January 2016 Reads

3 stars

Envy of Angels, Sin du Jour #1 by Matt Wallace

Envy of Angels

The plot was fast-paced and fun, with high stakes and an engaging central conflict. The characters were nicely defined pretty quickly and it was funny – more chuckle-funny than laugh-out-loud-funny as far as I was concerned but it was on point overall. There were also slightly more violent, gory or gross scenes which I quite liked: tense but not overdrawn to the point of being uncomfortable.

I didn’t love the ending: There’s a twist which I felt didn’t quite hit the mark – the idea for it was cool, makes room for interesting things to come, but I felt the presentation of it was a bit dissonant. I’ve also not really read novella-length works outside of fanfic before, so I’m not really used to the form yet and I was a bit thrown by how lean the story was.

Overall, I liked it but I felt there wasn’t really enough to say I liked it a lot or I loved it. This being said, this book is the first in a series with at least three more novellas coming and I will be continuing on with the series.

5 stars

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson


When Nimona, shape-shifter extraordinaire, gets herself hired as famed villain Lord Ballister Blackheart’s sidekick, she can’t wait to wreak some havoc. But Blackheart’s plans are that simple: it’s not all about mischief, they have to prove to the Kingdom that the villain label was forced on him by the ominous Institution. They have to show everyone that the Institution’s poster boy, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, isn’t and was never all that much of a hero.

Oh my goodness, this totally punched me in the feels!! It looks so cute & starts with such a silly, whimsical premise that I didn’t really expect to get so serious & heartbreaking.

A story about who or what makes someone a good guy, a villain or a monster, but also a story about old betrayals, ongoing machinations, and friendship & loyalty being tested. We’ve got morally ambiguous characters all-around, presented to us with a welcome lump of tenderness & empathy, but with no punches pulled.

If the print book is eligible, it’ll be going on my Hugo nomination ballot in a heartbeat.

2 stars

Blood of Elves, The Witcher #3 by Andrzej Sapkowski

Blood of Elves

I struggled a lot with this book: I wanted to like it, since I’ve heard really good things about the game series but I had to force myself to finish reading.

I don’t always mind non-linear narrative, but here it really detracted from the story, made it feel broken-up and confused, and I honestly could not see why the book was organised that way. Despite the multiple points of view (a storytelling device I *love*), I didn’t get a strong sense of the characters or the conflicts, and I didn’t really get why I should care what happens to any of them.

Very early into Triss Merigold’s POV, we learn that she got another character drunk so she could have sex with him. She did this despite knowing he was in a relationship with a mutual friend and then keeps pining about how he wants nothing to do with her now. I could not care less that Triss’ feeling are hurt because the guy she date-raped won’t go out with her. No, no, no.

This is apparently the second book in the series, with the first being a collection of short stories. I had no idea, and read this assuming it came first. Maybe the stories would have helped make more sense of the sprawling worldbuilding but since it probably couldn’t have given this book the actual plot arc it lacks, I won’t be reading more in this series.

4.5 stars

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Signal to Noise

15-year-old Meche is awkward and uncool, but she has two good friends and an impressive pile of vinyls. Things get messy when she, Sebastian & Daniela discover they can use the music to cast spells.

Meche returns to Mexico City as an adult, after living and working in Europe for years. She came for the funeral of her estranged father, but she finds herself dealing not only with her overbearing family but also with seeing Sebastian again.

I loved almost every single thing about this book. The two timelines feel very distinctive, and Moreno-Garcia captured the weird cognitive dissonance of coming ‘home’ as an expat beautifully. The 1985 portions of the story felt really poignant to me, and I liked the balance of magic and high-school drama.

Just a smidgen short of five stars because adult Meche was a bit difficult to relate to, at times. Her decision-making had me shaking my head throughout, but the rash choices make sense from teenage Meche: yes, she’s sometimes hurtful to her friends, but she’s 15 and she’s got stuff to deal with. On the other hand, there were definitely times when I thought adult Meche needed to get a grip and act her age.



Planetfall – Review & Giveaway

What better way to start Sci-Fi Month than with the opportunity to win some shiny swag? Everybody loves shiny swag right?

So, without further ado, I present my very first giveaway! *squee*

The rules & the swag

The rules are pretty simple:

– The giveaway is open from now until the 14th of November 2015.

– Since the prizes aren’t too heavy, this one will be an international giveaway.

– To enter, scroll down to the rafflecopter at the end of this post, and submit your entries. A winner will be selected at random once the raffle has closed.

