The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #1) by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem cover

The Three-Body Problem Blurb

1967: Ye Wenjie witnesses Red Guards beat her father to death during China’s Cultural Revolution. This singular event will shape not only the rest of her life but also the future of mankind.

Four decades later, Beijing police ask nanotech engineer Wang Miao to infiltrate a secretive cabal of scientists after a spate of inexplicable suicides. Wang’s investigation will lead him to a mysterious online game and immerse him in a virtual world ruled by the intractable and unpredictable interaction of its three suns.

This is the Three-Body Problem and it is the key to everything: the key to the scientists’ deaths, the key to a conspiracy that spans light-years and the key to the extinction-level threat humanity now faces.

My Review of The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely loved everything about this, but I don’t want to give too much away about the story. It’s unusual and half the fun of the book for me was watching the events unfold and start to make sense as Wang Miao investigates the mystery of why the scientists are committing suicide.

I loved that it’s a proper hard sci-fi book, very science heavy. A lot of it I could follow, some of it I couldn’t but I just enjoyed going along for the ride. There are some very interesting, original ideas with a massive scope and although I was a bit lost at first it all come together into a very entertaining story.

One of my favourite things about the book is how there are female scientists, even back in the 70s, and it’s not an issue, it’s just normal. I don’t know if that’s how things are in China, or if it’s down to how the author wrote it, but it was lovely to read women being able to get on with the science without having to explain it.

The translator has done a brilliant job. There are a few footnotes, especially in the chapters set in the past during the Cultural Revolution. They were helpful and not excessive, and there weren’t as many of them once the story got going.

I’m giving it five stars simply because I enjoyed it so much. It has everything I like in a sci-fi book, and I recommend to anyone who likes writers like Isaac Asimov, who enjoyed The Martian, or who likes thought-provoking sci-fi with massive ideas.

The Three-Body Problem
Remembrance of Earth's Past
Liu Cixin
Sci-Fi
December 3rd 2015
Paperback
442

Zombies at Tiffany’s by Sam Stone

zombies at tiffanys cover

Zombies at Tiffany’s Blurb

Kat Lightfoot thought that getting a job at the famed Tiffany’s store in New York would be the end to her problems. She has money, new friends, and there’s even an inventor working there who develops new weapons from clockwork, and who cuts diamonds with a strange powered light. This is 1862, after all, and such things are the wonder of the age.

But then events take a turn for the worse: men and women wander the streets talking of ‘the darkness’; bodies vanish from morgues across town; and random, bloody attacks on innocent people take place in broad daylight.

Soon Kat and her friends are fighting for their lives against a horde of infected people, with only their wits and ingenuity to help them.

A steampunked story of diamonds, chutzpah, death and horror from the blood-drenched pen of Sam Stone.

My Review of Zombies at Tiffany’s

Zombies at Tiffany'sZombies at Tiffany’s by Sam Stone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zombies, steampunk and diamonds? I knew when I saw this book at the Sci-Fi weekender that I had to read it!

It’s set at the time of the American civil war where a zombie outbreak starts spreading in New York. Kat Lightfoot, a young woman who has just started working at Tiffany’s, takes refuge from the zombie hordes at work with a mismatched group of her colleagues and customers.

I like that Sam Stone has not followed the usual zombie rules, and has created something different and unexpected here.

The heroine is intelligent and interesting, and I cared about what happened to her.

The mix of steampunk and horror works well and results in a short, exhilarating read that I enjoyed every moment of.

Zombies at Tiffany's
Sam Stone
Steam Punk
Telos
2012
Paperback
185

A Blackbird in Amber (Blackbird #3) by Freda Warrington

A Blackbird in Amber Cover

A Blackbird in Amber Blurb

The terrible Serpent M’gulfn has been destroyed, but Earth’s future is in peril. Its death has unleashed a chaotic power that may prove more dangerous than the Serpent itself.

Journeying to Gorethria comes Melkavesh, daughter of Ashurek and Silvren, determined to harness the new power of sorcery for good. But can she resist the temptation to claim her birthright – the dark throne renounced by Ashurek?

A ruthless usurper, Xaedrek, has already seized Gorethria’s throne and is working his own warped form of sorcery to restore the evil empire. To save the Earth, Melkavesh must defeat him but she has reckoned without Xaedrek’s seductive charm.

