to put it down as I got toward the end, which sounds really cliche but is the honest truth. It was so realistic and plausible, scarily so. 5 stars for this.

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

Book Review: The Sisters of the Winter Wood

I’m going to avoid discussing the plot too much so I don’t spoil any potential readers (and I do recommend you read this!).

This book is set in Dubossary, narrated alternately by Liba and Laya. Liba is the older of the two, the only children in their family. They are Jews, and while this book was hugely about their faith and discrimination against them, it is not only about that. This book was like a new fairytale. It had magic in every page, and was genuinely exciting to read. There were tragic elements, tons of romance, and even a sense of suspense.

The girls are left in their home alone when their parents rush off to Kupel in a family emergency. But just as they plan to leave, the girls’ Mami decides it’s time to tell her daughters who they really are: a bear and a swan.

As I said, I will not delve into the story too much. But I really loved the story involving Laya and the Hovlin brothers, as well as Liba’s own internal struggles. Laya’s romance at the end of the book was, in my opinion, a little rushed and unexpected, but that’s the only real downside I have.

The writing was lovely – it included Yiddish and Hebrew dialect, which was translated in the Author’s Note at the end. (A quick side note; I actually read the entire Note, which is

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really quite rare for me.) And Laya’s account, in particular, felt so poetic. She was definitely my favourite character, as much as I love Liba, too. And the relationship between the girls is so, so lovely. No matter how much they try to push each other away, they are always there for each other in the end.

As I enjoyed this book so much, I tried to talk about it with my boyfriend. However, I soon discovered that describing this story is really quite a feat. It was full of little details and twists that just made the story.

I really liked this book. As I only received an ARC and not a final edition, I didn’t have the official layout, which I can imagine may add to it also. Even so, I’m easily giving this 4.5 to 5 stars.

Book Review: Rosewater

After I signed up to review this book, I started seeing it everywhere. But sadly I did not really understand the hype.

This book takes a whole new perspective on ‘sensitives’ and mind-reading abilities, with the cause being an alien fungus. I liked this – I especially liked the amount of detail included, the scientific terms and explanations.

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But as far as the actual plot is concerned… I was completely lost. I was bored, and I had no idea who was who by the end of it. I just got too confused by it all. There were emotional moments, but I never really connected with the characters. This may all just be my own personal preference – I’m sure other people will enjoy it far more than I did. But I did not particularly enjoy it, sadly, and am giving it 2.5 – 3 stars.

Book Review: Ghost Boy

Another young adult novel, following an 11-year-old boy. His name is Ben, and he sees ghosts. Well, spirits, and only a few. Mainly, he sees Abby, a girl of his own age. His mother views his ability as a ‘gift’, but his father thinks he’s crazy. He gets angry when Ben talks about Abby as if she’s real, and tries several methods to rid Ben of his spirits.

Ben goes through a lot in this novel, from his cousin losing his foot, his father sending him to a shrink, being caught graffiti-ing, and being beaten up for standing up to a bully. And more! These things are mostly nothing to do with Abby or Ben’s ability to see the dead, but there are some connections. In one case, Ben actually exorcises a ‘dybbuk‘ from a stranger on a beach.

It is clear that Ben is desperate for his father’s approval. He attempts daring and foolish stunts designed to impress him, and he ends up lying about taking anti-psychotic medication just to please him. His mother often stands up for Ben, but this causes h er to fight with his father. Ben’s sister is rarely mentioned, and does not seem to make any comments on Ben’s ability – if she even knows about it.

A lot of this book felt like it was completely disconnected to the main plot; it felt a bit like a generic YA fiction novel at times. The plot revolving around Abby seemed to disappear for a while, before being re-introduced.

The plot with Abby was actually very interesting. I had my hunches from relatively early on, but it wasn’t overly obvious or predictable. I did find it a bit strange how Ben believed he had a romantic interest in her at one point, and the ‘solution’ she suggests is also a bit strange… But it was unique and innovative, that’s for sure. I’m intrigued to know where Abby got her name from, as it is later revealed that her mother referred to her as Eliza.

Ben’s exorcising ability was not explained or developed upon at all, and there was no other mention of/reference to dybbuks or similar demons. This was a bit of a shame, as that was an interesting aspect.

