Tag Archives: angels

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Outside by Ada Hoffmann #Brainfluffbookreview #TheOutsidebookreview

Standard

The cover of this one caught my eye – and the fact that it is an Angry Robot book by a female author unknown to me. So I was delighted when I was approved to read it…

The Pride of Jai was supposed to be humanity’s greatest accomplishment—a space station made entirely by humans and their primitive computers, without “divine” cyber-technology provided by the sentient quantum supercomputers worshipped as Gods. And it was supposed to be a personal triumph for its young lead scientist, physicist Yasira Shien, whose innovative mathematics was key to the reactor powering it. But something goes wrong—placing Yasira in the sights of angry Angels, the cyborg servants of the Gods…

I’ve tweaked and streamlined the very chatty blurb, but this original, dystopian science fiction adventure features brilliant Yasira Shien, who happens to be on the autistic spectrum and gay. I liked the main protagonist, whose autism was convincingly depicted throughout, especially when she was in difficult situations – which happened a lot, especially when everything went to hell in a handcart on The Pride of Jai. Her emotions around Tiv, her lover, are clearly strong but curiously limited in the manner in which she thinks of her and describes her – but that also chimes with her being autistic. Her mentor, Dr Talirr, also one of the main characters, is also autistic but more profoundly affected than Yasira in that she struggles to connect with anyone – except Yasira, and even then she finds it very difficult, except in a time of ultimate crisis, to reach out to her. I thought it heartening to have two major characters so atypical and I think Hoffmann has brilliantly depicted them.

In contrast to the two main human protagonists is the main antagonist, Akavi. He/It is a cyborg angel charged with preventing the Outside – a fractured quantum-like reality that twists and warps our own space-time continuum and anyone unfortunate to get caught up in it – from breaking through. And when the Outside does manifest, Akavi has the task of hushing up the whole incursion. This cyborg has been designed to interact effectively with humans, persuading them to trust and rely on him, all the while well aware that if he doesn’t sort out the problem, he is likely to be effectively killed. As he is immortal, this is a very big deal – and in comparison, human lives are of little consequence, so he doesn’t mind if a number of them are killed in the process. Although no one wants to provoke mortals into rebelling again as the last time that happened, the war was messy and killed far too many of them. Besides, the cyborg angels need humanity.

If you’re thinking this is an intriguing set-up, you’re right. Overall, I really enjoyed the twists and turns of this ambitious sci fi adventure, which effectively raised questions such as – what is it that makes us human? What is the nature of reality and how do we define it when it starts fraying at the edges? And how do we ultimately define ourselves? Highly recommended for fans of intelligent science fiction adventure featuring atypical protagonists. While I obtained an arc of The Outside from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Advertisements

Friday Faceoff – The first Noel…

Standard

This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week’s theme is angels, so I have chosen The House of Shattered Wings – Book 1 of Dominion of the Fallen series by Aliette de Bodard.

 

thehouseofshatteredwingsThis is the cover produced by Gollancz August 2015. I love this one. I think it is one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen, as well as accurately depicting the slightly mysterious and disturbing tone of the book. So it’s my favourite of the covers here.

 

thehouseofshatteredwings1This is the cover produced by Roc in August 2015 for the hardcover edition. Once again, I think it is a lovely effort – while it may not quite achieve the shimmering awesomeness of the Gollancz cover, the flaming feathers against a night sky is a haunting, beautiful image.

 

thehouseofshatteredwings2This edition is also published in August 2015 by Gollancz – and I’m not quite sure why… It is also a paperback edition, same as the first cover. While there’s nothing wrong with the cover or the design, it certainly feels like the downmarket version of the first offering, given it has lost the fantastic rainbow effect and raised stippling of the feathers that gives the original cover its wow factor.

 

thehouseofshatteredwings3This is the CD edition, produced in August 2015 by Blackstone Audiobooks. Yet another excellent cover, this design features a gothic arch so typical of many Parisian churches. I also think the font on this edition works very well.