My Reviews of other Books in the Series

A Blackbird in Silver (Blackbird #1)

A Blackbird in Darkness (Blackbird #2)

My Review of A Blackbird in Amber

A Blackbird in AmberA Blackbird in Amber by Freda Warrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third in the Blackbird series jumps 25 years into the future after the events of the first two books. It follows Ashurek and Silvren’s daughter Mellorn as she returns to Earth to aid the birth of sorcery. But the Gorethrian Empire has used warped demon sorcery to recover its strength and has returned to invading and enslaving other nations.

My favourite thing about the Blackbird series is the wonderful and well-written cast of characters who have complex relationships and motivations. Main character Mellorn / Melkavesh is a sorceress who sets out with the aim of creating a sorcery school on Earth. Strong willed and charismatic she is a natural leader and draws people to herself.

But she is swayed by her own ego and under the guise of stopping the Gorethrians conquest of other nations, she starts to get swept away with the idea of leading an army and overthrowing the Gorethrian ruler.

I really enjoyed the story. It’s well paced and interesting, and makes sense in the context of the original books – it doesn’t feel tacked on for the sake of continuing the series. I also love the lush descriptions of the world. They brought it to life for me and I couldn’t stop reading. I’m excited to read the next one!

A Blackbird in Amber
Blackbird
Freda Warrington
Fantasy
1988
Paperback
437

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Lagoon Cover

Lagoon Blurb

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’

My Review of Lagoon

LagoonLagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aliens land in the water off the coast of Nigeria in this sci-fi first contact novel. What follows is chaos as the city starts to destroy itself through fear.

There are a lot of different voices in Lagoon, some only for one or two chapters. Normally I would find that confusing but here it worked well as it dropped into different people around Lagos to show events rather than having the main characters be everywhere and see everything. It did make it a bit hard to really connect with or care about any of the characters though as it’s a short book anyway and meant that even less time was spent on telling the main characters stories.

I loved the sci-fi side, there were a lot of fresh ideas that made this really interesting. There are African mythology and magic elements mixed in too, but I don’t know anything about African myths and these weren’t explained enough for them to make sense for me. They seemed to be added at random and not add anything to the main story. I’m also not sure why the main characters had powers, or why they were chosen by the aliens.

It’s very original and ambitious, and overall I enjoyed it. I liked the environmental / feminist / religious themes, but I think maybe there was just a bit too much in one book and I found it hard going at times to keep track of the main story. It’s difficult to get into, but I think it’s worth the effort for the fresh and modern perspective on sci-fi.

Lagoon
Nnedi Okorafor
Sci-Fi
April 10th 2014
Paperback
306

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist, #1) by Renee Ahdieh

flame in the mist

Flame in the Mist Blurb

Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

My Review of Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist, #1)Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

My big problem with this book is that I did not like Mariko. She doesn’t have much of a personality. We’re told over and over how intelligent she is, how brilliant a planner she is, but never once does she do anything to show us.

In fact, her actions are often kinda dumb and driven by reacting rather than thinking. Joining a group of male outlaws to prove her honour and virtue? And why does she give her smoke bombs to the people trying to track and kill her brother?

Markio’s loyalty to her family does not last very long. I understand her not wanting to go back there, but she tells us that she does, that her family comes before everything. Her change in attitude is not given enough attention to make it believable.

Neither is her attitude towards the Black Clan. She goes from wanting revenge on them, to wanting to join them, but this about-face isn’t fully fleshed out so it just felt like she changed on a whim.

Literally Mariko’s feelings towards to the Black Clan: “They killed my servants I hate them I want revenge”, “Oh hang on, he’s kinda cute.”, “I want to join them and fight with them, I would die for them.

She has so much potential to be smart and interesting, she’s even an inventor! But for me she falls flat.

The pacing is slow too, Mariko does a lot of thinking about things but the few bits where something happens seem rushed and fuzzily described. I didn’t get a good sense of what was going on.

The magic system is also fuzzy and vague. It looks like it might be expanded on in future books but it didn’t make much sense here and was just confusing.

