The Princess and the Fangirl, by Ashley Poston

pfThe Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

I was gifted an advance reading copy of this book from Quirk Books in return for an honest review.

I read Geekerella quite late in the year, last year, after having it sitting on my TBR shelf for quite a long time. It was one of those books that I knew I would love so I kept saving it for a time when I would really need a good book to get lost in. As predicted, I adored it, so much so that I found myself sitting in a cold bath in my darkened bathroom, hours after getting in and only coming to my senses when it became too dark to continue reading. The dreamy romance combined with the geekiness of the con and Starfield and the fairytale retelling trope (undoubtedly my favourite trope ever) was just completely perfect.

With this in mind, I’ve been desperate to read The Princess and the Fangirl since the moment I turned the last page of Geekerella and went online desperately searching for more books by Ashley Poston. Where the last book was a retelling of Cinderella, this book is a modern gender twist take on The Prince and the Pauper and it works SO well.

More of a companion novel than a true sequel, The Princess and the Fangirl follows a new protagonist as well as several reoccurring characters from Geekerella. Darien pops up enough for plenty of swooning opportunities, but at the same time the story is pretty much brand new and you could probably get away with reading it without having read Geekerella first without too much confusion (though you should definitely read it because it’s great.)

Everything I loved from the first book is present in this companion book. The Starfield fandom is so intricately developed that I absolutely forget it isn’t a real thing. I’m sold on it completely and really invested in what’s going to happen to the franchise. Romance is again central to the story, with a f/f relationship as well as a m/f one, which both develop so beautifully. I wasn’t a huge fan of Jess when reading Geekerella, but she definitely grew on me in this book and I enjoyed reading her chapters and getting to know her character and the reasons for her prickliness. I wanted to enjoy her blossoming relationship more than I could initially. I found myself really focused on the lies that I knew would catch up with her and it gave me minor anxiety thinking that they were going to crash and burn when they had such promise! Having said that, even with the lies there’s no denying that the chapter where she’s having a private dinner in a hotel room with her love interest was electric, so much chemistry.

Imogen was possibly my favourite character. I loved the simplicity of her love for Starfield and her, at times overzealous, passion. Another of my favourite tropes is hate turning to love, and Imogen and her love interest were the perfect depiction of this. I was rooting for them with every snide comment they flung at each other, hoping they would end up together.

I loved the Princess and the Fangirl so much. The romance, the con setting, all the geeky references and the continued story of the Starfield franchise. It was everything I wanted in a companion novel.

The Last by Hanna Jameson

71WD9ECN1QL.jpgThe Last by Hanna Jameson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:

Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead

Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

It took me a while to get into this book, partly because I was expecting a typical post-apocalyptic/dystopian story and this book has so much more to it. In order to set the plot up properly there is a lot of time devoted to introducing the characters and letting the reader know the dynamics between the inhabitants of the hotel.

I initially stuggled with the idea that this book was only told from one person’s point of view- Jon Keller an American Historian. I’m used to books like this having break-out short chapters which provide news about the outside world but in The Last, the reader is as cut-off as the guests trapped within the hotel. Once I got used to this lack of knowledge, I found myself falling headfirst into the book barely coming up for air.

The murder mystery plot worked incredibly well against the post-apocalytpic backdrop and left me feeling increasingly on-edge as Jon circled nearer and nearer to uncovering the truth.

Despite the sci-fi nature of the this book, I can’t say that reading it was particularly an escape from stresses of life. In fact, it was fairly uncomfortable at time how closely the book mirrored the political climate of the world currently. Every so often I had the stark realisation that this fictional catastrophy wasn’t actually that far-fetched of an idea, which was incredibly unnerving.

As far as the characters, I’m not sure that I actually liked any of them, but then again I’m not sure any of us would be the best version of ourselves at the end of the world. Still, I invested in their stories and even shed a few tears for them. I wanted them to find a way to start rebuilding their lives and living happily.

The conclusion of the book tied up the murder mystery plot well, which I was pleased about. As I neared the end of the story I was concerned we were running out of pages to resolve that plot and it would have been easy to leave it unresolved.

If post-apocalytic dystopian reads are your thing I would definitely recommend The Last. It has a feel of the Walking Dead about it, but the writing is much more accomplished and subtle. It is a scarily believable imagining of what might happen to civilisation if a nuclear war broke out on this scale.

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Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

61kYThMpzVL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb:

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exhange for an honest review.

Skyward was the first Brandon Sanderson book I have ever picked and I was not disappointed. Prior to this I’ve always been put off of Sanderson’s work because they tend to be fairly lengthy books and I found that intimidating. However, as soon as I heard about Skyward I just had to read it immediately.

