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A Throne of Swans by Katharine & Elizabeth Corr

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Published 9th January by Hot Key Books

 

Synopsis:

In a world where the flightless are ruled by those who can fly…

When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn’s ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother – ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors. 

With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.

 

Review:

This book was just what I needed to finish the year off! I loved it! I was sent my early copy of the novel by Readers First and Hot Key Books – Thank you so much!

I loved the setting, the characters and the premise – all of it! It’s a beautifully easy read and is loosely inspired by Swan Lake which just reminds me of The Swan Princess so I had all the nostalgia feels while I was reading this 🙂

In the novel the world is split into a class system of those who can transform – the nobles; and those who cannot – the flightless ‘normal’ people. The world is governed by rules which state that the flightless cannot rule or have a position of power. The families that can transform take the form of a specific bird (Swans, Owls, Ravens) and they even keep some of their characteristics in human form for example the colours in their hair 🙂 this is a detail I loved to read about – it really made the novel for me!

After being kept away from court after her mother is brutally murdered and herself left so disfigured she is unable to transform into a swan – Aderyn is thrust into a position of power when her father dies, leaving her in the position of Protector of Atratys. To protect her home she must visit her uncle, the King and learn all she can without giving away her inability to transform.

Leaving Atratys with just her advisor Lucien and her friend Letya, Aderyn finds herself in a world of people she cannot trust and in the middle of secrets which just keep coming and coming, I was shocked at every revelation and it only made me more determined to finish the story, the connections were cleverly done and the plot unravelled nicely throughout. This novel drew me in quickly with its clear narrative, I was genuinely sad to finish it and leave the world behind. Aderyn is headstrong but sensitive of her position since she cannot fly and she finds herself drawn to discover who murdered her mother. Her intentions are honourable and her lack of living knowledge of the land she lives in and the connections of other characters at court worked well as the reader learns at the same pace Aderyn does and empathises with her from the beginning.

I am actually devastated the next novel isn’t released until 2021 but I have procured myself copies of the other books written by these fabulous sisters! I’d love to know their writing processes!

Goodreads Rating: 5/5

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Chasing the Shadows by Maria V Snyder

 

(Left) Aus Cover – Published by Harlequin – November 18th 2019

(Right) UK Cover – Self Published – November 18th 2019

Synopsis:

Not going to put this in here – it contains spoilers!

Review:

Firstly, I was sent this book directly by Maria in return for an honest review.

Chasing the Shadows is out now! Again, there are different covers which is annoying, those Aussie covers are beautiful and I’m stuck with the UK one for now!

The story started in Navigating the Stars continues in Chasing the Shadows. I’ll keep this review relatively spoiler free in case you haven’t read the first one but you should really pause here and go read the first one, duh!

I loved Navigating the Stars and thought it was a fabulous start to the Sentinels of the Galaxy series (I’m really hoping it’s not just a trilogy, I need to know everything – there’s a whole galaxy to discover!). If it does turn out to be a trilogy, Chasing the Shadows isn’t the usual middle book that just fills out a story, it holds its own story-arc as well as moving the narrative along at a nice pace ready for the next book.

Again, as with Navigating the Stars this novel was brilliantly written and the characters have continued to develop throughout. Maria has really outdone herself, her other novels (that I have read) are Fantasy based but this series is firmly Sci-Fi with some Fantasy elements and it works so well! I find with all of Maria’s novels, you just slide right on in to the stories without feeling confused or lost and it holds you in its thread until it finishes. The dynamic characters work really well to support each other throughout the novel, the bad guy is especially creepy and the team Lyra works with continue to bring a diverse mix of opinions and characteristics into the mix.