Another big issue for me is the writing and the awkward, convoluted conversations the characters have. They seem to talk in quotes that could have come straight from one of those quote of the day calendars and don’t make seem to actually be responding to each other. It’s like a dance battle but with quotes instead.

Things I did like though include:

The setting – the forest, the Black Clans camp, the tea house – when an effort is made to describe the setting it’s done well.

Mariko can’t fight – she is smart enough to realise this so she doesn’t even try. It’s nice that her strength is supposed to be in her intelligence rather than her fighting skills. I love female characters than can think their way out of situations.

Interesting characters – Mariko’s brother, the Emperors wives, the men of Black Clan, even Markio herself, they are all interesting and imperfect characters with hidden secrets.

Okami – I really liked his character. He keeps more secrets than Mariko, he has some sort of weird magic power, and he treats Mariko like an equal and doesn’t try to protect her because she is female. He also has the best line in the book: “the only power any man has over you is the power you give him.”.

There is enough I liked in this book that I enjoyed reading it, I certainly finished it fast. It has potential but I just want Mariko to show us that she is as smart as everyone tells us she is.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Flame in the Mist
Flame in the Mist
Renee Ahdieh
Young Adult Fantasy
May 16th 2017
Kindle
393

Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to be a Rebel (A Memoir) by Jessica Bell

I never meant to be a rebel - cover

Jessica Bell never meant to be a rebel. But growing up with two gothic rockers as parents seemed to make it inevitable.

In 1980s Australia, Erika Bach and Demetri Vlass founded Ape the Cry and Hard Candy, two of Melbourne’s iconic indie bands. They encouraged Jessica with unreserved love to pick up the guitar and write her own songs. But Erika’s back problem became a nightmare of pill popping, alcohol abuse, and anxiety attacks. Demetri retreated into silence for fear of triggering Erika’s drug-induced psychosis. And Jessica turned inwards, to her own reflection.

But her mirror self was a fiend, not a friend. All it took was one secret drink at fifteen, and Jessica dove headlong into depression and self-destruction to escape the madness at home.

Experimenting with bisexuality in a high school rife with bullies? Not a problem; she had alcohol. Losing her virginity to rape? Not a problem; she had alcohol. Trying to supplement absent love with unprotected one-night stands? Not a problem; she had alcohol …

Until one day alcohol nearly drove Jessica off a cliff.

Jessica had to look at herself honestly and frankly. Why did she keep running from reality, and more importantly … herself?

My Review of Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to be a Rebel

Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to be a Rebel (A Memoir)Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to be a Rebel by Jessica Bell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m going to start by saying I don’t normally read biographies, but the description for this made me want to give it a go. Jessica Bell has lived a rock n’ roll lifestyle, her parents were in a gothic rock band in the 80’s and early 90’s, she grew up around musicians and started bands herself. Well, this sounded far more interesting than the usual celebrity self-absorbed childhood stories!

I found it difficult to get into, picking it up and putting it down a few times before I really got going with it. Jessica’s early years are interesting but described with a bit too much introspection for my liking.

It’s when Jessica is a teenager in the 90’s that I started to really connect with this. I’m a 90’s teenager myself so it was a little bit like going back in time, with the bands that she talks about, and the feeling of being an outcast at her high school. I also started to see why the events from her younger self are important, and how they had effected her personality and the way she deals with things.

Jessica is unflinchingly honest as she unpicks the decisions that she made that lead her on a self-destructive path, and also kinda hard on herself too. She has done a lot with her life, as I was reading about her in the 90’s I thought we were of the same generation, I guessed Jessica was a few years older than me. Actually, she’s a bit younger but far more mature than I was at the same age. I think Jessica as a teenager was probably more mature than I am even now!

By the end of the book, I was 100% sucked in and racing through the pages as Jessica starts to find a way to forgive herself for the things she has done, and accept herself as she is, flaws and all. Jessica Bells’s voice is unique and compelling, and her life story (so far) is interesting and well told.

Recommended if you like biographies, you like rock n’ roll stories, or you were (or still are) a 90’s riot girl.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to be a Rebel (A Memoir)
Jessica Bell
Fiction
Kindle
288

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

black-eyed susans

Black-Eyed Susans Blurb

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans just outside her bedroom window. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

My Review of Black-Eyed Susans

Black-Eyed SusansBlack-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quick and easy to read. I ended up staying up late to finish it because I had to know who did it.

