Book Review

Book Review: Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard.

ConquestEarth is no longer ours. It is ruled by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilised yet ruthless alien species. But humankind has not given up the fight, and Paul Kerr is one of a new generation of young Resistance leaders waging war on the invaders.

Syl Hellais is the first of the Illyri to be born on Earth. Trapped inside the walls of her father’s stronghold, hated by the humans, she longs to escape.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Syl’s life is about to change forever. She will become an outcast, an enemy of her people, for daring to save the life of one human: Paul Kerr. Only together do they have a chance of saving each other, and the planet they both call home.

For there is a greater darkness behind the Illyri conquest of Earth, and the real invasion has not yet even begun…

Whilst it is often the cover of a book that makes the initial grab for my attention, in this book’s case it was John Connolly’s name. Discovering that he’d co-written a new YA science fiction series was enough to make me want to read this book. If I’m being entirely honest it’s a good job the book had his name attached and a great synopsis – that cover art for the paperback version of the book does absolutely nothing for me I’m afraid.

I found the book a little hard to get into initially. The necessary world building is a little wordy, the first chapter feels a lot like that opening sequence found at the beginning of many sci fi movies or tv series (the ones that usually end up being a teacher telling a class their collective history). The world that Connolly and Ridyard have created is an alternative version of our own – in their version an alien race, the Illyri, invaded towards the beginning of the 21st century and the ensuing war has been fought ever since. The Illyri are now in charge, various shows of power and control have forced humanity’s surrender, but it’s an uneasy situation with the Resistance still fighting to regain the Earth from the Illyri’s control. The level of detail that is brought by the plot means that the world building and exposition comes into play throughout the book, I found that the further I got into the book the more seamless this felt – I was glad I’d persisted with the book, the first few chapters made me consider giving up a few times.

Much of this book centres around the power struggle between the Illyri and the Resistance, our main character Syl gets herself entirely embroiled in the battle and we see her personal struggles both for survival and with making sense of the world, she’s been kept away from much of it and taught solely from the Illyri point of view. Mixing with humans leaves here questioning some of what she’s been taught and realising there may be other perspectives to take into account. The book is told from a number of points of view, hers is our primary way into the world – as she learns so to do we the reader.

Syl’s human equivalent is Paul, an up and coming voice in the Resistance. They along with Syl’s best friend Ani and Paul’s younger brother Steven make up the central cast of characters. Around them is an extensive collection of supporting characters, there are many and at times this meant I found I wasn’t quite tracking who everyone was, and what each one meant to who. I’m not generally a fan of character lists at the beginning of books, I don’t want to have to flick back to remind myself who’s who, but in this case I could have done with one. I think perhaps the combination of all of the supporting characters plus all of the specific vocabulary that comes with an alien species may have been a little more information than I could hold in my head simultaneously.

All of that said, I did enjoy the book and once I’d settled into it I was completely invested in finding out what happened next. There’s peril littered throughout the book, at various times I expected to turn the page and find a bloodbath. I cared about the central characters, and about a couple of the supporting characters. Conversely there were other supporting characters I was willing to meet a sticky end, when this happened I was pretty much always satisfied (I could argue a case for a couple of them deserving more gruesome deaths).

There is a romantic element to this book, it draws of course on the forbidden love thing – over the course of the book the relationship between Syl and Paul develops a little and changes. I really liked the way this was gradual, I don’t have the same issues with so-called insta-love that a lot of readers do, but for these characters anything other than a slow, tentative closening would not have felt true to them or to the world in which they live.

This book is the first in a trilogy, it ends not so much with a cliffhanger but more a situation where the various characters the reader has come to care about are pushed in directions that seem hard to reconcile. I have absolutely no idea where the plot of this series is going to go, so many new paths seem to be opening up alongside the number of plot threads not yet resolved. I’m looking forward to reading the other two books and discovering what on earth is going to happen in the long run.

This is a good book, but sadly not a great one. I’m hoping that with much of the world building done the rest of the trilogy will reach the greatness I’d hoped for from this book.

Conquest is published by Headline in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Stuff · Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

Lost in Space.

I’ve been trying to blog for over a week now, I went last Saturday to see The Effect at the National Theatre and it was just so good that every time I try to blog about it I get completely and utterly stuck. So I’m going to put that off until at least tomorrow and instead ask you lovely people a question.

I’m going to Starfury’s Serenity Forever convention in September, a 10th anniversary celebration of Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. I really love both shows so am looking forward to the convention, and am getting myself organised to rewatch both series over the next few months. I had this gorgeous book

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as a birthday present, it’s over 500 pages of scripts and facts and stories, so that will add lots to my preparation.

