Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Book Title: Guns of the Dawn
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Genre: Fantasy (theoretically it's Flintlock?)
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Goodreads Summary: First, Denland's revolutionaries assassinated their king, launching a wave of bloodshed
after generations of peace. Next they clashed with Lascanne, their royalist neighbour, pitching war-machines against warlocks in a fiercely fought conflict.
Genteel Emily Marshwic watched as the hostilities stole her family's young men. But then came the call for yet more Lascanne soldiers in a ravaged kingdom with none left to give. Emily must join the ranks of conscripted women and march toward the front lines. With barely enough training to hold a musket, Emily braves the savage reality of warfare. But she begins to doubt her country's cause, and those doubts become critical. For her choices will determine her own future and that of two nations locked in battle."
What did I think?

Imagine Elizabeth Bennet (yes, the one written by Jane Austen) is called to war...find this idea exciting? Then this is the book for you.

This is not your usual fantasy. Yes, there's some magic and a few warlocks but overall the supernatural is not the focus of the story and only plays a minor role. It may as well be historical fiction, with the history part totally made up. It's also a slow book, with gorgeous, elegant and witty prose. A bit in the style of Jane Austen, but still very much Adrian Tchaikovsky.

The plot is entertaining, the characters are well developed and I devoured Guns of the Dawn in one weekend. It has a good dash of romance, like you'd expect from a book featuring a musket wielding version of Elizabeth Bennet and I adored the love story just as much as the parts with action and war.

This made me laugh and cry and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. If the blurb is at all interesting to you, do yourself the favour and pick this one up. It's worth your while.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay

Book Title: The Summer Tree
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Kindle

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: It all began with a lecture that introduced five university students to a man who would change their lives, a wizard who could take them from Earth to the heart of the first of all worlds—Fionavar. And take them Loren Silvercloak did, for his need—the need of Fionavar and all the worlds—was great indeed.
And in a marvelous land of men and dwarves, of wizards and gods—and of the Unraveller and his minions of Darkness—Kimberly, Dave, Jennifer, Kevin, and Paul discovered who they were truly meant to be. For the five were a long-awaited part of the pattern known as the Fionavar Tapestry, and only if they accepted their destiny would the armies of the Light stand any chance of surviving when the Unraveller unleashed his wrath upon the world.
What did I think? 

I LOVED IT!

I've read The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay earlier this year as my first GGK read. Here's my review. I really enjoyed it and wanted to read more books written by him. He usually writes light fantasy which I'd describe more as historical fantasy or maybe even alternative history. GGK takes an era and a region and tells his own alternative version of history. The Lions of Al-Rassan is set in medieval Spain and Tigana is set in Renaissance Italy.

Now, The Summer Tree is traditional epic fantasy. The kind where a small group of people get swept away through a portal into a fantasy land and become heroes and have to save the place from evil. I got lost in this book and couldn't stop reading.

The prose is lyrical and it was a pleasure to read every single sentence... I got lost in it. It was almost like sitting around a camp fire and listening to a poet. Marvellous experience.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves Tolkien and traditional epic fantasy. It does show its age (it's as old as me, eek) but I fell in love with all the characters and can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Book Title: Nevernight
Author: Jay Kristoff
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.
Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.
But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.
The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student. The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.
What did I think? Oh boy. Mostly. Even though the main character is a girl. So, first of all I read a few reviews that stated the prose is unbearable, but for me the prose was quite the opposite: bloody fantastic.

There's a narrator. I love narrators. The narrator uses footnotes to build the world. I love footnotes. (I really need to tackle Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.) The narrator is snarky. Brilliant.

Mia is an anti-hero and there's probably a lot of women I'd rather meet in a dark alley late at night, if possible I'd like not to meet Mia under such circumstances. She's quite deadly but so well developed.

All characters are well developed and the story is uplifting in places, downright depressing in others, always bloody, always a bit scary and mostly laced with 'what the hell?' THESE ARE CHILDREN YOU MONSTER. (Looking at the author here.)

The plot is filled with twists and is interesting throughout, there wasn't a single slow moment. The romance is amazing. Did you hear that? For once the romance is amazing!

This is a brilliant book and I highly recommend it to all fantasy fans that don't mind a young protagonist. If you're worried about the narrator and the somewhat purple prose, just read the first chapter, it'll tell you everything you need to know.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Sunday Post (25) - Almost November

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

If you participate, and you totally should because the community is amazing, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog.

The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here.

I think I'm starting to feel like a normal human being again... the sprained ankle has healed and I'm able to jog/run/walk again. The vertigo has gone away and now I only notice when I'm in the middle of London surrounded by a million tourists and everything moves far too fast... and I've had a September and October filled with guests who wanted to visit the Harry Potter Studios, Phantom of the Opera, eat in a dozen restaurants and do many other things that required me being a tour guide. Hopefully that's all over now.
I've not been to the cinema in a while, but I've been reading a lot and I'm on track to finish 104 books again this year.

Lately on my blog:

This was my highlight of the week. Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky and I hope I can review it soon. It's a bit like Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennet has to go to war in a flintlock fantasy. (I just noticed, I added some of my hair to that photo, how nice...)


