Genre: Sci-Fi

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…

Hello, and yes I am still here.  It’s been two months since my last post.  It’s been a challenging couple of months both at work and at home, and so my blogging has very much suffered.  Things aren’t going to quieten down in the foreseeable future, so I’ll blog when I can, making no promises.  I sincerely apologise to the publishers who have been kind enough to send me ARCs – I suspect that I will not be able to meet my commitments to review these books, but my responsibilities to my employer who pays our bills and family must come first.  At this point in time, reading needs to remain an escape without pressure to review.

So onto the books I’ve read in the last couple of months.

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling, Newt Scamander
Series: Hogwarts School Books
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Eddie Redmayne
Length: 1 hr and 40 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

One of the pure joys of my reading/listening time recently has been the audiobook of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them narrated by Newt Scamander himself, Eddie Redmayne.  This was a wonderful surprise – I really wasn’t expecting it to be as entertaining as it was.  This is a “revised edition” film tie-in, to include an additional footnote by Scamander commenting on the events of the film and implying more editions will be released as more Fantastic Beasts films are released.  It certainly whetted my appetite for more of Mr Scamander’s adventures.  The audio edition is described as enhanced for audio with original sound design. This audiobook includes “audio footnotes” which have been treated with a sound effect to differentiate them from the main narration.  These includes very subtle sound effects of the various creatures about which Scamander is talking, which really added a lot to the listening experience.  What I hadn’t expected was just how funny it would be.  I regularly found myself laughing out loud.  Who knew that the Loch Ness Monster was actually a publicity hungry kelpie?  I suspect this will be a go-to book to put a smile on my face for a long time to come.

As a bonus, proceeds from the sale of the books go to Rowling’s Lumos charity and also the UK’s Comic Relief.  A wonderful listen and definitely worth the five stars I gave it.

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Stephen Fry
Length: 71 hours and 2 minutes
Genres: Mystery
Buy from iTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection narrated by Stephen Fry was somewhat of an impulse buy for me.  Audible just happened to announce the publication on Facebook at a time when I happened to have a spare, unspoken-for Audible credit (a rare occurrence.)  I don’t regret it at all.  As it happens I don’t have a Sherlock Holmes collection in my library and Stephen Fry’s introduction and narration adds a lot to the stories.  His passion for the source material really comes across and who could complain about listening to Fry’s melodious voice for 72 hours?  I can’t say I’ve listened to all the stories, but I’ve loved what I’ve listened to so far.

I gave Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection 4 stars.

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
Format: ARC
Pages: 513 pages
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Hachette was kind enough to send me an ARC of Claudia Gray’s upcoming YA sci-fi novel Defy the Stars.  Now, I’ve read quite a few of Ms Gray’s novels and really enjoyed them, which is why it’s a real shame I’m having to consign Defy the Stars to my didn’t finish pile.  See: introductory remarks.  It took me at least three attempts to get beyond the first few chapters of Defy the Stars, and I’m giving up at 50% or so through.  Maybe later I’ll be able to pick it up and enjoy it more.

Several choices made by Gray contributed to my struggles with this book.  She starts off the book with the sucker punch of stating that the main character will be dead in two weeks.  However, she didn’t provide a strong enough reason for me to really care about that.  Our protagonist, Noemi, is not an immediately sympathetic character;  interesting, sure, kick-ass certainly, but not a character you can root for at least in the beginning.  She is first and foremost a soldier.  Too many times Gray asked me to suspend my disbelief more than I was prepared to do.  Not disbelief in a situation but in how a character would act.  

On a positive side, the relationship developed between Noemi and the AI Abel was very well done and I would have enjoyed watching it develop as well as Abel’s growing humanity.  The world created by Gray was also – as usual for her – richly detailed and fascinating.  These were not enough to convince me to continue the story at this time.

As I did not finish it I will not assign any rating.

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Neil Gaiman
Length: 6 hrs and 29 mins
Genres: Mythology
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Norse Mythology, written and narrated by Neil Gaiman, was another book I specifically chose to experience in audiobook format, a choice I would wholeheartedly recommend.  In his introduction to the audiobook Gaiman speaks of the oral tradition through which much of the Norse mythology has come down to us.  This is clearly something that the production team bore in mind when making the audiobook and I really had the impression of listening to Mr Gaiman narrate his tales around a blazing hearth in the dark of winter.  