It’s left me thinking though about the fiction I read. I can’t remember the last book I read that was set in space, and this is something I want to change. This is where you come in – I’d love recommendations of books set in space, whether wholly or partly set on spaceships, it doesn’t matter whether they’re new books or classics, MG (aimed at 8 – 12 year olds), YA or adult, I just want to pull together a list of books I can read and enjoy. So please leave me a comment with your suggestion.

Book Review

Book Review : The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke.

MadScientistThe Mad Scientist’s Daughter is the heartbreaking story of the journey from childhood to adulthood, with an intriguing science fictional twist.

There’s never been anyone – or anything – quite like Finn. He looks, and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task is to tutor Cat. When the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.

I had no real preconceived ideas about this book when I sat down to read it. The blurb was intriguing, but I couldn’t quite imagine how the story was going to work. I always like it when this happens, mainly because when the book is good – and this one really is – then it’s a real treat to see the story unfold.

The book tells Cat’s story, it begins when she is a little girl and follows her through into adulthood. It also tells the story of Finn, a one-of-a-kind android who is brought into the family home to act as tutor to Cat. Over the years they grow and learn, and their stories become increasingly difficult to separate.

This book is one of those that is going to be impossible to categorise, it is most definitely a science fiction story, but whilst this thread runs through the book its importance ebbs and wanes – at times I found myself suddenly remembering the sci fi element because the love story of the book had almost entirely taken over my brain. The story is one of love and friendship, but it’s also one of philosophical wonderings and moral questions.

I got incredibly invested in the characters in the book, I cared a huge amount about what was going to happen to Cat and to Finn, even when I started to question what was right and wrong I was rooting for them most of all. At one point when the story seemed to be moving away from what I wanted I could hardly bear to turn the page in case something happened that I didn’t want to see, but at the same time I had to read on to make sure everything was okay.

This is the sort of book that I know I will be returning to in years to come, and I’m sure that as my life experiences shape me so my reaction to this book could change, but however this may happen I know that I will still love it and still love Cat and Finn.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is published by Angry Robot in the UK from 7th February 2013. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book via NetGalley.com all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Sorrowline by Niel Bushnell.

SorrowlineThe past is not a frozen place. Graveyards are not dead ends. And if the Sorrowline lets you in there is a hidden world of adventure waiting behind every gravestone.

Just when 12-year-old Jack Morrow’s life is falling apart he discovers his natural ability to travel through Sorrowlines: channels that connect every gravestone with the date of the person’s death. Confused and alone Jack finds himself in 1940. He embarks on an adventure through London during the Blitz with Davy, his teenage grandfather, to find a mystical Rose that might just save his mother’s life, a mother who he has already seen die. But the terrible power of the Rose of Annwn, is sought by many, and the forces of a secret world are determined to find it first. With a league of Undead Knights of his trail, commanded by the immortal Rouland, can Jack decipher the dark secret hidden at the heart of his family? Can he change his own destiny and save his mother?

Prophecy and history collide in this epic new children’s fantasy adventure series.

This is one of the debuts I was really excited about for 2013, when I first heard about the concept I knew it was something I would probably really enjoy. Within the first few pages I knew I’d been right – I sat down to read just a few pages and the next thing I knew the afternoon was gone and I’d reached the last page.

The story is a really good thriller with cleverly created time-travel elements. I’m a big fan of time-travel stories, but they can make me feel a bit like my head’s spinning – particularly when you start to get into the area of paradoxes and the like. In Sorrowline the time-travel is handled really well, it all makes sense and the questions that arise during the book are answered and in a way that fits well with the plot.

The thriller aspect of the plot is also well developed, at times there is a real sense of peril for the main characters and I felt as I read like my heart was in my mouth! Despite the book having the time-travel element there is never the feeling that it must turn out alright because this the story is happening in the past, a couple of times I found myself wondering how the future might unravel if things went so very wrong.

The main three characters, Jack, Davy and Eloise are all brilliant, but I have to admit to having a favourite and that was Eloise. She’s such a great female character, what we know of her origin story is fascinating and her actions throughout the story made me love her.

I really loved this book, I’m very pleased that there is a teaser snippet included at the end for the next book in the series, Timesmith, I’m already looking forward to reading it even if there is a whole year to wait!