This is the pizza you get for £20 in Covent Garden in London in a restaurant called Homeslice. It's 20" and gorgeous in your mouth.


This is Lola, the Cocker Spaniel on a cold Saturday trying to stay warm. (Ignore the hair on the carpet, Blue the Australian Shepherd is shedding his fur in preparation for winter. I'm vacuuming twice a day.)


This is what happens to London when a storm brings around sand from the Sahara desert.

I hope everyone is having a good time, I will now try and visit everyone's blog and hope to catch up with all of you. Have a great week reading!

Friday, 20 October 2017

Otherworld by Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller

Book Title: Otherworld
Author: Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: The company says Otherworld is amazing—like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive—that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.
Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.
And it’s about to change humanity forever.
Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming.

I got a review copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

What did I think? Otherworld is a game, the kind I've always wanted to play. The participants leave their physical bodies behind and step, literally, into the game. Virtual reality is an amazing premise and one I hope to see more often in science fiction novels.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It moves with a good pace, is thrilling, entertaining and there's not a single dull moment. I finished it in a single day.

However, it's definitely a book for young adults and the writing style is aimed at the younger age bracket. The story is simple and straightforward and the teenage love story made the novel less interesting for me. People who have read Tad Williams' Otherland or similar books, might think this is not as original as it could be.

The characters are definitely well developed teenagers that sound authentic and the world building is intriguing, if a bit lacking.

I would recommend this to people who enjoyed the Maze Runner series and loved Ready Player One not because of the 80s nostalgia but because of the focus on virtual reality.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Book Title: Leviathan Wakes
Author: James S. A. Corey
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Kindle Copy

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Humanity has colonized the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond - but the stars are still out of our reach.
Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, "The Scopuli," they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for - and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to "The Scopuli" and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
What did I think? I wasn't a fan. And I don't know why. I should have been. Really. This book is fast paced. The plot moves forward with an incredible speed. The world building is amazing. The characters are interesting and well developed, though I really wanted to strangle Holden. I liked Miller a lot.

Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger. At the end of every chapter you just want to dive into the next. In theory. I didn't. I put the book aside and sometimes forgot to continue for weeks. Even though there were cliffhangers?

I can't tell you why it didn't work for me. But I can tell you it worked for my girlfriend. She devoured all five books that were out at the time within a month. She couldn't stop reading. She loves this series and this universe. In fact, she's the reason I picked it up.

I prefer my science fiction to be placed on Earth, and in the near future and I like it to be about technology and social science. Maybe that's the problem, but, on the other hand, I loved Battlestar Galactica and would consider it my favourite show.

Maybe, I just don't make sense.

So, to finish this review, let me say: if you love sci-fi, love space and spaceships, love a good mystery, pick this one up, it probably is fantastic.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

NaNoWriMo

It's this time of the year again: NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month.

The premise is simple: write 50,000 words in the month of November (about 1667 a day.) Set aside some time every day and write. By the end of November, hopefully, you'll have a first draft.

One of my worst enemies is procrastination, and without deadlines I procrastinate even more. I'm the student who started writing her papers forty-eight hours before the deadline and stayed up all night cramming an 800 page book before an exam.
That is why I love NaNoWriMo. It's a deadline, albeit a fake one. I just don't work well without pressure and this is why I attempt to pressure myself whenever I can. NaNoWriMo is a bunch of writers, writing alongside me, and I feel like I've committed. And now I have to see it through.

Not everyone is a fan of NaNoWriMo. I can understand that. It's not helpful to sit down with a fever or a headache or if you're simply too tired after an exhausting day and are writing down words just for the sake of writing down words. This is why NaNoWriMo definitely isn't for everyone.

But for me it is the permission to write crap. It is the permission to just write a first draft and worry about editing later. It's the permission to suck.
I used to stare at white space: Scrivener, my phone, sometimes a physical notebook...just stare. Every sentence I wrote wasn't good enough to publish, so I would delete them. Every paragraph was uninspired and bland. Deleted. I'd go to bed with as much white space left on the page as I started with.

NaNoWriMo is the permission to write a story–an entire story, from beginning to end. It does not matter if it’s any good or if the chosen words are the right words. Everything wrong can be fixed during the editing process. Editing is hard work, sure, but you can’t edit without first having a story.

I needed, and still need, that permission to write crap. Because once I’ve written something, I can fix it later. But if I don’t allow myself the freedom to create without judgement, the white space will never be filled.

NaNoWriMo kills the fear for me, and the deadline (the end of the month) is what motivates and pressures me.

If you like to edit as you write or if you like to work slower and finish with a cleaner first draft than you would after 30 days of frantic writing, then no, it’s probably not for you. If 1667 words a day is too much, then it may not be for you either and that’s fine.

But if fear of failure, procrastination and other shiny things keep you from writing then maybe it’s worth a try.

Are you a NaNoWriMoer? How do you motivate yourself? Do you need a deadline? Or can you just write? Let me know in the comments.

[I've published a version of this post on the blog of my writing group earlier this year. It can be found here.]