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Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day – Review

Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor.com Publishing
Date: 10 January 2017
Source: ARC (NetGalley)
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When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.

But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

I’m always up for reading more from Seanan McGuire and I was especially excited to pick up another Tor.com novella from her since her latest, Every Heart a Doorway, made my list of favourite reads of 2016.

I enjoyed Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, though I didn’t quite fall in love with it. The prose is as gorgeous as McGuire usually produces, the world-building is really interesting and the characters feel like real people, but this story didn’t have much of an emotional impact on me.

I know it’s a bit unfair for me to say I’m disappointed in something because I ‘just’ liked it instead of adoring it, but at this point I know I’m going to like McGuire’s work. I’m always hoping for something that’ll make me hide in the bathroom at work to have a wee cry (FEED), inspire me to get a tattoo (Wicked Girls), or end up on my Hugo Awards nomination ballot (Every Heart A Doorway, the InCryptids series).

Oh look, actual thoughts on the book instead of my Seanan feels:

I hesitate to call this book an Urban Fantasy, though that’s probably what it should be shelved under. The story and characters all clearly have deep countryside roots, with the city not being portrayed as much of a character, or all that welcoming of an entity. New York is the place runaways flock to and the place Jenna chose for her flight but it was never quite home. Instead, the pull of Jenna’s small, rural town is ever-present, it’s where her bones are buried and it can never stop being home.

The world-building was fascinating but I found it somewhat confusing, particularly the language around ghosts abilities to give and take time from the living. In the beginning, I kept having to double back to make sure I understood whether Jenna was ageing or getting younger. It took me a while to get into the world and its rules, which wouldn’t be as much of an issue in a novel but in this much shorter work it meant that I was confused for a much larger portion of the story.

Still, I was intrigued by so many things in this story: witches in the corn, covered mirrors, whispering rats, ghost traps. I also especially enjoyed Jenna’s posse of elderly cats, as well as her musings on death, the living and why ghosts who linger behind. I would definitely read more in that world, now that I understand the way the main premise works a bit better.

4 stars

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Martians Abroad – Review & Giveaway

Martians AbroadAuthor: Carrie Vaughn
Genre: YA science-fiction
Publisher: Tor Books
Date: 17 January 2017
Source: NetGalley
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Polly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the Director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly’s plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth–the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever.

Homesick and cut off from her own plans for her future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly maneuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. Strange, unexplained, dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up. Charles may be right–there’s more going on than would appear, and the stakes are high. With the help of Charles, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.

One of my goals for 2017 was to read more science-fiction, so I was very excited to get my hands on this book! The near-future, Mars colonisation aspect of the story did not disappoint, and I really enjoyed our protagonist, Polly. Also, I’m always here for any story set in a boarding school! although I did have some issues with the pacing, I enjoyed the book overall.

Check out my review video if you want to hear more of my thoughts on Martians Abroad! You can also enter the giveaway below for a chance to win your own copy: the giveaway is open internationally until midnight on 3 February 2017 and the winner will be selected at random by Rafflecopter.


The review:

The giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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A Closed and Common Orbit – Review

A Closed and Common OrbitAuthor: Becky Chambers
Genre: Science-fiction
Publisher: Hodderscape
Date: 20 October 2016
Source: Purchased new
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Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn & grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

Chambers’ first book in the Wayfarer universe made my Top 5 books of 2015; The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was an engaging, diverse space-opera with nifty, distinct alien races and some truly fascinating worldbuilding, but I still had a few qualms with it. As much as I loved the story, I found the structure and pacing choppy and somewhat distracting: it almost felt like a 90s TV show, focusing on a new alien every chapter.

This minor cloud has a major silver lining, in that having crammed so much worldbuilding into the first book gave Chambers a solid basis upon which to build this companion novel. Without giving away the big plot twist at the end of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, I can say A Closed and Common Orbit is a much more intimate book. Here, we focus on two main characters and a small supporting cast rather than an ensemble, which I thought was a lot more effective.

Half of the narrative is set just after the events of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, as we witness Sidra struggling to adjust to life in a body kit, while the other half focuses on Pepper’s childhood, more than a decade prior, when she was called Jane 23. In the establishing chapters of both storylines, I found myself wishing things would happen a bit faster, but I did enjoy both stories, and the way they came together at the end was very satisfying.

This structure also allows Chambers to do some really interesting and effective storytelling. Early on, a full-grown Pepper ordered ‘the left side of the menu’ from her local takeaway. I definitely chuckled, because who doesn’t love a too-large portion of proper greasy takeaway when the mood is right for it? Yet as we read on and witness Jane’s struggle to feed herself, Pepper’s enthusiasm for every food ever takes on deeper meaning. This is a woman who almost starved to death as a child, an experience which affects her to this day.

