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

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

The Call, Peadar O’Guilin

 

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Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.

Could you survive the Call?

This book is gruesome. And it is brilliant.

I didn’t know what to expect diving into this. The proof copy has been sat on my shelf for months, but when it arrived in the shop and I saw what it was about, I decided to finally pick it up. All I knew was that it was set in Ireland, there were evil fairies, and a death count almost as high as Game of Thrones.

Now, I am a sucker for anything fairy related. I have a weakness for fairytales, where happy endings are always there and magic is used for good, but I have an even bigger weakness- as in, I would kill for more books like it- for books where the fey want to lure you to your deaths and when hunting humans are their form of fun.

And in this book…. wow, the Sídhe take that that evil to another level, I swear.

So, many many years ago, Ireland managed to banish the Sídhe to the Grey Land, a place that sounds just as welcoming as its name. Then, 25 years before the book began, the Sídhe managed to curse all of Ireland in revenge, vowing to kill off Ireland’s humans. Any teenager between the age of 10 and 17 will get Called- they disappear from Ireland, leaving only their clothes, and appear in the Grey Land.

In the real world, they are gone for three minutes. But time is different, and in those three minutes, they are hunted for a whole day in the Grey Land. Only one in 10 teenagers last those three minutes and come back alive. And even then, most that come back are different.

Though this book has one main character- Nessa (Who I will talk about in a moment)- all the other characters have their own starring parts. None of them are pushed to the sidelines, even though you realise by about chapter three that 90% of these characters are probably not going to be around for the whole book. When each character is Called, you see them in the Grey Land. Each journey is different, each character seeing a different cruel side of the land they banished the Sídhe to.

It was cleverly done- you wanted each of them to survive. Each of them has had such a cruel time since they went to their survival schools, where they spend most of their time. Every day is terrifying, a wait to see who would end up dead- but life is harsh as well, trying to toughen them up. So when their time came, and you turned the page to see their names at the top, you are sat on the edge of your seat hoping they will survive the next few pages.

And then… Nessa. 

Put your hands up if you’ve ever gotten annoyed at the lack of diversity in YA books. Mainly, this kind of action fantasy. Mainly, diversity in seeing disabled characters. And having a main character that is disabled.

So Nessa had polio as a child and as a result, her legs are twisted and weak. No one expected her to survive, but she was determined. She wanted to prove them all wrong. So at school, when they ran, she crafted herself crutches out of tree branches. She learns to fight. She watches all these people she grew up with disappear then appear again, hideous and mangled and more often dead than alive. And those same people give her pity. They do not punish her because of that pity, and she hates it.

More than anything, I loved that. I have a disability, and at school, it forced me to be behind many of my classmates. I used to be a big football player- until my doctor decided that football, along with many other sports- was too dangerous. There were many other things I couldn’t do, and if there was one thing I hated more than anything else, it was pity. 

So to see a main character I could identify with, who I understood, who no one expected to get anywhere but then did, it made my day completely.

The only issue I had with this book is that you have to wait a long long time to see Nessa in the Grey Land, and the blurb of the book makes it sound like she is there a lot longer and a lot sooner than she is. However, the fact that you see all the others go into it makes up for it.

I just… This isn’t a book for the faint hearted. It is cruel and harsh and almost horrorish with some of the things that happen. But then, that is what they fey are meant to be, especially the ones in Ireland. But it is a fantastic read with some brilliant characters and imagination.

four 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

Heartless, Marissa Meyer

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Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Don’t you just hate it when books come out in other countries four months before they are published in your own? Heartless isn’t actually published in the UK for a month or two, and I was going to leave reading it until nearer that date- but then I kept seeing pictures online of the US editions and gave into the temptation. (Thank Publishers for early copies) (and for early copies that have better covers than the UK cover)
Meyer’s other series- The Lunar Chronicles- is one of my favourite series for many reasons. Fairytale retelling with wonderful female characters, friendships, and not a single love triangle in sight. So of course, I was looking forward to this one as well.
And I was not disappointed.
The start was rather slow- the whole first chapter, I read worried that it was going to be like this the whole way through, but it sped up quickly, introducing all the characters in a wonderful way that really makes you wish Wonderland actually existed. All the players we know well were there- just slightly different, as it was not only Meyers version of them, but a prequel of how they became who there were when Alice’s Wonderland.
But once the story started, it was wonderful. The first time we get introduced to Jest is one of my favourite scenes (okay most of my favourite parts included Jest) but it wasn’t even the romance I liked- Unfortunately, in this book, there was a slight love triangle which irritated me at some points, but didn’t ruin the book for me. What I liked was that Jest was fun, and like his name, full of mischief. And Raven, his constant companion, who mainly spoke in rhyme (and quotes from the poem of the same name).
I think my only issue (aside from triangles) with this was actually the main character, Cath. There were times when I could have quite happily shaken her with how stupid she was being, and how much she didn’t think about the people around her. Her development was great- it’s rare to have a book where the main character gets worse, not nicer, but sometimes, it felt off. Like I didn’t believe she would have done some things, or would have done something differently.
But the book, overall, was fun to read, and once again showing why Meyer is the queen of fairytale retellings.
four stars