Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence

Book Title: Grey Sister
Author: Mark Lawrence
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Review Copy from Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.
All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.
As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.
And in all this only one thing is certain.
There will be blood.
I got a review copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Review of Red Sister can be found here. This is the sequel, and I will review without spoiling the first book.

What did I think?
"It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men."
That is the first line in Red Sister and the line that made me fall in love with Mark Lawrence's book. Just like in Red Sister his writing is beautiful, almost poetic. Every word is chosen meticulously.

The story continues to be dark, but it's also beautiful and filled with themes of friendship and loyalty and how to battle and overcome your inner demons. Grey Sister starts roughly two years after the final chapters of Red Sister.

Nona is a terrific character, well developed, hot-headed, filled with energy and wit. She's damaged, but fiery and passionate, and she fights for what she believes in. She's often unpredictable, but intelligent and one of my favourite fantasy protagonists despite her young age.

Red Sister mainly focused on Nona, here we also get to see the story from the point of view of Abbess Glass, who is the leader of the convent, and through the point of view of Sister Kettle. Throughout the book, the side characters feel more fleshed out than they were in Red Sister.

The world is complex and intriguing and Mark Lawrence expands the story behind it quite a bit. It's a dying world, ice is closing in on the people living there, from all sides and there's not much more than a corridor left. There's a lot of political intrigue in this, something I always enjoy in fantasy books.

I highly recommend Red and Grey Sister to all fantasy fans.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Book Title: It Ends With Us
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library 
Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up
— she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.
Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.
As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan, her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.
What did I think?

It Ends With Us is brilliant. It's a bit out of my comfort zone, since I'm mostly a science fiction and fantasy reader, but every now and then I like to dive into the contemporary section and dabble in a bit of romance (and no, this book is not romance, despite its marketing, however there's romance in this book.)

Don't read up on this. Don't spoil yourself. If you don't mind a bit of romance, like contemporary and strong female characters, and don't mind heavy subjects, pick this one up and dive right in without knowing anything.

Trust me.

It has amazing, well developed characters. The plotting is tight, the pacing quick and the prose is very enjoyable. Lily is such an approachable protagonist. She's hardworking and ambitious and she's got a whole bunch of emotional baggage she's dragging around. I loved reading about her.

This is a powerful story and a smart one, one that knocked me down and made me cry, and if you want to know why, look it up on Goodreads. Plenty of reviewers talk about what this book is about, and I know not everyone likes to go in blind, and that is okay.

At the end of the novel there is a personal message from the author which explains the motivation for writing this book. Read it after you're done with the book, and you'll get knocked down a second time.

I hope writing this was cathartic for Collen Hoover. I've never read her before, but I admire her a lot for writing this book.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Kingshold by D.P. Woolliscroft

Book Title: Kingshold
Author: D. P. Wooliscroft
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Review Copy directly from the author

Author's Website

Thank you to D. P. Woolliscroft for this ARC.

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Mareth is a bard, a serial under achiever, a professional drunk, and general disappointment to his father. Despite this, Mareth has one thing going for him. He can smell opportunity. The King is dead and an election for the new Lord Protector has been called. If he plays his cards right, if he can sing a story that will put the right person in that chair, his future fame and drinking money is all but assured. But, alas, it turns out Mareth has a conscience after all.
Neenahwi is the daughter to Jyuth, the ancient wizard who founded the Kingdom of Edland and she is not happy. It’s not just that her father was the one who killed the King, or that he didn’t tell her about his plans. She’s not happy because her father is leaving, slinking off into retirement and now she has to clean up his mess.
Alana is a servant at the palace and the unfortunate soul to draw the short straw to attend to Jyuth. Alana knows that intelligence and curiosity aren’t valued in someone of her station, but sometimes she can’t help herself and so finds herself drawn into the Wizard’s schemes, and worst of all, coming up with her own plans.
Chance brings this unlikely band together to battle through civil unrest, assassinations, political machinations, pirates and monsters, all for a common cause that they know, deep down, has no chance of succeeding – bringing hope to the people of Kingshold.
What did I think?

4.5 Stars.

The King and Queen are hated, then murdered and now election is upon Kingshold.

