The Tides by Ken Liu

“When I was little,” Dad says, softly chuckling, “the Moon was so small I thought I could put it in my pocket, like a coin.” I don’t answer because there’s no time to talk. The tide is coming.

Short (very short – 3 or 4 pages worth) post-apocalyptic story that somehow manages to pack more story in than most books.

It has some very touching moments and some beautiful phrases.

“I guess the Moon loves the Earth too much. She wants to come closer for a kiss.”

A must read!

You can read The Tides online for free

The Tides
Ken Liu
Sci-Fi
Online Short Story

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy

Book Blurb

A BIG NOVEL ABOUT A SMALL TOWN …

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils … Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

My Review of The Casual Vacancy

The Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read another review that said The Casual Vacancy is like a mini soap opera, and I think they have it just exactly right. There is no plot to this book, the story line of one of Pagfords residents dying and the fight for his seat on the council is really just an excuse. This is a book about people.

Now I like books about people, I like stories about life and relationships even when there is no real plot, but this just didn’t hold my interest.

I like the writing style and it’s easy to read but there are far too many characters to keep track of. Half way through and I had just about sorted them out and started to remember names and who they are related to / like / have fallen out with.

I did get into it a bit more after I started remembering who was who. Gaia, Andrew, Sukhvinder and Krystal were sympathetic characters.

But the rest of the characters are unlikeable, and everyone in the book is miserable and lead very depressing lives.

It’s a nasty little book filled with nasty little people being horrible to each other. And the events toward the end made me hate life a little bit.

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The Casual Vacancy
J.K. Rowling
Fiction

A Blackbird in Darkness (Blackbird #2) by Freda Warrington

A Blackbird in Darkness

The Blurb

Ashurek, Medrian and Estarinel reach the legendary Blue Plane in search of help in their Quest against the terrifying Serpent M’gulfn, but their greatest struggle is yet to come. The Serpent lies in wait for them in the far frozen limits of the North – but it also threatens to destroy them from their very midst.

My Reviews of other Books in the Series

A Blackbird in Silver (Blackbird #1)

A Blackbird in Amber (Blackbird #3)

A Blackbird in Twilight (Blackbird #4)

My Review of A Blackbird in Darkness

A Blackbird in Darkness (Blackbird, #2)A Blackbird in Darkness by Freda Warrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second and concluding part to A Blackbird in Silver gets much darker and more intense. Ashurek, Estarinel and Medrian are on a quest for a powerful weapon to defeat the serpent M’gulfin, meanwhile, the rest of the world is falling under M’gulfin’s spell, and despair and hatred are winning the day.

All the characters have grown and changed in different ways, naive Estarniel is more wary and less trusting of others, Ashurek is more thoughtful and understanding. And Medrian shows us some emotion!

We finally learn Medrian’s story and why she’s set out to kill the serpent, and it’s everything I’d been hoping for. She was by far my favourite character in the last book and is even more so after finding out about her life.

I like all the rest of the characters too, even the side characters are flawed and complicated. None of them are completely good or evil and they all have their own reasons for what they’re doing, beyond ‘we need to save the world!’ or ‘we need to destroy the world’.

Especially Arlenminia who worships the serpent like it’s a god. She is convinced that the pain and suffering it brings is for the eventual good of humanity and refuses to listen to anyone who says anything against it. Scary for how realistic this is.

Not even the serpent is not completely evil, we see a very human side to its emotions. Scared and confused, he was attacked and injured by the Guardians and now he can only think of revenge.

The writing is simple but very readable, and I love the use of colours in the way the world is described.

The story does get a bit cheesy at times, but it’s a fantasy written in the 80’s and what seemed fresh then can be a bit cliche today.

I really enjoyed this book, and while I’m not sure I liked the conclusion to the story, I do think that it’s a good ending.

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A Blackbird in Darkness
Blackbird
Freda Warrington
Fantasy
January 1st 1986

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead (ToadWitch #1) by Christiana Miller

Somebody tell aunt tillie shes dead

Book Description

A little magic can go a long way — to really screwing up a girl’s life!

Mara is having the worst month of her life. At least, that’s what her cards tell her and they’ve never been wrong. She’s evicted from her apartment, loses her job and is banned from Beverly Hills. So when the tarot cards predict her imminent demise, she uses a little magic to make her world right.

Suddenly, an aunt she’s never met dies, leaving Mara as her sole heir. But when Mara moves into her inherited home, she discovers Aunt Tillie never moved out. She’s still one pissed-off old lady, even post-mortem, and she blames Mara’s magical meddling for her death.