The tales themselves are fascinating, even though I understand they are somewhat sanitised by Mr Gaiman.  Readers of my blog know that I have been following Rick Riordan’s series Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, also based on this set of mythology.  It’s been a real treat to see how the same tales have been handled by two extremely talented and very different writers.

I gave Norse Mythology four and a half stars out of five

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
Series: Rain Wilds Chronicles
Format: eBook
Pages: 500 pages
Genres: Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

In my intense anticipation of Assassin’s Fate, the final book in Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool trilogy, I realised that there was a whole section of Hobb’s world about which I’ve not read.  i’m talking about her Rain Wild Chronicles.  I hope to read all four books before Assassin’s Fate is released on May 9th. If you’re interested, check out my initial reread of the Realm of the Elderlings.

As familiar as I am with Hobb’s writing, I knew that the first book in a new series is generally very slow, spending time introducing the characters and their struggles and motivations.  That is also true for Dragon Keeper.  It sets up the story very satisfactorily, at the expense of slow pacing.

I gave Dragon Keeper three and a half stars out of five.  Now onto Dragon Haven!

Upcoming releases

April is a very quiet month for me in terms of book releases about which I’m excited. Other than the aforementioned Defy the Stars, the other book i”m excited about is Red Sister by Mark Lawrence.  This is the first book in a new series set in a different world from The Broken Empire and Red Queen’s War.  It centres around a young female protagonist being trained as a killer in a convent.  This concept sounds awesome, if reminiscent of Robin LeFevers His Fair Assassin series.  In Lawrence’s hands I’m sure it will be wonderful and I can’t wait.  Red Sister will be released on April 4th.

five-stars

Most Anticipated Books of 2017

Now that 2016 is almost done, it’s time to talk about my most anticipated books of 2017.  Here in date order are the books I’m most looking forward to in 2017

Series continuations

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #2
Also in this series: Passenger
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 16 hours and 16 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboAudible
The first book I’m really anticipating next year is Wayfarer, the second and final book in Alexandra Bracken’s time travelling duology Passenger.  Bracken has created some wonderful characters and a solid and fascinating time travel story in this series.  As you’d expect with Bracken, the author of The Darkest Minds, the worldbuilding is incredible and the time travel system is beautifully developed and intriguing.  I love when magic/timetravel systems have clear limitations, which impact the story and characters.  I’m very much looking forward to the conclusion.

Wayfarer is released on January 3rd 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon
Series: The Bone Season #3
Also in this series: The Bone Season, The Mime Order
Format: eBook
Pages: 380 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon is the third book in the Bone Season series.  Now this is a series that has really grown on me.  It is a mixture of genres.  There’s a bit of fantasy, a bit of dystopian, a bit of politicking.  I will say though that this series may not be the easiest to pick up.  The worldbuilding (and associated jargon) is incredibly detailed and Shannon doesn’t ease the reader in gently.  Our protagonist, Paige Mahoney, is familiar with the world of the clairvoyants right from he beginning so the reader is expected to hit the ground running.  Once you get over that hurdle though the series is amazing.  It is very easy to get immersed in the world once you get to know it and our protagonist is very engaging.  I found the novella On the Merits of Unnaturalness extremely useful for getting into the world, and I would suggest you may want to pick this up first.  I’m very excited to read what’s next for Paige, Warden and their allies.

The Song Rising is released on March 7th 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb
Series: Fitz and the Fool #3
Also in this series: Fool's Assassin, Fool's Quest, Assassin's Fate
Format: eBook
Pages: 976 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb is probably the book from 2017 I’m most anxious to get my hands on, but at the same time I’m dreading the most.  This is the final book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy and, likely, the conclusion to Fitz and the Fool’s story.  Their relationship is one of my top fictional relationships, so I’m expecting to need a box of tissues while reading this book.  Their bond is so beautiful and exquisitely written by Hobb.  I’m certain Hobb will give us a perfect ending to the story, but it may well be bittersweet.  I see from Amazon that the book is over 900 pages; that’s up with GRRM or Brandon Sanderson territory.  Excellent!

Assassin’s Fate will be released on May 9th 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Dark Artifices #2
Also in this series: Lady Midnight
Format: eBook
Pages: 704 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Lord of Shadows is the second in Cassandra Clare’s The Dark Artifices series, set in her Shadowhunters world.  I loved Lady Midnight and am really excited for book two.  The world is awesome and the new characters are wonderfully engaging. This was a pretty easy autobuy for me.  Bring it on.