All in all, while this penultimate set of 2016 covers might not exactly bristle with Christmas cheer, they are certainly lovely and otherworldly… Do you agree with me – which of these covers is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Ghoul King – Book 2 of the Dreaming Cities series by Guy Haley

Standard

When I requested this one from NetGalley, I wasn’t aware that it was a novella or part of a series. However I’m glad about that, because I probably wouldn’t have chosen it otherwise, which would have been a shame.

theghoulkingThe Knight, Quinn, is down on his luck, and he travels to the very edge of the civilized world – whatever that means, any more – to restock his small but essential inventory. After fighting a series of gladiatorial bouts against the dead, he finds himself in the employ of a woman on a quest to find the secret to repairing her semi-functional robot. But the technological secret it guards may be one truth too many…

I’ve recently read The City of Mirrors, Justin Cronin’s post-apocalyptic tale of a ruined America struggling to cope after a plague of cannibalistic creatures that were once human – see my review here. This adventure has many similarities – set in a post-apocalypse America where nests of vampire-like ghouls lodge in derelict buildings. The difference in The Ghoul King is that surviving humanity is ruled by fearsome angelic beings, who decree that no technology is allowable for any reason – and back up that edict with terrible punishments.

The fact I hadn’t read the first slice of this adventure didn’t matter – I was quickly swept up into the action, following Quinn as he was plunged in the middle of an action-packed quest. Haley writes with pace and economy, managing to pack a great deal in a short amount of time. I didn’t particularly bond with Quinn, but then I don’t think we’re supposed to. However, I really liked Jaxon, the healer driven to rebel as he finds himself treating patients who are dying of illnesses entirely preventable – if only he had access to some of the old, forbidden knowledge. The story is told in first person viewpoint as Jaxon is interrogated by the authorities.

There are some interesting twists along the way  and the ending satisfactorily tied up the story arc, while leaving a couple of dangling ends in readiness for the next instalment in this desperate, ruined world. I have found myself thinking about it at times, while supposedly working on something else, which is always a sure sign that a book has ticked all the boxes. If you are a Justin Cronin fan, then consider tracking down this bite-sized post-apocalyptic world – it is worth it. I received an arc copy of this novella from the publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 21st June, 2016

Standard

Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
6%: He zooms forward so quickly I lose sight of him. I stumble back from the magicbitterwoods’ edge, my heart in my throat as he appears before me, his face close to mine. His hands jut forward as though to grab my shoulders, but he is as ephemeral as a spectre, and they pass right through me.
“Your name!” he shouts, breathless. “Your name, tell me your name!”

BLURB: Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from. And then this ghostly winged man starts to appear to her – and nothing is the same, again…

I’ve significantly tweaked the blurb, because once again, it insists on telling one of the major plotpoints in the narrative that I think is far better experienced as a reader. This book is an interesting approach to the slew of fairytale retellings we’ve seen appear – a story that weaves a path between a number of them… It is a tale of loss and longing and Maire’s struggle to recall who she is and what has happened to her. I’ve really enjoyed reading it and my review will be appearing shortly.

Review of The House of Shattered Wings – Book 1 of the Dominion of the Fallen by Aliette de Bodard

Standard

I’d like to claim I tracked this book down because the book blogging sites I frequent were all recommending it, which they did. But the truth is – I took one look at the scrumptious cover and immediately knew I had to read it.

Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a houseofshatteredwingsburnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital. House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls. Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, a alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…

Madeline, Silverspires’ overworked, failing alchemist who is haunted by fear of the past; Isobel the newly fallen, who was attacked by Phillipe, a gang member with a chequered past – these three characters are at the centre of this gothic, post-apocalyptic mystery. Each of them are marked by what has happened in their pasts, even if they cannot fully recall what it was. All the houses are scrabbling to hold onto their power so they can continue to repel the hungry, dispossessed Parisians eking out an existence amongst the magic-scorched ruins.

de Bodard’s evocation of this wrecked landscape and the yearning for past glories is vivid, giving this book a broken sense of what was and will never be, again. Not that the narrative hangs about. Right from the moment Isabel crashes from Heaven and lands on Silverspires’ territory, the action kicks off – often brutal and surprising, but always engrossing.