It switches between the present and main character Tessa’s therapy sessions directly after the attack when she was younger. With the therapy sessions it slowly reveals what happened to Tessa after the attack and when she had to testify in court, but because she has lost her memory we don’t find out much about the abduction itself.

I liked the way it did this because it kept a sense of mystery. Right up until the end secrets were still being revealed and it kept me guessing.

I didn’t get much of a sense of Tessa’s personality. The younger Tessa is much more vivid and real than older Tessa, and I think this was maybe intentional. Older Tessa is quiet and reserved, her daughter Charlie does bring some life to the story, but I found it hard to care about any of the characters.

I’m a bit whatever about the plot. It never goes enough into the past events for me, and the rest of it I found a bit slow, though I did enjoy the end. It doesn’t help that I read Final Girls recently that has a very similar storyline. I might have been more impressed with Black Eyed Susans if I’d read it first. But it’s a quick read, well written and it kept me interested.

Black-Eyed Susans
Julia Heaberlin
Thriller
August 11th 2015
Paperback
354

The Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker #1) by Karen Miller

The Innocent Mage

The Innocent Mage Blurb

Enter the kingdom of Lur, where to use magic unlawfully means death. The Doranen have ruled Lur with magic since arriving as refugees centuries ago. Theirs was a desperate flight to escape the wrath of a powerful mage who started a bitter war in their homeland. To keep Lur safe, the native Olken inhabitants agreed to abandon their own magic. Magic is now forbidden to them, and any who break this law are executed.

Asher left his coastal village to make his fortune. Employed in the royal stables, he soon finds himself befriended by Prince Gar and given more money and power than he’d ever dreamed possible. But the Olken have a secret; a prophecy. The Innocent Mage will save Lur from destruction and members of The Circle have dedicated themselves to preserving Olken magic until this day arrives. Unbeknownst to Asher, he has been watched closely. As the Final Days approach, his life takes a new and unexpected turn.

My Review of The Innocent Mage

The Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, #1)The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story itself was ok, if nothing special. Asher appears to be a down to earth commoner, but he’s actually ‘The Innocent Mage’, a special snowflake who is destined to save the kingdom.

More interesting is Gar, a prince of a race of people all born with magic. Unfortunately, Gar was born without magic and is considered a cripple. He’s not allowed to become ruler and is passed over in the succession in favour of his younger sister.

I think this suffers a bit because I recently read Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy and there are a lot of similarities with it. Both feature a young, naive man who becomes a right-hand man to a prince that cares deeply for his people and is clearly the best person to become the next king.

Robin Hobb’s series is much more subtle and clever than the Innocent Mage, which looks juvenile in comparison. Maybe if I hadn’t just read that I would like this more.

There are other problems with it too though. Karen Miller writes her characters as very obviously ‘good’ or ‘bad’. There are no nuances allowed. Her good characters are kind, caring, and wise. They ignoring their own needs and health to work tirelessly for others.

Bad characters go around shouting and badmouthing everyone and work for their own pride and desires only. Every time a good character tries to do something good, they pop up to try to stop them. They overdress and overeat and in my mind, I couldn’t stop myself picturing them wearing black and wafting dalmatian skin capes around every time they show up to throw a spanner in the works.

Asher irritated me from the first moment he appeared on page. He’s written to be almost perfect, his down to earth nature and lack of regard for authority endure him to everyone he meets. Well, those that are written as ‘good’ characters anyway. He can do no wrong and everyone loves him.

At one point he’s in a javelin competition against a bad guy. The bad guy has been the champion of the javelins every year since he was young. Asher has been training with a javelin for a few weeks, and only learnt to ride a horse a year ago. Guess who wins?

Personally, I think Asher is just rude. He spends the whole book pointing out other people’s faults, and taking offence every time for perceived disrespect every time he has a conversation with someone.

Honestly, by the end of the book, I was rooting for the bad guy to win.

It’s not badly written, it’s 600 pages and I read the whole thing. It could just use a bit more imagination. It looks like the second book will have a lot more magic in it, and if I come across it I would probably buy it.

