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Book Review

Book Review: The Trees by Ali Shaw

The Trees by Ali ShawTitle: The Trees

Author: Ali Shaw

Genre: Fiction, Adult, Fantasy, Magical Realism

Source: Net Galley (I received a copy of this for free in exchange for an honest review)

“There are no good men and there are no bad. Good and bad are just ideas, made up by priests and the power-mad. There is just earth and appetite, nothing more.”

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Review

Those who follow me will know that I have been reading this book for a long, long time.  Even though it was an ARC when I received it, it was released way back in March, and I’ve been trying to finish it ever since to get this review out there.  But despite my leisurely reading pace, this book is well worth taking the time for.

“You can’t wait for the world to be perfect before you start living in it.”

Apart from the beautiful work of art on the cover, it really was the premise of the book that gripped me.  One night while he is sleeping, the anxious and pessimistic Adrian Thomas is awoken by a rumbling, as from the ground bursts a forest – in moments, the world has changed.  But this is not an ordinary forest – something lurks within, something ancient and magic that seems to be watching.  Terrified, Adrian quickly teams up with nature lover Hannah and her computer tech son, Seb, who are soon joined by Hiroko, a feisty Japanese student.  Each person must come to terms with this new world, where morals have shifted and only the strongest survive, as together they set out to reunite Hannah with her brother, and Adrian with his wife.

There is so much depth to this book, and the summary I’ve just given really only skims the surface.  In terms of character development, Shaw successfully carries the four characters through a number of physical and emotional challenges, forcing each one to come face-to-face with their flaws.  For example, Adrian must travel overseas to find his wife, but with their marriage on the rocks last time they spoke, will she even be glad to see him?  As a group, they make an unlikely combination, but somehow this aids their survival.  I couldn’t even tell you which character was my favourite – they all brought something completely different to the table.  Saying that, I did have a soft spot for badass Hiroko, and enjoyed the Japanese references and her fox companion.

“Look the world in the eye, Carter had always said. It keeps no secrets from you.”

This book is very thought-provoking, and there is an almost post-apocalyptic feel to some of the scenes.  Violence and panic are not uncommon, and there is conflict between what was right in the life before the forest, and what is right for survival now.  Hannah in-particular struggles with this moral question, and it is horrifying to see such a bright and optimistic character fighting with the choices she makes.  As readers, we are perhaps able to make the most objective judgement of all, but even I felt really conflicted about some of the behaviours I witnessed – it certainly opens the door for some great philosophical debates.

My only criticism really is that some minor plot elements were overworked, whereas some major plot features (like the huge magical forest) were incomplete, in my opinion.  We still don’t understand the trees, or the magic they hold, and I feel that even though the ending is rounded off nicely, it needs a sequel to tie up those loose ends.  We may never know why the trees came, but I would be interested to know what Adrian’s incredible decision at the end of the book means for him, and how that affects the rest of the world.

Star Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5/5)

Emma

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August 24, 2016
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Book Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky

Title: All the Birds in the Sky

Author: Charlie Jane Anders

Genre: Fiction, Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

First Published: January 2016

“When the world turns chaotic, we must be the better part of chaos.”

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


_Summary

(From Goodreads)

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

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I’ll be honest upfront here – I couldn’t finish the book.  I felt so completely uninterested in the events and character’s lives that I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it.

My fear since I first heard about this book was that there were just too many genres being crammed in at once – science fiction, magical realism, romance (is that what that was?) and dystopian. I just don’t think it worked.  The premise was excellent, but the execution was poor.  I have to be fair and say I felt things picked up a bit somewhere in the middle of the book, but on the whole I do unfortunately have a big list of criticisms for this one.

One of the things that also appealed to me was that the book was advertised as being for adult readers.  Having now read it (as an adult) I feel it was written in a style more appropriate for young teens.  Perhaps themes of violence and sexual references have resulted in it being labeled as ‘adult’, but I am not convinced it should be considered anything more than ‘teen’ for its writing style, even if it does go off at technical tangents sometimes:

Not for the first time, Laurence thought this was one of the annoyingly incommunicative features in the English language.  Much like the inability to distinguish between “x-or” and “and/or,” the lack of delineation between “x-we” and “in-we” was a conspiracy of obfuscation, designed to create awkwardness and exacerbate peer pressure—because people tried to include you in their “we” without your consent, or you thought you were included and then the rug got pulled out from under you.

I’ve never seen so many unlikeable characters in a book before!  Some were so unbelievably horrid that I couldn’t help but imagine Theodolphus (the assassin) resembling some kind of cartoon villain not unlike Gru from Despicable Me.

