Book Review: Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

Book Review: Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-09-14T220724.792
Series:
Strange the Dreamer #1
Release Date: March 28th 2017
Publisher: Hodder Books
Pages: 536
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

Review

Copy of book cover (68)Strange the Dreamer is without a doubt one of my favourite books of 2017. I always feel a bit of trepidation when I start a book that is as hyped up as this one, but it absolutely lived up to expectation, it’s a stunning book from beginning to end.

The world building in this book is just astounding. Everything is mapped out and there’s so much depth that I sunk into the story immediately. This is the kind of book I want to carry around with me all the time, it’s fantastically written with the most beautiful prose. Strange the Dreamer isn’t a crazy action packed story – it’s much more of a slow burner – but I enjoyed it all the more for that reason. It gave you the opportunity to really get to know the world you’re in, and of course the exceptional characters.

Normally for me there’s always one or two characters that stick out as my favourite, but with Strange the Dreamer I loved them all – Lazlo, Sarai, Eril-Fane and Ruby, they’re all expertly crafted and fully rounded out characters. Each one is dealing with a complex past and I loved getting to know each and every one of them, I honestly cannot praise this book highly enough. If you only read one book in 2017, it should be Strange the Dreamer.

This book has pretty much everything a reader could want – there’s magic and mystery, action and explosions and of course a dash of romance. As well as all that the story is wrapped around the young characters coming of age and learning their place in this magical world. This book gave me one hell of a book hangover, and now I am (not so patiently) waiting for book two in this fantastic series. I also have to confess that somehow, despite owning several of Laini Taylor’s books, this is the first of her books that I’ve read. I am now away to barricade myself in a room, to catch up on the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series.
5 stars

Book Review: Suicide Club – Rachel Heng

Book Review: Suicide Club – Rachel Heng

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-09-13T124627.377
Release Date:
March 21st 2019
Publisher: Sceptre
Pages: 372
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis

In this debut set in near future NYC—where lives last 300 years and the pursuit of immortality is all-consuming—Lea must choose between her estranged father and her chance to live forever.

Lea Kirino is a “Lifer,” which means that a roll of the genetic dice has given her the potential to live forever—if she does everything right. And Lea is an overachiever. She’s a successful trader on the New York exchange—where instead of stocks, human organs are now bought and sold—she has a beautiful apartment, and a fiancé who rivals her in genetic perfection. And with the right balance of HealthTech™, rigorous juicing, and low-impact exercise, she might never die.

But Lea’s perfect life is turned upside down when she spots her estranged father on a crowded sidewalk. His return marks the beginning of her downfall as she is drawn into his mysterious world of the Suicide Club, a network of powerful individuals and rebels who reject society’s pursuit of immortality, and instead chose to live—and die—on their own terms. In this future world, death is not only taboo; it’s also highly illegal. Soon Lea is forced to choose between a sanitized immortal existence and a short, bittersweet time with a man she has never really known, but who is the only family she has left in the world.

Review

book cover - 2019-04-28T204859.244Suicide Club is a really fascinating concept – with a world that has gone health mad, the ultimate goal is to live forever. With falling birth rates and the desire to live as long as possible, the city and its inhabitants are closely monitored for any signs of rebellion. When Lea’s father walks back into her perfect world her life begins to crumble around her. She soon becomes involved with the Suicide Club – a group of people who go against everything this new immortal world stands for.

I really loved the idea of this book. It was so unique and really made some fascinating comments on the way we live as a society, constantly obsessed with having the image of this perfect life. I enjoyed the sinister Big Brother-esque feel of the story, as Lea tries to prove that she isn’t trying to kill herself.

It was quite a slow burn book and it took a while for me to get into the story. There was quite a lot of technical information explaining the developments that allowed people to live longer and the ways that society had evolved. I struggled a little getting my head around all of this but once the story picked up the pace a little more I really enjoyed it.

Lea is an interesting protagonist but I found myself more interested in some of the secondary characters. I would really have loved the opportunity to get to know some of them a bit more. I found Lea to be a bit bland, and that was my main reason for not rating the book higher.

Overall for me Suicide Club is a fantastic concept that falls down a little in execution. I would definitely be interested to read more of Heng’s work, and if you’re a fan of speculative fiction this will definitely appeal to you.
3 stars

Blog Tour: A Shadow on the Lens – Sam Hurcom

Blog Tour: A Shadow on the Lens – Sam Hurcom

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-09-08T223719.935
Release Date:
September 5th 2019
Publisher: Orion Books
Pages: 288
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

The Postmaster looked over my shoulder. As I turned to look I saw a flicker of movement from across the street. I felt unseen eyes peer at me.
He walked away without another word. I watched as he climbed onto his bicycle and sped away down the street. I turned back and looked over my shoulder.
Someone had been watching us.

1904. Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, is called to the sleepy and remote Welsh village of Dinas Powys, several miles down the coast from the thriving port of Cardiff. A young girl by the name of Betsan Tilny has been found murdered in the woodland – her body bound and horribly burnt. But the crime scene appears to have been staged, and worse still: the locals are reluctant to help.

