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

The Complete Alien Omnibus by Alan Dean Foster

Alien Cover

The Complete Alien Omnibus Blurb

As the spaceship ‘Nostromos’ glided through the silent reaches of the galaxy, the ship’s scanners detected a garbled distress call from a remote and long dead planet.

But all the technology on board could not protect the ship’s crew from the living nightmare they found there. It was a terror that stalked Ripley, the only survivor of ‘Nostromos’, and came to haunt her again and again.

Read the horrors of ALIEN and you won’t believe that Ripley returned, with a team of death-dealing Marines, right back into the jaws of a threat too monstrous to contemplate.

After the slaughter that was ALIENS, Ripley finds herself on a prison planet worse than anyone’s imagined hell. But the nightmare of ALIEN 3 was only just beginning…

My Review of The Complete Alien Omnibus

The Complete Alien OmnibusThe Complete Alien Omnibus by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love the Alien films so I was very happy when my boyfriend found this at a car boot last weekend!

Obviously, I already knew I liked the stories, and Ellen Ripley is probably my all time favourite movie character, but I was hoping for a bit more info / background on the plot and characters.

There really isn’t much outside what happens in the films. Extra scenes and conversations are few and far between, and I wasn’t impressed with the bits that are added. We do get to find out what Ripley is thinking, and it makes more of how the events are affecting her psychologically.

Saying that, some bits are made clearer – eg why the ship crashes in the final film.

The writing improved in each book, in the first one it’s a bit overblown, and I felt like the author was trying too hard to be intelligent. By the last book, he’s calmed down a lot and just gets on with telling a story. In fact, Alien 3 is my least favourite of the movies (let’s pretend 4 never happened), but actually it makes the best book. Though I will never approve of the Alien franchise’s habit of killing major characters off between films.

Is this for you? Well, if you love the movies and are happy just reading them in book form then go for it, but if you’re after more insights into the Alien world, then this will just disappoint you.

The Complete Alien Omnibus
Alien
Alan Dean Foster
Sci-Fi
October 14th 1993
649

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

The Stars are Legion

The Stars are Legion Blurb

Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is travelling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution.  As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.

Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation – the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan’s new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion’s gravity well to the very belly of the world.

Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion’s destruction – and its possible salvation. But can she and her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?

My Review of The Stars are Legion

The Stars Are LegionThe Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I reviewed this over on my old blog when I first read it, but it’s such an original and inventive sci-fi book that I want to spread the word as much as possible!

Zan wakes up injured and with amnesia. She does not know who or where she is. The world to her, and to us, seems to be half mad. We are swept along with Zan and told as little as she is as she tries to piece together who she is.

Zan is on one of many worlds / spaceships that are actually living creatures. The walls and the floors are spongy, and they move between levels by using the umbilical cord. They have to cut open the skin to get outside! The further into the middle you go the more visceral and sticky the world gets.

These worlds, collectively known as the Legion, are stuck in their orbit around the false sun. They are slowly dying. Cancer eats away at them, and with each new generation the inhabitants are losing their knowledge on what they are and where they came from. They can barely control them and don’t know what half the equipment on them does.

The different worlds are in conflict with each other, fighting for resources, each of them salvaging what they can to heal their own worlds at the expense of the others.

One world, the Mokshi, has managed to leave it’s orbit and now everyone wants to board it and control it, to find out how it does it and hopefully create a new future for themselves.

The world building here is impressive and original. It reminds me of Iain M Banks space opera stories in its scope. Hurley creates the same sort of atmosphere and strangeness in her unique universe.

The characters are interesting if not always likeable, with realistic emotions and believable actions. Zan travels to the centre of the world and the people she picks up along the way are from different cultures with different life experiences, and each has their own distinct personality.

In the middle of the book, when Zan reaches the centre of the world it suddenly becomes a blend of sci-fi / horror, before bringing in elements of fantasy. I thought this was very well done, it didn’t feel out of place to me. I loved the sci-fi side, and the space battles, but this journey through the centre of the world was my favourite part of the book. Hurley’s imagination ran wild here, and there are some very inventive ideas as we learn more about what the world is and the different social and cultural groups in it.

As Zan struggles through the world trying to make sense of it and piece herself back together Hurley doesn’t shy away from showing us the darker side of humanity. There is love in this world, but also betrayal, fear, cowardice and prejudice as we see the things people are capable of doing to others and to themselves to get what they want.

There is a hopeless feel at times, the world is dying, the leaders rule by fear, and even if Zan gets back her memory where can she go from there? But just as it starts getting overwhelming for me Hurley shakes it all up again and reminds us there are good things in people too, when they are given the chance to show them.

