Mini Series Review: All Souls Trilogy – Deborah Harkness

 

Synopses:

A Discovery Of Witches: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. 

Shadow Of Night: Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realize that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

The Book Of Life: After travelling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.


So I need to get back into the swing of things, and I thought that starting with a mini review would be best for that particular purpose – especially given that my thoughts on this series can be summarised quite easily. As this is my first mini review, I thought I’d try the: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE VERDICT format – and see how that is received and if it actually works for both you and me. 

THE GOOD:

  • The story wasn’t quite your typical romance, it actually felt informative in terms of its content – I found the prominent historical aspects really enjoyable to read.
  • Book 1 and 3 moved at a comfortable pace, I felt like the storyline flowed nicely.
  • The characters were, for the most part, padded out – although I have to say that neither Diana nor Matthew were my favourites of the lot – I just found the rest so much more compelling.
  • scienceLike okay, if I looked more deeply into things, I’d probably find some problems with some of the concepts, but I think all in all these books were rather well researched.

    THE BAD:

  • THE SECOND BOOK….. Literally all my problems with this series lie within the second book. It was slow, there were too many bloody characters, it spent too much time in places which didn’t deserve it and just overall irked me.
  • (THE NOT SO BAD BUT STILL ANNOYING) Diana got on my nerves at some points, but then really – most of that occurred yet again during the second novel. Middle book syndrome anyone??

    THE VERDICT:

    Overall, I’d definitely say that this series is worth a read, books 1 and 3 make a compelling argument to oppose the crimes committed by the middle novel, so as long as you can actually get through Shadow Of Night – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars 

Proof Review: Replica – Lauren Oliver

Synopsis:replica cover.jpg

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.

Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing , they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…


I receieved a proof copy of the novel courtesy of Chapter 5 Books in exchange for an honest review.

I feel as though the concept behind the two part book was incredible, but one of the narrators sadly let it down.

While I was gripped reading Lyra’s side of the book because her story was captivating – I do love to read books with slightly sci-fi/futuristic twists on the society in which we live , I found the concept of Replicas interesting, and yet odd at the same time. I can’t imagine an island full of copies of people just walking about, it just doesn’t seem plausible. Well, it does; given the modern day advancements in technology, but I’m not completely happy with the thought of it actually being a possibility.

However, once I flipped to Gemma’s POV (I read the book alternating chapters because I felt that it provided much more continuity) my interest was lost because she just didn’t seem to be as three dimensional and developed as Lyra. Not that Lyra was completely padded out either, but at least we were given information about her, which was developed past the simple statements about Gemma’s diseases which seemed to have nothing to do with the actual plot of the book, nor did they require an explanation as to what diseases they actually were, and how she coped with them (past the gist of “not very well”)… all things would have made the book more interesting.

But I have to say that both of the characters were realistically flawed which I really appreciated. Both Gemma and Lyra were incredibly reckless throughout the novel, and acted like typical (in my humble opinion) teenagers, which was nice because Oliver didn’t make them handle their respective situations in ways that only the most mature of us could handle. It was just nice to see an aspect of realism within the story.

Although in saying that, the love triangle/square/pentagon (depending on which part of the book you read) got on my nerves a few times as it always does but I’m glad that it didn’t take more than a novel for those to resolve as it does in many other books.

There were also countless “coincidences” which eventually rendered the book so predictable it honestly hurt.

I  wish that the book was either two longer, separate companion novels or a much longer novel of its own because I largely felt that because of the tropes I have grown to despise which were ever-present throughout the book, the story/ies felt rushed which resulted in me having rather “meh” feelings about the characters, and that’s at best – because I honestly can’t say I felt much for most of them.do-i-get-bonus-points

Because I really found it hard to…

On the whole, this book wasn’t entirely what I hoped it would be, but the concept behind the story, as well as the deconstructed dual POV saved it in my eyes, therefore deserving a higher rating than it would have received otherwise.

My Rating: 2.5/3 out of 5 Stars

“Normal is a word invented by boring people to make them feel better about being boring.”

-Gemma

ARC Review: The Loneliness of Distant Beings – Kate Ling

Synopsis: the loneliness of distant beings cover

‘It is that quick, it is that strong, it is that beautiful. And it is also totally impossible.’

Even though she knows it’s impossible, Seren longs to have the sunshine on her skin. It’s something she feels she needs to stay sane. But when you’re floating through space at thousands of kilometres an hour, sometimes you have to accept there are things you cannot change.

