City of Brass, S.A. Chakraborty

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Among the bustling markets of eighteenth century Cairo, the city’s outcasts eke out a living swindling rich Ottoman nobles and foreign invaders alike.
But alongside this new world the old stories linger. Tales of djinn and spirits. Of cities hidden among the swirling sands of the desert, full of enchantment, desire and riches. Where magic pours down every street, hanging in the air like dust.
Many wish their lives could be filled with such wonder, but not Nahri. She knows the trades she uses to get by are just tricks and sleights of hand: there’s nothing magical about them. She only wishes to one day leave Cairo, but as the saying goes…
Be careful what you wish for.

I had been eyeing this book up online for months before I finally managed to get my hands on an ARC of it (Thank you to YALC friendships!). From the moment I heard about it, I knew it was going to be something I would love, and when I started reading it, I knew it wouldn’t let me down.

It’s a fantasy read that dances on the lines of being awesome for both YA and adult alike – one of my favourite kinds of books, because it doesn’t read as simple, but also doesn’t leave you floundering as you try to work out the world you’ve stepped into.

The only thing I was wary about was the duo narration; I’ve read a few in the past and quite often, both voices sound too similar so you forget who you are following, or you just don’t care about one of them at all.

I loved Nahri from her first chapter – how could I not, when she came alive on the page, her refusal that magic existed even when she was a street healer and could sense the wrong in people… and because Dara was in many of her chapters and we should all know by now I have a weakness for grumpy, brooding male mains with a clear secret that will probably make everything go wrong (*whispers* do I have a type?!)

Ali, it took me longer to warm too; for his first few chapters I thought I was going to not care about him, but I soon realised that it was more that I wanted to get back to Nahri than anything else. Once his story took off a bit more and I knew his role in it, I did grow to like him.

I basically loved everything about this book. From the world, to the politics of the city, to the characters and all the twists. I want to talk about it for ages but I also don’t want to give anything away; I loved reading this because it was different; I didn’t know what to expect.

So while I could probably write an essay on this book, just… go and read it. Please. It is so beautifully written and amazing and I want it to do so well.

five stars

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The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.
But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.
Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.
But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

I don’t actually think I have enough words to explain how much I adore this book.  I love everything about it.

From the cast of main characters, each of them wonderfully unique and strong enough that you can always tell who is talking. And each of the characters has motive (no really, how many books have you read where all the characters seem to revolve around Mainy and every secret they have is actually about that one character?) and secrets, relationships and backgrounds that make them jump off the page.

Linked to that is the diversity. Oh my god, no sci-fi or fantasy can ever say that their worlds cant be diverse… or whatever excuse it is they use.  There are so many different beings in this book. Every alien species has a different language, set of myths, way of living, and you know the even nicer thing? No one is hated because of it. It’s a far less judgemental place than our own world seems to be.

There are aliens that upset the gender binary – finally, theres an author who says that, you know what, just because we use ‘female’ and ‘male’ doesnt mean every other planet would. (also, not every character is straight. YAY)

Its not just the aliens though; despite the fact that there are human characters in the cast, some were born and raised in spaceships, others on Mars, others around Earth, and each of them is vastly different too.

Seriously everything about this book was perfect.

I don’t often read sci-fi. I find that many books are all the same; spaceship, evil aliens, fighting. (Don’t get me wrong, I do like that some times, Star Trek is one of my favourite film franchises after all) so this is an amazing breath of fresh air in the genre. Because its not all about fighting and war (though there are a few conflicts within) its more about the day to day life of a long voyage through space, and a mismatch of characters that count each other as family.

It’s honestly brilliant, and I cannot wait to read the authors other book A Close and Common Orbit.

five stars

Noah Can’t Even, Simon James Green

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Poor Noah Grimes! His father disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is…Well, it’s pure HELL. Why can’t Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone – maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely – he’d be seen in a different light? But Noah’s plans are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That’s when things go from bad to utter chaos

This book is hilarious.

And before I write a review, I want to convince you to read it in two pictures:

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and

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And if that didn’t make you cackle and cringe, there’s plenty more (of both) in this book that will make you.