Lord of Shadows is released on May 23rd 2017.

The Core by Peter V. Brett
Series: The Demon Cycle
Format: eBook
Pages: 448 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
The Core is the fifth and final book in Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle.  Things are now in place for the final confrontation and Arlen and Jardir are ready to take the fight to the Corelings.  Rojer and Leesha will also have a role to play.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one ends.

The Core is released on August 15th 2017.

New Series

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
Series: Carve the Mark #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 480 pages
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Divergent author Veronica Roth has a new series coming out next year starting with Carve the Mark.  This is young adult sci-fi/fantasy novel set in a world in which a Force-like current pervades the universe and grants special powers or currentgifts to inhabitants.  We follow two teens, Cyra and Akos, whose worlds collide and who must decide whether to aid or thwart the other.  Although it’s one of my most anticipated reads, I do have some qualms about it.  It has a dual PoV, which Roth didn’t handle so well in Allegiant.  The world could either be amazing or it could be a mess.  I’m still intrigued enough to add this to my most anticipated reads of 2017, so time will tell on which side it falls.

Carve the Mark is released on January 17th 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Format: ARC
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: n/a
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

I admit I cheated here somewhat; I’ve actually already read Caraval by Stephanie Garber and LOVED it (I was lucky enough to pick up a copy at BEA).  It was one of my top reads of 2017 – the characters, the world and the twisty turny plot was breathtaking.  Don’t miss this one.  I’ve added it to my most anticipated reads of 2017 as I’m looking forward to experiencing it again.  I will pick it up in audiobook format as it’s being narrated by Lunar Chronicles narrator Rebecca Soler.  

Caraval is released on January 31st 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
Format: eBook
Pages: 480 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is a new series by Broken Empire writer Mark Lawrence.  It’s set in a different world to his previous series and centres on young nun assassin Nona Grey.  It immediately made me think of the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin Lafevers.  Lawrence is especially skilled at writing interesting, morally gray characters, so I’m very much looking forward to this.

Red Sister is released on April 4th 2017

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
Format: eBook
Pages: 512 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-Fi
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray is a new YA sci-fi series. I don’t know much about it other than the premise that young teen must work together with cantankerous AI to save her planet.  Gray is now an autobuy author for me and I trust that in her hands this will be a fantastic read.

Defy the Stars is released on April 4th 2017

Honorary mentions.  

There are a couple of books which don’t yet have release dates but which may, possibly, if the Fates are kind, be published in 2017.  

The first of these is, of course, George R. R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, book six in the Song of Ice and Fire.  The HBO TV series has bypassed the currently published books at this point, so certain things will be spoiled.  However, I still need to read Martin’s take on things.  Should WoW be be published in 2017 it will go straight to the top of my most anticipated reads.

Finally we have The Thorn of Emberlain, the next in Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series.  This was originally scheduled for October (I think) of 2016 but was postponed indefinitely.  I’m hoping it will be published in 2017, so let’s hope.

That’s all for this year – which of these upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – Review

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – Review1000 Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Series: Firebird #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Length: 9 hrs and 18 mins
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Mystery
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray is a YA sci-fi mystery in which teenager Marguerite Caine must use technology developed by her parents, the Firebird, to chase her father’s murderer across multiple dimensions.  She finds out that things aren’t as they first seemed.

I picked this book up partly because of this concept and partly because I’ve enjoyed books (Star Wars) by Claudia Gray.  Thanks to Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice I picked up both the Kindle book and the audiobook, narrated by Tavia Gilbert.  Most of the time I listened to the audiobook which was amazing.

What I liked

The concept.  I found this a really intriguing premise for a novel, moving into alternate dimensions to solve a murder mystery.  Gray comes from a sci-fi background and clearly has a firm handle on it.  It was a lot of fun when Marguerite jumped into a new dimension trying to work out what situation she was in! I’m not certain that I’d agree with the Orphan Black comparison; the main – only? – similarity is that characters frequently find themselves having to impersonate other people and to think on their feet to work out what’s going on. 