As well as capable of providing a memorable backdrop for her action, de Bodard’s strength is providing complex, troubled characters, none of whom are particularly likeable or easy to empathise with – they are all too damaged, or so suffused with magic and age to be able to immediately identify with them. However, they are also absolutely riveting and despite the small, unfriendly font I found myself reading long into the night to discover what would happen next. And plenty did…

The narrative arc is very well handled – I can understand this book’s popularity. Though the setting and character complexity are reminiscent of literary speculative fiction, the pace and narrative tension is all you could wish for in a genre read, which is fine by me. The result is an extraordinarily vivid read, brimming with atmosphere and action that builds to a strong climax and a shocking denouement. I’m delighted this offering is part of a series and will be looking out for the next book, The House of Binding Thorns, due out next year.
10/10

Review of Dreams of Gods and Monsters – Book 3 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

Standard

I really enjoyed the other two books in this series – read my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone here. Would this, the final book in the series, bring this gripping story to a sufficiently satisfying ending? Because, given the scope and epic tone of this adventure, the conclusion needs to be a resounding finale and anything less simply won’t do.

dreamsofgodsandmonstersOnce upon a time, an angel and a devil pressed their hands to their hearts and started the Apocalypse. When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and in the skies of Eretz… something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

You see what I mean? This isn’t a book that is able to end on a whimper – it has to go out on a bang. So does Taylor deliver? Oh yes. Her larger-than-like style encompasses betrayal, brutality, double-crossing and vengeance, as well as convincingly portraying the searing love between Akiva and Karou, which is a lot more difficult to successfully achieve than she makes it look.

Taylor niftily introduced new plotlines into each book featuring new characters, alongside the main protagonists we had already bonded with, which could have ended in a muddled mess in less capable hands. And in this book, we meet up with Eliza, plagued with nightmares of terrible creatures since she was a child. I really enjoyed following her journey and trying to work out exactly where she would fit into the overarching narrative. What this did, during most of the book, was give us a human scale for the immense, world-changing events that were sweeping through Earth and Eretz – and no,  I didn’t see the plot twists coming that pulled the story into the finale. Another favourite character is Akiva’s grim half- sister, Liraz, whose journey throughout the series has interestingly mirrored Akiva’s own narrative arc. Taylor’s skill in handling her progression to her final position in the book demonstrates both her adept writing and her innate understanding of these epic, feral characters she has created.

While there isn’t quite so much of the blood-soaked brutality that characterised Days of Blood and Starlight – see my review here – there is still plenty of full-on action. And once again, the humorous interchanges between Karou and her bestie Zuzana provided some light relief – even if the jokes are somewhat mordant.

But the more I think about all the elements that go towards that finale, there isn’t a dangling thread, or a misstep that has me wincing – it is all satisfying resolved, for good or ill. However whatever you do, don’t pick this book up if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of the first two in the series. Taylor provides sufficient clues that you won’t be left adrift, but even so, this series deserves to be read in the correct order.
10/10

Review of Days of Blood and Starlight – Book 2 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor

Standard

The first book Daughter of Smoke and Bone – see my review here – was recommended by fellow blogger and author, Sara Letourneau. It blew me away with the quality of the writing, the sheer vividness of the world and the storytelling with the plot twists that I didn’t see coming. Would I enjoy the second book as much?

daysofbloodandstarlightOnce upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying. Once the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness. This was not that world.

