The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale

Book Description

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

My Review of The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Bear and the Nightingale is set in Russia and is based on Russian myths and fairytales. I love fairytale’s and modern retellings of them, and this one is dark and chilling, and just beautifully written.

I liked how it starts quite slowly when Vasilisa is born. Vasilisa’s family live in a big house deep in the Russian countryside, their winters are cold and long and getting caught outside at night means death. The author spends a lot of time creating a world of long dark winters, honey cakes, woods and wildness and the magical characters that live in them. It’s easy to lose yourself in the atmosphere that’s created, I could feel the cold along with the characters!

Vasilia is wonderful, wild and raised to be independent, she has magic and power of her own that becomes more apparent as she gets older. The story gets more magical and a lot darker as Vasilia has to fight to save her family and her village from the Bear.

Very readable, and I absolutely recommend it. I didn’t want to put it down, and I stayed up far too late to finish the last few chapters.

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

The Bear and the Nightingale
The Winternight Trilogy
Katherine Arden
Fantasy
January 10th 2017
336

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

slow bullets review

Book Description

From the author of the Revelation Space series comes an interstellar adventure of war, identity, betrayal, and the preservation of civilization itself.

A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at an end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.

On the brink of the ceasefire, Scur is captured by a renegade war criminal, and left for dead in the ruins of a bunker. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship.

Passengers—combatants from both sides of the war—are waking up from hibernation far too soon. Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life.

My review of Slow Bullets

Slow BulletsSlow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Scur is a soldier who wakes up from deep sleep on a spaceship transporting war criminals and soldiers. She does not know how she got on board, and the last thing she remembers is being captured and tortured by the people she was fighting against. But it is obvious something on the ship has gone wrong, they are not where they are supposed to be, systems are failing, and the crew and passengers have been woken up too soon.

At 192 pages Slow Bullets is a short and sharp sci-fi story. It’s intelligent and thoughtful and it kept surprising me. The story itself is nothing new but it didn’t go where I expected it to. I picked it up intending to just read the first few pages and found myself reading the whole thing in one go!

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

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Slow Bullets
Alistair Reynolds
Sci-Fi
May 18th 2015
192

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #1)

the ninth rain

Book Description

Jen Williams, acclaimed author of The Copper Cat trilogy, featuring THE COPPER PROMISE, THE IRON GHOST and THE SILVER TIDE, returns with the first in a blistering new trilogy. ‘An original new voice in heroic fantasy’ Adrian Tchaikovsky

The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.

When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.

But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall… 

My review of The Ninth Rain

The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy, #1)The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jen Williams has written a wonderful fantasy book here, with a cast of warm and lively characters.

Lady Vintage is a travelling scholar, researching the remains of what appear to be alien ships that crashed to earth in a failed invasion attempt. She has a strong and kind personality and she doesn’t let problems stop her, almost refusing to acknowledge them. Vintage is still mourning the loss of her Eboran friend (lover?) Nanathema who disappeared 20 years ago.

Tormalin is an Eboran who Lady Vintage has hired to help and protect her on her travels. Tormalin left his home in Ebora 50 years ago to escape the Crison Flux disease that is slowly killing his people.

Noon is a fell-witch, drawing on a life source she is able to summon green fire. Fell-witches are feared and hated and she has been locked in the Winnory prison since she was young. This is a horrible place that mistreats the women and houses in squalor while profiting from their witch talents.

The story and the world Jen Williams has created has some original and inventive ideas, making it stand out from the bog-standard fantasy norm. She has included some diverse characters too, and the women aren’t just damsels in distress but major players in the story.

There’s a lot to the story, but information and clues are fed to us slowly allowing us to build our own picture of the world and make guesses at what is happening. There are no big information dumps here!

While I liked the story, the characters are what make this book so enjoyable. Their relationships and banter are funny and intelligent and they all just sprang to life in my mind.

The magic, monster fighting and witches that fly on giant bats just make it even better!

The Ninth Rain for me is the book equivalent of a warm blanket and a big cup of tea or snuggling with my partner. It left me with a warm, happy feeling after reading it.

I’m not happy about having to wait for the next book. I had to go out yesterday and buy the first one of The Copper Cat series to keep me going.

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

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The Ninth Rain
The Winnowing Flame Trilogy
Jen Williams
Fantasy
February 23rd 2017
544

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

the lonely hearts hotel

Book Description

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true.

My Review of The Lonely Hearts Hotel

The Lonely Hearts Hotel has an unusual writing style, it’s almost like a fairy tale style of explaining what is happening. Little things are described in great detail like the food that they’re eating, or a girl that has so many holes in her stockings “they looked like oil paint on water”. 

It’s a magical, almost childlike style but at first I felt disconnected from the characters and their emotions. It did take me a bit of effort to keep going but after the first few chapters I got used to it, and I ended up really enjoying it.

It’s a very adult book though, it starts with Rose and Pierrot as children in an orphanage where they suffer physical and sexual abuse. It’s set during the great depression and a lot of the book is about the things people have to do to survive poverty. There’s a lot of sex in it and heroin addiction plays a large part in the book. 

The fairy tale style story telling sometimes felt to me like it was at odds with the darkness in the book. It did stop it from being too depressing and brought a much needed lightness to the story, but at the same time it softened the impact of the abuse and maybe glossed over it a bit.