Chasing the Shadows continues the mystery of the terracotta warriors which have been found on other planets and frankly I just want to know what is going on now please, okay, thanks. This novel keeps you guessing (in a good way); I’m still trying to figure out where the story could be going to be honest. Why are those warriors on other planets? What are the shadow-blobs? Who? What? Where? Why? When? The warriors though are almost a side story as Lyra’s development is the key to everything. The way she progresses through the novel, personalyl and as a security officer is a story arc of itself. The sass continues, the sarcasm works for Lyra as a 17 year old (nearly 18 though) girl wanting to figure everything out for all the right reasons and the romance is pretty low-key which is great. I don’t think I’ve ever related to a character as strongly as this; Lyra is punchy and smart and she reacts exactly how I would expect someone to in the situations she faces.

I will say this – Maria is a fan of her end of chapter cliff-hangers, I really struggle to put her books down, they really are ‘just one more chapter’ books because you always need to find out what comes next so be prepared for some late nights/early mornings! I know this is a good thing but it also means you read the book quicker – Chasing the Shadows finishes on a cliff-hanger too which is very frustrating, a whole year to wait until the next one too and I have a lot of questions.

I would love to write all my actual questions down in this review but that would be totally spoilerific and I really don’t want to ruin anything for anyone because I really want you to read it for yourself!

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

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Navigating the Stars by Maria V Snyder

(Left) UK Cover – Self Published – 1st December 2018

(Right) AUS Cover – Published by Harlequin Australia – 19th November 2018

Synopsis:

Terra Cotta Warriors have been discovered on other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. And Lyra Daniels’ parents are the archaeological Experts (yes with a capital E) on the Warriors and have dragged her to the various planets to study them despite the time dilation causing havoc with her social life.

When one of the many Warrior planets goes silent, and looters attack her research base, Lyra becomes involved in discovering why the Warriors were placed on these planets. And, more importantly, by who.

Review:

Ahh first of all I am a little biased because I have a soft spot for Maria’s work in general but I actually loved reading this book! It was a great start for a new series and is definitely in the Young Adult Sci-Fi genre. This was such an easy read and while it isn’t heavy in the scientific and physics information about space travel, you can tell Maria has done her research into it to make sure it’s accurate.

The plot revolves around Lyra (looove the name) and her parents/friends etc. Lyra’s parents are archaeologists, and are working on the discovery of terracotta warriors (yes, those ones) that have been discovered on different planets (uh, amazing!). The whole thing is told from Lyra’s perspective and you really feel as though you are in her brain, she is so snarky and quick-witted, her dialogue rolls out sharp and funny throughout so it is super easy to follow making this novel a pretty quick read (I’ve heard good things about the audiobook too).

While I know some readers will automatically discount this book due to its setting in space I very much urge you to just give it a go. Maria does not lay it on thick, the tech is not dumbed down but it isn’t ‘oh my god you need a degree in astrophysics’ to understand (although I personally just took Maria’s word for it) so I wouldn’t let the setting of this novel put you off. At its heart it is still a coming of age story about a 17 year old girl, living in a reality where her parents rule sternly and she is determined to live outside of the rules. Lyra, as a character is refreshing. She is honest and self-aware of her situation and that of others. While she gets herself into trouble, she does so with the best of intentions, knowing she is going to be grounded and I love her for it. She isn’t blinded by self-righteousness and she definitely doesn’t martyr herself. She does what she needs to do to get the job done and she needs her friends, her parents, her ship mates to do it. The camaraderie is perfect in my opinion, no conversation feels forced between any of the characters and I loved seeing them all develop together in a thoroughly enjoyable read.

I absolutely cannot wait to continue Lyra’s story.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

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The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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Published by Orbit September 2019 (UK)

Synopsis

EVERY STORY OPENS A DOOR

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place.

But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page reveals more impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

 

Review

I was sent a copy of the novel by Orbit and Netgalley in return for a review.

I really really wanted to love this book, mainly because it has the most stunning cover I’ve seen this year! From the synopsis it sounds like a beautiful novel that I honestly couldn’t wait to try. I spent a week trying, and failing to be interested in the characters and I really struggled with the ‘book in a book’ format.