I turned from the first book, humming with excitement and shock at the ending – and found myself initially slightly adrift. The opening chapters are a little fractured and Taylor didn’t devote any time in rebonding us with the two main protagonists and star-crossed lovers. I’ll be honest – I was a bit disappointed. However, the excellence of the writing continued to draw me in and I soon became drawn into the story, once again. Taylor’s prose style is poetical and doesn’t hold back – her epic tone could so easily be overblown, verging on parody if she wasn’t as gifted as she is. It gives her apocalyptic world, wracked with war, a tragic, almost operatic edge.

The characters are similarly larger than life. The war weariness and grief suffered by both Akiva and Karou are so bitingly depicted, I could all but taste it. For as the war becomes ever more bitter and bloody, at what point do they abandon their duty to their fellow fighters and own species – and commit the ultimate betrayal, namely treason? Karou is particularly caught, as without her the embattled chimaera don’t have a chance. Not a state of affairs that their leader, the savage wolf leader, Thiago, at all relishes.

I really enjoyed the fact that neither side is the ‘good’ side, or the ‘bad’ side. Both angels and chimaera are capable of acts of dreadful savagery and yet, there are warriors on both sides who also show mercy. It is the leaders on both sides who are the savages – particularly the ghastly Emperor Joram, who I loved to hate. As Karou is battling with these weighty matters, the chirpy humour she displays in Daughter of Bone and Smoke has been knocked out of her, so until her two friends Zuzana and Mik pop up, there isn’t much light relief. Himself has struggled to get through this book because in the depths of February, he has found it a rather bleak read. There are also high levels of violence, and while there is nothing gratuitous, the hefty mood music created by prose highlights the senselessness of the slaughter. However, I was pulled along by the power of the story and the vividness of the characters.

This is a powerful story that will reverberate with me for a while – but whatever you do, don’t start this series with Days of Blood and Starlight. In order to do justice to the story arc you really must get hold of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but if you have read it, then do track this one down and if you do, persist with it – it’s worth it.
9/10

20 16 Discovery Challenge – January

Standard

After reading Joanne Hall’s post here, I decided to also take part in the Discovery Challenge – that of reading and reviewing at least two female authors new to me every month. So how did the year start?

The answer is – extremely well. Unsustainably well, if the truth be known… During January I read and reviewed FOUR books by women authors I hadn’t previously encountered…

The Puppet Boy of Warsaw by Eva Weaver
This book was buried near the bottom of my teetering TBR pile for longer than I care to think – but I’m trying to clear the books I know I still want to read and review from… way back when.

thepuppetboyWhen his grandfather dies, Mika inherits his great coat – and its treasure trove of secrets. In one hidden pocket, he discovers the puppet prince. Soon, Mika is performing puppet shows in even the darkest, most cramped corners of the ghetto, bringing cheer to those who have lost their families, those who are ill and those who are afraid for their future – until he is stopped by a German soldier and forced into a double life of danger and secrecy.

This is an interesting read – for me, the standout aspect was that unlike so many tales set in WWII, the story continues after the war, charting the devastating effects of what happened on the protagonists, which gave it a more realistic feel for me. Read my full review here.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Himself picked this up in Waterstones with some of his Christmas money, after reading the cover blurb – and I was very glad he did…

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his Truthwitchruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home. Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

This is fun. It starts with a bang as the two girls become entangled in a harebrained scheme of Safi’s that goes wrong – there’s nothing new in that, apparently. What is unusual is the scope of the disaster, which eventually has the girls on the run from their lives just as they were planning to strike out together. This is full-on adventure and the key relationship that powers the narrative drive in this story is the bond between the two girls, rather than the romantic entanglement – a pleasant change. This YA paranormal coming-of-age adventure is action-packed fun – see my review here.

Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
This much-anticipated debut novel is from a writer who got a lot of attention for her short story collection Battleborn, published in 2012.