There are answers given eventually, but not all of them are concrete ones. Some things are hinted at but left for you to fill in the gaps yourself. It might be very confusing at first but stick with it because Hurley’s world is worth the effort of getting to know!

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

The Stars Are Legion
Kameron Hurley
Sci-Fi

Aversion (The Mentalist Series, #1) by Kenechi Udogu

aversion cover

Book Blurb

For Gemma Green’s first time, things should have been straightforward. Find your subject, hold their gaze and push a thought into their head to save them from future disaster – Aversion complete. A pretty simple process given that the subject was to have no recollection of the experience.

But Russ Tanner doesn’t seem to want to forget. In fact the more she tries to avoid him, the more he pushes to get to know her. Gemma knows she has a problem but is she facing the side effects of a failed Aversion or has the school’s tennis champ really fallen for her?

My Review of Aversion

Aversion (The Mentalist Series, #1)Aversion by Kenechi Udogu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump the past couple of weeks. I’ve read two book club books, then a rather large fantasy that I didn’t really enjoy, and I’ve found it hard to get going with anything else. I got this ARC of Aversion sent to me recently, and it’s only 133 pages so I thought I’d give it a go as a quick read. I dipped in and out of this and another book at first, but then this caught my attention and I gave up on the other one! It’s just what I needed to get my reading focus back.

Gemma is funny and sweet. Though she’s trying very hard to understand she can’t be a normal teenager it’s clear that she really wants to do the normal things the other girls at her school get to do.

Russ’ personality is a bit less clear. He’s understandably a bit confused about the strange things happening to him, but he’s very supportive of Gemma. We don’t see much of him beyond this, but I got the impression he’s confident, athletic, and generally quite nice.

The way the story was told was a bit like a stream of consciousness from Gemma. It read more like a diary entry than a story, and it left me feeling a bit disconnected from everything. It’s like Gemma got home and was telling someone about what had happened to her.

Gemma does an awful lot of thinking too. Someone says something, and she thinks about it so much that sometimes it was nearly a page before we get the response. It made events feel disjointed and just added to the disconnection I felt.

Because of the way the story is told at first I thought that I wasn’t going to enjoy it. But I found that I kept going back to it, and I got hooked on the story. The characters are sweet and the love interest is refreshingly kind and caring.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, I hope it explains a bit more about the other Averters and how their community works.

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

Aversion
The Mentalist
Kenechi Udogu
Young Adult Fantasy
kindle
133

Advent (Advent Trilogy #1) by James Treadwell

Advent Cover

Advent Blurb

For centuries it has been locked away
Lost beneath the sea
Warded from earth, air, water, fire, spirits, thought and sight.

But now magic is rising to the world once more.

And a boy called Gavin, who thinks only that he is a city kid with parents who hate him, and knows only that he sees things no one else will believe, is boarding a train, alone, to Cornwall.

No one will be there to meet him.

My Review of Advent

Advent (Advent Trilogy #1)Advent by James Treadwell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Seriously, I never thought I’d say this about a book, but this is a story that would have been better without the fantasy and magic.

Gavin is 15 and he sees things that everyone tells him aren’t really there. Mainly a woman he calls Miss Grey. His parents are fed up with him and angry because they think he’s pretending, and when he finally told a teacher about the things he’s being seeing he’s suspended.

Am I being naive but why would his school even suspend him for this? Why wouldn’t they talk to his parents and try to get him to go to the doctors or a psychiatrist?

Anyway, when he gets to Cornwall his aunt has disappeared, and he meets some unusual people while he’s looking for her at the house where she works as a housekeeper or something. What he doesn’t do is go to the police though. Oh no, that would be far too sensible and require some actual action on his part.

It’s very slow moving, we barely cover two days, and it’s a longish book. People were saying random things that didn’t seem to fit with the story, and having long conversations without actually saying anything. There’s a lot of random rhymes dropped all over the place that are supposed to help or provide clues, but actually just waste time. Gavin doesn’t listen to them anyway and he doesn’t actually do anything.

Things just happen to him and even the ending wasn’t anything to do with him. His reason for being in the story is never explained. We’re told that he’s special, but not why, or what he’s supposed to do. We do get a lot of page time spent on him walking around without shoes on though.

My favourite parts were when Gavin was travelling to Cornwall and when he had just arrived. I think the story of Gavin as a teenager who sees things and has been sent away because his family can’t cope with him worked better than when the magic and fantasy were introduced. I like the almost simplistic writing style for this bit, but then when the fantasy side comes in it gets very dramatic and overblown, and kinda confusing.

