Before Mars (Planetfall #3) by Emma Newman

Before Mars Cover

After months of travel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist-in-residence. Already she feels like she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth–and she’ll be on Mars for over a year. Throwing herself into her work, she tries her best to fit in with the team.

But in her new room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note written in her own handwriting, warning her not to trust the colony psychologist. A note she can’t remember writing. She unpacks her wedding ring, only to find it has been replaced by a fake.

Finding a footprint in a place the colony AI claims has never been visited by humans, Anna begins to suspect that her assignment isn’t as simple as she was led to believe. Is she caught up in an elaborate corporate conspiracy, or is she actually losing her mind? Regardless of what horrors she might discover, or what they might do to her sanity, Anna has find the truth before her own mind destroys her.

My Thoughts

Before Mars (Planetfall, #3)Before Mars by Emma Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anna Kubrin is newly arrived on Mars, ready to join the team as a geologist. She has been travelling in a spaceship on her own for 6 months, spending most of her lonely time in mersives – VR memories that are recorded by the chip in a person’s brain, that they can go back and relive any time they want.

When Anna gets to Mars though, things aren’t what she expected them to be. She has instinctive emotions towards the other members of the team she meets on Mars that she doesn’t understand. Little, odd things seem out of place and she starts to think that the base’s AI is lying to her, that it is trying to keep her away from one specific location on the Mars surface.

Anna knows that something is wrong but sometimes she doubts her own sanity, not helped by the base’s resident psychiatrist telling her that she is suffering from too much time spent in mersives.

Anna never wanted children, she feels her husband forced the decision on her and now she appears to be suffering from postnatal depression. Unable to form a connection with her daughter she took the opportunity to travel to Mars as a geologist and artist. Now, she feels guilty for her decision at the same time as feeling glad that she has left the claustrophobic atmosphere of her family.

It’s good to have a main character who is a mother struggling with motherhood. Anna is a flawed, struggling woman who is often hard to like but compelling to read about. Her honesty to us and herself about her issues with her child and her husband are refreshing. They are much needed in a world that likes to present motherhood as a mythical state of enlightenment, something that is inbuilt into a woman’s psyche, as though it’s not difficult and as much a trial and error experience as everything else in this world. We need more women characters like this in fiction.

It’s a very clever, twisty plot, is Anna right or is she imagining things? Should she trust the other team members or is she right to be suspicious of them? It took me back and forth between believing Anna and thinking that she is wrong about it all. It kept me guessing as it built up the suspense.

I loved the tech in the book, it takes what we have now and pushes it and expands on it making the setting fell very realistic. It mixes in a mystery, which I also love, and throws in a fair bit of a thriller atmosphere and then mixes it all perfectly. This has to be one of my favourite sci-fi books of the last few years.

Emma Newman is a very versatile author. I never would have imagined after reading the Split Worlds fantasy series that she could be such a good sci-fi author. Each book in this series focuses on different events in the same universe and has different themes and a different feel to them. It’s all very cleverly done, I wish more series were built up like this. For me, she is up there with China Mieville in her refusal to being categorised as an author of a specific genre.

Before Mars follows quite closely the second book in the series, the two tales intertwine at points but I don’t think you will need to have read that to read this. I recommend that you do read that though, and the first one as they are both brilliant and will add a lot to the backstory of this one. Like I said though, no specific need to, if you think this sounds like one you really want to read then you won’t have much of an issue if you start here.

I all around enjoyed this one, I sped through it in a few days and I’ve already started on After Atlas, the next book in the series. I highly recommend this series if you like sci-fi.

Before Mars
Planetfall
Emma Newman
Sci-Fi
April 17th 2018
Kindle
352

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color by Nisi Shawl, Rebecca Roanhorse

New Suns Cover

Anthology of contemporary stories by emerging and seasoned writers of many races

There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns,” proclaimed Octavia E Butler.

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color showcases emerging and seasoned writers of many races telling stories filled with shocking delights, powerful visions of the familiar made strange. Between this book’s covers burn tales of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and their indefinable overlappings. These are authors aware of our many possible pasts and futures, authors freed of stereotypes and clichés, ready to dazzle you with their daring genius.

Unexpected brilliance shines forth from every page.