The Innocent Mage
Kingmaker, Kingbreaker
Karen Miller
September 2007
Paperback
642

Nights of Blood Wine (Blood Wine, #4.5) by Freda Warrington

Nights of Blood Wine Cover

Nights of Blood Wine Blurb

Enter the spellbinding worlds of Freda Warrington. Fifteen tales of horror and darkness, taking the reader deeper into the vampiric and the unknown.

Warrington’s vampires haunt the borderlands of excess, and you can find them here in ten stories set in her popular Blood Wine series of novels. Then there are five further tales of fantasy and horror as Warrington takes you further into the worlds of imagination. Step gently, as you may not leave untouched!

‘The Blood Wine books are addictive, thrilling reads that are impossible to put down and they definitely deserve more attention.’ Worldhopping.net

‘A cross between Anne Rice and more edgy modern paranormal romances, only with Freda Warrington’s incredible voice … This author truly has a gift for storytelling.’ Not Your Ordinary Book Banter

My review of Nights of Blood Wine

Nights of Blood Wine (Blood Wine, #4.5)Nights of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It makes a change to read some vampire stories that are not cheesy and overwhelmed by romance.

My sister kept telling me about the Blood Wine series, that it’s the best vampire series she’s ever read. Finally, I listened and decided to start with this newly released short story collection.

The first, and largest, part of the collection is made up of stories that are based in the Blood Wine universe, the second part is stories based on the Elfland series, and there is an extra Dracula story added to the mix too.

I haven’t read any of the books (yet), but it didn’t stop me understanding or enjoying these short stories.

It’s a very sophisticated, very adult collection of stories. They’re mostly told from women’s perspectives and are stories about women. Love and sex are part of a lot of them, but it’s not the focus. This is about as far from Twilight as it’s possible to get.

Freda Warrington is a wonderful writer; I can’t understand why she’s not more widely known. Her stories are subtle and complex and draw you in without you noticing it. Suddenly you’ll realise you’re hooked and need to devour everything she’s ever written.

Her writing is captivating, her descriptions are almost lyrical and bring the rich worlds to life. Her characters are complex, otherworldly and yet somehow also relatable.

If you like vampire stories even a little bit, then do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this.

Nights of Blood Wine
Blood Wine
Freda Warrington
Fantasy
Telos
March 31st 2017
Paperback
228

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge Blurb

A sharp and funny urban fantasy for “new adults” about a secret society of bartenders who fight monsters with alcohol-fueled magic.

College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.

My Review of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge

Last Call at the Nightshade LoungeLast Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, bartenders are all that stand between us and monsters called Tremens that roam the night, hunting feeding on people.

Luckily the bartenders have a secret weapon – magic powers they can gain by mixing perfect cocktails using specially distilled alcohol.

This definitely reminds me a lot of Buffy the Vampire slayer – a young woman that doesn’t really know where she’s going in life fights monsters while building friendships. That’s a good thing for me, and there are enough unique elements in here to give it it’s own personality.

I loved the diverse mix of characters and they had unique and distinct personalities. They brought the book to life and their interactions with Bailey were often entertaining.

Bailey isn’t the nicest person in the world, she isn’t instantly everyone’s best friend and the people around her don’t think she’s amazing. I kinda love her for this. She’s not a special snowflake and has to prove herself and work at her friendships.

My big problem with this book though is that it doesn’t go in much for explaining things. It’s quite short and mostly action, which makes for a fun read, but a bit of depth would have helped it all feel more real.

Bailey is an overachiever who has left university and lost all direction. It doesn’t go into why Bailey has gone straight home to her parents and not tried to get herself a job. It seems out of character for her, so it could have done with a bit more explanation for her motives for it to make sense.

While working for Vincent, Bailey seems to build a close relationship with him. This happens mostly off page though and it means that events later in the book aren’t as moving as they perhaps could have been.

The Tremens aren’t really explained either, what they are or where they come from. They just appear and the bartenders kill them.

So, in the end, this is a lot of fun, but look at it too closely and it might all fall apart. There is enough good stuff to make up for it though, and it’s well written.

If there’s a sequel I’ll be all over it.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge
Paul Krueger
Urban Fantasy
June 7th 2016
288