Kingshold follows a group of characters who are all linked. There's Mareth the bard, who doesn't really know what to do with life. He sleeps and drinks a lot. To me, that sounds like an amazing life, but he's not happy. Alana is the personal servant of the wizard, Jyuth. She's incredibly clever and her chapters were a joy to read. Then there's Hoskin, temporarily in charge until the election is over. He's a bit grumpy because, well, things are a mess. Motega and his group of friends are doing odd jobs. They're a treat to read about, and definitely a charming bunch of blokes. Neenahwi is a kick-ass character with a sordid past. She's not happy either, mostly because her adopted father, Jyuth, after something like 800 years, wants to simply retire and leave Kingshold for good.

All characters are very well developed and bring something to the table. It took me a few chapters to get used to the prose and the author's voice, but before long I found myself chuckling a lot. It's a light read with a lot of wit and the occasional sarcastic quip.

The world building is mostly focused on the city of Kingshold, but it feels like a real place including affluent neighbourhoods, slums and, of course, the palace. The magic is interesting and I can't wait to find out more about the different creatures that live in this world.

Kingshold starts out slowly. I believe it moves at a slower pace than your average fantasy book. That isn't a bad thing. In fact, I quite enjoyed discovering more about Kingshold and the characters before I got to that point about halfway through, where I simply had to keep reading until I reached the last page.

I recommend Kingshold to any fantasy fan who ever wondered what would happen if one day a monarchy decided to have democratic (sort of) elections instead of replacing the dead king.

Monday, 14 May 2018

A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews

Book Title: A Thousand Perfect Notes
Author: C. G. Drews
Genre: Young Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary (TW: Abuse)
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Review Copy from Netgalley

Author's Website

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC.

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: An emotionally charged story of music, abuse and, ultimately, hope.
Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music - because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.
When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

What did I think?

I don't read as much contemporary or even young adult fiction, as I read adult fantasy, but when I heard about Cait's book I immediately requested a review copy. I read it in one sitting. It is gripping and gut-wrenching.

I really enjoyed my read, but I must point out just how dark this is. A Thousand Perfect Notes is the story of Beck and Beck really hates his life. Beck grew up with an abusive mother. Beck's mother is a monster. She's a human being, broken by life, bitter and sad. I feel sorry for Beck's mother, but that does not change the fact Beck is being abused every single day. The abuse is described in detail by C. G. Drews. The author does not shy away from it, and while I personally think it's handled extremely well, and realistic, I also do think it could be triggering for some.

Beck is a musician, an artist. I fell in love with his character. August is a girl full of life. I was worried she'd be too much and over the top, but it turned out that she's the perfect character to pair Beck with.

The prose is very much Cait, vivid and descriptive. If you read her blog @ Paperfury, you're familiar with her style. Sometimes, I found the metaphors a bit much, but overall I quite enjoyed it.

I recommend A Thousand Perfect Notes to everyone who loves contemporary young adult, or enjoys Cait's blog. Ultimately, it has the most terrifying antagonist/villain, I've ever encountered in YA fiction. Evil Queens have nothing on Beck's mother.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Sunday Post (29) - Spring

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

If you participate (and you totally should because the community is amazing) don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog.

The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here.

I've not done one of these in a while. We've been really good with our sports, eating healthy and managing 10,000 steps a day.

Yesterday, we've done the garden. Today, I baked a bread. And yes, I know it's Monday, but the UK has a Bank Holiday weekend and we're both off today.
I've not really been to the cinema this year. But, I've already read 35 books this year. I hope to read a few more indie fantasy authors, instead of always the bestsellers. But there's just so much to read and not enough time.

My reviews from the last few weeks:

ARC:

Fantasy: 

Thriller:

Science Fiction:
Also, there's two top ten Tuesday blog posts, one about the top ten books I could re-read and the top ten books that surprised me.

I hope everyone is having a lovely spring or autumn, if you're on the other side of this globe.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Every Last Minute by Ellen Smith

Book Title: Every Last Minute
Author: Ellen Smith
Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Review Copy
Author's Website 
I got a review copy from the author, Ellen Smith, in return for an honest review. Thank you!