So unfortunately I didn’t finish this one. I got to halfway or should I say I pushed to halfway as I’d read a couple of comments about this being a slow start but I didn’t feel that it had picked up by this point.

This is nothing against the writing, I think Harrow is a lover of words and that really shows in her descriptive text but sometimes beautiful language doesn’t make up for a whimsy storyline.

I will say that I might go back to this one. Maybe my mind isn’t in the right place so I’ll have a break, read some fantasy magical books and come back to it at a later date.

Goodreads Rating: 2/5

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The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh

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Publication – August 2019 (UK) Pan Macmillan

Synopsis

Imagine you meet a man, spend seven glorious days together, and fall in love. And it’s mutual: you’ve never been so certain of anything.

So when he leaves for a long-booked holiday and promises to call from the airport, you have no cause to doubt him.

But he doesn’t call.

Your friends tell you to forget him, but you know they’re wrong: something must have happened; there must be a reason for his silence.

What do you do when you finally discover you’re right? That there is a reason – and that reason is the one thing you didn’t share with each other?

The truth.

Review

After spending a week with the man of her dreams, Sarah is ghosted leaving her hurt and confused but also convinced something sinister has happened to him. While her friends try to get her to move on, not quite believing how good this week was, she insists on reaching out on messages, to friends and even turns up at his football ground looking for him. Something isn’t right and Sarah is desperate to find out what happened after she parted ways with her perfect man, Eddie.
The concept of ghosting certainly isn’t a new one in today’s society but Rosie Walsh really puts her soul into the narrative. I found it a slow start where I tried to figure everything out myself but as the story developed I wasn’t so sure and I was desperate to uncover all of the secrets keeping me hooked until the end. This novel was so well written, I was utterly convinced my theory was right all along only to be laughed at upon conclusion.
I expected a light-hearted romance novel and I got a gripping mystery thriller of a read instead. I really enjoyed this novel – it completely threw me off – I didn’t see the outcome coming at all which was a nice experience. Reading a lot of novels often makes certain tropes and narratives seem a bit tired but Rosie Walsh really pulled this one out of the bag. I’ve already recommended this to a lot of people! The characters are realistic and well developed to drive the narrative to its conclusion.

Goodreads Rating – 4/5

 

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Mini Review – Hudson’s Kill by Paddy Hirsch

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Published – July 2019- Corvus Books (UK)

Synopsis

New York in 1803 is rife with tension as the city expands, and whoever knows where the city will build can control it. And violence builds as a mysterious provocateur pits the city’s black and Irish gangs against each other.

When a young black girl is found stabbed to death, both Justy Flanagan, now a City Marshal, and Kerry O’Toole, now a school teacher, decide separately to go after the killer. They each find their way to a shadowy community on the fringes of the growing city, where they uncover a craven political conspiracy bound up with a criminal enterprise that is stunning in its depravity.

Justy and Kerry have to fight to save themselves and the city, and only then can they bring the girl’s killer to justice.

Review

I was gifted this novel before release by Readers First.

As a historical thriller set in New York in the 1800s I wasn’t sure what I was expecting especially as I hadn’t read the first novel with these characters but Paddy Hirsch sets an exceptional scene. I could picture every scene clearly and I could hear the characters American and Irish drawls clear as day in my head while I was reading. I will say one thing – I found the lingo difficult in places as I often had to refer to the translation listings in the back of the book to tell me what some of the words meant!
The narrative flows really well, switching between Justice (Justy) and Kerry smoothly and allowing the reader to follow the storyline with ease. I really enjoyed these characters and I will definitely be getting the first novel from this author so that I can catch up however I don’t feel I needed to read it to understand what was happening in Hudson’s Kill.
Overall I would recommend this novel to those who read novels such as CJ Sansom & SJ Parris and enjoy the historical aspect to those novels.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

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What Happens Now? – Sophia Money-Coutts

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Published by HQ – August 2019

Synopsis:

After eight years together, Lil Bailey thought she’d already found ‘the one’ – that is, until he dumped her for a blonde twenty-something colleague. So she does what any self-respecting singleton would do: swipes right, puts on her best bra and finds herself on a first date with a handsome mountaineer called Max. What’s the worst that can happen?
 