The audio narration.  Tavia Gilbert did an awesome job of narrating this book.  Her accent work was impeccable.  There’s a funny scene early on where Marguerite has fun with her current doppelganger’s accent.  That came across really well in audio format.  My one frustration with this is that often the accent “spoiled” in some way the leaps into new dimensions.  From the voices it was often clear where Marguerite had landed long before it was revealed in the text.  

The worldbuilding.  The fun thing with this concept is that Gray gets to build several worlds; the multiple alternate dimensions into which Marguerite leaps.  It would be too spoilery to name them all, but each of them is beautifully developed with supporting characters, rules and challenges for our protagonist.  The fact that Gray’s travel system has limitations was particularly well done – as in fantasy, often it’s the limitations in the magic system/technology which can generate the most interesting conflicts for the characters.  I loved that the dimensions had varying degrees of technological advancement which made things interesting.

The pacing.  Gray keeps the plot moving along fast, with new information and revelations keeping our protagonists – and readers – engaged.

What I didn’t like

The characters.  I found Marguerite somewhat bland.  The way her loyalty seemed to be so easily won and lost did not sit easily with me, and the revelations of the villains was a little too obvious.  The fact that Gray reverted to the trope of “the special”, our protagonist having unique traits which make her the only person capable of foiling the evil plot is rather disappointing.

Despite these flaws, I really loved 1000 Pieces of You and gave it four and a half stars out of five.  I will certainly be picking up the sequel soon.

four-half-stars

My month with Star Wars

Now, pretty much anyone who has an interest in popular culture is aware that the first Star Wars movie since 2005, The Force Awakens, was released on December 18th 2015.  Full disclosure: while I consider myself a fan of Star Wars, I have only dabbled in the Extended Universe/Legends supplementary material.  Like many, though, I was anxious to see what J.J. Abrams would make of Lucas’ legacy and booked my ticket to a showing on release day.  In anticipation of the event, I did a fair amount of preparation.  This blog post details my immersion in the world of Star Wars during the month of December.  Out of respect for the three of you out there who have not yet seen The Force Awakens, I will place my thoughts on the movie/audiobook itself below the cut.  

The Rewatch

Naturally, the main part of my pre Force Awakens preparation was a rewatch of the Star Wars movies released prior to Episode 7.  I chose to do this following machete order.  I urge you to check out the full link on why this order works, but in summary, you watch Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and then switch to the prequels Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith before finishing up with Return of the Jedi.  In essence, you treat the prequels as an extended flashback after Vader’s big reveal a the end of Empire explaining how that came about before concluding his character arc in Jedi.  Note that Phantom Menace disappears from the viewing entirely.  The creator of the machete order believed, rightly in my opinion, that losing Jar Jar Binks and midichlorians is only to the good, and anything explained in Menace is recapped in later films.

Machete order is especially good for those who have never seen any of the movies.  When my niece and nephew are old enough for their aunt to introduce them to Star Wars (three years old is still too young, isn’t it?) I will certainly be following this viewing suggestion.  It preserves the drama of the Vader reveal (which is lost if you watch the prequels first – their whole point is to set it up) while adding tension to Luke’s character arc.  You see Luke at the end of Empire, broken and in shock at the Vader reveal.  You then watch Anakin’s descent to the Dark Side.  When you next see Luke in Jedi, he has turned badass, Force choking guards and turning his beloved droids over to the evil Hutts.  Having seen Anakin’s fall really underscores the risk that Luke will turn to the Dark Side and makes his reappearance in Jedi a bit more of an “oh…crap” moment.

The other thing I got from the rewatch is just how much fun the original trilogy was compared to the prequels.  Seeing that Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan was back on duty for The Force Awakens gave me a great deal of confidence in the movie. The banter between our heroes and the sparks between Fisher’s Leia and Ford’s Han were a joy to watch. I finished my rewatch the afternoon before heading to The Force Awakens in the evening, which meant certain events in the movie hit so much harder.

The Alternative Prequels

While preparing my Star Wars watch I came across Belated Media’s YouTube channel which has videos entitled What if Star Wars Episode 1 was good? – one for each of the prequels.  In these videos he discusses changes he would make to the prequels to make them stronger.  While I don’t necessarily agree with all of his suggestions, many of them do make very good sense from a storytelling and character development point of view.  I particularly liked his suggestions of making the Obi Wan/Anakin relationship the core of the prequels rather than the Anakin/Padme one.  This would add so much more emotional resonance to their final confrontation at the end of Revenge of the Sith.

Go check these out – they are well worth watching.