When Mara accidentally releases a demon and awakens the spirit of the most powerful witch in history, Tillie’s ready to kill her — literally. It’s the only way she can think of to save the girl from herself. The witch and the demon, however, have other plans for Mara’s body.

My Review of Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead (ToadWitch, #1)Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead by Christiana Miller
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The cover and the title fooled me into thinking this would be a cosy paranormal romance story, and it sat unread on my kindle for nearly 2 years.

It feels more like urban fantasy to me (cosy urban fantasy?), the ghosts are actually dangerous and there is a fair bit of adult content towards the end.

But even so, the first half I found boring and I nearly gave up on it halfway through. It consists mainly of conversations between Mara and her friend Gus, which I didn’t find interesting.

Gus could have been a good character, but he doesn’t get out of the stereotypical ‘gay best friend’ role. If the author put a bit more thought into his personality he would have been interesting enough to carry most of the book.

When Mara moves into the cottage the story picks up a bit, and Mara gets more likeable. She’s daft and doesn’t think before she does anything, but still I kinda liked her.

I didn’t understand the attraction to the romantic interest, he seems like a bit of an idiot. And then she spends one night with him and suddenly she’s calling him her boyfriend. It was all a bit odd. It could have been left out as it didn’t add anything to the book.

I was happy to get to the end of this, the story never grabbed me and I didn’t really care what happened.

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead
ToadWitch #1
Christiana Miller
Urban Fantasy

Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland

Lost for Words

Lost for Words Blurb

You can trust a book to keep your secret . . .

Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look closely, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are things she’ll never show you.

Fifteen years ago Loveday lost all she knew and loved in one unspeakable night. Now, she finds refuge in the unique little York bookshop where she works.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past. Someone is trying to send her a message. And she can’t hide any longer.

Lost for Words is a compelling, irresistible and heart-rending novel, with the emotional intensity of The Shock of the Fall and all the charm of The Little Paris Bookshop and 84 Charing Cross Road.

My Review of Lost for Words

Lost For WordsLost For Words by Stephanie Butland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loveday Cardew is a quiet, antisocial bookworm working in a small bookshop in York. She closes herself off from relationships and finds herself lost for words when she tries to talk to people.

But she wasn’t always this way, and through flashbacks and memories we find out what happened in Loveday’s past that has left her so guarded and reluctant to trust anyone.

I really need to stop judging books by their covers. This is the second one recently where I’ve been completely wrong. I was expecting a fluffy light hearted tale, and really I only picked this up because it’s about a bookworm with a nose ring and tattoos, and it’s set in York, a city that I love to visit.

But this is a very thoughtful and beautifully written story, with flawed and interesting characters with a lot of depth to them.

The characters are wonderful, bookshop owner Archie has an almost magical, larger than life personality, Nathan (who is actually a magician) seems warm and kind and Loveday is complicated and spiky.

Dark past aside I identified very strongly with Loveday. The way she looks, they way she can never think of anything to say to people, the way she feels at social events, and the way she feels about books – almost everything that she said about herself are things that I’ve thought about myself at one time or another.

Loveday narrates the book, and her voice is compelling and shows a warmer and shyer side to her than the one she shows to the world. It drew me into the story and I really didn’t want to put it down until I found out what had happened with her family and her ex-boyfriend that made her want to hide from the world.

The end is heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. I’m glad I ignored my first impression and took a chance on this one.

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

Lost for Words
Stephanie Butland
Fiction
April 20th 2017
368

Red Claw by Philip Palmer

red claw

Red Claw Blurb

Philip Palmer turns science fiction on its head in this breathtaking thrill ride through alien jungles filled with terrifying monsters and killer robots. Space marines and science heroes Gryphons and Godzillas It’s all here in this gripping tale of man versus nature.

My Review of Red Claw

Red ClawRed Claw by Philip Palmer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What I liked

Robots. Killer robots. Future tech. This makes me happy.

The funny dialogue – it’s like what people are actually saying to each other when you strip away all the fluff. I had a few little laughs at it.

It’s fast paced, and it stayed interesting. Just as I started to get bored something happened and everything was thrown up in the air.

I also found it easy to read, in fact, a couple of times I lost track of time reading it on my lunch break and had to rush back to work.

No one is safe, basically, all characters are fair game for a gruesome death scene.

The cover.

What I didn’t like

The humour – more often than not it is was too immature to be funny.

The science and technology was so far-fetched that I found it distracting. I kept stopping to think “but no, that’s impossible”. I get that it’s supposed to be daft but it broke my reading flow.