Including stories by Indrapramit Das, E Lily Yu, Rebecca Roanhorse, Anil Menon, Jaymee Goh and many others. Introduction by Levar Burton.

My Thoughts

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of ColorNew Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color by Nisi Shawl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

News Suns is a book of collected short speculative fiction stories by people of colour. It’s quite an open description and so the stories here are varied in style, linking them is that they all have elements of something unusual, something not quite of this world.

Normally I find short story collections difficult to read because I find myself stopping after every story but with this one I just couldn’t stop reading. The stories are all a bit odd, a bit different and full of atmosphere. I very much enjoyed this collection and I was sad to get to the end.

My favourites included Harvest – a dark and disturbing tale of a woman who would do anything for her lover, The Freedom of the Shifting Sea, an only slight less disturbing tale of a woman that falls in love with a mermaid / sea worm and Deer Dancer, a story that I didn’t understand at all but thought was beautifully done even though it went over my head.

The only one I wasn’t keen on was The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations because it was more historical explanation than a story. I liked the way it tried something new but I didn’t feel connected to the story at all, it was too far removed.

The other stories were:

Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex, about a taxi driver who finds himself in trouble after a passenger jumps out of his cab.

Come Home to Atropos – a very cleverly done story about an advertising campaign to entice rich white people to come to Atropos for euthanasia that feels far too realistic to be comfortable reading.

The Fine Print – about men that exchange their women and children to pay for perfect wives from catalogues.

Unkind of Mercy – a woman that can see invisible beings that inhabit our world.

Burn the Ships – a race of people that are about to be wiped out by alien invaders find a way to fight back.

Three Variations on a Theme of Imperial Attire – an Emporer’s New Clothes retelling.

Blood and Bells – another of my favourites, this is about a young man trying to protect his child and escape the gang world that he lives in.

Give me your Black Wings Oh Sister – I liked this one a lot too, it’s about a young woman that starts to feel strange, uncontrollable urges.

The Shadow we Cast through Time – a story about a world that lives in close contact with demons.

The Robots of Eden – people that have ‘enhanced’ themselves but lost the ability to feel emotions.

Dumb House – a woman that refuses to upgrade to the latest smart houses.

One Easy Trick – about a woman who literally loses her belly fat while walking in the forest.

Kelsey and the Burdened Breath – a world where when people die their souls leave their bodies with their last breath.

A varied and interesting short story collection, I recommend this if you’re looking for something fresh and a bit different.

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

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color
Nisi Shawl, Rebecca Roanhorse
Sci-Fi
March 12th 2019
Kindle
384

Charmed Life (Chrestomanci #1) by Diana Wynne Jones

Charmed life cover

Cat doesn’t mind living in the shadow of his sister, Gwendolen, the most promising young witch ever seen on Coven Street. But trouble starts brewing the moment the two orphans are summoned to live in Chrestomanci Castle. Frustrated that the witches of the castle refuse to acknowledge her talents, Gwendolen conjures up a scheme that could throw whole worlds out of whack.

My Thoughts

Charmed Life (Chrestomanci, #1)Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Charmed Life is an odd but fun book about two orphan children who go to live in Chrestomanci Castle, home of the most powerful magician in the land and his family.

Cat has no magic of his own but his sister Gwendolen is a very powerful witch and she’s also very impressed with her own ability. When they arrive at the castle though, the adults ignore them and Gwendolen is banned from practising magic. Safe to say she is not pleased by this and she quickly sets out to cause as much mayhem as possible in revenge.

I did enjoy this book but it has what I think is a pretty big plot hole. Cat and his sister are dragged away from their home to live with this Chrestomanci person and no one in their new home will talk to them or explain anything that’s going on. No wonder Gwendolen gets frustrated, I would too!

I spent a good two-thirds of the book being outraged on behalf of Cat and Gwendolen and cheering Gwendolen’s naughtiness on. The adults keep their secrets for far too long for no real reason – they could have sat down and talked to Cat, then everything would have been resolved almost straight away.

Of course, when the truth comes out you realise the adults were actually dealing with everything very carefully. The villain is mean and nasty (and the author doesn’t sugar coat it) and there is real and scary danger to everyone.