It’s awkward. Oh my god, this book is full of awkward teenagers and even more awkward moments that honestly makes me feel like my own teenage years were almost normal.

I mean, the book is ridiculous. It jumps from one ridiculous thing to another, but the best thing is that the main character and his wonderful mess of a life makes it believable. From his panicking talking to anyone else to his attempts to be cool to the numerous plot twists that make everything worse, this book is a masterpiece of bumbling through the awkwardness of teenage years and sexuality and school and embarrassing mothers.

I was laughing (out loud) so much through sections of this book that my colleague ended up grabbing a copy off the shelf and reading it too – half an hour later she bought it.

This book is just a wonderful friesh of breath air. It’s funny and clever and over the top, but it’s also light hearted and good… and an lgbt book where all the lgbt characters survive (wow the fact that my bar is so low for gay characters says a lot). And its also a book with more than one gay character – I’m sure you all know what I mean. In 90% of  books there is just the one lgbt character… which is so not true to real life.

Basically, you should go out now and buy this book and you will not be disappointed. I would talk about this book for ages but I don’t want to spoil anything for people, so please, please, go and read it.

five stars

Letters to the Lost, Brigid Kemmerer

 

Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.
Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.
When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they’re not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.

Taken at face value, this book might look like your average YA high school book. You know the ones; friends to enemies, Bad Boy with a Rep meets Gentle Loving Girl. With just a bit more angst than maybe normal. (I say maybe. High School/College Romance style YA/NA books seem to compete with each other for most amount of angst possible in one page)

But take that face value and… I dont know. Throw it out the window, or something just as fun. Because this book is more than that – and hell, while most people would count it as a romance (since the main characters are a boy and a girl talking to each other. That all it seems to take nowadays) I don’t.

This is a book about two people, who have both lost someone in their family, and that one thing has shaped each of them every day of their lives. Its a book about anger and friendship and love- not just romantic love – and mainly, grief.

Grief being the main thing the whole plot centres around.

I know grief. It and I have shaken hands on more than one occasion, and sometimes it likes to pop up again, just to remind me that now we are acquaintance, it will never truly leave. And reading this book – it was hard, at times. Because I understood how both characters felt. Their helplessness and anger and denial – not necessarily that the person is dead, but that you’ve lost them.

There was a part about a quarter through the book when Juliet’s dad pulls out all her mums stuff and starts talking about selling them, and Juliet screams at him and just starts crying. That bit, strangely, was one of the hardest parts for me to read, because it still happens.

People don’t understand grief. Not even those that have been through it. Because everyone copes (or doesnt cope) differently, and I think this book was amazing and putting that across. Not even six months after her mother dies and all her teachers and friends don’t understand why Juliet isn’t back to ‘normal’. They keep making comments about it, trying to stop her from going to the cemetery or hoarding her mothers things. Because people don’t get over things like that so quickly.  And this book – the grienf doesn’t just disappear to make way for a romance and oh mt god the fact that is so rare is wrong. It was wonderful to read and see how both characters struggled with emotions, both positive and negative, and watching their journey through the chapters to see how each changed the other.

The only thing I didn’t like was the formatting – in most double narratives, the chapters start by being headed by the character name. In this one, that doesnt happen, so the first few chapters can be hard to navigate through, especially as each chapter starts with a letter from the opposite character. But you do get used to it after a while so its not that bad.

five stars

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

I don’t think I can talk about this book. I’m kinda just sat in a daze because I never expected it to be this good.

Take everything you think a book is our of your brain and throw it all away. This is not a book in terms of, it has no chapters. It has no massive descriptions you need to plunder through, waiting for the story to start. Nothing that you expect from anything you would normally read.

And it was wonderful, amazing, and refreshing.

I’m attempting to write this review about half an hour after I stopped reading the book, and I don’t think its the best idea, because all my mind can really think is AHHHHHHH and the temptation to go and throw it at people in the street are to read it.

The story is plotted out in a series of emails, interviews, classified document and various other things. You have to keep note of dates- because it sometimes skips weeks, or even goes back in time. And you have to watch for who is talking to who- because a lot of it is in ‘messenger’ style, there are nicknames for a lot of them.