“I don’t deserve this ice cream,” he kept repeating with each bite until he started crying. “I don’t deserve this ice cream.” He sobbed.

As kids, the protagonists suffer from awful relationships with their completely irrational parents, who put no effort into actually having any level of communication with their children about why they might be misbehaving.  Poor Patricia also has to tolerate a truly evil sister tormenting her and her beloved animals.  Laurence and Patricia are bullied at school too, and picked on by teachers.

I can’t deny there are a few merits, though not many. There are a few good quotes now and again and some thought-provoking and occasionally funny conversations between Patricia and Laurence.  I’d love to say I’ll read it to the end, but I know I’ll never get those hours of my life back, and there’s still 50% to go.

I can safely say that I have never read anything like this book before, if that can be considered a merit; it certainly was unique. If you’re looking for something utterly bizarre, then this mix-match of genres is for you. I’m just sorry for those doing book club this month that I even picked this – I hope you all had better luck with it than I did.  Judging by the Goodreads reviews, people are either loving it or hating it. Unfortunately, I know where I stand.

Star Rating: ★ (1)

Emma

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May 31, 2016
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Book Review: For Fukui’s Sake by Sam Baldwin

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Title: For Fukui’s Sake

Author: Sam Baldwin

Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel, Memoir

First Published: September 2011

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | Amazon


review

The book is a memoir of author Sam Baldwin’s experiences of the JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) Programme for the two years he taught abroad.  Upon opening his acceptance letter, he sees the word ‘Fukui’ and assumes he is being rudely rejected – hence the book title.  In fact, he is sent to the rural Japanese town of Fukui, where he makes friends, goes on adventures and must adjust to Japanese customs (often with hilarious results).

Having been gifted this back in Christmas 2015 by The Geek Undergraduate, I had been told to wait until my flight to Japan until I was allowed to read it.  Though it took the flight and then a good month afterwards to actually finish it, I’m glad I got to experience the Japanese culture first hand before reading; it made the jokes and certain moments in the book more relevant and funny.

The book started strongly – Sam’s story of applying for the job and initially adjusting are some of the best chapters.  Even the people he met while abroad had their own quirks and wild backstories.  It’s a great advert for the JET Programme; I actually know someone who has been on the programme, and it seems like an incredible opportunity to be integrated into a whole new culture whilst making a good wage.  The website can be found here, for those of you who may be interested!  I was intrigued to read as much as possible about Sam’s teaching experiences, but he predominantly talks instead about the trips he goes on with the new friends he makes.

My only real criticism is that there doesn’t seem to be any chronology to the events that are told.  Sam jumps from one great story to another, and at times this can feel random and disjointed.  This is made up for by the fact that Sam is clearly passionate about his subject; he talks of Fukui and its community with such love and fondness, and it is easy to feel his loss when his time there comes to an end.

Star Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)

You can actually check out a trailer for the book here:

Emma

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May 9, 2016
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Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

First Published: May 2015

“We need hope, or else we cannot endure.”

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


_Summary

(From Goodreads)

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

_review

I seriously couldn’t put this book down; it was addictive, and finally I can understand what all that hype was about.

“Don’t feel bad for one moment about doing what brings you joy.”

I love a twist, and despite vaguely knowing in advance that this was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I was still surprised when the truth surrounding the Spring Court came out in the second half of the book.  I enjoyed the fact that the story reversed the overused stereotype of the young woman needing saving; Feyre taught herself to hunt and provided for her family, ultimately putting her own life on the line to save her friends and lover.  It was sexy and incredibly contemporary for a fantasy novel based on such an old story.

However, the complexity of the curse, and the very specific conditions under which it could be broken were a bit unconvincing.  It could have been simplified and it wouldn’t have taken anything away from the story itself.

It was fairly clear that Tamlin or Lucien were going to be potential love interests for Feyre, and I was looking forward to studying their behaviour and trying to guess who would be Feyre’s best match.  Then, I re-read the blurb on a whim, and it just blurted out who it would be (see summary above!).  Since it takes a good portion of the book for their relationship to develop, I was quite disappointed that such a crucial theme was revealed in this way.  Still, Tamlin was very well written, and I loved how his power had parallels with the image of the ‘beast’ in the fairy tale.

“We need hope, or else we cannot endure.”

Curiously, often the books I like the best are the ones I am most critical about; A Court of Thorns and Roses is a good example of this.  I have to be honest and admit that it took me a little while to get into the story.  I appreciate that new worlds need time to be explained, but I found the build-up to when Feyre crossed the wall a bit tedious in places.