Except that the arrival of Dom in her life changes everything in ways she can barely comprehend. For a while he becomes the Sun for her; and she can’t help but stay in his orbit. Being with him flaunts every rule designed to keep their home in order, but to lose him would be like losing herself.

In the end they must decide what is most important: loyalty to the only home they’ve ever known, or to each other?


I received an eARC edition of this book courtesy of Hachette Children’s Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Either I’m being really harsh on books this year, or they’re just not good books because quite frankly this was yet another slight let down (yet of lesser proportions than my previous reads, seeing as I did like quite a few things about it).

I loved the sci-fi, spacey twist on the dystopian genre… Yes, I did just say that I liked a dystopian book shocked cat gif.gif

I really liked the aspect of the lack of freedom for once, well, maybe not “liked” but definitely found the fact that people would sign their descendants up for a lifetime of what was basically slavery to a REALLY corrupt political system IN SPACE interesting. I just couldn’t completely comprehend why on earth (shameless pun) anyone would put up with some of the things happening on that ship. I think that the sci-fi twist on the typical same ol’ dystopia was really what I needed to warm up to the genre which has been an interesting discovery.

However, the book also had elements which really really annoyed me, like the ever present love triangle, which I could smell a mile off after the MC decided to descibe a guy’s moles upon their second encounter, after already being engaged to another man as per dystopian tradition. Which of course led to an overly dramatic and plot consuming insta-love/lust story which was put into the spotlight by the absence/flatness of supporting characters.

Although admittedly, this got slightly more bearable as the book went on and we met a few characters and also discovered more about some of the main(er) ones which was quite nice to see as that doesn’t happen very often at all in dystopian novels so big kudos to Ling for not forgetting to develop her story beyond the MC.

In saying that, I felt as though the main character, and Ezra and Dom were slightly immature and definitely fell a bit flat. However, the ending of the book was pleasing and it definitely provided a lot of hope for the next book to be slightly more fast-paced and action filled which would be something to look forward to.

Overall, I’d definitely say that this book is worth reading if you’d like to see something new brought into the dystopian genre, I honestly really liked the idea of sci-fi being such a key part of this story. The writing style and really well written and thought-out description were also great strength of this particular title.

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

“It is that quick, it is that strong, it is that beautiful. And it is also totally impossible.”

 

Book Review: Nirvana – J.R Stewart

Synopsis:nirvana cover

When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual?

Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and the virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone’s deepest desires may be realized – even visits with Andrew.

Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon’s dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust. After uncovering much more than she expected, Kenders’ biggest challenge is determining what is real – and what is virtual.


I received a free copy of this book courtesy of Blue Moon Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t think I disliked this book, it  was incredibly true to the dystopian genre presenting the world as a wholly corrupt and grim place in a subtler way than most novels manage to do.

I was glad that the heroine didn’t suddenly decide to go fighting ALL OF THE GOVERNMENT like many others had decided to do *akhem,Divergent, akhem* but she wasn’t relatable in the slightest (her relatability  only deteriorated once Andrew was out of the question), and the character change she went through, made the whole reality/VR fiasco more difficult to comprehend because her mind wasn’t in a very good place – turning her for the most part unreliable…

Whilst I am nowhere near appreciating the genre as much as I used to at one point along the way, I liked how Stewart linked both Sci-Fi (which I adore reading if they are executed well) with dystopia to create a unique story.

Whilst the book wasn’t very long at all (which may have been its downfall if I’m being honest because a few things were unanswered after plentiful plot twists urging me to wait for sequels), but it somehow made me think about the impact that our technological advancements are having on the world in which we live. And I mean, it largely seems like we have things under control for now, but the book somewhat made me question just how far we are going to take it – and the possible effects that it could have (and man, let me tell you; they weren’t good).

The pace of the novel could have been slightly better considering its length although generally speaking – it wasn’t more than a 2-3 hours of reading altogether. Whilst I was completely captivated by the beginning chapters, this somehow declined throughout the novel up until the last two chapters, when I was so excited about finding out what was going to happe- NO. Nope, we didn’t find out what was going to happen because the book ended on a cliffhanger, and if I was being frank – that is probably the only reason that I am going to read the sequels. As well as, of course to see whether Stewart maintains the high quality of writing when it comes to style, and perhaps gives Kenders a bit more personality that I can connect to.

My Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

“Nirvana is a refuge from the real world, which has growing complications regarding the stability of our environment and life in general, not to mention a crumbling economy and massive unemployment rate”

– Larissa Kenders

ARC Review: Occupy Me – Tricia Sullivan

Synopsis: occupy me cover

A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world. Breathtaking SF from a Clarke Award-w
inning author.

Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over.

And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.

Tricia Sullivan returns to the genre with a book that will define the conversation within the genre and will show what it is capable of for years to come. This is the best book yet from a writer of exceedingly rare talent who is much loved in the genre world.


I received a free eARC copy of this book courtesy of Orion Publishing Group via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Let me just say…. this book has been the biggest disappointment for me for a good few years now. I am aware that other people had enjoyed it… but I really was not feeling it when I tried to read it.

And try I did… I gave it 52% before I decided that I just COULD NOT continue because I swear I threw up a little whilst dying inside whenever the random flashes of second person narrative popped up as though they belonged (in my humble opinion, they really didn’t).

disgusted jack sparrow.gif

And I mean… I see that it could have been effective, and that it probably should have been considering the whole idea of a man trapped in his own body by another – but I feel as though the premise presented by the synopsis was completely different to what I actually received, which definitely wasn’t a good thing because I was really hoping that this book would turn out to be one that I liked.

The appearance of particularly heavy swear words (of the “c” word variety) around 100 pages in played a huge part in what made me decide to put down the book in hoping of finding one that fit me slightly better. I mean, I’m not one to shy away from cursing – I have times when I swear like a sailor in a particularly provoking situation. But the writing was already so disjointed and made my brain hurt so much whilst trying to piece everything together that I really could not take much else.

I was somewhat upset after I put it down, because the story was definitely one I was looking forward to exploring,  completely intrigued by the synopsis I was excited to start the novel and felt almost sorry for the fact that I hadn’t finished it. Because perhaps it would have gotten better and therefore deserved a higher rating than the one I have decided to give it…

Albeit at present, I cannot even say that I will be giving it another go, however I am storing it safely on my Kindle just in case I ever do decide that I was simply incredibly unfair to this novel and/or that it deserves another chance. For now, my rating remains unchanged…

My Rating: 0.5/5 Stars

“That you have to push against the immovable. You have to push. Even if you haven’t got a prayer of moving it. Because even if you don’t move it, you’ll change yourself. You’ll change something. Something will break open. That’s where my heart is on that one.”

-Occupy Me

ARC Review: Flawed – Cecelia Ahern

Synopsis:flawed cover

The stunning YA debut from internationally bestselling author Cecelia Ahern.

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

In this stunning novel, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society in which perfection is paramount and mistakes are punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.


I received an eARC of the novel from HarperCollins UK via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book had an awfully long start, those who surrounded me whilst I read it will definitely know that I felt the need to close my Kindle a few times to take some deep breaths and count to ten, to be able to start reading again…

However, after the initial slow incline it wasn’t too bad of a read…. I guess? I mean, have you ever just finished a book and thought: well that wasn’t bad… but something wasn’t quite right, and the more you think about it, the more flaws (isn’t this a great coincidence) you find?

So why don’t we start off with the good bits:

Celestine’s family was definitely something that saved this book for me, her mother’s development was HUGE, I mean, maybe not totally groundbreaking – but for a “perfect” supermodel… that was some cray stuff, but VERY commendable considering the circumstances.

Speaking of perfect, this book made me think quite a bit about the meaning of that word, and its impact. I mean, some of the characters seemed to have been labeled as flawed for petty (and sometimes even mundane) things… which I’m pretty sure a lot of people are also ‘guilty’ of having done at one point or another, or would choose to do the same in the characters’ situations. And I mean, surely we aren’t flawed for being human? But of course, that isn’t to say that we are perfect either, because perfection doesn’t exist, and whilst it is something to strive for (hopefully in order to improve yourself and nothing else) it DEFINITELY cannot be achieved. And that isn’t really an easy concept to come to terms with, but it’s the truth. The images of “perfect” people aren’t true… yes, there are some attractive people out there but the media still feel the need to apply a brick wall of photoshop onto them – which of course isn’t right, but it’s how our society has worked for a couple decades now, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be changing anytime soon despite efforts.

Okay, little monologue over and done with, this book gave me feels at a moment I thought wouldn’t come… I thought Celestine – better not carry on with that really, but let’s just say that Ahern threw me off my tracks for a while. I also really enjoyed the protagonist’s relationship with her sister at the end of the book – that also hit a few feels and I may have even teared up slightly.

