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Book Review: The Wheel of Osheim (Red Queen's War Book 3) by Mark Lawrence

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Ken...

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Book Review: Faller by Will McIntosh

Day One

No one can remember anything--who they are, family and friends, or even how to read. Reality has fragmented and Earth consists of an islands of rock floating in an endless sky. Food, water, electricity--gone, except for what people can find, and they can't find much.

Faller's pockets contain tantalizing clues: a photo of himself and a woman he can't remember, a toy solider with a parachute, and a mysterious map drawn in blood. With only these materials as a guide, he makes a leap of faith from the edge of the world to find the woman and set things right.

He encounters other floating islands, impossible replicas of himself and others, and learns that one man hates him enough to take revenge for actions Faller can't even remember.

Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed with book choices, I don't always give certain books a chance to grab me. I must confess this was the case here. Bad Tracey. Please forgive me.

I picked this up a month ago, got to around 9% and declared myself bored. I decided to give it another go several weeks later, it's only fair. Yeah, turns out I was three pages away from the action! Stupid Tracey. 

This was not at all what I was expecting. I figured it would be a typical post-apocalyptic-science-fiction-mystery. You know, guy wakes up with no memory, only a picture and some small clues to suss out what's happening, save the day and get the girl. I was expecting pretty standard stuff. Some of those things do happen, of course, but its the way in which this particular book is done that I found incredibly refreshing. 

As I said, Faller, wakes up with no memory, and only some meager clues as to who he is and what the hell happened. It quickly becomes apparent that the world suffered some kind of disaster and is a lot smaller than it used to be. Faller, or Clue, as he calls himself initially seems to be the only person intent on finding out what went wrong. Everyone else is to busy trying to survive. The world is not only smaller, its much more dangerous, stores are running dangerously low, and people need to eat. 

Among the items he finds in his pocket is a toy soldier with a parachute. And naturally he decides to jump of the end of the world! After that, the various flashbacks begin. We learn all about Faller before Day One, and his rather impulsive choices. And what is going on, and why the hell the world has cracked apart. 

Up until this book I hadn't read any of McIntosh's work before, I will certainly remedy that! This was quite a ride.

Verdict: a strong 7.5/10

*I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.     

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Book Review: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Only two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.

It’s said that the only people who really know what goes on in a marriage are the couple themselves. But what if even they don’t know the truth?

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He’s a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?

Louise, David’s new secretary, is intrigued. But as Louise gets closer to each of them, instead of finding answers she uncovers more puzzling questions. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise could never have guessed how wrong things really are and just how far someone might go to hide it.

I'm not really sure how I feel about his one. It was very readable, I'm usually not the quickest reader, but this was done in 2 days. I even stayed up till 2am! I haven't done that in ages! So yeah, very easy to get into. There's even a fantastical element to it, so really this should tick all my boxes. If I devoured a 300+ page novel in 2 days surely I must have liked it? Right? Well, you see I honestly don't know. 

I shall try to convey my feelings, or lack thereof, as best I can.

I didn't hate it, I am also not tripping over myself to recommend it to every person I know. And it's really difficult to write a review about a book you had no strong feelings about either way. If I had hated it, I could yell repeatedly how awful it is, how every copy deserves to be thrown on a bonfire, how ashamed the author should feel about their work. If I'd loved it, I could yell repeatedly how every single person on the planet (and those off it) should read this work of literary genius. How complete my life now is, having been graced with the author's incredible gift. I can't do that. I can't do either of those things.

I truly believe that every book you read should leave you with something. An idea, a feeling, a memory, a positive (or negative) change of some kind, something, anything. This one did not do that for me. It lacked something. A certain je ne sais quoi. 

I believe some of my difficulty with this book came from the characters. Some of their actions didn't quite make sense, I had a hard time believing they would do the things they were doing. Lets take Louise as an example. She gets involved with a married man, who is also her boss, and then expects everything to just work out great. She is top of my list of stupid characters doing stupid things. David is another one that didn't quite add up, he gets involved with Louise, knowing all along what would happen if Adele ever found out. Adele was without a doubt my favourite of the three mc, she's seriously messed up, but in her own way she loves David. More than anything. 

Through various flashbacks we learn more about Adele and David's past and what actually happened to Adele's parents. Of course, you learn most of this through Louise who has no idea she's being led on. Walk away Louise, walk away. She doesn't.

I'm sure this book will do very well, like I said it's not a bad book. I just don't think these 'housewife thrillers' are my thing.

Verdict: 6/10

*I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Book Review: Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1) by Josiah Bancroft

While honeymooning in the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife, Marya.

The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel of the Silk Age. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of airships and steam engines, of unusual animals and mysterious machines.

Thomas Senlin, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, is drawn to the Tower by scientific curiosity and the grandiose promises of a guidebook. The luxurious Baths of the Tower seem an ideal destination for a honeymoon, but soon after arriving, Senlin loses Marya in the crowd.

Senlin’s search for Marya carries him through madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just survive. This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.

Having heard all the chatter about this book, my expectations were high. As I have said before, I try not to have any whenever I open a new book. However, it was very difficult not to be excited about this, it has a solid 4.5 star rating on Goodreads. Having finished I can't help but feel a little let down. There's nothing wrong with it, I was just not as blown away as I was expecting to be. I have no idea if this is because it came so highly recommended, and as a result I built up my expectations to unattainable heights, or if I just didn't click with this one. I suppose I will never know, not without a time machine anyway.

Senlin Ascends opens with our hero Thomas and his wife Marya traveling to the Tower of Babel for their honeymoon. Not long after Thomas loses his wife, yes LOSES, she's there and then he looks around and she's gone. Poof! Vanished. It is quite a testament to the writing that I didn't immediately go 'hold on, you lost your wife? WTF?' It's only after I think how absurd that sounds. Thomas then spends a few days moping around trying to find Marya, before deciding he should probably check the Tower. They had, after all, booked rooms on the third rung.