Now we come to my thoughts on The Force Awakens.  If you’ve already seen it, join me after the cut

(more…)

four-stars

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015

And here we go for the second part of my reading catchup in which I discuss Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Series: Mistborn #5
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Michael Kramer
Length: 12 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: three-stars

Shadows of Self is the second in Sanderson’s Wax and Wayne series (or the fifth Mistborn, however you like to look at it) and is set in the same world as the Mistborn trilogy only several hundred years later at a point in which the society is on the cusp of becoming industrialised.   It has a deliberate steampunk feel to it.  Sanderson is known as a master of worldbuilding, plot, pacing and magic systems and that is certainly borne out in Shadows of Self.  The plot is imaginative, the pacing excellent and the magic system/worldbuilding outstanding as always.  However, the more (recent) books of his I read, the more I realise I’m not very fond of his writing style.  For me, personally, the informal style does not match the setting.  It could be this is a deliberate choice by the writer – I know from his work on The Wheel of Time and The Stormlight Archive that he can use a more formal style when necessary – in which case I have to disagree with his choice for these recent books.

Alternatively, it could be that he’s under pressure to crank out too many books – he’s a massively prolific writer – and perhaps each book is not receiving the full care and attention to detail it needs.

Because of this, I gave Shadows of Self three stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Illuminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 608 pages
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a young adult adventure story imaginatively told through a collection of documents.  We follow Kady and Ezra as they are forced to flee their planet after it is invaded.

Now, I’m going to say something I don’t often say;  PLEASE don’t buy this book in ebook format.  Pick up the hard copy instead.  Because formatting is an intrinsic part of the story, the ebook is often scanned images rather than text.  This means that you lose all the advantages of using an ereader – font size adjustment, searching for example.  More worryingly, when I tried to read it on my iPad, a significant number of these images were missing, meaning I lost a whole chunk of the story.  I only noticed this because I was following along with the audiobook at the same time.  The images were present in the Kindle, but I found the text very small and sometimes difficult to read.  So do your eyes a favour and skip the ebook in favour of the hardback.

In an ideal world, you would experience this book in both hard copy and audiobook format.  The audiobook is narrated by a full voice cast and is absolutely wonderful.  I highly recommend it.  However, by listening to the audiobook alone you miss out on the formatting of the book which also adds an extra dimension.

Although the unusual format is one of the key attractions of this book, the story itself more than holds its own – I was enthralled by Kady and Ezra’s dilemma, and the ending is fantastic. It really made me anxious to read the next book.   

The only other comment I would make is that some of the attempts to create tension fail because of the structure.  We know from the “briefing notes” that the collection of documents that make up the book were put together after the fact.  This makes things like the countdown til various events rather pointless.

I gave Illuminae four stars out of five.  

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Euan Morton
Length: 13 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Cutesy romance, Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

From time to time a book will come along in which plot, character, pacing, worldbuilding and writing come together to create something wonderful.  For me that book was Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.  Carry On is a follow up to Rowell’s Fangirl – Carry On is the final book in the series about which our fangirl protagonist is obsessed.  I should point out that it’s not necessary to have read Fangirl before reading Carry On.

I will admit that initially I wasn’t too interested in reading Carry On.  Fangirl was one of the few Rainbow Rowell books I did not finish. However some glowing reviews encouraged me to reconsider and I’m very glad I did.

Carry On follows the final school year of Simon Snow, a Harry Potteresque Chosen One, destined to save the magical world from the Insidious Humdrum.  As well as the impending confrontation with the Humdrum, Simon must also deal with his growing feelings for his vampire roommate Baz.  The book is a perfect blend of humour, romance adventure and wonderful character moments and I highly recommend it.

I gave Carry On a resounding five stars out of five.

More mini reviews later!

three-stars

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015

First of all, my apologies for not having posted much in the last few weeks – I’ve been too busy reading to write about reading.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, in the months of October and November there were a shedload of new releases about which I was very excited.  I’ve only just now caught up with all of the new books in my life.  Some of the reviews will be quite brief as it’s been quite a while and several books ago that I read them It will take a couple of posts to go through them all so let’s get started.