So overall it’s just a boring, confusing mess. I can’t understand why it’s over 600 pages long when nothing happens.

Advent
Advent
James Treadwell
Young Adult Fantasy
614

Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee

Broken Branches Blurb

“Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.”

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

My Review of Broken Branches

Broken BranchesBroken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Broken Branches has a real feeling of unease with a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and a spooky tree overshadowing it, though this could have been played on a bit more. The atmosphere was there at the start of the book, and there were some odd bumps and noises in the house, but it didn’t really build up until near the end. From the description, I was hoping for something a bit creepier.

The story is interesting and the twist at the end is shocking. The pacing is just right and the build up to the end of the story is done brilliantly. I was hooked, and couldn’t put it down.

Some parts of the story are left almost unexplained though. I wanted a bit more info about the family history. Ian’s research didn’t seem to go anywhere. And why did his father and brother not want anything to do with him?

I liked the jumps into the past where we saw Ian grow up on the farm and the way his family fell apart, but I don’t fully understand why it happened.

Overall, I enjoyed it, it’s well written and easy to read. It’s quite short too and I became so engrossed in it that I finished it in about a day. I would read more by this author.

I also love the cover! It sets the tone for the story perfectly.

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

Broken Branches
M. Jonathan Lee
Fiction

Short Stories to read on Bank Holidays

banks holiday short stories

Hurray for the long weekend! But the most important thing to think about is what are you going to read?

These are my suggestions if you’re looking for something quick and fun that you can read when you get the chance for a sit-down and a nice cup of tea.

Please share your own favourites in the comments!

Zombie Novellas – David Moody and others

If you like Zombie stories, Infected Books published one short story a month last year. That’s 12 to choose from!

Find a full listing at Infected Books – Year of the Zombie, and choose your favourites.

Kim & Kim

Bright, loud and fun, Graphic Novel Kim & Kim follows two unlucky bounty hunters on their journeys across space.

It has two badass female main characters with realistic personalities and a strong friendship between them.

One of my favourites.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Elma York was an astronaut in her youth and led the way to colonise Mars.  Still living on Mars as she nears the end of her career she is given one last chance to go back into Space.

Beautiful and sweet, The Lady Astronaut of Mars is free to read online at Tor.com

Sing by Karin Tidbeck

Petr is a biologist studying a village of people living on a backwater planet. Aino’s physical disabilities have made her an outcast from that village,  but her singing voice captivates Petr from the moment he hears it.

A short, beautifully written and poignant story that will make you think.

Read for free at Tor.com

Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okora

In Hello, Moto, technology and magic merge into one very interesting story. It’s a lovely mix of sci-fi and fantasy, and it’s very short so good if you only have 10 minutes to spare.

You can read Hello, Moto for free at Tor.com

Tanglefoot (The Clockwork Century, #1.2) by Cherie Priest

Free to read online, Tanglefoot is a short steampunk story set in The Clockwork Century universe.

Edwin is a young boy living in hiding in the basement lab of an old inventor. As the inventor slowly slides into dementia, Edwin becomes more and more lonely, eventually building himself a robot friend he names Ted.

But robot Ted isn’t as friendly as Edwin hoped it would be.

I love Cherie Priest’s books, and this is a good starting point for the Clockwork Century series.

You can read Tanglefoot online for free at Subterranean Press

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Everyone should read this balanced, insightful, and very sensible short essay on feminism.

Please, someone, make it required reading in schools!

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

A short treat from Neil Gainman, this is a young adult tale about Odd who has to save Asgard from the Frost Giants. It was released for World Book Day nearly 10 years ago and has been a favourite of mine since.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

The inspiration for Dracula, I think this is better. It might seem cliched and obvious now, but this is the book that invented the cliches and provided the foundation for all the vampire stories that have followed it.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss

Don’t be put off by this little book being part of a series. It’s a standalone book that follows Auri, a mysterious girl that is one of the secondary characters in the main books.

Auri is a young woman that lives in the Underthing, forgotten passageways and lost rooms underneath a university. It’s a slow book, not much happens really, but it’s odd and bittersweet and I love it.

Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Two soldiers on opposite sides of a war fall in love and try to find a safe place to raise their child. A sci-fi graphic novel that’s original and thought-provoking, with unique and diverse characters.

It’s very popular, and definitely deserves all the praise it gets.