So lets talk about the Tower.

In all of Thomas' books the tower is described as a marvel, where the brightest minds come to contemplate the universe and other important things. Well, naturally it's not even close to that. It's more like a swamp with evermore confusing and dangerous layers. And those layers are filled with the brightest not-so-desirables. Not at all what stuffy, well mannered Thomas was expecting. He spends the next few weeks blundering around trying to find any hint as to where his beloved wife has disappeared to. In that time he's robbed, beaten, cheated, manipulated, lied too, and so on. The poor man.

I must admit, I really struggled to connect with Thomas at first. I do however admire his gradual and almost unnoticeable evolution as a character. It's very subtle, and as with most people, he has to make a conscious choice to act differently. It shows how much the Tower changes its inhabitants. I have no doubt that most of them arrived, like Thomas, with ideas and hopes, only to find that this place is not at all what they thought. And so, they all had to evolve, until they became the very thing they feared when they first set foot there. Is it messed up that I want to go too? 

I did say that I was not as blown away, but I have not been this excited to read a sequel for a while. Senlin Ascends goes from being a decent 3 star read up to a awesome 4.5 stars in the last few chapters. A clever twist right during the climax left me wanting more. And an admiration for Thomas's determination had a little to do with it.

Verdict: a pretty good 7.5/10 


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Book Review: The Mirrors Truth: Manifest Delusions 2 by Michael R. Fletcher

Bedeckt defined himself by the list of crimes he was unwilling to commit. It was such a short list. How could straying from it have gone so wrong?

Bedeckt must undo the damage caused by wandering from his precious list. The Geborene god seeks to remake the world with his obsessive need for cleanliness and perfection, but Bedeckt is going to bring him down. Nothing can stop him. Not even death.

The two friends he abandoned in the Afterdeath chase after Bedeckt, bent on revenge. Psychotic assassins hunt him. Something cold and evil follows, lurking in the clouds above, shredding reality with its delusions. Madness and sanity war, stretching and tearing the very fabric of existence. 

Back in 2015 Michael R. Fletcher burst onto the grimdark scene with his outstanding work, Beyond Redemption. Naturally I was drawn to it. It was gross, violent, and too often unputdownable (I'm reliably informed, by me, that is a word). And then the publisher dropped him after book 1, despite having fantastic reviews the sales just weren't where they were expected to be. Unfortunately this is the world of publishing. Well, Fletcher went along and self-published the sequel anyway because a grimdark gem like this deserves to be read. 

This is by no means a light afternoon read. You need a strong stomach and not just because its grimdark. Fletcher is more or less the king of the sub-genre, for a good reason too. Most authors might allude to a characters' flaws, they might even force said character to confront these flaws, Fletcher grads the reader by the neck and screams it in their face! His creations are bastards, pure and simple. Imagine if Game of Thrones was populated only by people like Cersei and Ramsey, and Jaime Lannister's only redeeming features were his chiselled good looks. You think GRRM is bad because occasionally the bad guys win? Even Abercrombie's characters have some slither of humanity. Fletcher's are just bastards. And yet, I could not tear my eyes away!

In the Manifest Delusions universe certain people can bend reality to whatever they believe. The more powerful the delusion the more people are sucked into it. Yes, that sounds awesome, but that's just what they are. Delusions. Suffered by crazy people. These are not nice beliefs. Everyone with some kind of power uses it only to exploit others. Like I said, bastards.

Come back after you've read Beyond Redemption

**Spoilers for Beyond Redemption to follow**

After the climax of book 1, our unlikely gang all find themselves in the Afterdeath, which is exactly like it sounds. Like afterlife, just grey and depressing. Overcome with a compulsion to right his wrongs, Bedeckt sets off on a quest to free the world from Morgen, a boy-god with serious dirt issues. Escaping the Afterdeath is only the start, and hot on his heals are the oh-so-modest Wichtig and the, ahem, charming Stehlen. 
Now, in theory, readers should be put off by this series. I mean, it is bleak and awful and violent and full of sick people doing even worse things, and still, I was enthralled. The characterization in this series is some of the best I've ever read. I cannot stress enough how much I related to each and every one. 

Wichtig is funny and charming, and a total psychopath. He uses and abuses as he sees fit, he'll quite happily step on whomever to get what he wants, and yet there's an unyielding loyalty to his friends. A loyalty that he spends most of the book trying to fight against. 

Bedeckt drew me in from the very beginning. A kind of parody of the traditional hero, he's incredibly well-written. He strongly believes he is responsible for everything that is happening, and so attempts to rectify it. He is very easy to relate to as a reader. The last sane person in a crazy world on an insane quest.

Lastly, we come to the lovely Stehlen. I can only describe her as a black hole of self-loathing and hate, wrapped in bitterness, and a yearning to be seen for what she truly is. She longs to be punished for her various crimes, but at the same time she desperately wishes to be accepted. But how could anyone accept and love her? She is a thief and a murderer. It's these contradictions that make her such a fascinating character. 

So, lets get back to the plot. Bedeckt escapes the Afterdeath, chasing after Morgen; who has been very busy expanding his theocracy. Wichtig chases after Bedeckt, Stehlen goes after Wichtig, and Konig's nasty reflection sends some very, very nasties after all of them. And in the meantime, Morgen's reflection is plotting too! Phew. There is a lot going on here! And there's so much more. All I can say is that I can't wait for the next one.

In closing all I can say is this: If you like grimdark, you will like this. It's vile and sick and very twisted, but its fantastically done. 

Verdict: A seriously gross 9/10

*I received an e-copy from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Go get you own!