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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My Name is Monster – Katie Hale

40951767.jpgThe Sickness and the bombs have killed off the last of humanity, leaving only Monster, emerging from the arctic vault that kept her alive. Believing she is now alone in the world, Monster washes up on the coast of Scotland and begins the long journey back to her parent’s house. One day, she finds a girl. Naming the girl after herself and changing her own name to Mother, she tries to teach the girl everything she knows. But young Monster has her own desires that are very different to those of the Mother who made her, but didn’t create her.

The dynamic of this book – being a mother and young daughter in a post-apocalyptic landscape – bears some similarities to Cormack McCarthy’s The Road. It isn’t doing anything particularly new, but it is well-written and convincing enough to remain engaging throughout.

The back-story was extremely vague which I didn’t love. The causes of the apocalypse are only alluded to, in reference to the Sickness and the war, but the full story of what happened is never told. In some cases, this can add a level of intrigue or highlight that the point of the story is now not then, but in this case it felt more like the author just hadn’t really thought that much about that part of the story.

However, I did enjoy Monster’s story. Especially the first half, before she finds Monster Jr and becomes Mother. I found it difficult to empathise with either character. They both felt quite one dimensional, despite the quite obvious intention for them to be complex, but it was a good read nonetheless.

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

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Skyward – Brandon Sanderson

37635562Spensa’s world has been under attack by an alien race called the Krell for hundreds of years. Humanity are forced to take to the skies in defence of their lives, sacrificing pilots and cadets in the name of survival. Spensa has always dreamed of being a pilot, but since her father turned coward and deserted his team years ago, she hasn’t been able to escape from under his shadow. Finally, the opportunity arises for her to go to flight school, where she learns much more than just how to fly…

I haven’t read very many fantasies set in space – I usually prefer dragons and elves and other land-based fantasies – but I did really enjoy this one. Most of the plot unfolds in the air, while Spensa is flying or learning to fly, so in a way it was very similar to Star Wars, but with more of a YA feel.

The character growth in this book is very good. I really didn’t take to Spensa to begin with. She was annoying, whiny and aggressive, while her quirky violent outbursts felt very fake when put together with how insecure she was. However, as the plot developed, she changed. She became more confident and more thoughtful and considerate of others, and considerably more likeable.

Characters that I did absolutely love were Doomslug and M-bot. I also really liked Spensa’s flight mates. They were a witty and diverse group and *slight spoiler alert* the many deaths in this book are very sad.

This was my first Sanderson, and I would definitely read more.

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

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Battlestar Suburbia – Chris McCrudden

41951951Battlestar Suburbia is a really difficult book to summarise in any way that makes sense, but I’ll give it a go… Humanity has been downgraded to a secondary life-form, living to serve the electrical appliances that are now in charge. When Darren’s charge-cart gets knocked off the Mars-to-Earth highway, he thinks his day can’t get any worse. That is, until he accidentally short-circuits a sentient lamppost and finds himself right at the head of a human uprising against the machines.

As you may be able to gather from the synopsis, this book is very weird. Almost too weird. It took a really long time for me to get into it, so much so that I came very close to giving up and DNF-ing it. However, I’m glad I didn’t. When I finally found myself settling in to the madness, I LOVED IT. The general plot was insane but well thought-out and the characters, well, they were the best part.

Freda (an old lady cyborg) and Pam (a bread maker refitted into the body of a flashy motorbike) were my favourites. They were sassy and quirky and I loved reading about them. But all the other characters were good as well, and there were plenty of butt-kicking females.

The comedy aspect of this book is very good. It reminded me a lot of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but with a very different plot. It’s a fun, crazy space adventure with lovable characters and laugh-out-loud moments.