And here’s what you can win:

A signed copy of Planetfall, the latest novel from Emma Newman. The book came out from Roc on November 3rd and is getting a lot of good buzz. I’m leaving the blurb as well as my video review below if you’d like to know more about it.

A robot-themed tote bag. It’s a nice sturdy bag, with a bright robot print on the side & it was exclusive to GollanczFest 2015, so you can’t get one elsewhere. Since this was a goody bag, it comes with little extras like novel previews & buttons.

About Planetfall

From the award-nominated author Emma Newman, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing…

planetfallRenata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

My Review

If you’d like to hear what I thought of Emma Newman’s Planetfall, check out the review I filmed for my booktube channel:

Enter here!

If you’d like to win a signed copy of Emma Newman’s latest novel Planetfall and a sturdy robot tote bag from GollanczFest 2015, use the Rafflecopter below to submit your entries:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions! I’m new at this giveaway malarkey & I’m sure I’ve forgotten something or other…


Rush Jobs Blog Tour: Hobson & Choi – Series Review

Today, I’m very excited to be talking about Hobson & Choi, the darkly comic detective saga by my good friend and writing group buddy Nick Bryan (you should follow him on Twitter @NickMB, he is very funny).

The first book is The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf and the  second is Rush Jobs, which came out just yesterday.

I’m reviewing both of the books, and for those of you still reading after that, there will be a shiny, shiny giveaway at the end of the post!

The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf (Hobson & Choi #1)

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wpid-wp-1417027201089.jpeg“If we get 400 followers, John Hobson will solve that nasty wolf-murder case for free! Fight the thing himself if he has to! #HobsonVsWolf!”

Angelina Choi was only trying to drum up some Twitter followers and make a good impression on her first day interning at John Hobson’s one-man detective agency.

But the campaign went viral and now they have a murder to solve, no money coming in, and an unwilling Hobson faced with battling some enormous beast. With both follower and body counts rising, can they crack the case without offending everyone or being eaten by a huge dog?

The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf is the first case starring Hobson & Choi, a bickering, mismatched detective duo for 21st century London. This book collects the debut storyline of the hit darkly comic crime web serial, extensively rewritten and improved for this definitive edition.


I loved that the whole story kicked off with Choi doing the brash “I’m not a kid” teenage thing and messing up the twitter account. The social media aspect of this book could so easily have read as gimmicky, but Angelina’s eagerness to prove herself and be taken seriously makes complete sense, and because there are serious consequences to the slightly distasteful murder-solving twitter promises, the reader doesn’t feel cheated.

The mystery plot was well-paced and building up to a tense resolution, but to me, it was definitely the characters that made the story shine. Besides the obvious question of who had a motive for murdering someone with a crazed dog, there were so many interesting tidbits. Between Hobson’s ex-wife, the receptionist Choi likes, Hobson’s unsavoury mob contacts, Choi’s Mum, the other receptionist, etc…, there’s a huge range of nifty side characters, each with the promise of lots of conflict in future books.

Smaller things also pack a big emotional punch, like an argument between Choi and her concerned mother, which kind of made me want to call my Mum and apologised for the times I was a little shit as a teenager. But never mind that.

Nick’s writing is funny, touching and above all, relatable. It’s got a ring of truth to it that keeps the reader hooked throughout. You’ll read this and find yourself cringing with sympathy when Angelina internally berates herself about that thing she can’t believe she just actually said out loud, or sighing along with Hobson’s exasperation at those hipstery trendy kids that work at the Inspiration Gestation Station. No really, that’s what their offices are called.


Rush Jobs (Hobson & Choi #2)

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23568658“Sometimes #crime feels like the Matrix. Or the #patriarchy or #porn. It’s everywhere, even in people you trusted, and there’s so MUCH of it.”

Angelina Choi returns for her second and final week of work experience at John Hobson’s detective agency, ready for anything after their first successful murder solve.

After all that online buzz, they’re in phenomenal demand. Can Hobson & Choi solve a kidnapping, play chicken with corporate crime, beat back gentrification, save a dog from drug dealers and head off violent backlash from their last case? Or will grim revelations about Hobson’s past leave them floundering in the chaos?

Rush Jobs collects the second major storyline in the Hobson & Choi saga, #1 on Jukepop Serials and #2 in Dark Comedy on Amazon, adding brand new chapters and scenes to the case.


