Saturday 30 December 2017

Everless (#1), Sara Holland

I have a sense the whole world is coming to an end, collapsing into that single moment
In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries. No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself. 
* * * 
3 / 5 

Everless is about a young teenage girl who loves her father with whom she lives in poverty, occasionally venturing into the woods to hunt to earn some extra money. Sound familiar? By changing a couple of words I could be describing The Hunger Games, Red Queen, A Court of Thorns and Roses, or many other books based on a similar premise. What makes Everless stand out is a really cool premise: time is currency, extracted and bleed from an individual to turn into a coin. To pay off one's debts, one flirts with death as they bleed away their future. Literally.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

The Last Namsara (Iskari #1), Kristen Ciccarelli

"Asha wore her scar like a crown"
In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer. These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

* * * * 
4 / 5

The Last Namsara grabbed me from the first scene: Asha calls a dragon forth with a forbidden story and slays it, bringing it's head home to her father, the king. Any good book could probably get better with the addition of dragons, but it's hard to get a fresh perspective on them, though a few have managed it - Seraphina springs to mind. The Last Namsara manages it. It has a couple of flaws, but is overall a stunning debut novel and I can't wait to snag the sequel. 

Sunday 24 December 2017

Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1), Ryan Graudin

The wolves of war are gathering. They sing a song of rotten bones
The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. 
* * * *
4 / 5 

Having devoured and thoroughly enjoyed Graudin's most recent masterpiece - Invictus - I finally got around to picking this one up. The synopsis is interesting: Hitler won the war, there's a motorcycle race, and a young shape-shifting Jewish girl who wants to kill Hitler. Once again, I'm reminded of a Doctor Who episode (perhaps this is where Graudin gets her inspiration?), but surprisingly all these weird elements combine really well into a cracker of a book.

Thursday 21 December 2017

The Female of the Species, Mindy McGinnis

"I am vengeance"
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.

Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence.  Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.

* * * *
4 / 5

I've never read anything quite like The Female of the Species. It's bold, it's dark, it's unafraid to explore themes like justice, vengeance, sexuality, power, and violence. Alex Craft killed a man and she doesn't regret it. When the murderer and rapist of her older sister walked free, Alex took vengeance into her own hands but now she's afraid that she'll never quite fit into society, that it's safer to remain in this small town with her alcoholic mother for the rest of her life.

Monday 18 December 2017

Mandelbrot the Magnificent, Liz Ziemska

"Logic sometimes makes monsters"
Born in the Warsaw ghetto and growing up in France during the rise of Hitler, Benoit Mandelbrot found escape from the cruelties of the world around him through mathematics. Logic sometimes makes monsters, and Mandelbrot began hunting monsters at an early age. Drawn into the infinite promulgations of formulae, he sinks into secret dimensions and unknown wonders.

His gifts do not make his life easier, however. As the Nazis give up the pretense of puppet government in Vichy France, the jealousy of Mandelbrot's classmates leads to denunciation and disaster. The young mathematician must save his family with the secret spaces he's discovered, or his genius will destroy them.

* * * 
3 / 5

Occasionally I will dive into a biography of a philosopher or a mathematician. When I do, I like to get a feel for the real person - perhaps via the inclusion of letters that they wrote, or excerpts from interviews, or real conversations - but to also get a sense of the feelings of the author. Mandelbrot the Magnificent was peculiar; it was an easy, engaging read, but I was never quite sure what was truth and fact and what was embellishment on the part of Ziemska.

Friday 15 December 2017

[article] End of Year, Finish the Books!

End of Year, Finish the Books!

Or, Impending Sense of Doom as You Realise You Never Did the Things You Wanted To

As the year draws to a close we always think of the things we haven't done rather the things that we have. I'm no exception. Whilst my reading year has been pretty damn awesome - I've read 170 books this year, absolutely smashing my previous record - they're are a number of books that I've meant to read all year, but never got around to.