I loved that every page was differently styled; documents had tea stains on them, some had ‘blood’ splatters on them, there are logos of different for what ships are talking,  and also different designs for some of the characters.

I loved loved the characters, especially AIDAN (the AI of one of the ships). Their pages are all black, their style of speaking really poetic and rather amusing at time, and it was great to see this…thing learning to ‘be’. The fact that I, at times, felt bad for an AI shows just how good the style of writing is, and the genius of both the authors.

It was also full of odd little bits that made me smile- like another favourite author’s name turning up at one point in the middle of it.

The design of the book and the writing, along with the plot, characters and almost thillerish mystery of it all just makes it a fantastic, different book

five stars

Uprooted, Naomi Novik

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Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

The problem with only writing one review a week is that when I have a lot of them already written, newer ones sit in my drafts for a while before actually posting. Which means that my first (technical) book review of the year won’t actually be seen, so it won’t look like my first actual read book of the year was not that.

But yes. At the current time of writing this, it is the first of January 2017, at about 5 in the evening. There is a glass of wine by my side (we couldn’t find any champagne) a fire roaring at the other side of the room, and a book by my computer that I have just finished.

Honestly, I almost regret reading this book at this point; I hadn’t planned to stay up for new years, since I was exhausted from work. However, I thought I would read a bit before sleeping. Three hours later, at 2 in the morning, I put the book down. When I got up this morning, I walked the dog, then sat down and read the last 100 pages or so, complaining whenever anyone distracted me. I don’t regret the reading (because I think the tone of this review already says I at least liked it) I regret that I loved it, and its set the bar far too high for every other book I read this year.

I didn’t actually go into this book expecting much. I don’t tend to these days, when books are hyped up online. I’ve been disappointed more than once, struck dumb on the reason why everyone seems to like that book.

But this one- it had everything I love in a book. Fairytales, magic, a grumpy immortal type… and a rather nice cover.

So I thought to try it, and I devoured it.

It was beautifully written. The words floating off the page and hovering before me so I felt like I was there in that dark wood with the characters, watching actions unfold. I wanted to know more about everything in their world. How the magic worked, how their magic all differed, the worlds history and what would happen next. I didn’t want to stop reading.

The characters were great as well- it’s pretty clear the Dragon was my favourite- he was so grumpy it made me laugh, but I did feel for him. I mean, Mainy was irritating at points, and he had spent so long on his own in his tower, not talking to anyone. He was lonely. Bless him.

The only problem I had was that I wanted more. I got to the last page and was like… ‘is this it?’ Everything seemed to be tided up really quickly, the last chapter a bit of a rush, as if it had run out of pages to be written on. But maybe that was because I didn’t want to let the characters go.

five stars

Nevernight, Jay Kristoff

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In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.
Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.
Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.
Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

I think I have found a rival for my book of 2016 (having finished this the day before 2016 ended)- which is saying something, when I have read so many incredible books this year. (Crooked Kingdom was my book of the year, with ACOMAF in a close second, but now…)
It’s really rare for me to pick up and authors book for the first time and know it was going to be a favourite- yet within a chapter of Nevernight, I knew the book was going to be brilliant.

And it did not disappoint.

This is a book about assassins. Not the airy, fairy, cutesy assassins you seem to normally get in fantasy (no, really. I read a lot of assassiny book yet most still don’t act, well, like assassins?). No. This book is gritty, full of twists and characters that sometimes show their colours and sometimes do not. In a school of assassins, do you ever know who to trust- who would stab you in the back (literally) to get ahead?

But its not just that. It’s a book about a girl who can talk to shadows- whose closes friend is a shadow in the shape of a cat, who drinks her fear (their interactions are just wonderful) and her progress through life, revenge, and finding out who she is.

I loved pretty much every aspect of this book. From Mia herself to her friends- and even the romance that blooms between her and another in the school. And I loved the writing. It was beautiful and funny and interesting- even down to the footnotes that had me laughing on occasions.

It’s just….If you like fantasy, then go out and pick up this book and read it. And then stare at the cover because that is also beautiful.

five stars