I also found Feyre’s chemistry with Rhysand, the High Lord of the Night Court, a bit unsettling, and hope their connection remains as just a friendship in the sequel; she sacrificed too much for Tamlin to just be swept away by someone else.  Nevertheless, Rhysand was a very exciting and mysterious character with interesting powers, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again in A Court of Mist and Fury.

Overall, the book as a whole was just brilliant – the characters are unique, created with a lot of care and depth, and I found the history of war and violence between the two races very interesting.

Star Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5/5)

Who else loved this book?  Oh, and is it just me, or would Nesta and Lucien (who haven’t even met yet!) make a great pairing?  I know it’s a good book when I start matchmaking…

Check out my review of A Court of Mist and Fury here!

Emma

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April 30, 2016
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(ARC) Book Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

27850092

Title: Sleeping Giants

Author: Sylvain Neuvel

Genre: Adult, Science Fiction, Thriller

Format: eBook

Publication Date: 21st April 2016

Source: Net Galley (I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository | Amazon 


_Summary

(from Goodreads)

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved – the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unravelling history’s most perplexing discovery-and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

_review

What a fascinating piece of science fiction!  I don’t recall ever having read a book like it before.  Instead of the usual method of storytelling, the entire book is a series of journal entries and interviews conducted by an anonymous interviewer.  It took me a little while to get into this structure – on occasion, if I wasn’t being attentive, I forgot who was actually being interviewed and had to flip back the page to check, but this didn’t detract too much from the experience of reading the book.

– I believe the words he used to describe you were: obdurate, volatile, and irascible.  He has quite the vocabulary.

– He plays a lot of Scrabble

The characters were all very unique in personality and style of speech.  My favourite character was Dr Rose Franklin, the physicist in charge of the project, who had a kind and bubbly personality.  It was easy to sense her enthusiasm in the interviews, and it was obvious that the interviewer was fond of her.  In fact, as the story continues, it is clear that the interviewer has formed a connection of sorts with all the main characters, which I liked as he gives next to nothing away about himself.  This is the first book in the series, and I hope to learn more about the interviewer later on – such a manipulative and intelligent person demands a truly epic backstory!

– War brings out the worst, and sometimes the best, in people.

The project was very interesting, and it was exciting to see the characters try to figure out how the pieces of the giant worked, and how far everyone was willing to go to succeed – Vincent’s surgery in particular made me wince!  An added element that made the book interesting was seeing the political ramifications of their actions, and watching the interviewer calmly pulling strings to make events tilt in his favour.

It is barely a criticism, but there was a lot of technical jargon in some of the interviews, which did make my eyes glaze over at times.  However, in their context, I didn’t mind too much.  It just increased the realism of the project, and gave the whole thing a very authentic feel.  A second criticism is that I felt there was a lot unsaid about the character of Mr Burns, a mysterious man who knows an awful lot about the interviewer and project.  I naturally assume his character will be built on further in subsequent books, but his role in the first book felt disjointed.

It isn’t often that a book is all I can think about, day and night, but Sleeping Giants achieved that.  Sylvain Neuvel is a talented writer who clearly did a lot of research to produce such a technical and thorough account of a truly believable yet ficticious event in human history.

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Emma

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April 14, 2016
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Book Club Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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Title: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Author: Cheryl Strayed

Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction, Travel, Adventure

Format: Paperback

First Published: 20th March 2012

‘How wild it was, to let it be.’

INFOGoodreads

BUY | Amazon | The Book Depository


_Summary

(From Goodreads)

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.

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My opinion on this book has changed very little since I did my last post for the Words & Geeks Book Club.

Surprised by the personal details of Cheryl’s life – she openly admits to cheating on her husband and drug-taking – it took me a little while to accept her for who she was.  I disagreed with her choices often during the hike, but it would take a heartless reader not to want her to succeed in her journey.

As she progresses along the trail, you get the sense that the burdens of her past are falling away from her, as if she is being reborn with each step.  In a way, the fact I didn’t identify completely with who Cheryl was made the book even more personal – she presented herself with great honesty, which in itself deserves merit.  As I said in my Halfway Checkpoint, I quickly realised that the walk only held significance if paired with the emotional trauma and poor decisions of her past – without Cheryl’s unfortunate suffering there would have been no Wild.

I often find with memoirs that it is near impossible to separate the author from the book.  I may have had mixed feelings towards Cheryl, but there is no doubt that she is a brave and inspiring woman and I commend her for her epic achievement.

The book was well-written, witty in places and emotionally deep in others.  Certain themes were repeated too often at times (her fleeting lust over many of the men she meets on the trail, for example) but overall there seems to be a comfortable balance between Cheryl’s life history and information about the trail.  If you’re interested in learning about the Pacific Crest Trail, you can visit the website (which even has a page all about Wild).