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

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The Quanderhorn Xperimentations – Rob Grant & Andrew Marshall

39801235The Quanderhorn Xperimentations is completely bonkers and difficult to describe without sounding crazy, so I think the best course of action is to take the synopsis from Goodreads:

England, 1952.
Churchill is Prime Minister for the last time. Rationing is still in force. All music sounds like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. People like living in 1952: it’s familiar and reassuring, and Britain knows its place in the world.
Few have noticed it’s been 1952 for the past 65 years.
Meet Professor Quanderhorn; a brilliant, maverick scientific genius who has absolutely no moral compass. With his Dangerous Giant Space Laser, High Rise Farm, Invisible Robot and Fleet of Monkey-driven Lorries, he’s not afraid to push the boundaries of science to their very limit.
Even when it’s clearly insane to keep pushing.
Despite the fact he’s saved the world from several Martian invasions, the attacks of the Mole People, the Troglodyte Shape-shifters and the Beatniks from Under the Sea, plus countless other sinister phenomena which threatened to rend the very fabric of reality, the Government would like to close him down. Why? Because they’re terrified of him. Of his reality-warping experiments, of the mysterious button on his desk which he’s constantly threatening to press. Of the unearthly secret locked in his cellar. And yet they’re even more terrified it might stop being 1952 and they’ll be out of power.

My favourite thing about this book is how completely bizarre and totally fantastic it is. Within the first few pages, Professor Quanderhorn’s team are attempting to stop a giant broccoli creature from destroying Big Ben, and it only gets madder from there. It is creative, unique science-fiction at it’s very best.

The plot is a little confusing and messy – the team jump from mission to mission without any kind of break in between, but it’s never boring or predictable. However, what really makes this book excellent are the characters: Brian Nylon, an unlikely hero with severe memory loss; the logical, semi-clockwork Dr Gemma Janussen; insect-brained Troy; and the Martian, Guuuurk. They’re the most incompetent, hilarious and lovable characters you’ve ever met.

I would recommend this book 100% to fans of Red Dwarf and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… and anyone who loves a Martian death ray.

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

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Sea of Rust – C. Robert Cargill

32617610.jpgThirty years since the humans lost the war against artificial intelligence, not a single human remains. But the robots do not live in peace. Two powerful supercomputers wage war against each other, absorbing free robots into enormous networks known as One World Intelligences (OWIs). Brittle is one such free-bot fighting to remain autonomous, picking apart robot carcasses in the sea of rust to find the parts she needs to survive.

Post-apocolyptic, robot stories are not uncommon, but Sea of Rust somehow manages to bring something fresh to the genre. The personalities of the robots are complex and engaging (my favourite: the Cheshire King), bringing humour and tenderness to an otherwise quite dark story.

The AIs did appear to be surprisingly unintelligent. In a world inhabited entirely by robots, it didn’t make that much sense that they didn’t manufacture new parts themselves, or that they didn’t all reach the same calculated conclusions on how to live peacefully. On the whole, they acted an awful lot like the humans they had wiped out.

Other than that, the story (in my opinion) was very well thought out and believable. Every element of the story of the destruction of humanity and the rise of the robots makes complete sense and is entirely (and rather scarily) plausible. It is only the robot’s failure to survive afterwards that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

There is a lot of action and drama. Sea of Rust would make an excellent movie.

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

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Blog Tour: The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

Today is my stop on the tour for a book that I’m really excited about: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas. I hope you enjoy my review, and do check out the other stops on the tour.

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40803091In 1967, four female scientists build the world’s first time travel machine. But, just when they’re presenting their invention on live TV, one of them has a mental breakdown. In order to prevent negative attention being drawn to the project, she is exiled from the team. Fifty years later, the exiled pioneer and her granddaughter receive a newspaper clipping from the future, reporting the murder of an unidentified woman. Is Granny bee the victim? Who would want to kill her? And can the murder be prevented?

The Psychology of Time Travel covers a lot of very real issues in  time travel that other books ignore. The psychological effects of time travel (through not being able to change events, seeing family and friends die, etc) were really interesting and it was great to see a book based around this.

Besides the interesting topic, the story is really good. Told from multiple perspectives in different time periods, there are a lot of different story threads that all connect to the main event. This was a little confusing and difficult to follow, but it was also very effective in reflecting the general difficulty of keeping track of events when you can travel through time. Because every thread linked together, the actual order of events didn’t really matter, which made the jumping from one person and time to another much easier to cope with.

This is a fantastic science-fiction novel, combining time travel with mystery, mental illness and characters filled with personality. I loved it.

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

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Planetfall – Emma Newman

40360275Over twenty years ago, Renata embarked on a journey beyond Earth, establishing a new colony on a new planet at the base of an alien structure, believed to be God’s city. Ren and the rest of the faithful gave up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown, but only Ren and Mack know that everything they believe is a lie. They’ve kept their secret all these years, for the good of the colony, until a stranger arrives and threatens to unbalance everything.

The first half of Planetfall was a little bit dull. I thought it was kinda bland and wasn’t that interested in how things were progressing. However, the second half was totally brilliant. I was completely sucked in and could not put it down.

I really enjoyed the hoarding storyline. I thought this was an unusual disorder to find in a novel, especially science fiction, and it was very well dealt with. The insight into Ren’s thoughts and feelings about her collection was insightful, believable and not trivialised at all.

I found it interesting that the plot focusses more on human emotions and relationships than any kind of space/alien adventure. It’s not quite what I was expecting, but it was effective and very well written.

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

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The Smoke – Simon Ings

35827435.jpgTo be totally honest, this book had me pretty confused. I don’t really know what happened or why, or even when the book is meant to be set. Just about the only things I understood were the location and who the main characters were (although I still don’t fully understand what the Bundists are). Because of that, writing my own synopsis is kind of impossible, so here’s the one from Goodreads:

Humanity has been split into three different species. Mutual incomprehension has fractured the globe. As humans race to be the first of their kind to reach the stars, another Great War looms.

For you that means returning to Yorkshire and the town of your birth, where factories churn out the parts for gigantic spaceships. You’re done with the pretentions of the capital and its unfathomable architecture. You’re done with the people of the Bund, their easy superiority and unstoppable spread throughout the city of London and beyond. You’re done with Georgy Chernoy and his questionable defeat of death. You’re done with his daughter, Fel, and losing all the time. You’re done with love.

But soon enough you will find yourself in the Smoke again, drawn back to the life you thought you’d left behind.

You’re done with love. But love’s not done with you.

Some sections of this book are written in the second person, which is unusual and I really liked it. However, I think this contributed in a big way to my lack of comprehension. It made the book harder to follow and I really struggled to stay focussed while reading.

I did enjoy the parts I was able to understand. The Smoke contains some really interesting and dark concepts, which I absolutely loved. It’s super intriguing with very complex themes. I would say it is worth a read, but requires levels of concentration that I did not give it to fully enjoy.

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

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The Space Between the Stars – Anne Corlett

30981910After a deadly virus has hit Earth and spread to the surrounding colonies, Jamie finds herself completely alone. A distorted message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive. Determined to get back to Earth and find out, she finds other survivors and embarks on a journey to get back home.

This is quite an unusual post-apocalyptic story. It’s about survivors travelling towards somewhere, although they’re not entirely sure where. Some of them are looking for somewhere to start over, one is looking for a loved one, others are just making the journey because they don’t have anything else to do. It explores themes of belief and religion, in an end-of-world setting.

The characters are quite mixed. We have a vet, a preacher, a scientist, a prostitute, an autistic boy, an engineer and a captain. Along the way, they meet desperate men, those in charge, period enactors, and a girl who would rather communicate online. Many different perspectives are explored, and it is very interesting.

However, the main character was extremely dislikeable and she made the book quite painful to read at times.

It is an interesting and thought-provoking book but could have benefitted from less focus on the main character’s personal relationships.

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