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Will and Mara Sterling are already living their dream. After surviving a campus shooting, they both went on to finish college, fall in love, and start a new life together as husband and wife. That’s not to say things have been easy: Will suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and Mara has debilitating chronic pain from her gunshot wound. Despite it all, they feel lucky to be alive and even luckier to be in love.
Then a new initiative from the Justice Department offers Will and Mara the chance of a lifetime. The shooter has been rehabilitated and his crime qualifies for a timeline rectification. With Will and Mara’s consent, they can all travel through time back to the original scene of the crime, giving the gunman a chance to put things right.
It sounds like a dream come true, but both Will and Mara have their doubts. Timeline rectification—called “time wrecking” by its critics—is at the center of a politically charged debate. Will and Mara aren’t entirely sure where they fall on this issue and the clock is ticking for them to decide. Is it moral to change time for the rest of the world, just to undo one crime? Is it moral to deny the gunman a chance to correct his past crimes? And what if this one ripple means that they never meet . . . or fall in love

What did I think?

I've seen another review post this quote, but it's the one that stuck with me as well.
"Our culture has become obsessed with supporting everyone’s individual dreams and ambitions, catering to every little whim, assuring ourselves that we’re each special and unique. We need to bring back our concern for each other and focus on building our community. The concept of time wrecks may be relatively new, but the sin behind it is a tale as old as time.”
I've started reading this book a few days ago, and today I simply couldn't put it down and flew through it.

Personally, I would love to reload an old save, you know? Just go back ten years and do things differently. Live my life differently. But then I look at my other half, and I think: no, I wouldn't want to risk this relationship.

This is exactly what Will and Mara face. They've met because of a school shooting during which Mara got shot. She's suffering from chronic pain. Will is suffering from PTSD. They are happily married. If they go back and undo it all...they might never meet.

The romance is wonderful (and when do you ever hear me say that?) and I love both Will and Mara. They're amazing characters. They're initially opposed to a timeline rectification because what if they don't find each other in this new timeline? What if they don't fall in love with each other? What if they don't even meet? You have no idea how much this thought stresses me. Mara, however, deals with so much pain and Will suffers from nightmares. They deserve to go back. They deserve a life without PTSD and pain.

It's not as easy as that. Of course. Timeline Rectification is regulated. There's a trial. Everyone needs to agree. There are rules. And, as usual, about half the world is opposed. Because of personal conviction, religion, because of politics or because they think it isn't moral. You should only live once! YSOLO! The author does an amazing job showing all the different problems that come with the possibility of timeline rectification and why the different factions all got a point. She does this by including blog posts, news reports and comments on Internet forums.

The point of view switches back and forth between Will and Mara. Both characters are well developed, and they both struggle a lot and are torn about the timeline rectification because of different reasons.

I don't want to say too much about the plot, since I love going into books without knowing anything at all. I loved Every Last Minute because the author clearly put a lot of thought into the time travel aspect and surprised me several times with things I hadn't even thought of, like how exactly does the government keep track of this and regulate it? The pacing is great, especially if you're interested in the time travel aspect (how it works etc.) otherwise you might find the middle a bit slow. The prose is engaging and well edited.

Also: what a gorgeous cover, right?

I recommend Every Last Minute to fans of time travel novels and obviously to everyone else who finds the premise interesting.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Book Title: Doctor Sleep
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Audible

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot Summary: Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.
On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless - mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky 12-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the "steam" that children with the "shining" produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father's legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence.
He meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan's own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra's soul and survival.

What did I think?

I love Stephen King. He's been one of my favourite authors for a long time now. It all began with It. Sadly, me and Doctor Sleep did not get along as much as I would have liked.

If you've ever wondered what happened to Danny Torrance after he and his mother escaped the hotel and are curious to find out what kind of an adult he becomes, then this is for you.

Nobody that has read or watched The Shining will be surprised to hear that Danny did not turn into a functioning adult but rather into a huge alcoholic mess.

The characters are fleshed out in ways only King can flesh out characters. However, the book lacked punch, and I struggled with the pacing throughout the first half. It starts out in an intriguing way, then loses momentum and doesn't regain it until far later in the book.

For once the villains weren't as scary as they ought to be. In fact, I think alcoholism and Danny's eternal demons were much scarier than the actual vampire like creatures who feed on children with the Shining. I really liked the character of Abra Stone, though. She was definitely a great addition to this book.

All in all, definitely worth a read but not one of King's best.