Rise to Hope – A.J. Flowers

36341492In Book #2 of the Celestial Downfall Trilogy, Azrael must face the current ruler of Celestia – the Seraphim – in order to take her place as the rightful queen. With Gabriel taken captive and no one to trust, Azrael’s only hope is to forgive those who have wronged her in the past.

I liked Rise to Hope better than the first book in this series. I kind of forgot what had happened in Book #1, but that didn’t really matter because the story kicked off immediately and was pretty fast-paced. To be honest, not that much actually happens – there’s very little plot progression – but this was still an entertaining story.

I found Azrael much less annoying this time around. She had gained some much needed confidence in herself and her position, and her determination to get things done was admiral. The romantic aspect was also almost non-existent, what with Gabriel spending the entire book locked away. I liked this because it was nice to read a fantasy adventure without any reliance on the male love-interest.

My favourite character was definitely Hyanthia. We got to know her much better in this book and she’s probably the most developed character (much more so than Azrael). I really like the perspective in this series that no one is all good or all bad. Even the demons have good qualities and it’s an interesting touch that only some characters are able to see that.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell

34527740.jpgThe Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve magical, mysterious and unusual short stories, featuring a coffin hotel, spirits in jars, and replacement hearts.

Now, I liked this book. I’ve never read a book of short stories before (and to be honest, I’m not really sure it’s my thing) but this was a good first experience. ‘Short stories’ felt like a bit of a stretch; the twelves in this book are actually more like snippets – short chapters of something bigger. The open-ended nature of the stories added to this, because they felt sort of unfinished. In some cases this was frustrating, but in all cases it made me want to read more.

Each story was weird and whimsical, with a dark and slightly sinister vibe. I enjoyed some more than others, (my favourites were Jacob and Aunt Libby’s Coffin Hotel) but they were all good.

Interesting, snappy, and thought-provoking, I would definitely recommend this one.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunflowers in February – Phyllida Shrimpton

36528065.jpgLily wakes up one morning outside, alone and confused. She doesn’t know where she is or how she got there. It’s not until the ambulance arrives that she realises what’s happened: she’s dead. Stuck in a place where no one can see or hear her, Lily has no choice but to watch her friends and family struggle on without her. Then, she accidentally takes over her twin brother’s body and finds herself with a remarkable opportunity to live again.

Although I did quite enjoy this book, I found it to be quite problematic. The writing was smooth and easy to read, and the plot was fairly interesting. I also thought that the author dealt with the topics of loss and grief very well, making them an important part of the story without making it an uncomfortable or depressing read.

However, I didn’t like Lily and I definitely didn’t like what she did (which most of the plot stems from). Taking over her brother’s body by accident and deciding to live again for a day is one thing, but staying in there for weeks until she didn’t even know where her brother was, was selfish and unacceptable. The number of times she acknowledged that what she was doing was wrong (and not even that satisfying) but still wouldn’t give him his life back was infuriating. This really affected my enjoyment of the book because I couldn’t get past Lily’s pure selfishness. I get that being dead isn’t what she wanted, but stealing her brother’s life instead is not okay.

Basically, I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Memory Chamber – Holly Cave

Welcome to the penultimate stop on The Memory Chamber blog tour! Thank you to Holly Cave and Quercus for having me, this book was really original and a great read.

35561669What if, when you die, you could spend eternity reliving your happiest memories in your own personal heaven? Isobel is a Heaven Architect, helping to create people’s afterlives from their best memories. When she falls for a client – terminal and married – her grasp on her senses starts to loosen. Then, when her lover’s wife is found dead, Isobel must uncover the darker side of what she does, and the man she loves.

The Memory Chamber contains a fascinating and original concept: creating personal heavens for people to live in after they die. With some very immersive world-building, Holly Cave addresses some important ethical and philosophical themes, wrapped up in an engaging story.