Sorrowline is published by Andersen Press in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

My Week In Books. [3]

Each Monday I review the books I’ve read in the previous week in drabble form – exactly 100 words excluding title and publishing details.

Shift by Kim Curran. Strange Chemistry.
Shift opens in a way that makes you think you need to cancel all plans, sit down and read until you get to the final page. Quickly you find yourself pulled into the book, the idea of being able to change a decision you’ve made and have reality alter as a result is an intriguing one and the idea that these changes could be disastrous as well as beneficial is well explored and left me thinking long after I’d finished reading. I already can’t wait for the follow up book, this is a world I want to visit for longer.

Daughter of the Flames by Zoë Marriott. Walker Books.
This book was a great read, it’s one of those books that has some of everything I look for in a book. There’s a strong female lead character, a loveable male character to swoon over, a thoroughly creepy and dreadful villain, a gripping plot filled with politics and warring societies all topped off with a cast of intriguing supporting characters and a generous sprinkling of well-choreographed fight sequences. I loved the world Zoe has created for this book, it’s described so beautifully that I felt as if I was transported to it rather than being on a long train journey!

Book Review

Book Review : Opal Moonbaby by Maudie Smith.

Martha’s decided friends are stupid. She never wants another one. Ever.

So when Opal Moonbaby comes along, with her mad hair and huge violet eyes, claiming to be an alien and wanting to be friends, Martha is definitely NOT interested. But Opal isn’t the kind of alien who takes no for an answer…

Sparkling with originality and charm, this is a heart-warming, hilarious story about friendship.

From the very first pages of this book the author grabbed my attention and she kept it right through until the last page. The plot is one that I think readers of all ages can identify with, Martha is finished with the idea of friends after her friend let her down so badly – she knows she’ll be better off going it alone. Even meeting the rather odd Opal Moonbaby won’t change her mind.

I must admit I had an idea in my head of how the plot was going to play out, with Opal being an alien from another planet, but I was pleased to be entirely wrong. I’d expected Opal to need to be introduced to everything in our world, but the author avoided that and instead allowed Opal to be knowledgeable but for this knowledge to be flawed. To me this resulted in a far funnier and more enjoyable book.

There’s so much to love about this book, Opal, her adorable companion Garnet, and lovely brother and sister Martha and Robbie are all characters I really enjoyed reading about. The ‘bad guys’ are well created too, the author takes real care to show why they are acting the way they are.

Reading this book I was transported back to the books I’d loved as a child. The illustrations help with this I think, at times they really reminded me of the art work by Quentin Blake that adorned the pages of the Roald Dahl books I adored. I think this book will go down really well with young readers, and they’ll probably learn a thing or two about friendship whilst they read without even realising it.

Opal Moonbaby is published in paperback and eBook by Orion in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

This book really appealed to me, a cyborg version of Cinderella? Well maybe this could be a version of the fairy story that I could love, I’m afraid the Disney version would come really low on my list of their film adaptations. The book is divided into four sections which are each divided into chapters, I sat down to read just the first chapter and ended up getting to the end of the first section without even thinking about what else I should be doing, and soon carried on to finish the whole book.

The danger with a retelling of a story as familiar as Cinderella is that the reader is not surprised by the book, and that the plot just plays out as expected. I was really pleased that this wasn’t the case, whilst the story is essentially the one we’re all familiar with there were plenty of twists and turns and tweaks to keep the interest right the way through. I absolutely loved the way the Cinderella story was transported into a future version of Earth complete with cyborgs, AI lifeforms and hover transport. The world that Meyer created was vivid, I found it really easy to imagine. The opening chapters are set in a market place, I really got the sense of this noisy, bustling place.

Cinder is a pretty great character, I liked the fact she was practical and smart, and as in control of her own life as she could be. Her relationship with her younger step-sister Pearl was lovely, and I adored the friendship between Cinder and her very wonderful robot Iko. I also loved Prince Kai, whilst he was most definitely a Prince Charming he was also an interesting, engaging character with depth. Both Cinder’s stepmother and the ruler of the Lunar empire make for excellent villainous characters, I do love good bad guys!

By the time I got to the end of the book I was desperate to carry on with the story. Alas it is a whole year before the next book in this series, and based on what I’ve read about the Lunar Chronicles series it seems that each book is going to feature a different fairy tale heroine so I’m not sure how much more of Cinder we’re going to get to see. I’m quite prepared to wait and see how the series plays out though, I have a feeling it’s going to be good.

Cinder is published in hardback, paperback and eBook by Puffin in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book via UK Book Tours all of the opinions expressed are my own.