Well it’s pretty bad actually. First Max ghosts her and then, after weeing on a stick (but mostly her hands), a few weeks later Lil discovers she’s pregnant. She’s single, thirty-one and living in a thimble-sized flat in London, it’s hardly the happily-ever-after she was looking for.

Lil’s ready to do the baby-thing on her own – it can’t be that hard, right? But she should probably tell Max, if she can track him down. Surely he’s not that Max, the highly eligible, headline-grabbing son of Lord and Lady Rushbrooke, currently trekking up a mountain in South Asia? Oh, maybe he wasn’t ignoring Lil after all…

Review:

I was sent this novel by Netgalley & the Publisher.

This isn’t my usual choice of novel but I do occasionally like to dip into the rom-com genre. I really enjoyed this feel-good novel about Lil who gets dumped and then ends up pregnant after a first date. Lil is a breath of fresh air, I absolutely related to her and I loved how her character didn’t need to grow she just appears fully formed (and still ends up developing by the end of the novel). Every step of Lil’s journey was wonderful to read and made me smile, laugh and maybe even cry a little.

Sophia Money-Coutts has a breezy and likable writing style which manages to balance serious and witty all in one. At first I was a bit taken aback by the detailed sex scenes but to be honest, they are few and far between. The characters are really relatable and honest in their actions with conversation flowing easily throughout the narrative. Lil in particular is a lovely character and focuses on herself more than the romance side of things (although it isn’t missed out) which was great, I honestly felt like Lil was speaking directly to me through her frank and sarcastic narration. On the romance side of things, Max has some realistic reactions to a believable situation. Max and his family have a difficult backstory which is used well and doesn’t distract from the narrative in any way, only supports it.

All over, a really positive read which I enjoyed and would probably read again. I would recommend this for anyone wanting a nice light holiday read and I will be looking for Sophia Money-Coutts publications from now on.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

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The Dream House – Jess Ryder

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Published June 2019 by Bookouture

Review:

Previously referred to as ‘The Guest’ I was super disappointed with this novel by Jess Ryder. I haven’t read any of the authors previous books but found they were pretty popular and generally well received so I was expecting to really enjoy this read about a woman who buys a forever home only to have a stranger turn up in the night with an unknown link to the house.

The main reason for disappointment was purely the interactions between the characters. I found the conversations didn’t sit comfortably and felt a bit forced which made me struggle to really connect with any of them. Also the switching chapters between two characters didn’t quite work for me, I think it could have set itself up as more of a twist if written in a different format.

The narrative itself was easy to read but repetitive and clichéd with its tropes however I can respect the delicate way that domestic abuse is referred to and handled throughout the novel. It’s definitely not an easy subject to write or read about but Jess Ryder manages to delve into this without the use of in depth descriptions and difficult situations. The use of this subject matter is the novels redeeming feature in my opinion since a lot of research must have gone into it and it does show. I definitely wanted to get to the end of this novel and unveil all of its secrets which is why I ultimately gave the novel 3 stars out of 5 but it hasn’t made me desperate to pick up any more of Ryders novels.

Goodreads Rating 3/5 Stars

 

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The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

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Published: February 2019, Bloomsbury (UK)

Review:

“because something has always been done does not mean that it ought to be done.”

This book is my first 5 star read of the year! It’s worth every penny to buy and it’s worth double every second you spend reading its many, many pages.