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Madeleine Maby
Length: 10 hrs and 21 mins
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Scorpion Rules is the first in Erin Bow’s Children of Peace YA series.  In Bow’s world, peace is maintained by an AI named Talis who forces each country’s leaders to provide a child or grandchild as a Child of Peace – if the country enters a war, the hostage is killed.  The book centres around a young princess named Greta, whose orderly world as a hostage is shaken by the arrival of a new Child of Peace, Elian.  Elian is new to the hostage system and struggles to adapt.  Things escalate when Greta’s and Elian’s countries declare war.

I really loved the concept and worldbuilding in this book.  I found the idea of the Children of Peace to be intriguing and well written.  Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way about the human characters, especially Greta whom I found to be very bland and irritating.  It is kind of a problem when the artificial intelligence is more interesting than the humans.  Think Siri with the world’s nuclear codes.  It’s fair to say though that the events of the book have changed Greta and she promises to be more interesting in future books.

I gave The Scorpion Rules four stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Christopher Guetig
Length: 15 hrs and 20 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
I really love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and I was very excited for this  new one with Norse mythology.  His writing is always filled with such humour, and Sword of Summer was no exception.  I did realise, though, how unfamiliar I am with Norse mythology compared to Greek/Roman although Riordan did a great job of filling in the blanks.

Sword of Summer is pretty much what you would expect from a Rick Riordan book and I gave it four stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
Series: The Cinder Spires #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Euan Morton
Length: 21 hrs and 46 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
My attention had been drawn to this book because of two things; Jim Butcher and talking cats.  I enjoy Butcher’s Dresden Files series, and I am a real cat person so picking up this book was a no brainer.

The Aeronaut’s Windless is Butcher’s first foray into a kind of steampunk genre and as such it feels very different from the stories of Chicago consulting wizard Harry Dresden.  Butcher has created a vast new world with politics, magic and aerial battles.  I liked the characters as well, especially Rawl the cat and Folly.  It made me wish for a whole book from the cats’ perspectives.

I gave the Aeronaut’s Windlass four stars out of five.

More mini reviews soon!

four-stars

Reading roundup – September 16th 2015

This last couple of weeks I’ve read some great and some not so great books.  Here they are.

Reading roundup – September 16th 2015The Martian by Andy Weir
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: R.C. Bray
Length: 10 hrs and 53 mins
Genres: Sci-Fi
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Now sci-fi isn’t my usual fare, especially where there is more emphasis on the science than the fiction, but The Martian has been getting so much buzz lately that I decided to check it out.  Within a few minutes of listening I was hooked by Watney’s situation; abandoned on Mars, has to use his ingenuity to survive in an inhospitable environment until rescue can come.  Written as it is in a first-person journalistic style this is a perfect book for the audiobook medium, and R.C. Bray did a wonderful job of bringing Mark to life.  Mark is a very witty and engaging protagonist and it is very easy to root for him.  Weir did a fantastic job of explaining the various challenges Mark encounters and his solutions in a way that was easily comprehensible to someone like me who is not science minded.  The story of Mark’s plight and his attempts to secure his rescue was very appealing on a human level.

I gave The Martian five stars out of five.

Reading roundup – September 16th 2015Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton
Series: Agatha Raisin #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Length: 6 hrs and 26 mins
Genres: Mystery
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I picked up Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death some while ago when it was the Audible deal of the day.  It caught my eye because it was narrated by Penelope Keith, a favourite actress of mine. 

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death is the first in a series of mystery novels about a retired London PR executive who moves to the English Cotswolds and solves crimes.  I must admit it’s not my favourite mystery series.  As a protagonist, Agatha is distinctly unappealing.  She is the kind of woman who thinks nothing of using a disabled parking space because it’s convenient, or in this case, presenting a store bought quiche in a competition as her own baking.  Her interactions with those around her are generally abrasive and self-centred.  I suspect that later on in the series she may become more likeable, but for this book, she wasn’t the pleasantest person to spend time with.  The mystery was fun.  I’m generally useless at predicting whodunnit, so I can’t say how clever it was.

What I did very much enjoy was the narration.  Growing up the UK, Ms Keith was a staple of comedy TV – The Good Life and To the Manor Born.  Check them out if you’ve not seen them.  She has over 45 years’ experience in television, theatre and radio, and it shows in her witty and competent handling of the narration.  

I gave Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death three stars out of five, but the narration merits five stars.