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As Ben was quite a young protagonist, I do believe I am a bit too old to actually really appreciate this. The writing definitely seemed more suited to a slightly younger audience, but wasn’t overly immature. I’d definitely recommend this for slightly younger readers. I noticed a few mistakes, but only generic typos. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: Becoming the Dragon

This is a fantasy novel aimed at a young adult audience, following a young boy named Andy on a bizarre, out-of-this-world adventure. I received my copy via the Online Book Club.

From the start of the novel, it is clear that Andy is a bit different. After being struck by lightning on a school trip, Andy has a strange effect on electrical appliances. When Andy’s father left some important documents at home, Andy is responsible for delivering them to his workplace. However, Iliya (Andy’s father) is working on a sort of portal. Of course, Andy’s ‘condition’ has an odd effect on this teleportation device, and suddenly Andy finds himself in the middle of some strange woods. At first, he thinks he may be in South America. But South America doesn’t have GIANT ants, or another planet visible in the sky, or… dragons?!

So Andy finds himself being used as ‘prey’ for a royal hunting party, alongside several other intriguing characters. He accidentally attacks the princess, though, and ends up being held prisoner. He is tortured and ridiculed, displayed alongside a dragon. Together, they eventually escape, but Andy is badly injured. The only cure is to undertake a transformation – The Ritual – and become a dragon himself. However, this carries a lot of risks, especially for an older boy who is mostly grown.

While the premise of this story sounds exciting and unique, I found it quite dull when I was actually reading it. I was not really able to follow everything that happened. However, I must say that there was a great amount of detail when discussing the magical processes and the history of the people, which was very good. But when the history was being told, it felt a bit like a lecture. It wasn’t exciting or interesting, sadly.

The story takes a sudden turning toward the end of the book, involving a girl Andy meets. This all happens very, very quickly, but was possibly one of the most interesting parts of the book.

As for the writing, I did notice a fair few issues. There were inconsistencies in the tense being used, as well as the perspective. There was also a lot of language used that was never actually defined; while some terms are mentioned in a glossary at the end of the book, I do believe several were not. This left me feeling a little bit clueless and unsure of what was happening at times, which was a shame.

I also did not feel any emotion in this book. The characters were not particularly well-developed, nor did they display any emotion or relationships with one another. Andy rarely expresses any longing for his own family, nor does he make any attempts to return to Earth. His ‘love’ for the girl, Polana, comes extremely suddenly, without much development at all. The speech was all very artificial, lacking the fluidity of natural speech.

Overall, it was interesting and unique, but not particularly well written or exciting. 2 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Last City of America

I received a copy of this book from OnlineBookClub.org in return for my review.

 I’m going to be entirely honest; I did not enjoy this book. It seemed like such an interesting idea, and some of the events/plots could have been fantastic. I tried so hard to enjoy it but I really struggled with getting through this book. Right from the start, I could tell I wasn’t going to particularly enjoy it.
This book is set in a post-apocalyptic America after a breakout of hephaestus, a horrific disease thought to have been developed by scientists. We learn more about this throughout the book but are given a general idea of the situation at the start. Cities still remain across America, but most are in a drastic state of poverty. There is some sort of ruling system involving skylords and hosts but honestly, I got completely lost.
I’m having trouble writing this review. I have so much to say but no idea how to structure it. The book just had so many strange and confusing aspects and I really don’t know what to make of it.
I’ll start discussing the characters now. Every chapter is allocated to a different character – well, sort of. You would expect a homodiegetic narration from each character, but the narrative voice is heterodiegetic throughout the entire book. It would also be expected that the characters chosen to follow in each chapter are the key characters, but this wasn’t really the case. There were so many different characters portrayed as ‘key’ characters. I got extremely confused and failed to connect with any of them. It didn’t help that there was little to no emotion portrayed for a majority of the book. I was unable to sympathise with any character. When an emotional moment did occur, I still wasn’t able to actually care. It may just be my own preferences causing this, but I personally found the writing to just be lacking something. Emotion? Personality? I can’t tell, but there was definitely something wrong.
Another issue with the fragmented narrative is how hard the story became to follow. I had no idea which scenes were going to be important for the overarching plot, and as there were so many characters, I just kept losing track. The separate plot lines did begin to connect towards the end, but it still made little to no sense to me.
There were moments that I really enjoyed, especially when the atmosphere became more creepy. But these moments weren’t particularly relevant in the long run, and the array of different genres and atmospheres just made the book even harder to follow.
Overall, I found this to be a very fragmented and boring book. I wanted to like it but just couldn’t connect to any characters. The plot made very little sense most of the time and the 658 pages felt like a lifetime. 1 star.