I have to say straight away that I absolutely adored this. I liked the first book quite a bit, but this second volume really stepped up a notch. Hobson & Choi shows its origins as a serialised work with a number of smaller cases interweaving as the story goes, which was where it really hooked me.

As I’ve said above, I don’t read a lot of crime fiction, but I do watch a lot of US-style police procedurals, with a general season arc and a case solved every episode, excepting the occasional two-parter episode or recurring serial-killer villain. Maybe someone watches these shows for the intricate investigations, but I’m unashamedly in it for the characters. The same goes for Hobson & Choi.

This second instalment picks up right where the first left off and builds on the interesting glimpses of conflicts and relationships between characters. I particularly enjoyed seeing Choi grow in confidence as her work from the first book is acknowledged, and I liked Hobson’s pragmatism about the Twitter account: he thinks it’s nonsense, but he’s getting more paying clients out of it, so he’s getting Choi to keep it up.

There are more shades of good and bad in this one, more moments in which both Hobson and Choi screw up big time, more hesitation about the right thing to do. And as the story progresses, it becomes pretty clear that the Big Bad of the book is actually bloody terrifying, in a much more mundane and inhuman way than the hyper-aggressive ‘wolf’ from the first book. This made for some really tense moments when the jokes were reigned in and the true disturbing nature of the whole thing (including Hobson’s murky past) was revealed.

The book also ends on a more uncertain note as Choi’s two-week internship with Hobson has ended, but a third case, Trapped in The Bargain Basement, has already been announced, so we should see some more of Hobson and Choi. Don’t skip the bonus short story at the end of the book; it’s excellent and guaranteed to give you the creeps in a big, nasty, Orwellian way.


About the Author

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me-squaredNick Bryan is a London-based writer of genre fiction, usually with some blackly comic twist. As well as the detective saga Hobson & Choi, he is also working on a novel about the real implications of deals with the devil and has stories in several anthologies.

More details on his other work and news on future Hobson & Choi releases can be found on his blog at or on Twitter as @NickMB. Both are updated with perfect and reasonable regularity.

Subscribe to his mailing list using the form in the sidebar of to get news first and an all-new free Hobson & Choi short story immediately!

When not reading or writing books, Nick Bryan enjoys racquet sports, comics and a nice white beer.

WebsiteTwitterMailing List



Finally, Nick is giving away a signed paperback set and three e-book sets of the Hobson & Choi series! So if you’d like to win The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf and Rush Jobs, just fill in the rafflecopter, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Strange Chemistry Book Reviews

For the past year and a bit, I’ve been going to the Big Green Bookshop’s Angry Robot Reading Group, where we read some Strange Chemistry books as well as Angry Robot releases. I’ve liked most of the books we read, but I enjoyed the Strange Chemistry ones most of all. They just filled me with glee.

I like Young Adult books in general, and I specifically adore genre YA, so the imprint was a perfect fit for my taste. Now that it’s sadly been closed, I want to look back at a few Strange Chem books I liked.

As readers and fans, all we can do is let the world know we’d like more from Strange Chemistry authors, and from Amanda Rutter, who edited the imprint so brilliantly. If any of these sound good to you, consider buying them from your local independent bookshop. If you don’t have one, give the Big Green Bookshop a shout (on twitter, by email or at 020 8881 6767), they do free UK delivery.

And yes, I will shamelessly pimp my beloved local bookshop, because they are amazing and if anything, the closure of Strange Chemistry & Exhibit A shows us that if we like something we should put some monies towards it.

When The World Was Flat (and we were in love), by Ingrid Jonach

whentheworldWhen 16-year-old Lillie meets Tom for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks like he’d be more interested in watching paint dry. As they get closer, Lillie suspects he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and impossible memories.

I got a review copy of this book on NetGalley and posted a detailed review of it here. In short, I really enjoyed the mix of high-school drama and high sci-fi concept, slow character build up and humour in this book. This is a great summer read; while the genre elements far from ground-breaking, they work really well with interesting, likeable characters and high emotional stakes.

Emilie and the Hollow World, by Martha Wells

emilieWhile running away from home for eminently defensible reasons, Emilie stows away on the wrong steamship and finds herself on a journey to the interior of the planet in search of the missing father of her protector, Lady Marlende.