There’s just more time in this book to devote to Sidra & Pepper as characters and to tell the stories of their lives and their growth in depth and in detail. The overall stakes are smaller, in a sense. We’re not looking at the end of the world, or even a tricky mission with a big pay-off that turns sour. But we are looking at things that do mean the world for some of these characters – finding your identity, your own place in the world, your purpose, your family.

I teared up a good few times and I absolutely adored the ending. Such a perfect, beautiful note to leave our characters on.

4.5 stars

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The Family Plot – Review & Giveaway

the-family-plot-1Author: Cherie Priest
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Tor Books
Date: 20 September 2016
Source: Publisher
Buy the BookGoodreads

The Family Plot is a haunted house story for the ages-atmospheric, scary, and strange, with a modern gothic sensibility to keep it fresh and interesting-from Cherie Priest, a modern master of supernatural fiction.

Oh hai, if it isn’t the latest release from one of my favourite writers! I didn’t know quite what to expect from The Family Plot since I’m honestly not that well-versed in ghost stories, but I really enjoyed it. The characters are great, the stakes are believable, the ghosts are pretty darn creepy and the mystery behind their need for revenge is very gripping. Also, THAT ENDING!

Check out my review video if you want to hear more of my thoughts on The Family Plot, and enter the giveaway below for a chance to win your own copy. The giveaway is open internationally until midnight on October 24th and the winner will be selected at random by Rafflecopter.


The review:

The giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Obelisk Gate – Review

26228034Author: N.K. Jemisin
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Date: August 2016
Source: ARC (publisher)
Buy the BookGoodreads

The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever. It continues with a lost daughter found by the enemy, with the obelisks and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

This is quite a tricky book for me to rate and review because while it’s clearly very well written, I didn’t find it as enjoyable a read as The Fifth Season. I’m glad that I did read it because I’m still interested in the story and characters, but I found it a difficult read – very much worth the extra time and attention but still, not an easy reading experience.

In my review of The Fifth Season, I mentioned that Essun’s point of view was my least favourite since it’s narrated in second person. Once again, the writing of the second person narration is impressively well-handled, as is the reveal that one of the characters is in fact the narrator. This was such a smooth transition that I couldn’t remember if it had been introduced in The Fifth Season, or if it was new information. And yet, I still found the second person point of view difficult to read. It still felt weird and occasionally jarring to me.

The second point of view character introduced in this book is Essun’s daughter, Nassun, who is mentioned throughout the previous book, but who we haven’t yet properly met on the page. I enjoyed Nassun’s point of view a lot, and it was great to see her transform into a character in her own right, when she had been little more than a source of motivation for her mother in The Fitfh Season. It’s fascinating to get Nassun’s take on things, which is so different from her mother’s. Seeing this child’s interpretation of Essun’s careful teaching really underlines the sacrifices Orogenes face in this world for the sake of absolute self-control, which is so crucial to their survival.

It was somewhat distressing to see Nassun align with her father in the full knowledge that he had killed her little brother Uche for being an Orogene. in further very troubling company, Nassun then begins to associate with a character who makes a surprise from The Fifth Season, with a bit a new personality (woot, amnesia & mind-control!). I particularly enjoyed seeing Nassun’s opinion of the people around her and of her distant mother evolve throughout the book. As Nassun grows older and learns more about Orogeny, her father and the Fulcrum, she adjusts her view of the important players in her life in a way that gave me hope for her in the future.

Much like its predecessor, the Obelisk Gate is incredibly brutal and includes scenes of body horror which some people might find a bit too much. I was okay with them, but it did make it a bit more difficult to take genuine enjoyment out of the book when I kept thinking ‘Great writing, very effective, EWWWW’. There was a lot of me cringing at the places Jemisin was willing to go and trying hard not to visualise. There’s a revelation right at the end of the book that makes a lot of sense and that I probably should have seen coming. I won’t say what it is, but I will say it’s making me weary about the amount of graphic description of body horror there will be in the next book. There are some things I don’t really want to read about happening to a main character I care about, especially not when the narration kept calling her ‘you’…

I’m not surprised that this wasn’t an easy read, nor I am saying it’s necessarily a bad thing. Not every book can or should be an easy or straightforward read, and this feels to me like it was written to be layered, subtle and wonderfully challenging. In The Obelisk Gate, Jemisin creates a fascinating and demanding story, whose depth and complexities are well worth taking the trouble to fully engage with.

4 stars