But a few things also bugged me:

The protagonist fell a bit flat… at least at first, there wasn’t much to her other than her rather narcissistic views, and of course her slight obsession with her ONE AND ONLY… I mean the guy himself wasn’t too bad (if you don’t take into account his bland personality)… but I do prefer her second interest in the love triangle which of course just HAD to be part of the story, because a dystopia isn’t complete without it in most cases… and of course the love triangle had to be completed by INSTA-LOVE

big-wow

Yeah… I wasn’t very impressed.

Although Celestine got a bit of character development throughout the novel and actually delivered some very well constructed speeches, it all happened too quickly for me personally, it felt rushed and unfinished and I just wished that it wasn’t the case as she did have some potential, even as her ‘old’ self…

I have quite mixed feelings about the ending. On one hand I’m overly anticipating the release of Perfect next year, but I don’t think that would have been the case had it not been for the huge cliff-hanger, because just when everything started to come together the story was cut short… Also, am I the only reader who thought that the snow globe had a VERY important role at the end? Am I wrong… am I right? I guess I will have to wait and see.

I would recommend this book to fans of dystopia, and Ahern and her impressive writing style (although of course this is very different from her usual works) who are open to experiencing society in a way that hasn’t really been seen before.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

“I am a girl of definitions, of logic, of black and white. Remember this.”

-Celestine

 

Book Review: Zola Flash- T. Marie Alexander

Synopsis:zola flash cover
Zola is a Victian. And for as long as she’s been alive, her planet has been at war with the ruthless, demeaning Payohlini.

After witnessing the gruesome murder of her family, Zola Flash decides it is time to escape with the one person she was taught to hate before she meets the same fate. Earth seems to be the perfect place to hide out – to pretend her whole life didn’t come crashing down.

While on Earth, fitting in and making new friends are Zola’s main goal. It’s what she wants. A family to call her owns. But then, Zola uncovers family lies and the true reason behind this never ending war.

Now it’s up to Zola and the enemy, who is swiftly stealing her heart, to save her people and gain retribution for her family. But when revenge and protecting her people mean relinquishing her freedom, she’s left with a difficult choice.


I received an ebook copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

*NO MAJOR SPOILERS*

Okay… Let’s start with the good things about the book.

aliens guy

I like  an alien-filled story and this was definitely one of them, with our protagonist, as well as a good 95% of all the other named characters being full-blown (some shape-shifting) aliens!

The protagonist, Zola was also quite likable, there was very little you could not like about her, perhaps because she wasn’t developed past a certain stage… and for the first time ever – I have to say that it was probably a good thing that her character was under-developed as it meant less room for character flaws that I despise to emerge, which can’t really be a bad thing, right?

However this book did pose a few problems as well – which was a darn shame really seeing as I really liked the concept of the story… The main problem being one of my worst enemies when it comes to reading YA books (so Marie Alexander really isn’t the only one on this particular train) INSTA-LOVE… I just don’t see how you can meet someone and five minutes later be in love with them, even as a naive alien with a horrible past… Especially seeing as – well I’m going to let you figure out that one yourself. I guess the development of said love took more than about ten seconds like it usually does… but it was still a short enough period of time for me to think that it shouldn’t have happened…Especially with the differences between them. However, it may just be me, and some may view the way the relationships in this book developed as perfectly normal – it’s all based on one’s own opinion on such matters.

However, there was a problem that I know many bookworms have, namely – finding grammar and spelling inconsistencies… Which are prominent in many self-published novels, and this was yet another case of the somewhat disaster of the English language. However, I am not to judge, for I have not released a book, and probably won’t unless a miracle happens and the words I have stashed on my laptop will come to life on a dead tree (what a great description of a book, right?) but I did have a problem with the way that “here” and “hear” were used interchangeably in the sentence, “Who are you “hear/here” to see?”…  I am pedantic when it comes to grammar, and spelling, and anything to do with the make-up of the English language and it pains me when novels are hard to read purely because of their misuse…

Although, I have to say that overall, the story itself was very an enjoyable read, I finished the book in a day and it made me read more after the remains of a reading slump still had a grasp on me – and that itself is commendable, therefore I would recommend this debut novel to fans of science-fiction, aliens, and cute fuzzy side-kicks (I will leave you to find out what those are for yourself).

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

“Even the innocent can be marred by war”

-Goodreads synopsis