This book was easily our Angry Robot Reading Group favourite read of 2013, and I can’t praised it highly enough. So far, I’ve gifted it to two good friends and I think I might give it to my Mum for Xmas.  I love steampunk and travel stories, not to mention a smart, sensible, brave protagonist to root for, so this was a perfect fit for me. It reminded me of His Dark Materials and right now I don’t know HOW I don’t own the sequel yet…


Poltergeeks, by Sean Cummings

poltergeeksJulie is the daughter of a witch, so when she witnesses an elderly lady jettisoned out of her front door, she knows there’s a supernatural connection. Poltergeist activity levels are increasing all over town, until Julie’s mother is cursed in an assault on the high school.  Now it’s a race to find out how to break the curse.

I won’t lie, I totally picked up this book on the title alone. I love stories about witches, and this book didn’t disappoint, especially when you take into account the heaps of high-school drama and the Canadian setting – strange and exotic to me! I enjoyed the characters and their relationships, particularly the relationship between Julie and her mother, but I was especially intrigued by the revelations about Julie’s magical inheritance.

Skulk, by Rosie Best

skulk Meg’s only escape from her oppressive, not-so-perfect home is her secret life as a night-time graffiti artist. That’s how she witnesses the dying moments of a fox… that shapeshifts into a man. As he dies, he gives Meg a gemstone and his power to shift. Plunged into a shadowy underworld of warring shapeshifters, she must protect the stolen gemstone.

I bought this book to support the author who is a friend of mine, and also because the cover was so damn cool. This book doesn’t pull any punches, and I found Meg’s cruel and selfish mother just as disgusting as some of the gory bloodshed and definitely scarier than the bit with all the spiders and rats. There’s also some great commentary about class in Britain and proper laugh out loud moments.

The one thing I wasn’t terribly keen on was that it reads very much like book one of a series, and I personally found the ending left me wanting a bit more. Rosie has written and done edits on the second book, Rabble, so here’s to hoping we can read it soon in some form or another. I will be reading it when it does come.


When The World Was Flat (and we were in love) – Review

17568923Author: Ingrid Jonach
Genre: YA sci-fi
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Date: January 2013
Source: Net Galley
Buy the BookGoodreads

Lillie is your average small-town-Alaskan high-school student. Crackpot hippie mother not-withstanding, Lillie’s life is pretty normal until she starts dreaming of her own death, every single night.

Then new guy Tom strolls into school; he’s handsome, rich & British, a swoon-worthy combination if there ever was one.

But he is also strangely familiar, Lillie instinctively knows things about him she couldn’t possibly know. Do they really have some kind of weird connection, or is a simple teenage crush making her read way too much into Tom’s every word or gesture?

The beautiful cover and intriguing title should give you an idea of the lyrical, atmospheric flavour of the book. It doesn’t lack in sass either, with Lillie’s opinions and descriptions rendering the small town and its inhabitants in vivid detail. I was particularly impressed with the expert portrayal of teenagers, which hit just the right notes of frailty, bravado and cruelty in turn. The parade of couchsurfers moving in and out of Lillie’s living room never failed to provide comic relief.

The revelation of a supernatural aspect to the plot came fairly late, allowing the high-school drama to take front and centre stage for the first half of the book. That’s a relatively large portion of the story which is solely dedicated to Lillie’s everyday life, as well as that of her family, friends, frenemies, and even the town.

This early focus allowed the reader to immerse in Green Grove sufficiently to understand exactly how devastating an impact the later reveals could have.

One initially very sympathetic character turns suddenly sinister shortly after the central crux of the story is finally revealed, and the reader feels this twist all the more cruelly for this attention paid the character in question early on.

The lack of a supernatural plot-twist before the mid-point also provided its own little pinch of suspense. There is a certain amount of meta at play; when you pick up a book from a genre publisher, you expect some kind of science-fiction or fantasy element.

Yes, the weird dreams could just be dreams, except the reader knows they’re not. I spent the first half of the book wondering, at the turn of every page, is this next one the page I’ll find out?

By the time Lille finally gets told what is going on, the seasoned genre reader will have probably guessed the most likely answer (I did), but Jonach builds on the beloved sci-fi concept and creates a beautiful, multi-layered hidden fantasy world. There is almost a bit of cognitive dissonance between the high-school drama and high-concept sci-fi portions of the story, but if you enjoy both genres, like I do, you will love both halves equally.

I read this book on holiday and I must say it was close to the perfect summer read for my taste – a fun, witty story, with enough emotional resonance to make me root for a happy ending, none of the unnecessary sap I always dread from romances, and a decent grounding in sci-fi without any arduous info-dump. It feels great sometimes to step back and read a story not about the end of the world, but the tearing apart of someone’s little world, which is just as dramatic when it’s done well.