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.]

Monday, 2 October 2017

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Book Title: Lev Grossman
Author: The Magicians
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.
What did I think? I loved the idea of a protagonist who wishes magic was real and the fantasy world he enjoyed growing up actually exists, but even though it all drops into his lap, he still can't find happiness.

Something's always missing, even if your dreams become real.

That's a great premise and a problem I deal with frequently. You idealise the next stage of your life, thinking love/school/promotion/publishing contract/marriage/kids/graduation/etc. will make you happy and then you realise, nope, still not quite there. 

But...I had a hard time getting into The Magicians. Mostly because Quentin is an unlikeable character who I wouldn't want as my friend. At least not at first; he did grow on me somewhat. The world is bleak, everyone is miserable and people are shitty to each other. Then I understood the tone of the novel more began to enjoy myself.

The author took the Hogwarts years from Harry Potter and mixed in Narnia in the second half of the book. It sounds old, but it worked well, and I thought it was done in an original and surprising way. 

The characters are well developed and the world feels real.

I recommend this book to everyone who grew up wishing Narnia was a real place and who doesn't mind unlikeable and miserable characters.

I'll definitely read the next one at some point.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Sunday Post (24) - Why so cold, September?

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.

You'd think autumn started at the beginning of September and I've almost turned on the heating several times already. We even changed to our winter duvet... 

I've been slowly getting back into things. I have friends visiting the next few weeks, so my house will be full and when not, I'll be cleaning it to prepare for the next lot. I am quite the introvert and it's stressing me a bit, but on the other hand, they're all close friends.
On my blog lately:
I'm hoping to find more time to blog in the upcoming weeks, there's still a million books waiting for their review. That's if my visitors let me breathe. I'm also writing a lot... and NaNoWriMo is approaching.


And I'm finally reading Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.

I hope everyone has a great week and gets lots of time to read.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Book Title: Nyxia
Author: Scott Reintgen
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.
Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.
But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.
I got a review copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

What did I think? Young Adult in space? Sign me up! Those were my thoughts when I requested this title from Netgalley. I ended up having a lot of fun with the story and read it during a long, sleepless night.

It's not groundbreaking, but it's exactly what it promises to be. It'll probably be sold as Hunger Games in space... which makes me want to roll my eyes, but I also have to admit, it is a bit like Hunger Games in space.

Ten teenagers are on board this spaceship on its way to a planet called Eden. They're being trained to mine a new element called Nyxia... but only eight out of the ten will be allowed to do so. Let the competition begin!

This book has a great and varied ensemble. For the average reader the beginning might be a bit overwhelming, since ten teenagers are introduced. It took me a while before I was able to keep them straight, but Reintgen made sure to give each one an individual voice. They're all well developed, and by the end I felt like I knew them all.

I recommend this to fans of Young Adult (who don't mind books aimed at the younger end of the YA audience) and Science Fiction novels, who are looking for something like the Hunger Games, Ender's Game or The 100.

Monday, 11 September 2017

The City & The City by China Miéville

Book Title: The City & The City
Author: China Miéville
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to conspiracies far stranger, and more deadly, than anything he could have imagined. Soon his work puts him and those he cares for in danger. Borlú must travel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own, across a border like no other.
What did I think? Do you know what it feels like when the premise sounds absolutely amazing, but you don't like the story set in it? That's what happened to me with The City & The City.

The setting of the book is what intrigued me in the first place. Two separate cities existing within the same geographical area, at the same time and citizens of one city are prohibited from interacting with, or even looking at citizens of the other city. It's a brilliant concept and through it the author can look at cultural differences, segregation and how we're capable of going about our lives without noticing the homeless man in the corner.

I was looking forward to finding out more about the two cities and how it came about that they occupy the same space at the same time, but the author decided to set a simple, classic noir detective story into this setting...

The writing is gorgeous. China Miéville has a way with words. The pacing is somewhat slow, at least at first but once the story gets going it really picks up.

It's a great blend of crime and fantasy, unfortunately I was more interested in the fantasy aspect and the author seemed intent on focusing on the mystery.