The description that drew me in was “it’s like ‘How to train your Dragon’ but in space” which is quite frankly the most appealing sentence I’ve ever read and I have to agree, aside from, ya’ know, the lack of any actual dragons in Skyward.

The first thing I noticed about this book was that it’s true what people say about Sanderson’s writing: he’s a master of world building. The creation of this planet with its layers of detritus protecting/blocking the inhabitants from space/their enemy the Krell was just incredible. The cave systems was described in-depth and the political running of the world seemed to be explained very quickly and yet within a couple of chapters I felt I knew exactly how the planet was run. There were no long boring descriptions, but somehow Sanderson got the important points across masterfully.

The Krell themselves are a formidable enemy and I loved how we began knowing hardly anything about them and then slowly gathered more information as the plot built.

As a lead character, Spensa is one of the strongest heroines I’ve read for a long while. She’s fierce, talented and ambitious with a huge need to prove her worthiness and step out of her father’s shadow. Most of all, she’s believable and the insights we get as readers into the insecurities and worries she indulges in privately really endeared her to me.

The camaraderie of Skyward flight really sparked and flew off the page. So many different personalities in one team made every class a joy to read and I didn’t want to put the book down.

All of this added together made an amazing book, however, my absolute favourite character was Spensa’s ship M-bot. I love him. His hilarious attempts at understanding humans, his inexplicable dislike for Rig and, I’m not ashamed to say, it was a part of the book involving M-bot which made me so emotional I even shed a few tears because I was so proud of him.

Skyward ended in a very interesting place, with Spensa finding out some really interesting stuff regarding her father and the Krell. I will be pre-ordering the next book in the series as soon as the details are announced because I am DESPERATE to read more!

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Distortion by Victor Dixen

Distortion by Victor Dixen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review

I really loved Ascension so I couldn’t wait to start reading Distortion. I was desperate to know what the Martian pioneers would decide to do!

Distortion opens straight back in the thick of the action that Ascension finished on, which I loved. All too often sequels finish on a really juicy story line and pick up miles in the future when everything has been resolved. In Distortion, we get to experience the pioneers making the decision whether to land on Mars or turn the Cupido around. The suspense was really well built and up until the decision was made I was unsure which they would choose to go with.

I found the story line with Andrew and Harmony a bit of a disruption to the flow of the book. I don’t massively care about their characters because they went from being secondary to a main story line in this book and really when I’m reading about them I just want to be back on Mars! However, I feel like they do play an important part in the ongoing plot and I’m interested to see what happens in the next book.

I really loved all of the action on Mars, in particular the storm and the revelation that the robots can talk really peaked my interest and made the book impossible to put down. I’m really enjoying this series and can’t wait to continue it and see whether they continue to live on Mars, return to Earth or suffer from the depressurisation of the habitats.

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The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb for this book intrigued me instantly, as did it’s description of being a bit Agatha Christie/Groundhog Day/Quantum Leap, however I have to admit that as I sat down to begin this story I was apprehensive given the length of the book! At a hefty 512 pages I was worried it would be overly wordy and lose the momentum that mystery books like this need to keep a reader invested in the plot.

I needn’t have worried. I have never been so impressed with a mystery/crime book in my life. I was hooked instantly even though I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I love that the reader is plonked into the same position as the lead character and drip fed clues and information and for the most part has no idea of the significance of an action until much later in the book.

I usually love guessing the ending of mysteries, but find myself a little disappointed if I do manage to guess the ending or if the ending is so baffling it would never be able to be guessed by a sane person. Stuart Turton has achieved the impossible and created a mystery which ends so perfectly, which makes all the sense in the world but which very, very few people would be able to see coming.

I’m very cautious about reviewing this book in detail as I don’t want to give away a single plot point because it was such an incredible feeling to read this book knowing nothing about it. I was completely immersed and desperate to find out what would happen next.

I will say that I loved the sci-fi aspect of the plot, and I thought the repetition of the days was achieved masterfully. How on earth all the loose ends managed to get tied up at the end is completely astounding but very satisfying as a reader.

I cannot rave about this book enough and have already recommended it to several friends. I think this Christmas I may just bulk buy copies and hand them out to everyone I know.
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XX by Angela Chadwick

XX by Angela Chadwick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was really intrigued when I read the synopsis for this book. Imagine a world in which scientists can use two women’s eggs to produce a baby girl. It’s such a interesting concept and one which would completely change the world if it were true.

From the beginning I was drawn into Jules and Rosie’s relationship and I felt a part of their struggles. Sometimes books which feature science as their plot are too science-heavy, whereas XX very much focuses on the humans involved in the science- what’s it like for them, what are they experiencing and feeling and how they would cope with the events that unfurl.

I found this meant I gobbled up page after page eager to know what happened next, personally invested in whether Rosie and Jules would get their happy ending. It also avoided the author getting anything too scientific incorrect, which is important as it wouldn’t have worked to make up the science involved in this process.