I was actually expecting something different from this book. The synopsis sounds like a sci-fi thriller, when really it is essentially a romance novel, in the form of a murder mystery in a sci-fi/utopian setting. It was unusual, for sure, and a very interesting idea. However, I struggled to connect with Isobel, which prevented me from experiencing the book on an emotional level. I didn’t like her; I didn’t dislike her. Considering that the story is based around people having strong feelings for each other, I found myself distanced from it.

The story was lacking something to make it impactful, but is memorable for it’s original concept nonetheless.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!


DNF Review: Gnomon – Nick Harkaway

34856149Goodreads synopsis:  Near-future Britain is not just a nation under surveillance but one built on it: a radical experiment in personal transparency and ambient direct democracy. Every action is seen, every word is recorded.

Diana Hunter is a refusenik, a has-been cult novelist who lives in a house with its own Faraday cage: no electronic signals can enter or leave. She runs a lending library and conducts business by barter. She is off the grid in a society where the grid is everything. Denounced, arrested and interrogated by a machine that reads your life history from your brain, she dies in custody.

Mielikki Neith is the investigator charged with discovering how this tragedy occurred. Neith is Hunter’s opposite. She is a woman in her prime, a stalwart advocate of the System. It is the most democratic of governments, and Neith will protect it with her life.

When Neith opens the record of the interrogation, she finds not Hunter’s mind but four others, none of which can possibly be there: the banker Constantine Kyriakos, pursued by a ghostly shark that eats corporations; the alchemist Athenais Karthagonensis, jilted lover of St Augustine of Hippo and mother to his dead son, kidnapped and required to perform a miracle; Berihun Bekele, artist and grandfather, who must escape an arson fire by walking through walls – if only he can remember how; and Gnomon, a sociopathic human intelligence from a distant future, falling backwards in time to conduct four assassinations.

Aided – or perhaps opposed – by the pale and paradoxical Regno Lönnrot, Neith must work her way through the puzzles of her case and find the meaning of these impossible lives. Hunter has left her a message, but is it one she should heed, or a lie to lead her into catastrophe? And as the stories combine and the secrets and encryptions of Gnomon are revealed, the question becomes the most fundamental of all: who will live, and who will die?

The length of that blurb might give you a little hint about the complexity of this book. At 700+ pages, it is long. And, wow, is it complicated. I made it to 8%, had no clue as to what was actually happening, and had to admit defeat.

From what I could see, Gnomon did actually seem like a really interesting book and, apart from being confusing, well-written. I did enjoy the 8% I read so, one day, I might return and try again. If that happens, I will update my review. Until then, however, life is too short to read long books you don’t understand.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon


River Rising – John A. Heldt

36274542.jpgAfter their parents disappear on a hike, Adam and his siblings discover that they have secretly been travelling back in time and something must have gone wrong. The siblings gather the information they need and follow in their parents footsteps, all the way back to the 1880s. Once there, they find adventure, danger and romance, but can they find their parents?

I am a fan of John Heldt, but, since historical romance isn’t one of my preferred genres, I am getting a little bit tired of how similar his books are. On the one hand, they follow a good formula, and are different enough to not be boring. On the other hand, some issues are starting to crop up for me.

Firstly, I know it’s a romance novel but why does every character have to fall in love? In this one, five siblings travel back in time and all except one of them have some kind of romance. They also don’t seem to have any qualms about effecting people’s lives who they know they’re going to leave, or doing things that might change the future in some way.

Secondly, I found River Rising to be much too long. Because each character has their own storyline, there was a too much going on and I found myself skimming through chunks of the book.

That being said, this book had a level of drama that I was not expecting and really enjoyed. Without giving too much away, by the end it wasn’t all rainbows and happy endings. Just when things were seeming too wonderful and kind of dull, an extreme event happens and everything changes. It was refreshing for one of John’s books to have a larger element of tragedy, alongside the romance.

As always, the story was well thought-out. However, the writing was a little bit stilted and the way characters spoke to each other did, at times, feel rather unnatural.

Despite the problems I had reading this book, I still really enjoyed it. I just think that maybe I need to take a break from these books, before I become too judgemental of them.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon