To Sleep in a Sea of Stars – Christopher Paolini

During a survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira Navárez finds an alien relic that transforms her life and will alter the course of human history.

I had early access to read part one of TSIASOS and I wasn’t enamoured with it. I enjoyed the writing style and the immersive storytelling, but the story wasn’t drawing me in. I had decided that I wasn’t going to bother reading the whole book, but then I was sent a surprise copy from the publisher and felt too guilty to ignore it. Already having read part one meant I could launch straight in to part two, which was just as well because the story still wasn’t really doing anything for me. However, I powered through and I have to say, I’m so glad I did. Part three really picked up for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book.

The writing is excellent. TSIASOS is hard sci-fi, and Paolini really seemed to know what he was doing. It’s quite a leap from The Inheritance Cycle, which is epic fantasy at its finest. They both have long, epic adventures and plenty of action, but the sci-fi nature of TSIASOS makes it a much more technical and intense read. I’m not a big sci-fi fan myself, and some areas did have my attention drifting, but I could appreciate that it was probably very well done and would definitely recommend to sci-fi fans.

The crew of the Wallfish were an absolute delight. I didn’t love Kira as the protagonist, but she grew on me as the story progressed. I do have to give special mention to Itari, who I adored. I’d love a spin-off filled with [Itari here]. There’s plenty of humour and comradery throughout the story, which provides some light relief from the intense plot.

I would say that my biggest complaint about this book is the sheer size of it. I would definitely advise reading an e-version (unless you’re a hardcore physical-copy lover), as it was very difficult to carry around and took me almost two full months to read because it was too big for me to carry in my handbag and take into work with me. I would say, though, that the fact that my only real negative about this book is the size of it, rather than anything to do with the content, is a very good sign.

I was disappointed to discover that there were no space dragons, but I did very much enjoy the space squids.

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

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The Secret Runners of New York – Matthew Reilly

Rumours of an impending global apocalypse don’t stop the young elite of New York from partying. A newcomer to the Manhattan elite scene, Skye Rogers is shocked when she’s invited to join a secret club who call themselves the Secret Runners of New York. And what do the runners do? Why, they run through an underground portal that transports them years into the future, of course. But what they discover about the future is truly horrifying, and even the rich can’t survive the end of the world.

Okay, so this is quite a difficult book to review. To be honest, it was pretty terrible, but I enjoyed it. There are so, so many things wrong with The Secret Runners of New York: the key things being the dreadful characters, the number of elements that simply didn’t make sense, and most of all, the frankly disgusting attitudes towards mental health throughout the book.

Let’s begin with the characters. They suck. I know the main characters are all spoilt, rich socialites and are therefore supposed to be superficial and detached from reality, but the way they’re completely insistent on maintaining their social standing and bullying their inferiors despite knowing for a fact that the apocalypse is coming and half of them are going to be dead in just a few days was completely unbelievable. Secondly, they’re clearly modelled on the kinds of characters we know (and love) from the likes of Gossip Girl, but with the unavoidable difference that the Gossip Girl upper East-siders were funny and likeable as well as being flawed. The Secret Runners, on the other hand, are lacking any redeeming features to make them remotely likeable. Even Skye, who I think is supposed to be kind of nice.

Moving on to the plot, I thought the actual story was OK. I loved the gamma cloud idea for ending the world, and that element seemed pretty well thought out. What I didn’t love was that there was no point to the runs that the runners did. Why didn’t they explore outside of the tunnel sooner? What’s the point in just running through a tunnel over and over again, even if you are technically also travelling through time?

Finally, the most problematic element to this book: Mental health. In lots of cases, the abuse directed at characters with mental health issues come from the more snooty and judgemental characters, which can be forgiven because, as already discussed, they are horrible people. However, the author’s treatment of the survivors of the gamma cloud with mental health problems or a reliance on medication as psychos and savages is unacceptable.

Also, a middle-aged man has no business writing from the point of view of a teenage girl, as is clearly demonstrated in the scene where Skye finds Misty crying in a cubicle, holding her blood-stained shorts after getting her period unexpectedly.

And yet, I enjoyed reading it.

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

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A Trail Through Time – Jodi Taylor

43445723._SY475_Having died and been placed in an alternate universe of sorts, Max is reunited with Leon and looking forward to a peaceful life together. Unfortunately, they don’t even make it past breakfast. On the run from the Forces of Darkness, aka the Time Police, Max and Leon travel from 17th century London to Ancient Egypt to Pompeii, eventually taking refuge at St Mary’s, where the fight against the Time Police comes to a head.

A Trail Through Time has the Chronicles of St Mary’s back on the up. I was quite disappointed with the previous book, but in this one the lighthearted humour and general madness is back. As this story is essentially made up of a chase through time followed by a massive battle, the pace is fast and exciting, with almost non-stop disasters and witty quips.

I’ve always enjoyed Max as a main character, but it was definitely a relief to have her back to being less serious again. Although there are still a couple of darker, more serious themes, the overarching feeling is one of joy and general excitement, which is definitely what I want from this series.

Suffice it to say, A Trail Through Time has restored my faith in Jodi Taylor and the Chronicles of St Mary’s. This series can be very same-y, so a break is definitely needed between books, but I’m looking forward to reading the next one when enough time has passed.

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

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Sampler Review: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars – Christopher Paolini

48829708Note: I was lucky enough to have early access to Part 1 of this book, so this is a review of just Part 1 of the story and NOT the entire book.

During a survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira Navárez finds an alien relic that transforms her life and will alter the course of human history.

I was super excited to get to read some of Christopher Paolini’s new book. I absolutely adored The Inheritance Cycle and couldn’t wait to get stuck in. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is a totally new story, in a totally new location: Space. I really enjoyed the writing style. It’s fully immersive and very easy to read. Unfortunately, the story just didn’t grab me. I can’t put my finger in what the problem was. Maybe it was that I didn’t care much for Kira, the main character, or maybe it was that I’m generally not massively into space-fantasy. Or perhaps it was just the fact that it wasn’t Eragon. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that I didn’t find the story gripping enough and, knowing how long the full book is going to be, I don’t have enough interest in it to read the whole thing.

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

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The Unspoken Name – A.K. Larkwood

48336125._SY475_On Csorwe’s fourteenth birthday, she is due to be sacrificed to her god – a destiny chosen for her at birth. But when Belthandros Sethennai shows up and offers her an alternative, she escapes death by running away and becoming his personal assassin. So begins an adventure in two parts: firstly infiltrating Belthandros’ home city and helping him to reclaim power, then going in search of the Reliquary of Pentravesse. Csorwe has to go through a lot to complete her mission, facing her past and making unexpected decisions about her future.

The plot of The Unspoken Name is quite ambitious, mixing high fantasy with a kind of science-fiction and a heck of a lot of action. There are gods, gore, magic and a decent amount of banter, but also some more meaningful elements regarding the choices we make and living with the consequences of our actions.

There was some excellent world-building, with the scene being set without too much time spent of descriptions, as well as some great character development. The story spans over 8-9 years, giving a lot of time for characters to grow and change in quite realistic ways. Csorwe was a good heroine, but I especially loved Oranna, Shuthmili and Tal when we got to know them better. Tal and Oranna in particular bought the majority of the humour to the book, and stopped what was quite a dark story from becoming unbearable.

One of the other great things about this book was the queer romance. Csorwe is 100% queer and faces absolutely no discrimination for this. The romance is relevant to the plot, but the fact that it’s a queer relationship isn’t mentioned or pointed out at all because, well, why should it be?

The Unspoken Name is a very exciting and well-written novel, remarkable for a debut. I would definitely recommend to fantasy fans.

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

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The Unadjusteds – Marisa Noelle

48874066._SY475_.jpgSilver Melody is an Unadjusted, in a world where 80% of the population has altered their DNA to gain special abilities and enhancements like wings, horns, strength or intelligence. Despite her parents being the creators of the pills used to deliver these genetic alterations, Silver doesn’t agree with what they’ve done and is proud of her unadjusted state. But then, when President Bear announces that all unadjusteds must take a pill, Silver flees to a hidden resistance camp, where she will play a key role in taking a stand against President Bear and his altered army.

The Unadjusteds is an action-packed story with a fast-paced plot. There is very little background information or world-building; instead, we are thrown straight into the action, with Silver fleeing the city within the first few chapters.

The pacing of this book left very little time for much character development, which was kind of a shame. There’s a significant romantic aspect (this is YA, after all) but it plays out in a slightly random love-triangle with next-to-no build up which felt a bit flat and unconvincing. I didn’t find this book particularly immersive, but at least it wasn’t boring.

Marisa Noelle has come up with a fantastic concept, exploring the problematic nature of a genetically modified humanity, and her writing style is good – very readable. I enjoyed The Unadjusteds, but I do think it could have been better.