Far too much marvelling going on, we had people marvelling at marvellous things every other page sometimes.

Heavy handed criticism of war, soldiers, and the way the human race destroys other life for our own gain. It’s not a subtle book, and I felt like it was banging me over the head with it.

Red Claw
Debatable Space
Philip Palmer
Sci-Fi
August 11th 2008
451

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor

Strange the dreamer cover

Strange the Dreamer Blurb

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries – including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

My Review of Strange the Dreamer

Strange the DreamerStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Strange the Dreamer is a book about dreams, about the things we wish for, and about dreaming of a better life for yourself. And yet again, Laini Taylor has swept me away with her beautiful, dreamy writing. I’m so overwhelmed by this book I don’t even know where to start with my review.

Lazlo spends his life daydreaming and reading stories about the lost city known as Weep. Lazlo is a bookworm who works in a library, but he’s a bookworm with a purpose. He spends his days searching for stories and information about the lost city known as Weep, a city he has been obsessed with since he was a child.

And when one day an expedition from the lost city appear, literally on his doorstep, to recruit a team of scientist and engineers, Lazlo sees his chance to make his dreams reality and actually visit Weep.

Sarai is a blue skinned girl that is living imprisoned in her (rather large) home, surviving with four other young people who use their magical gifts to keep themselves alive. One creates fire, another can bring rain clouds, and one can cause any plant to grow from the smallest of seeds.

But Sarai’s gift is something different, Sarai can enter people’s dreams.

And that’s how Sarai and Lazlo meet, in a dream world they create together, and I can’t tell you how beautiful it all is. Their romance is sweet and slow, and more than a little awkward.

Normally I’m counting down the number of pages in a book, calculating how soon I can start the next on my TBR pile, but this one I just didn’t want to finish.

I’m in love with the characters, with the world that Laini Taylor has built, and with the dreams Lazlo and Sarai create (and normally I hate dream sequences, I’ve given up on more than one book that has them in, I can’t stand the Disney Alice in Wonderland).

It’s a massive story, and when I think about it, it’s very complicated too. It didn’t feel that way when I was reading it though, it starts out with the story of Weep hidden, and the truth being revealed slowly as the story progresses. I liked this because I wasn’t overwhelmed with it all at the start, and the mysteries and secrets made it all feel that bit more magical.

The only sour note for me is that I think I’ve fallen out with it over the ending. How can it end like that? Why do I have to wait a year for the next book? I just can’t.

I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review

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Strange the Dreamer
Strange the Dreamer
Laini Taylor
Young Adult Fantasy
March 28th 2017
432

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants Description

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

An inventive debut in the tradition of World War Z and The Martian, told in interviews, journal entries, transcripts, and news articles, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by a quest for truth—and a fight for control of earthshaking power.

My Review of Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1)Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the ideas but I don’t think the format worked. The author seemed to be aiming for a media / report style like World War Z, but then he was trying to tell the story normally within that by having the characters explain things that have happened to them to an interviewer. Sometimes the interviewer is on the phone with a person as they are doing something.

It’s an odd in between compromise that I felt didn’t work well. We’re removed from the action so it’s hard to feel involved, but we’re not getting the exciting, dramatic media reports about it. There’s no build up of tension and no atmosphere to it.

I enjoyed the science parts and the bits where they are working with or researching the robot, deciphering the symbols and trying to activate and control it.

Those bits were interesting to read, but overall there was too much soap opera relationship drama and not enough giant robot. It was all a bit dull, and how can a book with a giant robot in it be dull!?

None of the main characters were interesting either, the interviewer is an arrogant, pedantic nitpicker who started to grate on my nerves about halfway though.

Kara starts out like she might be ok but quickly degenerates into acting like a teenager.

Dr Rose was barely in it but when she did show up she was just used as the mothering type and not a scientist in her own right.

I also found it hard to keep track of the timeline. It felt like everything happened in about 2 months, but I think it was more like 2 years?

It’s not that it’s a bad book, the writing is ok, the sci-fi side is interesting, and it’s not too long. It just had the potential to be a lot better.

I wouldn’t go out of my way for the sequel but I might read it if someone else passed it on to me.

Sleeping Giants
Themis Files
Sylvain Neuvel
Sci-Fi
April 26th 2016

The Copper Promise (The Copper Cat #1) by Jen Williams

The Copper Promise

The Copper Promise Blurb

There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel…

Some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths.

For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him … and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.

But sometimes there is truth in rumour.

Soon this reckless trio will be the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.

My Review of The Copper Promise

The Copper Promise (The Copper Cat, #1)The Copper Promise by Jen Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Plot
Sebastion and Wydrin are sell-swords hired by Lord Frith to act as bodyguards while he investigates a ruined citadel. Rumoured to be haunted, no one with any sense will go anywhere near it.

It’s a refreshing and fun story, full of magic, adventure, fights and taverns! It has a lot going on, but it was easy to follow and didn’t get complicated enough to stop it being fun to read.

One issue I had with it though is that Sebastion and Wydrin are supposed to be renowned as two of the best sell-swords there are, but every time they got into trouble someone or something appeared out of nowhere to help them. If they’re so good at what they do shouldn’t they have been able to save themselves more?

Then at the end, everything is tied up quickly and neatly in the epilogue, and it all felt a bit forced. A lot happened to the characters and it didn’t show how they dealt with everything.

BUT there’s no cliffhanger! *happy dance*

Characters
This is where Jen Williams really shines, her characters are wonderful. Complex and diverse, and they bring the story to life with warmth and humour. Lifts the book way above standard fantasy fare.

Sebastion – more about his reaction to Gallo. A lot of things not resolved for him, lost the Knights, Gallo, and his connection to the Dragon’s daughters.

Wydrin – smart, clever and with a reputation that precedes her, she drives the story and brings a lot of humour in.

Frith – cold and focused on his goal of revenge. But he can’t help reacting to the warmth and life in Sebastion and Wydrin.

Pacing
It started out fast paced, but then it seemed to slow down in the middle. I liked this better because it meant I could get fully engrossed in the story.

The end went super fast though. You know when you have 20 pages left and you think the author can’t possibly resolve all this by the end of the book? And then they do, but it all flies past so fast that you’re not sure what just happened? I’m not entirely sure how their plan worked or what they were doing. I feel like I have to go back and re-read the ending to pick up bits I missed.

Writing
Loved Jen’s writing style. Humorous and lively, and it’s sensitive when it needs to be. Can I just say again how happy I am there is no cliff hanger?!

Overall
It’s not perfect but I enjoyed it, and it gives the fantasy genre a good kick up the bum. I will definitely be reading the sequel.

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The Copper Promise
The Copper Cat
Jen Williams
Fantasy
February 13th 2014
535

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3) by Marie Lu

The Midnight Star

The Midnight Star Blurb

There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all she’s gained.

When a new danger appears, Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds, putting not only herself at risk, but every Elite. In order to preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

My Review of The Midnight Star

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites, #3)The Midnight Star by Marie Lu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The final book in The Young Elites series starts with Adelina conquering neighbouring states and expanding the kingdom she won in the last book. She is searching for the sister she has driven away and her illusions are turning on her as she loses control of them. A pretty bleak start really!

She still has Magiano, although he appears to be wary of telling her what he really thinks. The relationship between these two is slow to develop and quite sweet, but it’s not the main story here so it doesn’t get much page time. I would have liked to have seen more of their interactions, he often seems unsure of Adelina’s actions and pushes her towards being kinder and it would have been nice to see why he has so much influence over her instead of Adelina telling us every now and again that she misses him or wants to see him. Also my opinion is always that there can never be enough romance!

It’s not just Magiano and Adelina’s relationship, a lot of things seem over simplified in this series. This book moves quickly and a lot of things seem skimmed over. Adelina very easily takes over half the world but this is never seen in detail, it happens off page. We’re told it occurs but it’s hard to take in that she’s the ruler of half the world so suddenly when we have very little information on it.

It also means that a lot of the world doesn’t really come alive because it’s never drawn in detail for us. They travel around very quickly with little inconvenience and every city feels the same. I often lost track of where they were.

She is also very suddenly working with her enemies and I feel that more could have been made of this, about the uneasy relations between them, and how they manage to compromise to work with each other.

The best thing about this series has been watching Adelina become a villain. Her descent into madness is done well, her illusions are taking over her and her nightmares are overwhelming. Her sister has left her and she feels like all her friends have betrayed her. So obviously she has to conquer the world and MAKE THEM ALL PAY!

It’s a different view to the normal fantasy magic story and I think on the whole it’s been done well. There are some brilliant and unique ideas here and it’s a very well-written and readable book. I finished this last one in just over a day.

Marie Lu excels at ending books, the first two had brilliant cliffhangers, and I just loved the ending of this one. I just wish the other characters were given a bit more attention, with less of what’s going on in Adelina’s head.

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The Midnight Star
The Young Elites
Marie Lu
Young Adult Fantasy
October 11th 2016
Paperback
336