By the end of the book, I felt very invested in Cheryl’s journey, and was so proud of her for her accomplishment.  This book is truly inspiring, and reminds us that if you put in your all then anyone can achieve something remarkable.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4/5)

Has anyone else read this book?  What were your thoughts on Cheryl and her experiences with the trail?

Emma

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March 31, 2016
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Book Review: The Opposite of Loneliness

18170549Title: The Opposite of Loneliness

Author: Marina Keegan

Genre: Non-fiction (essays, memoir), fiction (short stories, contemporary)

Format: Hardback

Source: Library

First Published: 8th April 2014

‘What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over.’

Goodreads | The Book Depository | Amazon


_Summary

(From Goodreads)

Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash. As her family, friends and classmates, deep in grief, joined to create a memorial service for Marina, her unforgettable last essay for the Yale Daily News, ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’, went viral, receiving more than 1.4 million hits. She had struck a chord. Even though she was just 22 when she died, Marina left behind a rich, expansive trove of prose that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty and possibility of her generation. The Opposite of Loneliness is an assemblage of Marina’s essays and stories that articulates the universal struggle we all face as we work out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.

_review

Knowing the circumstances behind the publication of this book, it is difficult to review it. Marina Keegan had all the qualities of a great journalist, and her essays are thought-provoking and honest. She talks with intelligence and honesty and with a sense of hope that I can relate with as a twenty-something graduate myself.  For this reason, I carried a sadness with me as I read through the stories and essays, and that has no doubt added a great deal of bias to my review.

I’ll start by discussing the short stories, as they appeared first in the book.  Many of them were exceptionally well-written, confirming the accepted belief that she would have been quite successful had she not died.  However, I did skip over two or three of them – some themes and characters felt repetitive, and the meaning of the stories weren’t always clear.

“I miss dreaming forwards,” Anna said.
“What?”
“I dream backwards now. You won’t believe how backwards you’ll dream someday.”

Reading Aloud was by far my favourite short story, about an aging, ex-ballerina who secretly undresses in front of a blind young man while she reads aloud for him (the story is available to read on Yale News).  I was impressed by Marina’s ability to produce a convincing narrative of such a mature and accomplished character when the author herself was so young.

Every generation thinks it’s special – my grandparents because they remember World War II, my parents because of discos and the moon. We have the Internet.

However, I think I preferred the essays to the short stories.  A personal favourite is Song for the Special. This short essay talks about how we all think we are special, we all quietly want to be – Marina Keegan admits her fears that she will never be anything, and will run out of time to do something defining.  It is easy to empathise with her worries; we all think we are special and all want enough time to do meaningful things.

Star Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5/5)

Have you read any of Marina Keegan’s stories or essays?  What are your thoughts on the publication of her work after her death?

Emma

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March 9, 2016
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Book Club Review: The Probability of Love at First Sight

The Probability of Love at First SightTitle: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Source: Amazon

‘It’s not the changes that will break your heart; it’s that tug of familiarity.’

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository | Amazon


_Summary

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Imagine if she hadn’t forgotten the book. Or if there hadn’t been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn’t fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she’d run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else – the weather over the Atlantic or a fault with the plane?

Hadley isn’t sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it’s the quirks of timing and chance events that mean Hadley meets Oliver…

Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

_review

This book had quite an impact on me.  It was not just a nice little love story, but also dealt with a range of other topics.  At a time of great vulnerability and change in both of their lives, Hadley and Oliver’s meeting is life-changing.  There is no doubt that there would be a completely different story to tell if Hadley had made her plane on time; I love this “sliding doors” concept.

I figured that the main theme of the book would be Hadley and Oliver’s blossoming relationship, but this wasn’t the case.  Though there was a lot of fun in reading the teenagers’ interactions on the plane, the story quickly progressed from this.  Much of the book is about Hadley coming to terms with her father’s impending wedding to a woman she doesn’t want to like, and I felt that issues of family and parent-child relationships were just as dominant a theme.  I haven’t read a book before that tackles the divorce issue quite in this manner, and I thought it was done exceptionally well.  With the help of Oliver’s advice, Hadley is able to work through her emotions over her father leaving, and I was very moved by the results.

There’s always a gap between the burn and the sting of it, the pain and the realization.

For such a short book, this story offers a lot to the reader.  Other than the surprise of Oliver’s reasons for returning to England, the plot was relatively predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless.  I would say it is a commendable thing to be made to feel so invested in a character’s life in the space of so few pages – I was hooked from the beginning, and my only criticism is that there wasn’t more to the story.

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Has anyone else read this book?  What were your thoughts?