Reading roundup – September 16th 2015William Shakespeare's Tragedy of the Sith's Revenge by Ian Doescher
Series: William Shakespeare's Star Wars #3
Also in this series: The Empire Striketh Back, The Jedi Doth Return
Format: eBook
Pages: 168 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKobo
Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

The Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge is the last in Ian Doescher’s retelling of Star Wars in Shakespearean language. These are very clever, but my enjoyment of them reflects my enjoyment of the source material.  I did not enjoy the prequel trilogy nearly as much, and so I’ve not enjoyed the adaptation to the same extent.  The original trilogy is deliberately based on the Monomyth which gives it an epic feel, perfectly suiting it to a Shakespearean adaptation.  The prequel trilogy seems more based on special effects which doesn’t pass so well in a Shakespearean setting.

Also, when R2 started channeling Elsa from Frozen saying he should let it go and that the heat never bothered him anyway, I found that a little too distracting.  Your mileage may vary.

I gave The Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge three and a half stars out of four.

Reading roundup – September 16th 2015Queen Song by Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #0.5
Also in this series: Glass Sword
Format: eBook
Pages: 45 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Evelynne's rating: three-stars

I very much enjoyed Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen, so I was keen to pick up the novella Queen Song set in the same world.  I found it very disappointing.  It had none of the great worldbuilding of the main novel and, to be perfectly honest, I found the book just depressing.  I am still very much looking forward to Glass Sword, book two in the series.

I gave Queen Song three stars out of five.

That’s all for this week folks.  See you next time.  Happy reading!

five-stars

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder – Review

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder – ReviewLockstep by Karl Schroeder
Format: ARC
Pages: 352 pages
Genres: Sci-Fi
Buy from AmazonKoboAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder is a space opera sci-fi novel which tells the story of Toby McGonigal who wakes up after a drift into cold sleep to be confronted with a new and confusing world.  He must learn about the lockstep and his place within this new society.  I was given a free copy by Tor/McMillan to review. I should point out straight off the bat that sci-fi/space opera is not a genre with which I am very familiar.  In some ways that is a good thing; I am not so clued in to the standard tropes of the genre, as I am with contemporary fantasy, which means I can approach the story with perhaps fresher eyes.  On the other hand, I freely admit some of Schroeder’s subtleties may have been lost on me.
 
What I liked

The lockstep concept.  Because I am not so familiar with the genre, it took me a little time to get my head around the lockstep concept, but once I did get the general picture I could really appreciate what Schroeder did.  I’m not going to try to explain it – go read the book.  What I did like about it was the narrative tension it introduced for the characters.  Being a part of the lockstep or not is a decision that you cannot go back on.  I also felt that the concepts behind lockstep were very interesting; resource management and technological advancement.  
 
The denners.  Orpheus, Toby’s pet/plot device, is just so darned cute, especially when Toby gets the glasses and app allowing Orpheus to communicate with him in emoticons.  I really want one of those apps for my cat.  Mind you, I’m pretty sure Isis’s emoticon would be a pretty constant “feed me.”
 
The ending.  Perhaps it was a little cheesy and too easy, but I loved it.  I finished the book with a smile on my face.  In all fairness, though, I do believe the way Peter’s and Evayne’s characters were developed that it was earned.
 
What I didn’t like

The love interest angle.  I really didn’t buy the Toby/Corva relationship.  It felt rather forced to me, given that both of them were dealing with a whole lot of other urgent issues during the book.
 
Other than that, I would recommend Lockstep and gave it four stars out of five.
 
 buy from Amazon, Kobo, Audible, eBooks.com, Indiebound
 

Technorati Tags: , ,

four-stars

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The Archived by Victoria SchwabThe Archived by Victoria Schwab
Series: The Archived #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 337 pages
Genres: Mystery, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

The Archived by Victoria Schwab is another book that has been gathering great buzz on the booktuber network, and with good reason.  It is a very fresh young adult paranormal mystery with great characters and excellent worldbuilding.  it tells the story of Mackenzie Bishop, a young woman who has a secret job as  Keeper; in the world of The Archive, when you die, your life history is recorded and kept in the Archive, physically represented by a copy of your body.  Occasionally a History will wake and try to escape to the real world and it’s a Keeper’s role to return this History to the Archive.

When Mackenzie moves to a new area she finds that her Keeper territory is extremely busy and that it could be related to a series of murders that took place in her new building as well as an an internal betrayal within the Archive.  She must investigate this connection as well as adapt to her new home.