GoldfamecitrusDesert sands have laid waste to the south-west of America. Las Vegas is buried. California – and anyone still there – is stranded. Any way out is severely restricted. But Luz and Ray are not leaving. They survive on water rations, black market fruit and each other’s need. Luz needs Ray, and Ray must be needed. But then they cross paths with a mysterious child, and the thirst for a better future begins. It’s said there’s a man on the edge of the Dune Sea. He leads a camp of believers. He can find water. Venturing into this dry heart of darkness, Luz thinks she has found their saviour. For the will to survive taps hidden powers; and the needed, and the needy, will exploit it.

This literary apocalyptic, near-future scenario is of a broken, desiccated California and two people struggling to fit into the tatters of civilisation. In places the writing is brilliant and extraordinary – but it is also uneven with erratic pacing and jarring viewpoint switches that leach a lot of the power and tension from the prose. See my full review here.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
I picked up this book after blogging buddy and fellow writer Sara Letourneau particularly recommended it to me during one of our many chats about books. And when I saw the fabulous cover I was instantly smitten.daughterofsmokeandbone

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. One the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; one the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’. She has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

This coming-of-age fantasy offering puts an original spin on the angel-versus-demon conflict that I really enjoyed – to the extent that I’m in the process of tracking down the other two books in the trilogy. See my full review here.

All these authors are powerful, effective writers who have crafted engrossing, readable novels and I’m very glad that I have become aware of their work. Have you come across any female authors you hadn’t previously encountered, recently?

Teaser Tuesday – 2nd February

Standard

This is a weekly meme set up by Jenn at A Daily Rhythm.TeaserTuesdays-ADailyRhythm3-300x203

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Days of Blood and Starlight – Book 2 of  the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor

P. 60 She didn’t know why this part of the process unsettled her so much; she supposed it was the image of two creatures going off into the scree and only one coming back. She hadn’t seen the pit, and she hoped she never would, but some days she could smell it: a fug of decay that gave reality to what was usually remote.

daysofbloodandstarlightBLURB: Once upon a time an angel and a devil feel in love and dared to imagin a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was alike a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

 

Review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor

Standard

I picked up this book after blogging buddy and fellow writer Sara Letourneau particularly recommended it to me during one of our many chats about books. And when I saw the fabulous cover I was instantly smitten – would the book live up to it?

daughterofsmokeandboneIn general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. One the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; one the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’. She has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

This coming-of-age fantasy offering puts an original spin on the angel-versus-demon conflict that I really enjoyed. Karou is an engaging, sparky protagonist with some issues that make her stand out from the crowd – blue hair being one of them. She could so easily have descended into a Mary Sue, but Taylor’s writing is far too good for her to fall into an obvious trap like that. In fact, there are all sorts of pitfalls that are deftly avoided in this outstanding offering – it could have become just another slushy romance with lots of smart dialogue as they dance around each other before the inevitable lurve scene. It could have been a good-versus-evil retread, with Earth on the verge of the apocalypse…

And it is none of the above. The writing bounces off the page, crackling with vigour and magic as Taylor weaves a picture of a complex world where angels and their erstwhile slaves are locked in a terrible war that has ground on for too many years. Each side has inflicted terrible defeats on the other – each side has its own reasons for resorting to violence and each side is guilty of acts of shocking violence. In other words, this is a completely believable conflict with good people locked in a vicious struggle on both sides.

When just over halfway through the book, I had a strong idea I knew where it was heading and what the big reveal would be – and when it came, I was utterly wrong. That isn’t particularly unusual, as when I’m really engrossed, I tend to go with the flow and don’t expend much energy on trying to figure it all out, as I’m too busy enjoying the writing. But Himself, who snaffled this treat first, is a whizz at figuring out what’s going to happen, and he was also completely blindsided.

And then there’s the final twist that left me winded on Karou’s behalf – and limply relieved that we’d already ordered the next two books in the series, so I won’t have to wait very long before diving back into this wonderful world. So far, 2016 is turning out to be a wonderful reading year – two outstanding reads from two highly talented authors, with another fabulous science fiction series uncovered, and we still haven’t got to the end of January… Lucky, lucky me!
10/10