But the magical style brings the city of Montreal to life, I could almost feel the cold and the poverty, I could see the girls on the streets and picture them in their outfits they were described so well. The story is full of nightclubs, theatres, clowns, make believe and show girls and it sucked me in to it’s world. 

I cared about the characters, and the end of the book was hard for me to read because it’s hopeful but so bittersweet. I got that sad feeling I get when I really love a book and I feel like I’ve lost friends when it ends. It’s not one I would want to read if I was already feeling sad!

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

The Lonely Hearts Hotel
Heather O'Neill
Fiction
February 7th 2017
400

 

Slipping by Lauren Beukes

Slipping review

Description of Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing

In her edgy, satiric debut collection, award-winning South African journalist and author Lauren Beukes (The Shining Girls, Moxyland) never holds back. Nothing is simple and everything is perilous when humans are involved: corruption, greed, and even love (of a sort).

A permanent corporate branding gives a young woman enhanced physical abilities and a nearly-constant high.
Recruits lifted out of poverty find a far worse fate collecting biohazardous plants on an inhospitable world.
The only adult survivor of the apocalypse decides he will be the savior of teenagers; the teenagers are not amused.

From Johannesburg to outer space, these previously uncollected tales are a compelling, dark, and slippery ride.

My Review of Slipping by Lauren Beukes

Review of Slipping by Lauren BeukesSlipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading this collection of short stories Lauren Beukes is now firmly on my favourite authors list. Clever and very relevant, the stories are a mix of sci-fi, weirdness, and commentary on modern life.

None of the stories here are very long so it’s easy to dip in and out of. Though saying that, normally I find myself having to stop between stories in short story collections but with this book I couldn’t do that, I had to start the next straight away. I think that was partly because they are short and I knew I wouldn’t have to stop reading half way through one (I hate having to do that), and partly because these stories are just that good I didn’t want to stop reading.

There weren’t any stories that I disliked, but my favourites were:

Slipping – about a contestant in a futuristic Paralympics event where the athletes can have exosuits, implants controlling their hormones, remote controlled bodies, or they can even remove their organs to make them run better.

Confirm/Ignore – a look into the mind of someone that creates fake online personas by copying other people’s photos and quotes.

The Green – pure sci/fi! Workers on a remote planet searching for plants or chemicals the company they work for can make money with.

Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs – a lolita punk pilots a Japanese fighter robot and battles monsters to save Tokyo.

Dial Tone – a story that’s about loneliness really.

Ghost Girl – a teenage girl haunting a university student.

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

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Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing
Lauren Beukes
Sci-Fi
November 29th 2016
288

Final Girls by Riley Sager

final girls book review

Description

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls.

Now, Quincy is doing well.  She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, and remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

My Review

Final GirlsFinal Girls by Riley Sager
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Horror films come to life in The Final Girls. Three different women are left as the only survivors of random massacres in a sorority house, a cabin in the wood, and an isolated hotel.

Fast paced and gripping, and full of twists and turns that kept me guessing. Just as I thought I had it figured out Sager threw another twist in there! I thought I knew about three different times, but no, I was wrong.

The characters were well thought out and developed, although I didn’t like Quincy much. At first she’s bland and melodramatic, but she does improve as the book goes on. Samantha was a much better character.

There were a couple of points where I couldn’t understand why the characters acted the way they did, and it was surprisingly neatly wrapped up at the end. They’re minor issues with it though and they didn’t stop me enjoying it.

Nothing was obvious and I didn’t guess the final twists before the end. This is a great debut from Sage, and I really enjoyed reading it!

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

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Final Girls
Riley Sager
Thriller
June 29th 2017
368

Gilded Cage by Vic James

gilded cage by vic james

Book Description

For readers of Victoria Aveyard and Kiera Cass comes a darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule—and commoners are doomed to serve.
 
NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.
 
Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?
 
A boy dreams of revolution.
 
Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.
 
And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

My Review

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)Gilded Cage by Vic James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well written, but there were a lot of characters and viewpoints to keep track of. Some of them were complex and well written, like Luke and Gavan, but others felt flat.

Amy especially was very two dimensional. There wasn’t much time spent in her viewpoint and there just wasn’t enough to see her personality. There was supposedly a romance starting between her and Jenner but there weren’t any signs of this building up in the (minimal) interactions between them. Amy swoons over him a bit, he shows no interest at all.

Luke was the main focus of this book though, and he is a more interesting character. We see how he develops from being a carefree teenager to starting to understand the injustice in the world and the imbalance between the skilled and the non-skilled.

The story itself doesn’t offer much that is groundbreaking or original, and it is a bit predictable, but it did keep me interested. The world building was well done with a lot of history that is drip fed to us – no big information dumps! The magic of the skilled, or the Equals as they are known, is not discussed much even amongst themselves so little is explained as to how it works. I feel like this will be explored more in the next couple of books.

There are a lot of dark moments in this, like the way the non-skilled are treated as inhuman when they’re doing their slave days, and the story of the man that became the Dog. These help to add depth and realism to the world and stop it from being childish, even though the politics are very basic.

I’m not desperate for the sequel, but I probably will read it when it’s released, I’d like to see where the story is going.

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

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Gilded Cage
Dark Gifts
Vic James
Young Adult Fantasy
January 26 2017