The story has a very dark edge to it but then the best children’s books always do. The exciting ending made up for a lot of my issue with Chrestomanci just not talking to the children.

Charmed Life is aimed at children but with enough to it to keep adults interested too. Make yourself a big cup of tea and settle down somewhere cosy to enjoy this one!

Charmed Life
Chrestomanci
Diana Wynne Jones
Children's Fantasy
1977
Paperback
252

Blogger Recognition Award

blogger recognition award

The rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include their link
  • Give a brief explanation of how your blog began
  • Give some advice to new bloggers
  • Name 10 nominees and include their links
  • Tag your nominees on twitter to let them know

Thank the person who nominated you and include their link

Thank you so much for tagging me Mani! I’m sorry I’m so slow at responding to these things. Mani is a wonderful blogger, go check her out at Mani’s Book Corner

Give a brief explanation of how your blog began

I started this blog just because I found I really like writing reviews on GoodReads and I wanted somewhere of my own where I could collect them all together. I’d also really like to help people find new / different books to add to their reading lists – I use other bloggers to find new reading material and I’d like to pass that on to others.

Give some advice to new bloggers

Get a website so you have somewhere that belongs to you to collect all your reviews and you’re not at the mercy of sites like Facebook or Instagram. Even if your reviews are on GoodReads if these sites make changes or close down suddenly you could loose all your work!

The book community is friendly and very active, take part in tags and take the time to comment on other people’s blogs if you want to be involved in it.

But really there are no rules, you do you! I’m not very good at being sociable, I like reading other blogs but I don’t comment much and I’m not very active on Twitter. I still love book reviewing and keeping up with what others have been doing and I still get a lot out of keeping this blog going!

Name 10 nominees and include their links

Tagging some of my favourite bloggers!

Clair’s Bookshelf

Sucker for coffee

Hit or Miss Books

Des’ Random Thoughts

Bookish Luna

Stephanie’s Novel Fiction

Jenniely

Swift Coffee

Kenyan Library 

A Bigger Bookcase

Anyone who wants to!

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister the Serial Killer Cover

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water.

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach.

This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first.

Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other.

My Thoughts

My Sister, the Serial KillerMy Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this when I read it, but I had to wait for it to get round the rest of the book club before I could review it and now I find that I didn’t remember much of it at all. I admit I had to wait for the other book club members to remind me what had happened before I could write this review!

I do remember that I found the characters frustrating. Korede has serious issues with her sister Ayoola, she has a lot of jealousy and paints her sister as a beautiful woman who has everyone wrapped around her little finger, getting everything she wants. Korede herself is, in her own words, plain and awkward and lost in her Ayoola’s shadow.

As the story progresses Ayoola steals the heart of the man that Korede is in love with. Korede fears for his life but can’t do anything to help him without causing harm or jail time to her sister.

None of the characters are very likeable but their back story is revealed slowly throughout the book and that gives insight into why they are the way they are. I don’t actually mind characters being unpleasant and these two certainly have reason to be the way that they are.

It starts out as a dark story and parts of it are a little disturbing but it doesn’t really stay that way. It could have been much darker and pushed the story more to an extreme. I didn’t find that there was much in the way of humour in it either. It’s well written (especially for a debut) and very readable, I just wanted a bit more from the story.

An enjoyable, dark and a little disturbing short read, well written, but ultimately not very memorable – if I’m being honest I can’t actually remember the ending.

My Sister, the Serial Killer
Oyinkan Braithwaite
Fiction
November 20th 2018
Hardback
226

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

The Confessions of Franie Langton Cover

They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

My Thoughts

The Confessions of Frannie LangtonThe Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me ages to get through this book because I had to keep taking breaks and reading something else. The pace is very, very slow moving and it tackles some heavy issues but it’s not the most interesting of storylines. So I struggled to read it, I had to keep taking breaks to read something else and then come back and read a bit more.

The story only picked up at the end when it turns to the actual trial but then that is just rushed through in a couple of chapters. Though since the trial itself only lasts a day and a half – a sham trial, the minds of the judge and jurors made up before they enter the room – it’s actually a realistic representation. If there had been more of the events of that night or the things Frannie did when helping Langton with his experiments revealed at points through the book it might have added a bit more interest and life to the story. Most of it focuses on her obsession with Marguerite – something that never felt believable to me.

What I like most about this book is that Frannie is angry. She’s not a kind-hearted, self-sacrificing good girl. She’s angry at the way she’s treated and she doesn’t win people over with the kindness of her heart and you can believe it is quite possible she might actually have murdered her master and mistress.

I also liked that it goes in-depth into the overt sexism and racism prevalent at the time and the viewpoint from the slave feels realistic. I can feel Frannie’s frustration at her situation coming off her in waves. An intelligent woman who would be happy with just a bit of free time to read a book every now and again, she is treated as a savage and a beast, as though she is not human, by everyone around her.

This book has a lot to say and it’s worth reading for its viewpoint on race and slavery alone. I just found it too slow to hold my interest for long periods of reading and it’s also a bit dreary and very depressing.

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

The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Sara Collins
Fiction
April 4th 2019
Kindle
384

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

psychology of time travel cover

1967: Four female scientists invent a time-travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril.

2017: Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future–a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady.

2018: When Odette discovered the body, she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, flesh. But when the inquest fails to answer any of her questions, Odette is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

My Thoughts

The Psychology of Time TravelThe Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“We’ve done it,” Babara said, “You bloody brilliant women. We’ve done it.”

They hugged, their voices mingling as they spoke over each other, and Babara’s vision blurred with tears. She was so grateful – for Lucielle’s superluminal research, and Grace’s thermodynamics, and Margaret’s utter, unshakeable conviction that they would succeed. The team were pioneers. They were going to be the first people to travel through time.

I loved that it involved a murder mystery – one of my favourite things – and then combined it with a sci-fi story – another of my favourite things! But it kinda disappointingly didn’t go anywhere. Also, it confused me. Maybe I missed something reading it but I didn’t get the whole candy box thing and didn’t get why it was left there and why they knew when to go back.

Another thing I love is that the majority of the scientists and important people were women, as though it was just a normal thing. I didn’t like any of the characters though. As people go these were pretty miserable, selfish group. There were also so many storylines and different themes running that it made it hard to keep track of what was happening to who. I think that contributed massively to my confused feelings reading it.

It’s well written though, there’s enough in this one book to fill three or four different books and I think that if the author had trimmed this back a bit I would have really loved it.

The time travel company was interesting and well thought out – it created its own rules and morals and basically, it’s own eco-system. It set itself apart from the rest of the world as something special because it owned time travel. As another book club member pointed out (hi Mum!) the book seemed to be trying to create a parallel with the Google’s and the Facebook’s of the world – an entity with so much control and power that it thinks itself above the laws.

On the psychology side, the book delves into the ways in which time travel might affect a person. How they become hardened to death and how they deal with romantic relationships and meeting oneself in the future or the past. This was the most interesting aspect of the book for me, I liked seeing the ways the people, and the company itself, dealt with the issues.

I enjoyed reading it and I loved some of the ideas and themes running through it but overall I thought it too messy with too many characters, none of them likeable enough to make me care for them.

The Psychology of Time Travel
Kate Mascarenhas
Sci-Fi
August 9th 2018
Paperback
320

The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan

The Drowning GIrl Cover

India Morgan Phelps–Imp to her friends–is schizophrenic. She can no longer trust her own mind because she is convinced that her memories have somehow betrayed her, forcing her to question her very identity.

Struggling with her perception of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about an encounter with a vicious siren, or a helpless wolf that came to her as a feral girl, or neither of these things but something far, far stranger.

My Thoughts

The Drowning GirlThe Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Drowning Girl is confused, messy, full of lies, and takes a full third of the book to get past the first event.

But I loved it. I was sucked in straight away and couldn’t stop reading it. India’s voice is compelling. By her own admission, she is an unreliable narrator, not able to choose between two different versions of the same events she is holding in her own head. But I’d quite happily listen to this girl spin tales for as long as she wants

It’s probably not going to be for everyone. It was odd and rambling and it took ages to get going – the first third of the book was spent going back and forth over the same ground. I think the author has taken the idea that books should have a beginning, middle and end, of plot structure altogether, and thrown it straight out of the window. Though saying that, it worked very well and added to the atmosphere of the book and everyone in my book club that read it loved it.

Persevere though and it’s a rewarding read. The writing is magical and dreamy and the world sprang into life in my head. I need to read more by this author.

The Drowning Girl
Caitlín R. Kiernan
Fantasy
March 6th 2012
Paperback
332

Sabriel (The Old Kingdom #1) by Garth Nix

Sabriel Cover

Sabriel is the daughter of the Mage Abhorsen. Ever since she was a tiny child, she has lived outside the Wall of the Old Kingdom–far away from the uncontrolled power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won’t stay dead.

But now, her father is missing and Sabriel is called upon to cross into the world to find him, Leaving the safety of the school she has known as home, Sabriel embarks upon a quest fraught with supernatural dangers, with companions she is unsure of–for nothing is as it seems within the boundary of the Old Kingdom. There, she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life, and comes face to face with her hidden destiny.

My Thoughts

Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1)Sabriel by Garth Nix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really didn’t think that I was going to like this. I don’t know why but I fully expected to hate it. Just shows that I shouldn’t be too quick to judge because I ended up really enjoying it!

There were a couple of things that did disappoint me. I didn’t feel like the old kingdom was fully realised, the author skirted around the edges of it and I never felt fully immersed. I liked what I did see, the author did world building well when he bothered with it which is why I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of it.

Sabriel was a bit too out of touch for someone that was supposed to have come from there – how could she know so little? Surely she would have asked for more from her father? Or seen a bit of the world when she went back to visit? I get hung up on details sometimes and this just bugged me.

It was some of the little touches that made the book for me. I loved the paper aeroplanes and the villain and his minions manage to be genuinely scary. Characters were done so well they almost leapt off the pages. Even those that were only in for a couple of pages I felt like I knew and I became very attached to Mogget.

Sabriel was a strong lead character and I loved her magic! She has an affinity for death and can pass through the gates to travel into the land of the dead. A skill that comes in very handy more than once in her quest to find what has happened to her father.

I very much enjoyed reading this, it’s nothing new in terms of plot but it has excitement and enough about it to put its own stamp on a common story. I would definitely read the sequel.

Sabriel
The Old Kingdom
Garth Nix
Young Adult Fantasy
May 6th 2003
Paperback
367

When the Floods Came by Clare Morrall

When the floods came cover

A taut, gripping novel set in the future, when the lives of a family existing on the margins of a dramatically changed society are upset by a mysterious stranger.
In a world prone to violent flooding, Britain, ravaged 20 years earlier by a deadly virus, has been largely cut off from the rest of the world. Survivors are few and far between, most of them infertile. Children, the only hope for the future, are a rare commodity.

For 22-year-old Roza Polanski, life with her family in their isolated tower block is relatively comfortable. She’s safe, happy enough. But when a stranger called Aashay Kent arrives, everything changes. At first he’s a welcome addition, his magnetism drawing the Polanskis out of their shells, promising an alternative to a lonely existence. But Roza can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to Aashay than he’s letting on. Is there more to life beyond their isolated bubble? Is it true that children are being kidnapped? And what will it cost to find out?

My Thoughts

When the Floods CameWhen the Floods Came by Clare Morrall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When the Floods Came felt very realistic – both the tech and the world. The UK population has been desolated by a virus. Most people have flocked together to create a community in Brighton but there are still people like Roza’s family who live isolated but still in contact through the online world. They are very secretive about their home and where they live which makes sense because they are isolated and quite vulnerable. Roza works remotely for a company overseas – the virus never crossed the seas so the rest of the countries in the world survived and now send aid to the UK.

I loved the first part of the book, finding out about the world and what has happened to leave this family so isolated. But when Aashay turns up it moves away into more of a psychological thing. Though I can’t understand why they were so taken in – Aashay’s charming personality does not come across on paper at all and neither does his scary, dark side.

The part about the missing children and the way the family had “adopted” a child never went anywhere. It always seemed like it was building up to something sinister but by the end, this thread had been dropped. It’s a shame because this was more interesting than the story about

If this had stayed a story about a family trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where children are in danger of being kidnapped I probably would have loved it but I wasn’t sold on the addition of Aashay.

When the Floods Came
Clare Morrall
Sci-Fi
February 11th 2016
Paperback
352