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

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes Blurb

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realise that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My review of An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An Ember in the Ashes is a very dark story that doesn’t shy away from the dark side of human nature. It’s a very harsh world and there’s a lot of death, killing and torture.

I found it easy to get into despite the writing being very dry, the world around the characters isn’t described much. At one point Laia goes to a moon festival at night and it’s all lit up with lanterns. This should have been vibrant and full of life but it felt flat. I couldn’t picture it in my mind.

The speech and behaviour are very modern, which sounds odd in the historical setting.

I do like the way the two different viewpoints of Laia and Elias were written though and I like how it takes a while for them to start being aware of each other. Laia I really enjoyed reading. She starts off quite timid and scared and we get to see how she grows and gets braver.

There’s not much romance, which I liked. There’s a bit too much worrying about who fancies who (and seriously, these people have bigger things to be worrying about), but no proper romance, and definitely no insta-love!

I found it strange how the characters have gone through some very traumatic things but still act like normal teenagers (even though Elias is supposed to 20). Their life experiences don’t seem to have had much emotional impact on them.

The trials Elias goes through are physically and emotionally difficult. They’re aimed at choosing a new Emperor and removing the old one and people die in the process, but somehow it feels like they’re not that big a deal, they’re no more important than a big exam or a job interview. Elias is more worried about if his friend fancies him or not, and does he fancy her back.

The whole thing seems unrealistic, but I would say suspend disbelief if you can because the story is good. It’s full of twists and turns and I didn’t want to stop reading and go to work or to bed. I know I like a book when my other half has to forcibly remove it from my hands.

An Ember in the Ashes
An Ember in the Ashes
Sabaa Tahir
Young Adult Fantasy

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun Blurb

With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene. Half of a Yellow Sun is a tremendously evocative novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment of the Biafran war.

My review of Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow SunHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Half a Yellow Sun tells the story of Biafra, a State that existed for three years in the sixties during a civil war in Nigeria.

Three different narrators show us the human side of war and the effects it has on ordinary people.

It took me a long time to warm up to the characters and to start to care what happened to them. They do things that aren’t nice, or kind a lot of the time. We see their weaknesses and their selfish behaviour is made very obvious. Basically, they are very human and very realistic, and it was hard for me to remember that they are made up characters and not actually real people.

In the Q&A in the back of the copy I have the author says that she does not like omniscient narrators, that she does not want to bore us with their every thought. What we get then is almost fragments out of the lives of the narrators, and they do things that they don’t seem to fully understand themselves. It reminds me of the way Doris Lessing writes, just with more of an actual story in there too.

This is not the sort of book I normally read, but I’m glad I gave it a go. I was worried it might be a bit dry, but it’s really not. The subject matter means it’s not an easy read, but it is very readable, very interesting, and always stays sensitive.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a gifted storyteller and I’ll be looking out for more of her work.

View all my reviews

Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fiction
January 1st 2007
448

The Magician’s Workshop, Volume One by Christopher Hansen

The Magician's Workshop

The Magician’s Workshop blurb

Everyone in the islands of O’Ceea has a magical ability: whatever they imagine can be brought into existence. Whoever becomes a master over these powers is granted the title of magician and is given fame, power, riches, and glory. This volume of books follows the journey of a group of kids as they strive to rise to the top and become members of the Magician’s Workshop.

Layauna desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but all she can seem to do is make horrible, savage monsters. For years she has tried to hide her creations, but when her power is at last discovered by a great magician, she realizes that what she’s tried to hide might actually be of tremendous value.

Kai just wants to use his powers to have fun and play with his friends. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on his island sees him as a bad influence, so he’s forced to meet them in secret. When one of the creatures they create gets out of control and starts flinging fireballs at their town, Kai is tempted to believe that he is as nefarious as people say. However, his prospects change when two mysterious visitors arrive, praising his ability and making extraordinary promises about his future.

Follow the adventures of Kai, Layauna, and a boatload of other characters as they struggle to grow up well in this fantastical world.

My review of The Magician’s Workshop

The Magician's Workshop, Volume OneThe Magician’s Workshop, Volume One by Christopher Hansen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Magician’s Workshop has one of the most unusual magic systems I’ve seen. It’s all based on the idea that everyone can create projections – illusions that work on the senses. So you can make people see, hear, feel and taste things.

There’s also the idea that everyone has a colour inside them. A test at age 16 will show if someone has a colour inside them or if they are void.

I’m not entirely sure what the colours are or what they are used for though. There are no big info dumps here, which is great because I hate those, but also it doesn’t really explain things.

The culture and the world took me a while to get to grips with, the magic system was slowly revealed so I was starting to understand that, but there are so many different ideas and story lines going on that it took me the entire book to start feeling like I had a grip on the world.

I think there are about 5 different viewpoints, and it doesn’t spend very long with any of them so the stories didn’t go anywhere. Not much happened, I think the whole of this book was just setting the scene. Hopefully, the story will get going in the next book.

The characters are supposed to be around 16, which for the world it’s set in appears to be when they start to be considered adults. It didn’t fit with the way they acted though, I was fully convinced I was reading about 11 year-olds until the text mentioned their age.

I liked the writing style, and I liked the ideas and the characters, but I would have been happier with fewer viewpoints and more story.

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

The Magician's Workshop, Volume One
The Magician's Workshop
Christopher Hansen
Young Adult Fantasy
November 8th 2016
247