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

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Survivors – G.X. Todd

44594516._SY475_In Book #3 of The Voices, the war between people who hear voices and those who don’t is coming to a head. When Pilgrim wakes up in a shallow grave, he can’t remember who he is or how he got there. But there is a voice in his head which tells him what he needs to do: Find Lacey. As Pilgrim travels north in search of Lacey, he finds himself back in places he had long forgotten, with people he had left far behind. War is coming, and he will need all the friends he can get.

Survivors is the third book in one of my favourite series of all time. The characters are unbelievably good – I was beyond happy to have Pilgrim back (apologies for the slight spoiler, but yes, Pilgrim is alive), though I did miss Lacey in this book. But that’s part of the brilliance of this series. Each book so far has focused on different characters so, although I missed reading about some of my favourites, the story stays fresh and interesting.

It is 100% necessary to read the first two books before this one: it would not work at all as a standalone novel. It had been quite a long time for me between reading this book and the previous, and I did struggle a bit at times to remember who was who – because we do meet characters that we’ve come across before. Luckily, the story is so good that, in the end, it didn’t really matter that I was a bit lost at times. I completely loved it.

Todd’s writing is phenomenal, and has only improved book-by-book. The world-building and character development go a long way to create a totally immersive reading experience. Plot-wise, not a huge amount actually happens until later in the book. Instead, we get an insight into Pilgrim’s past and how he got to where he is now. But the lack of a completely action-packed plot does not lesson how good this book is at all. If anything, the change of pace from books 1 and 2 worked remarkably well.

The Voices is a must-read series for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction.

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

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We Call It Monster – Lachlan Walter

43925127._SY475_One day, an enormous creature crawled out of the ocean and destroyed a city. Soon, more creatures emerged and all humanity could do was try to stay alive. In the years that follow, humans must learn to adapt to survive in a new world, where they are not in control.

We Call It Monster is a very original Godzilla-style story. It is told in chunked time segments (years 1-5, 6-10, etc), and follows a range of different characters in more of an anthology style as opposed to a linear story-line. I believe the same characters are followed throughout the book, but it wasn’t always clear to me at all that they were the same characters, because they time jumps were quite big and the characters didn’t necessarily go by the same name in every chapter. Because of this, I didn’t feel there was much character development, or have any particular attachment to any of the characters. It all felt a little bit disjointed and didn’t flow particularly well for me.

That being said, the author has managed to take quite a common theme and create a truly original story which explores the effect these massive monsters have on society and the people left to survive in their wake.

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

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A Second Chance – Jodi Taylor

35150831In Book #3 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s, time-travelling historian Max travels to 17th Century Cambridge to meet Sir Isaac Newton, the Trojan War, and the Battle of Agincourt.

I enjoyed the first half of this book a lot. Max’s trip to Cambridge to see Newton was as hectic and funny as ever, while the Troy adventure was detailed and (although maybe not historically accurate) really interesting. Some of it was a little bit heavy going (the Greeks did massacre the Trojans, after all), but generally not too difficult to read and added a good level of seriousness to an otherwise light and entertaining story.

However, about halfway through the book, the plot takes quite a surprising turn and the rest of the story focuses much more on some of the ongoing relationships of the series. I actually thought some of the author’s decisions were pretty lazy in terms of plot development, until things played out further and her plans became a bit clearer. Although I could accept that she had things play out a certain way for a reason – not just laziness – I’m not totally sure I liked what she did with the story.

The Chronicles of St Mary’s are still decent, funny and worth giving a go, but I hope Book #4 is better than this because there are too many of them to keep reading if they’re only going to be mediocre.

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A Symphony of Echoes – Jodi Taylor

43450940.jpgIn Book #2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s, things are as crazy as ever. The St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research are an organisation of historians who travel back in time in order to carry out research and make sure that History stays on track. In the second instalment of the series, Max and the team visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, observe the murder of Archbishop Thomas Beckett, undertake the recovery of some dodos with no survival instincts, and make a risky visit to Mary Queen of Scots in an attempt to prevent an old enemy from changing the course of History.

A Symphony of Echoes is fast-paced and action-packed. Multiple adventures are stuffed into one book, so it’s a bit full-on but very well done and so much fun. I really love the quirky humour and adventures of these books; there really isn’t a dull moment. The characters are incredibly likeable and reasonably well developed, and I enjoy the time jumps. The historical elements seems to be reasonably well researched and accurate, up to the point where accuracy becomes irrelevant due to the actions of the characters.

My only criticism would be that there’s too much going on. The plot is a bit hard to follow because it really doesn’t stop, and story-development takes a clear back-seat behind the humour and wackiness. That being said, it’s such a fun read that none of that really matters.

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