As the strange case unfolds, Thomas senses a growing presence watching him, and try as he may, the villagers seem intent on keeping their secret. Then one night, in the grip of a fever, he develops the photographic plates from the crime scene in a makeshift darkroom in the cellar of his lodgings. There, he finds a face dimly visible in the photographs; a face hovering around the body of the dead girl – the face of Betsan Tilny.

Review

Copy of book cover (55)This is the dark and creepy tale of Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers who is sent to Dinas Powys in Wales after the body of a young woman is discovered in the woods. Her body is found bound, mutilated and burnt, so the police turn to Bexley to solve the case. As Thomas begins to uncover the case, he finds the locals reluctant to help and a growing sense of unease in the village – could there be more to this brutal murder than Thomas first thought?

This is quite a short book, but it absolutely packs a punch. It’s really dark and eerie, a murder mystery with just that hint of the supernatural. If I hadn’t read this already I would definitely have read this on Halloween because it’s that perfect spooky story. I loved the setting of this story. This sleepy little village where everyone knows each other. As Bexley tries to uncover the secrets behind the murder I loved the way the tension climbed as that feeling of unease grew and grew.

Thomas was a really interesting character and I found the Victorian forensic photography so interesting. It was something I didn’t know much about so I really liked seeing him carry out his work. The author has a gorgeous writing style and some of the scenes (particularly the one in the basement!) really sent a shiver up my spine.

There are plenty of twists in this that I didn’t see coming, and a fair few scary moments. It’s a quick read because it’s so easy to fall into the story and I am really looking forward to reading more from this author. A Shadow on the Lens is a fantastic debut, a chilling read that fans of Gothic horror will absolutely adore!
4 stars

Blog Tour: Kingdom of Souls – Rena Barron

Blog Tour: Kingdom of Souls – Rena Barron

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-09-08T105953.222
Series:
Kingdom of Souls #1
Release Date: September 3rd 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 496
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I received an E-ARC of this through Netgalley
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.

Review

Copy of book cover (67)Kingdom of Souls follows Arrah, the daughter of two incredibly powerful witch doctors. She has a lot to live up to, and things are made worse by the fact that she doesn’t seem to be able to use magic at all. As she returns to the Kingdom she hears that children have been mysteriously vanishing and when she uncovers the reason why she discovers she might have to pay the ultimate price to stop an ancient evil being released.

I’ve really been loving dark, addictive fantasy books so this sounded right up my street. I was hooked straight away and this book ended up being a whole lot darker and grittier than I was expecting. It’s full to the brim with magic, sacrifice, demons and power. It does also contain quite a few trigger warnings, so please bear that in mind before reading.

The story is quite a complex one, there are quite a lot of characters and at times I found myself getting a bit lost with who was who. Our main protagonist Arrah is brilliant though, I really liked her perspective and she undergoes lots of character development as she goes from being a young girl desperate for magic to trying to stop the demon king at any cost.

The world building is also fascinating, the author has steeped the whole world in magic and lore and there’s so much detail surrounding the magic system, the gods and the demons. I really love when stories really built an in depth world and it really felt easy to fall into the world of Kingdom of Souls.

I really enjoyed the story in this one, it was gripping and engaging. I think this book would have been a five stars for me but I just felt the pacing was a little off in the second half of the book, losing its edge a little toward the end. Despite that I still thoroughly enjoyed Kingdom of Souls – it’s a dark, vivid tale of family, magic and sacrifice and it’s definitely worth checking out and I’m so looking forward to book two!
4 stars

Book Review: Tunnel of Bones – Victoria Schwab

Book Review: Tunnel of Bones – Victoria Schwab

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-09-05T120527.503
Series:
Cassidy Blake #2 (See my review of book one here!)
Release Date: 5th September 2019
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 272
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this from my local Waterstones
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual.

She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.

When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter — and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger.

And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever.

Review

tunnelI absolutely fell in love with Cassidy and her ghost best friend when I read City of Ghosts last year. A spooky tale set in Edinburgh, I was so eager for more. Tunnel of Bones was definitely high on my most anticipated releases list, and I ended up reading it in a single sitting.

We’re back following Cassidy as she goes with her parents to film a new episode of The Inspecters, and this time they’re in Paris. They visit all the iconic places, heading up the Eiffel Tower and descending into the eerie Catacombs. As she explores Cassidy awakens a spirit much stronger than those she’s faced before. Hellbent on all kinds of mischief and mayhem, Cass and Jacob have to find a way to send him back before he ends up haunting Paris forever.

This story is so fun, it’s a wonderful spooky read and it’s absolutely perfect to cuddle up with on a dark autumn night. It has plenty of spine tingling moments, and I loved seeing the dark and eerie spin that Schwab puts on those infamous landmarks. The setting is fascinating and really comes alive in the story (I honestly can’t wait to see where Cass and the gang jet off to next!)

Tunnel of Bones also features a bit more character development, we learn more about best friend Jacob, and Cassidy starts exploring her powers as a ghost hunter. I enjoyed seeing plenty of familiar faces from book one as well as the introduction of some new characters, I particularly liked little Adele.

If you’re a fan of Victoria Schwab or you’re read the first book in the series, you’re going to absolutely love this one. If you haven’t had a chance to pick the first instalment up yet, these will make perfect Halloween binge reads.
5 stars

Book Review: The Poppy War – R. F. Kuang

Book Review: The Poppy War – R. F. Kuang

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-09-02T213205.960
Series:
The Poppy War #1
Release Date: May 1st 2018
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Pages: 544
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought this in my local Waterstones
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

When Rin aced the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies, it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

Review

book cover (41)Pretty much everyone I know has read and loved The Poppy War. I must admit to being a bit nervous going in, I wasn’t entirely sure it would live up to the expectations I had set with so many people giving it five star reviews. I’m so happy to say that I absolutely adored this book, it is without a doubt one of my favourite reads of the year and I can’t wait to read more from R. F. Kuang.

The story follows Rin, a young war orphan who passes the Keju, a test given to every child in the Empire to determine if they should be admitted to the prestigious military schools. The country might be at peace whilst Rin is learning tactics and war, but unease is brewing with old enemies across the sea. Rin also discovers she can yield a shamanic power, but will it help save her people – or destroy them?

I honestly couldn’t put this book down. It’s quite a hefty book but I raced through this, finishing it in only a couple of days. I completely fell in love with the characters, they were so well fleshed out and there was plenty of character development. There were so many characters that I loved, Rin was fantastic and I loved Kitay and Nehza so much. I’m already scared to find out what will happen to them in the next instalment.

I recently went to see R. F. Kuang talk in my local Waterstones and it was fascinating to hear her explain how the story draws real life parallels with Chinese history. It really brought a whole new dimension to the story, and is definitely something I want to know more about.

The Poppy War is a grimdark tale and is therefore full of dark and gory scenes. It contains quite a high number of trigger warnings too so that is definitely something to consider before reading. All in all I found this book fast paced with a tense, exciting plot and a brilliant cast of characters. I’ve already picked up a copy of The Dragon Republic because I’m dying to know what happens next!
5 stars

Blog Tour: The Song of the Sycamore – Edward Cox

Blog Tour: The Song of the Sycamore – Edward Cox

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-08-29T010010.310
Release Date:
August 22nd 2019
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 496
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

On the broken world of Urdezha, Wendal Finn died on the hostile plains of the wasteland, one more casualty in the endless war between the city-dwellers and the clansfolk. But now Wendal has returned to his home city of Old Castle, possessed by something he brought back from the wasteland, something old and best left forgotten. The spirits are calling it Sycamore, an ancient entity out to avenge all victims of murder. And in a city like Old Castle, no one is innocent.

With his mind trapped inside a dead body, Wendal can do nothing but watch as Sycamore turns him into a serial killer. Until the magicians take an interest in him. Preserving Wendal’s body and trapping Sycamore inside it, the magicians now have the perfect assassin at their disposal. Whenever they need an enemy removed, they can set the killer loose on Old Castle. Between these moments of horror, Wendal struggles to piece together the remnants of his former life. He wants to know why his wife died while he was fighting in the war, but no one will tell him, no one wants him to know. Left to his own devices, Wendal picks at the scabs that cover the dark secrets of the magicians and reveals a threat to every city on Urdezha.

The clans are massing. A supernatural storm is raging across the wasteland. It has already destroyed one city, and now it is heading for Old Castle. And the only one who might prevent oblivion is the murderous entity who the spirits are calling Sycamore.

Review

Copy of book cover (49)This is my first time reading a book by Edward Cox and I can tell you straight away it will not be my last. The Song of the Song of the Sycamore hooked me from the very beginning, and I could not put it down.

This complex tale tells the story of Wendal, who becomes a casualty of war and dies out in the wasteland. He awakes possessed by a mysterious entity known as Sycamore, a spirit hungry for vengeance. With no way of controlling the spirit Wendal must watch as Sycamore murders and destroys, all the while uncovering the dark secrets that surround the war between the people of the city and the clansfolk.

This is book is exceptionally dark and incredibly creepy. Told from both Wendal and Sycamore’s points of view, I loved getting to see things from both perspectives and Wendal/Sycamore made for a fascinating protagonist. The world building was also brilliantly done in the story and it was easy to dive into this complex world.

The plot was engaging and really kept me hooked from the outset. I almost missed my train stop on more than one occasion as I was so sucked into the story on my commute to work.  The story has plenty of dark moments, murder and action as well as a bit of a mystery surrounding the death of Wendal’s wife. Each layer of the plot was blended together seamlessly and it made for an unputdownable reading experience.

The Song of the Sycamore is definitely one of the most original books I’ve read in a while, and if you’re looking for an action packed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this is one for you.
5 stars

song of the sycamore-Recovered