Emma

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March 1, 2016
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Book Review: Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee

Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee

TITLE: Gates of Thread and Stone

AUTHOR: Lori M. Lee

GENRE: Fiction, YA Fantasy, Magic, Dystopian

FORMAT: eBook

PUBLICATION DATE: 5th August 2014

‘Keep silent, keep still, keep safe.’

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository | Amazon


_Summary

In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

Review

This is the first YA fantasy book I have read in a long time, and I loved it!  Kai was a really strong heroine, and her power was fascinating.  I do wish I could have seen more of her magic at work in the book, but there are a few sequels to develop this further.  Avan was certainly an interesting companion for Kai, though as he holds many secrets, he spends an awful lot of time being vague and dismissive; at times this did become a bit annoying.  I did however love the chemistry between him and Kai, and the surprise beginnings of a love triangle when the pair meet Mason.  I wasn’t sure who to root for…

Human minds are fragile things. Supply them just enough magic and miracles to keep their reverence, but not enough to challenge what they think they know of the world.

The world in which Kai lives is really quite unique.  I can only describe it as Dystopian Fantasy – traditional fantasy elements with a science fiction edge.  I found it fascinating!  My favourite part of this world were the metal animals known as ‘Grays’; these can be modded and are run by energy stones – more machines than anything else.  I also loved the Gargoyles, a refreshing enemy beyond the wall.

The cover of the second book in the series: Kai riding a Gray.

And you never knew what a person could do fueled by hope.

Just a little something I didn’t like – I felt there was a lot of dialogue.  I love it when characters communicate, but there was an awful lot of talking.  I’d love to know if this is a trait of YA fantasy, as I find that adult fantasy is much more descriptive.

My biggest criticism however is the ending.  I think writing about time manipulation must be difficult, and the final scenes of the book are where Kai uses her powers the most.  I kept forgetting what speed time was going along at, and it was pretty tricky to visualise and keep up.  Maybe it’s just me?  I think it would work wonderfully as a film though!  However, the ending in general was very unpredictable and bittersweet, enough to make me what to continue reading the story in book two.

Star Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5)

What’s everyone else’s verdict on this book?  I know I’ll certainly be reading the sequel!

Emma

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January 31, 2016
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Book Review: Batgirl Volume 4 (New 52 Series)

Batgirl Volume 4 (New 52 Series)

Title: Batgirl Vol. 4: Wanted

Author: Gail Simone (writer) et al.

Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel, Superhero

Format: Hardback

First Published: 2014

INFO | Goodreads 

BUY | The Book Depository


_Summary

Batgirl struggles to continue fighting crime after being emotionally drained by the death of her brother, James, Jr. With her relationships with Batman and her father strained, Batgirl must face one of Batman’s most ruthless villains, The Ventriloquist, alone.

Review

I haven’t reviewed a DC comic in a while, but this volume was too good to pass up a chance to rave about it.  I thought it might be hard to follow on from Death of the Family (I binged on the Batman, Batgirl and Nightwing volumes), but I was pleasantly surprised to see the introduction of a brand new villain.

ventriloquist

The Ventriloquist is adapted from a male character of the same name in the older Batman comics, and for the New 52 series, the character has been made female, with an Alma from F.E.A.R. feel about her.  She operates a dummy called Ferdie, who is a bit of a ladies man, and has the ability to move on his own without Shauna’s aid.  The magic at work here isn’t explained, so I don’t know how exactly Ferdie was able to move – he frequently wanted to cheat on Shauna too, so I don’t know if this was an extension of the multiple personality disorder from which she suffers, or if he was actually a living entity.  Either way, they were a creepy duo!  I have read that fans of the original Ventriloquist prefer the original, but as this is my first encounter with the character, I have been nothing but impressed.

Another major theme of this volume was Barbara overcoming the guilt associated with losing her brother.  She feels she is no longer worthy of being Batgirl, and refuses to wear the suit.  The events of the third volume spill over into the storyline here, as her own father vows to capture Batgirl and seek revenge, building up to a very exciting final encounter between father and daughter (see front cover image)!

Barbara Gordon remains one of my favourite DC characters even without her Batgirl alter ego.  This volume in particular we see her dealing with a lot of complex emotions, and also see her in love, trying to do normal teenager things with a boy she likes.  It was good to see these vulnerabilities in her character, as they show what she has had to sacrifice to be Batgirl.  Volume 4 is definitely the most action-packed yet, and I cannot recommend the series highly enough.

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ (5/5)

Has anyone else read Batgirl – the New 52 series or earlier?  What comics do you think I should try next?

Happy reading!

Emma

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January 30, 2016
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