Wednesday 13 December 2017

The Rogue Queen (The Hundredth Queen #3), Emily R. King

"I am born of the stars, and I will see them shine again"
Despite the odds, Kalinda has survived it all: Marriage to a tyrant. Tournaments to the death. The forbidden power to rule fire. The icy touch of a demon. That same demon now disguises itself as Rajah Tarek, Kalinda’s late husband and a man who has never stopped haunting her. Upon taking control of the palace and the army, the demon brands Kalinda and her companions as traitors to the empire. They flee across the sea, seeking haven in the Southern Isles.

In Lestari, Kalinda’s powers are not condemned, as they are in her land. To take back the empire, Kalinda will ally with those she distrusts—and risk losing those most loyal to her—to defeat the demon and bring peace to a divided nation.

* * 
2 / 5 

The Rogue Queen does better than the second book; it has moved beyond the "tournament" style plotline of the first two books and tries to tackle a more "epic war" plotline between three opposing forces: Kalinda and her allies, the demon disguised as Rajah Tarek, and the bhuta rebels. I didn't find it particularly interesting, but the pacing, characters, and writing are all generally better than in The Fire Queen. 

Sunday 10 December 2017

[article] Christmas Books

Christmas tiiiime, mistletoe and boooooks

Christmas Books

Or, Cold Makes Me Want To Curl Up With A Good Book

Now, this article isn't quite what you think it's gonna be. I was going to talk about my favourite novels that prominently feature Christmas in them, but being mainly a devourer of fantasy and sci-fi novels, such a list would go:

  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis

Hmm. That wouldn't be a very long article! Whilst I do thoroughly recommend the entire Narnia series (if you haven't read it, you definitely should!), that's not exactly article material. So instead, I'm going to write about books I love to read around Christmas, or books that I associate with Christmas. 

Thursday 7 December 2017

The Fire Queen (The Hundredth Queen #2), Emily R. King

"I made myself a champion. I won't make the same mistake twice"
Though the tyrant rajah she was forced to marry is dead, Kalinda’s troubles are far from over.  Kalinda has the allegiance of Captain Deven Naik, her guard and beloved, imprisoned for treason and stripped of command. With the empire at war, their best hope is to find Prince Ashwin, the rajah’s son, who has promised Deven’s freedom on one condition: that Kalinda will fight and defeat three formidable opponents.

With both the responsibility to protect her people and the fate of those she loves weighing heavily upon her, Kalinda is forced again to compete. She must test the limits of her fire powers and her hard-won wisdom. But will that be enough to unite the empire without sacrificing all she holds dear?

1 / 5

Without being facetious, the best thing about this book is the cover. It's lovely! Everything else ... meh. I felt the same way after finishing this book as I did after finishing Frostblood: like I've just read several hundred pages where, technically, lots of stuff is going on, but I just didn't care about any of it and now feel a bit weird. I had virtually zero emotional reaction to anything in this book, which is weird and unfortunate because I rather enjoyed The Hundredth Queen. 

Monday 4 December 2017

Ruined (Ruined #1), Amy Tintera

“I certainly have never had to pretend to be weak. But your mother is right. There's a benefit to being underestimated.”
Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. To find Olivia, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

* * *
3 / 5 

Ruined has a lot of classic fantasy tropes: warrior girl, dead parents, sisterly love, revenge plot, oppressed magical people, enemies to friends to maybe-lovers; the list goes on. This isn't necessarily bad, in fact Ruined was quite a fun read, but it's certainly nothing new. It's got some decent writing, a decent main character, and some moral nuances, but most importantly, lots of stabbing. It's definitely a better book than the synopsis suggests...

Friday 1 December 2017

[article] November Round-Up

So I finally read a Ryan Graudin book - just not the one I've owned for a year...

November Round Up

Despite my claim last month, November has become the month where I have read the least books this year! This month I have read a grand total of five books + around forty articles for my philosophy coursework. The good news is that I absolutely smashed the coursework, so now I can get back into a set of a good books. But besides being busy, I've also just been in a general book slump - at the moment I am slogging my way through The Rogue Queen, the last book in The Hundredth Queen trilogy by Emily King, and it's taking me a while - and so I've been channeling lots of my usual reading time into running.