What I liked

The supernatural murder mystery.  I really enjoyed the way this was built up with various suspects and roadblocks to information.  I enjoyed that Mackenzie had to use both her supernatural and her normal powers of deduction to work out what was happening.

The worldbuilding.  I enjoyed learning with Mackenzie about the Archive’s secrets.  The novel also incorporates flashbacks to the time when Mackenzie first became a Keeper and her induction.  This was an effectively done way of providing the information without slowing down the pacing.

The writing style.  Schwab clearly has a classicist background with references to both Faust and other classical literature.  Her writing style is clear, crisp and very engaging.

Identity questions.  Mackenzie has been a Keeper since she was twelve years old and it is a major part of her life.  Some of the time she wishes she were ordinary – she thinks of the normal girl she would have been without the Archive and identifies her as “M.”  Yet she fears losing her Keeper identity.  I felt this conflict was very well done, as was the way the M persona was in a way turned against her.

What I didn’t like

Slow start.  It took me a little while to become immersed in the world of the Archive.  This was partly due to my confusion between “Da” Mackenzie’s deceased grandfather, who was the previous Keeper from whom she inherited the role, and “Dad” who is her perfectly normal father.   I kept wondering what the deal was with her father, who I’d assumed to be dead and the person from whom she’d inherited her role.

The romance.  I didn’t particularly feel invested in the Wes/Mackenzie romance.  I’m not entirely certain why.  Perhaps I felt it was a little too contrived.

All in all, I loved The Archived and gave it four and a half stars out of five.

From Netgalley I received a sneak preview of the first few chapters of The Unbound, the sequel.  In it, Mackenzie is dealing with some serious post-traumatic stress after the events of The Archive as well as adjusting to her new school.  Given what she learned about the Archive, this poses a serious threat for Mackenzie’s future.  We also meet some new characters at the school.  I was particularly interested in Amber Killey who seems good best-friend material, a relationship that was rather on the back burner in The Archived.

The Unbound is released later on this month and I have preordered it from Amazon.  I’m looking forward to reading the next chapter in Mackenzie’s story.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes

four-half-stars

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – Review

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – ReviewScarlet by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
Also in this series: Cinder, Cress, Fairest - Levana's Story
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 11 hours and 19 minutes
Genres: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer is the second in The Lunar Chronicles series and is loosely based on the fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood.  The narrative is split between continuing the story of Cinder from the first book and following Scarlet as she attempts to find and rescue her kidnapped grandmother.

What I liked

Strong, intelligent protagonist.  Scarlet, like the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood, is a spirited, feisty young heroine and a lot of fun to read.  I enjoyed her story and watching her learn about her grandmother’s secrets.  I was amused that at the end both of the male protagonists were out of commission and it was up to the ladies to save the day.

Intriguing love interest.  The character of Wolf was very well written.  Meyer deliberately keeps the character’s motivations unclear right until the very end and the way Meyer fulfilled the fairytale’s wolf role was masterfully done.

There are probably fewer iconic moments to bring over from Little Red Riding Hood – the red cape of course, “what big eyes you have, grandma” and both of those do make an appearance.  I loved the way Meyer brought those and the wolves into her narrative – it was very imaginatively done – and well woven into the broader story arc of Cinder and the Lunar Queen.

The pacing.  Having the dual points of view kept the pacing moving along very quickly.  it also allowed for mini cliffhangers as Meyer would switch PoV just at a crucial point.

The narration.  Once again, Rebecca Soler took on narration duties and I loved her interpretation.  She gave unique voices to the characters and enacted the directions “she said, snippily” excellently.  Here’s a sample.

What I didn’t like

Again there was nothing I disliked about Scarlet.  Meyer’s world and characters are just so beautifully written.

I gave Scarlet five stars out of five.

From Netgalley and Amazon I picked up the first few chapters in the sequel, Cress, which is due out in early February 2014.  This continues the story of Cinder and Scarlet and throws the spotlight on Cress, a character we met briefly in Cinder.  Cress is loosely based on the fairytale of Rapunzel, and even in the first few chapters I loved the character.  I really look forward to seeing more of the interaction between “Big Sister” and “Little Cress.”  It’s already clear from the excerpt how Meyer is weaving the fairytale into this story and the wider narrative.

I really look forward to reading Cress, and it’s on my pre-order lists at both Audible and Amazon.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com

five-stars
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers