Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Mechanical Bird: A Tale of Two Ladies, Glenn Song


She wanted to go back to her tower room and absorb herself in her stacks of algebra
Alicia Reynard, a country farm girl, has dreamed of flying like a bird as long as she can remember. For her, these dreams have become a quest to build a flying steam carriage. Lady Elena Singleton, a young noblewoman, is in love with mathematics and the new field of mechanical computation. When their country Maedrelleden goes to war with their northern neighbor, Vergenstat, the men are conscripted to fight for king and country. In their absence, an opportunity arises for these two very different women to gain a higher education in the capital of Aeterall. Will this chance be the opportunity to unlock their potential and ingenuity?

The Mechanical Bird: A Tale of Two Ladies is, as far as I can gather, a whole book chopped into thirds. Whilst it is the length of a novella it is not a novella in the sense that it does not contain a complete story arc and so, whilst I enjoyed the characters and the direction that this book was taking, I'm not quite sure why the author chose to publish his work thus, which is why I have left this book unrated.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

[article] Five Upcoming Fantasy & Sci-fi Under-the-Radar Releases, 2017


Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings books are my all-time favourite fantasy series


Five Upcoming Fantasy & Sci-fi Under-the-Radar Releases



Or, Five Books That Sound Really Cool That You Probably Haven't Heard Of



I get a good chunk of my reading recommendations from Goodreads and for some reason the majority of my friends on there read YA rather than adult fantasy or sci-fi. So to find those awesome adult / older teen fantasy novels (think Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn or The Way of Kings), I normally have to do a bit of digging, often at the back of a charity shop. So I've compiled a list of five fantasy and sci-fi novels coming out later this year that I've got my eye on that I don't think are particularly well known. 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Boy With The Porcelain Blade, Den Patrick


Vanity is always the first casualty of survival
Lucien de Fontein has grown up different. One of the mysterious and misshapen Orfano who appear around the Kingdom of Landfall, he is a talented fighter yet constantly lonely, tormented by his deformity, and well aware that he is a mere pawn in a political game. Ruled by an insane King and the venomous Majordomo, it is a world where corruption and decay are deeply rooted - but to a degree Lucien never dreams possible when he first discovers the plight of the 'insane' women kept in the haunting Sanatoria.


Told in a continuous narrative interspersed with flashbacks we see Lucien grow up under the care of his tutors. We watch him forced through rigorous Testings, and fall in love, set against his yearning to discover where he comes from, and how his fate is tied to that of every one of the deformed Orfano in the Kingdom, and of the eerie Sanatoria itself

* * *
3 / 5 


I picked up The Boy With The Porcelain Blade from the library on a whim, mostly because the cover was nice and the title sounded a bit intriguing. For the first half or so I was rather underwhelmed, annoyed partly by constant switching back and forward in time and partly by the arrogant main character, Lucien. But slowly the book started to grow on me as the characters got fleshed out more and the action started building momentum. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Assassin's Fate (Fitz & the Fool #3), Robin Hobb


"Don't doubt us, or we are lost."
"Fitz, my love, that is the problem. I do not doubt Bee's dreams at all" 

Prince FitzChivalry Farseer’s daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river.

Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade’s protégé Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee's only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles.

Their mission for revenge will become a voyage of discovery, as well as of reunions, transformations and heartrending shocks. Startling answers to old mysteries are revealed. What became of the liveships Paragon and Vivacia and their crews? What is the origin of the Others and their eerie beach? How are liveships and dragons connected?

*this review contains mild spoilers for all previous Robin Hobb books*


* * * * *
5 / 5

I don't really have the words to say how much this series, these books, these characters have meant to me. But I will, nevertheless, try my best. I read Assassin's Apprentice when I was thirteen years old, and I genuinely believe that it changed my life, so when Robin Hobb announced that she would be writing the Fitz & the Fool trilogy a few years back, I was absolutely delighted. Whilst I enjoyed Fool's Assassin and Fool's Quest, they pale next to this stunning conclusion. Mostly, this is a result of a clear plot direction and the reunion of FitzChivalry and Beloved.   

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Under Rose-Tainted Skies, Louise Gornall


"I'm being forced to challenge ideas that have kept me safe for so long"
At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.


But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.



Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?

* * 
2 / 5 

Under Rose-Tainted Skies has taught me two things: firstly, to read the backs of books properly in order to correctly identify a YA romance, rather than a general YA book. Secondly, that YA romances are just not my thing. Whilst Under Rose-Tainted Skies has an insightful and respectful portrayal of various types of mental health issues (OCD, agoraphobia, anxiety), the book feels directionless and the romance falls flat. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Selection (The Selection #1), Kiera Cass


"No, I'm not choosing him or you. I'm choosing me."
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.


Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

* .5
1.5 / 5

I didn't really expect to enjoy The Selection, but I was hoping it would be enjoyable in the same sort of way that Made in Chelsea is enjoyable - it's complete and utter trash, but it's fun trash. But most of the time The Selection isn't really that fun. It's key flaw, I think, is that it tries to be serious. If it had owned the fact that it's a weird Hunger Games parody, it might have been more enjoyable.

Monday, 15 May 2017

[article] Five Upcoming YA Under-the-Radar Releases, 2017



Five Upcoming YA Under-the-Radar Releases



Or, Five Books That Sound Really Cool That You Probably Haven't Heard Of



Like a lot of readers, I get many of my book recommendations from my friends or from Goodreads. What that means is that a lot of the books I preorder or get excited for in advance are popular books - the hype on my dashboard surrounding A Court of Wings and Ruin would be a good example. This means that, unfortunately, whilst the hype machine can pick up wonderful reads that I might not have otherwise tried, a lot of great books slip under the metaphorical radar. 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Joyride Vol #1, Jackson Lanzing


Earth sucks. Steal a spaceship.
Earth sucks. The stars have been blocked out for so long that people have forgotten there was anything else besides the World Government Alliance watching over them. When Uma Akkolyte jacks an alien spaceship and punches through the stratosphere she sets forth on an adventure with an unlikely crew who are totally not ready for all the good, bad, and weird the universe will throw at them.
* * * *
4 / 5

Joyous and beautiful, Joyride #1 is an excellent start to a comic series.  Uma Akkolyte, fed up with her life on a tyrannically ruled Earth that has forbidden interstellar travel, steals an alien spaceship and sets out to explore the stars with her friend Dewydd, a robot, an alien they pick up on a nearby planet, and a surprise guest in the form of the Princess of Earth, Caitlin. I absolutely loved the crew and their dynamics.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Welcome Back #1, Christopher Sebela


Mali and Tessa have lived hundreds of different lives throughout time, caught up in an eternal cycle as they take part in a war so old that neither side remembers what they’re fighting for anymore. As Mali wakes up in her newest life, she suddenly becomes self-aware and starts to question everything, especially why she continues to fight. But elsewhere, Tessa is already on the hunt
* * * 
3 / 5

Welcome Back is a graphic novel, the first book comprising of 4 issues. I don't often read graphic novels, but this one was a fun foray into the genre. I was entirely attracted by the plot: Mali and Tessa have lived hundreds of lives and each life they have only one goal: to kill the other. Lifetime after lifetime they have fought, for so long they can't ever remember why, only that they must. But now, Mali is having doubts. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Den of Shadows, Christopher Byford


"I can't stand the idea of not being in control, that something is pulling my strings to reach a destiny I can't influence" 

While fighting off poverty in the blistering desert heat a travelling casino offers one night of solace. One night to forget all your troubles. But once on board there is more to the show than meets the eye: enter Franco, the elaborate ringleader, Wyld the stowaway thief and Misu the fire breathing showgirl.


In a kingdom ruled by the law Franco ensures his den remains in line, ruling with an iron first. But when he’s faced with saving the fate of the train, and those on board, he may be forced to break his own rules. Life on the den isn’t just a job but a way of life. And now you’re about to find out why!

* * 
2 / 5

This book took me on such a roller-coaster ride of feelings. It has such a promising and solid start that I thought it would a 4 or 5 star read for sure. Then it sort of plodded along aimlessly, picked up a bit near the middle with some Western-vibe gunfights and political malarky, then shuffled to the end of the book. Den of Shadows could absolutely work for you if you like slow-paced, character study-esque novels, but unfortunately I found it rather underwhelming.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Spellslinger, Sebastien de Castell

"Tricks are all I have." I said. "Clever. The boy always seeks to be clever."


Kellen is moments away from facing his first mage's duel and the start of four trials that will make him a spellcaster. There's just one problem: his magic is gone.


As his sixteenth birthday approaches, Kellen falls back on his cunning in a bid to avoid total disgrace. But when a daring stranger arrives in town, she challenges Kellen to take a different path. 


Ferius Parfax is one of the mysterious Argosi - a traveller who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries. She's difficult and unpredictable, but she may be Kellen's only hope...

* * * * .5
4.5 / 5

Kellen is supposed to be earning his mage name; on the cusp of turning sixteen, if he doesn't pass the four trials he'll be relegated to the life of a servant. The problem? He doesn't have any magic any more. It doesn't help that his father is the most powerful mage of their people and his sister, barely thirteen, is already passing all of her trials. This is an absolutely wonderful book that grabbed me from the very first page.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Hit The Ground Running, Mark Burley


"Dudes, seriously, what's the plan?" asked Lakey
Eric might not be getting along with his family—or anyone else, for that matter—but he's pretty sure a boarding school in another country isn't the answer. Skilled in parkour, running helps him deal. So be it, he decides. Do the time and get out. Flow like water. But when he gets a cryptic message from his brother telling him their parents have been abducted, and then his brother disappears, he realises they weren't punishing him, they were hiding him. 
To find them, Eric has to discover the secrets of his parents' research, but the conspiracy he uncovers threatens more than just his family. With help from unlikely new friends, a hack-first-ask-questions-later approach to computers, and a dangerous plan, he soon learns that some secrets don’t want to be found, and others have a way of revealing themselves at all the wrong times.

* * *
3 / 5 

Eric gets a mysterious video message from his brother that ends in his apparent kidnapping. Unsure if this is a joke or not, Eric recruits fellow schoolmates Tess, Seth, and Lakey, to help him investigate. We get pulled into the web of mysteries that surrounds Eric, his brother, their parents and their team's latest archaeological dig in Libya. Hit the Ground Running is well written and the characters are great, but the action is predictable and the mystery bizarre.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Girlhood, Cat Clarke

I do believe in forgiveness - for other people. If only it were as simple to forgive yourself. 
Harper has tried to forget the past and fit in at expensive boarding school Duncraggan Academy. Her new group of friends are tight; the kind of girls who Harper knows have her back. But Harper can't escape the guilt of her twin sister's Jenna's death, and her own part in it - and she knows noone else will ever really understand.


But new girl Kirsty seems to get Harper in ways she never expected. She has lost a sister too. Harper finally feels secure. She finally feels...loved. As if she can grow beyond the person she was when Jenna died. Then Kirsty's behaviour becomes more erratic. Why is her life a perfect mirror of Harper's? And why is she so obsessed with Harper's lost sister? Soon, Harper's closeness with Kirsty begins to threaten her other relationships, and her own sense of identity.

* * * * 
4 / 5 

Girlhood was a bit of a surprising read. It's less thriller than I thought it might be, but still had that compulsive quality where I found myself flicking pages as fast as possible to find out what was happening. In some ways, Girlhood is a very typical girl's boarding school tale about a group of female friends that starts to fall apart as secrets are revealed, in other ways it's a very good and frank examination of loss, grief, friendship, and family, and one that I highly recommend.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Love and Vandalism, Laurie Crompton



I roar and scream again and again until all the lions are overcome by my passion
Rory has a secret: she’s the vandal who paints graffiti lions all over her small town. If her policeman dad knew, he’d probably disown her. So when Hayes, a former screw-up on the path to recovery, catches her in the act, Rory’s sure she’s busted. Instead, he makes her a deal. If Rory shows him around town, he won’t turn her in. It might be coercion, but at least the boy is hot.  

As they spend more time together, Rory worries she made the wrong choice. Hayes has a way of making her want things she shouldn't want and feel emotions she's tried to bury. Rory's going to have to distance herself from Hayes or confront a secret she can't bring herself to face...

* * 
2 / 5


This was an odd book. It had one spectacular twist and some exploration of art, mental health, alcoholism, family relationships and the like, but there was also a whole load of eye rolling on my part and cringe-worthy scenes. Love and Vandalism is, in essence, a romance story. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

[challenge] Clean Sweep ARC



Clean Sweep ARC Challenge


Or, My Attempt To Raise That Netgalley Review Percentage


This month I will be participating in caffeinatedbookreviewer's Clean Sweep ARC Challenge. I will attempt to read as many ARCs, in my case from Netgalley, as possible in this month of May. These will all be eARCs read on my Kindle and will be mostly of the YA and fantasy genres. Because I have my university exams at the end of the month, my goals here are modest.

You can read the full rules and join in the fun yourself <here>. 

[article] April Round Up

I finally made proper use of my local library for this month's reading


April Round Up


I can't believe we are already a third of the way through the year! I've had a pretty great month - three weeks off of university for Easter and a week back hiking up for summer exams at the end of May. This unfortunately coincides with the release date of a lot of ARC's in my possession, so I've been frantically trying to read those this month. Because I read so many books in April, twenty three to be precise, I'm trying out a new format for my reading round up posts in order to keep it shorter. Let me know if you prefer this way or not!