All Good Things (The Split Worlds #5) by Emma Newman

All Good Things Cover

When the mysterious sorceress, Bea, offers her a chance to earn true freedom, Cathy makes a deal with her. But can she and Sam work out the best way to navigate Bea’s plans for the future without becoming another of her victims?

Amidst death, deceit, and the struggle for freedom, friendships are tested, families are destroyed and heroes are forged as the battle to control the Split Worlds rages on to its climatic conclusion.

All Good Things (The Split Worlds, #5)All Good Things by Emma Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so happy to get my hands on an ARC of All Good Things! I’m a big fan of this series, I’ve been avidly following Cathy’s journey through the first four books and I was excited to see how the story would conclude.

Cathy has been on a massive journey. From the scared young woman in the first book to the Duchess of Londinium trying to effect social change, she has now grown into a true leader, Princess Leia rebel style.

For the first few books, Cathy was mainly ineffective, complaining but not actually doing anything. In the last two books she has made grown in confidence, started caring about other people, and made some real changes, but what she does here is just brilliant. I love the way this book ended.

The side stories were neatly wrapped up too. Though I do feel like there was a lot of wrapping up in this book, and at times a lot of the stories felt rushed. Will and the Fae princess, for example, seemed to be a bit crammed in.

I’m not happy about what happened with Lucy. She has been such a strong character through the series and very supportive of Cathy, and I don’t like the way she was treated at the end.

Max and the gargoyle have been my favourite characters by far. I’d love to see some more of them, I feel like Cathy’s story might be done but those two have a lot of work to do now.

This has been one of my favourite series and I’m sad to see it end, but I’m also excited to see what Emma Newman does next.

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

All Good Things
The Split Worlds
Emma Newman
Fantasy
June 6th 2017
350

The Great Passage by Shion Miura

The Great Passage Cover

The Great Passage Blurb

A charmingly warm and hopeful story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection. Award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura’s novel is a reminder that a life dedicated to passion is a life well lived.

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years creating them at Gembu Books, it’s time for him to retire and find his replacement.

He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, dishevelled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics—whom he swipes from his company’s sales department.

Led by his new mentor and joined by an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the bond that connects us all: words.

My Review of The Great Passage

The Great PassageThe Great Passage by Shion Miura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How can a book about a small department at a publishing house creating a dictionary be so wonderful?

Wrapped up in the main story about the creation of the dictionary there are three different stories about the people in the dictionary department. One is about a man who learns to connect with people, one is a woman who learns not to judge others, and the other is about a man who learns that it’s ok to show that you care about things.

The translator has done a great job. There is a lot of discussion about the meaning and origin of words and I’m impressed by how these have been translated from the original Japanese to still make sense in English. A couple of times I had to re-read paragraphs a few times to follow the meanings, but the majority of them were easy to follow.

The geeky side of me enjoyed the bits about describing words and the look at how a dictionary is created. The three stories with their quirky characters provide a warm, human element that I could connect with.

I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to. It made me smile while I was reading it and even though the ending has some sad moments it left me happier and I’m glad I took a chance on it.

Also, I love the cover!

The Great Passage
Shion Miura, Juliet Winters Carpenter (Translation)
Fiction
June 1st 2017
222

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the birds in the sky

All the Birds in the Sky Blurb

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever growing ailments. Little do they realise that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world or plunge it into a new dark age.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the Apocalypse.

My Review of All the Birds in the Sky

All the Birds in the SkyAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an unusual book! All the Birds in the Sky mixes magic, sci-fi, climate change, other universes and the end of the world.

There’s a bit of Jonas Jonasson style farce in, especially at the start (2-second time machine!). When it jumps to Patricia and Laurence as grown ups the setting reminds me of the world in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, with added hipster style.

It feels to me like a lot of thought has gone into the near future setting and the technology they have. It felt realistic and vibrant and I loved the mix of magic and science.

There’s a strong sense of humour running through it and I really liked the writing style, but some parts were a little confusing. Nothing is explained at the start, I felt a little like I was thrown into the middle of a story. Most of it slowly started to make sense, but some bits felt unfinished. I’m not sure really what the point of Mr Rose was.

I liked Patricia and Laurence, they seem warm, mostly kind, and very human. They are both outcasts but see the world differently, and they have some very funny observations on life. I liked the diversity of the other characters and they all had distinct personalities.

Five-star rating from me because all the good bits far outweigh the few flaws in it. It’s odd and unusual and truly is a wonderful gem of a book. Normally I like finishing books so I can start the next one and I rush through them, but with this one, I wish it were twice as long.

All the Birds in the Sky
Charlie Jane Anders
Sci-Fi
January 26th 2016
432