Sat firmly in the high fantasy genre, I know this book isn’t for everyone. It’s big, it’s heavy, and there are a lot of characters and an entire universe to digest so that you can get to the nitty gritty plotlines. It’s also different. It’s new. It updates and refreshes an old fashioned genre. But don’t let this put you off! I implore everyone to give it a try, it comes across at first as skittish, bouncing between multiple characters but the ease with which these characters develop and come into their own is fantastic, building up until you just need to know what happens next.

All of the characters are flawed, dangerous and selfish, working towards their own means and desires while battling their internal voices and this is even apparent in the dragons. I loved the dragons in the novel! Some are vicious and some are kind which makes them so human and so believable as characters in their own right and not just a narrative tool to show an unstable society.

So I can’t tell you who the real ‘main’ character is because they all have their importance and to be honest, I don’t want to show favouritism but I personally found myself drawn to Ead and Queen Sabran which is interesting for me as you don’t get any of the narrative from Sabran’s perspective; everything you know about her you learn through the relationships she has with other characters so you truly get to build your own opinions of her as if you are a character in the novel yourself and this is why I enjoyed reading about Ead so much too as she found herself closest to Queen Sabran and able to explore all of her mentalities which are broad and also devastating. The relationships these two women experience are heart breaking and very relatable to anyone in today’s society without being ‘preachy’ and overused.

Samantha Shannon is a fabulous author who really delves into the worlds she wants to create, exploring everything in minute detail, particularly in regards to language. Her love of words and language development comes across in character names, places and even spelling. It’s a real treat to read an author’s work who genuinely has this addiction to language and all of its nuances allowing us to fully immerse in a believable universe and all in one novel too – a standalone epic (although with definite hints of possible further novels) like this I think is hard to find at this standard and it makes me really excited to read The Bone Season novels.

Goodreads: 5/5

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The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy

Published: UK, July 2019, Pan Macmillan (USA, May 2019, Henry Holt and Co.)

Synopsis:

Welcome to the Kingdom… where ‘Happily Ever After’ isn’t just a promise, but a rule.

Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom™ is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species―formerly extinct―roam free.

Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.

But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty―and what it truly means to be human.’

Review:

I received an electronic copy of this book from Netgalley and Pan Macmillan.

The Kingdom is a fabulous novel which mixes up Westworld and Disney World. All the way through the novel I couldn’t help but think of Disney! The Kingdom follows protagonist Ana, a fantasist (aka Hybrid A.I Princess) who has been created to make park guests dreams a reality. Mostly this is meeting and greeting, walking in parades, attending tea parties etc but as expected, there is a sinister and dark institute working in the background so everything isn’t quite as rosy as it seems in the park and Ana quickly becomes entangled in the not so perfect reality of The Kingdom and its creators and investors.

I really enjoyed this book as an introduction – it has set a good scene that I want to know more about and introduced characters I can root for in novels to come (hopefully). The Kingdom is the setting and designed as a theme park created to satisfy guests desires for experiences including being able to see animals that are now extinct. The narrative itself is told through story interactions between characters from Ana’s point of view as well as transcripts of interviews with Ana (and others) when she is in custody and on trial. Through this the story enfolds through the interview process and Ana’s memories of what actually happened and delivers all of the detail with a fresh outlook. I like the use of transcripts in the novel and find that it makes the book easy and quick to read!

The draw back for me was the lack of detail in the other fantasists but I understand it wasn’t really needed for the storyline in this novel. I would have enjoyed more interaction between Ana and Owen and I would have liked some more time with Eve & Pania – other ‘princesses’ especially these as they are mentioned the most. But this doesn’t detract from the quality of the writing, which is superb. The language flows quickly – I barely realised how much I had read until I was halfway through and although there are instances where sexual harassment/assault is hinted at, there is nothing explicit and it is handled with a gentle respect, not as a main plot point.

Overall I feel really positive about this book and I will definitely be looking at more of Jess Rothenberg’s writing from now on. If you’re looking at something to dip your toes into for Sci-Fi fantasy novels this will do the trick nicely!

 

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (4 on Goodreads)