I had real problems liking Jules as a person. I felt she consistantly made the wrong choices when she could so easily have made the right one. She was quite infuriating as a character but this did work within the plot of the book as Jules frequently makes reference to the fact she knows she’s less personable and easy to like than her partner Rosie.

I thought the exploration of what makes a child yours and the feelings Jules and Rosie had about the baby all the way through the book was really believable and honestly whilst I was reading I had no idea how it was all going to end.

I also really enjoyed the fact it was set in Petersfield and surrounding areas as that’s near where I’m from. It was nice to see familiar names and areas being referenced. I think only people who live near Leigh Park will properly understand the relevance of Jules’s father being raised there!

I really enjoyed this book.

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Ascension by Victor Dixen

Ascension by Victor Dixen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley

As soon as I read the blurb for this book I knew I had to read it. I have a weakness for books set in space and I loved the idea of a speed dating reality programme aimed at creating the first human colony on Mars, it’s definitely an original idea!

This book gave me the same kind of feeling as The Hunger Games did when I first read it, both because of the aspect of young people trying to outwit themselves in a ruthless competition and for the fact I couldn’t tear myself away from it once I started reading.

The story unravelled really well, revealing massive plot points seemingly in every chapter which really kept me glued to the book desperate to see what happened next.

At times I found that the dialogue between the characters felt a bit stilted but I think this was down to the translation of the book. There was also plenty of cheesiness in each speed dating session but I think this perfectly depicted how awkward it is to try and sell yourself to someone in a six minute window.

I was gutted when I reached the end of this book because I wasn’t ready for it to be over. I need answers! I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series!

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Eve of Man by Giovanna Fletcher

Eve of Man by Giovanna Fletcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Individually I love both Tom and Giovanna’s writing. Giovanna’s warm, cozy romances always go straight to the top of my TBR list and as the mother of an 18 month old troublemaker I loved her non-fiction parenting book too. Tom meanwhile has until now stuck to children’s picture books and middle grade fiction and whilst I have enjoyed them, I’ll admit that I was interested to see how his writing style, which seemed so suited to younger audiences, would adapt to fit this new audience for him.

Eve of Man is set in a world where no girls have been born for 50 years. Then, Eve is born and she is protected and revered as the saviour of mankind. Kept in a tower, away from the rest of the world Eve’s whole life is mapped out for her but all Eve wants is freedom and the chance to make her own decisions about her future.

The plot appealed to me immediately. I love a post-apocalyptic dystopian story and although it’s a genre that became quite saturated a few years ago, I haven’t read any in a good few years so I was ready to get stuck in.

The story is told through the point of view of the two main characters Eve and Bram, with each author taking resposibility for writing one of the characters. I love the idea of this collaberative way of developing a story and I think it was really effective in making both Eve and Bram such well developed characters. Obviously both Tom and Gi had an overview of the story as a whole but as you read the book you can tell that they trusted their instincts and wrote each chapter as they felt their character would react and that meant I felt really personally invested in them as people.

A main part of the story centres around Eve being presented with suitors for her to select one with whom she would begin to repopulate the human race. The scenes that centre around Eve’s preparation for this are really uncomfortable but also so powerful. Internal examinations and frank discussions about what is expected of “the saviour of mankind” would of course be part and parcel of Eve’s life but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them featured in a book in this way.

There were lots of little touches in the book that weren’t particularly part of the main plot but which really added to the atmosphere of the story. One particular aspect I liked was the inclusion of a little pod that they travel the Thames in. Not until it docked in a “big wheel” did I realise it was a pod from the London Eye! I thought this was an ingenius little touch.

I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait for the next installment in the trilogy.

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One Way by S J Morden

One Way by S.J. Morden

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I was bitterly disappointed by this book and though it pains me to give it such a low score, I really can’t find it in my heart to stretch to giving it more than a 2 star rating.

Initially sold to me as a cross between “The Martian” by Andy Weir and “And then there were none” by Agatha Christie, “One Way” follows a group of prisoners who are given the opportunity to trade in their life sentences in prison for a perilous one-way trip to Mars where they will set up a base for the NASA astronauts who will follow. Once on Mars, things don’t go as smoothly as planned and one by one they begin to die. Is this because of their lack of training, or is something more sinister afoot?

Firstly, although I gave this book a 2 star rating there are parts that I enjoyed immensly. I liked S. J. Morden’s writing style; I thought the premise was very interesting and I wanted to read to the end to find out what happened. I cared for the characters and I think if they hadn’t been written so well I would have given up on this book before I even made the halfway point.

The science in this book is incredibly detailed and though in places this was interesting, more often than not it overwhelmed the plot. I don’t want to keep mentioning “The Martian”, although due to the nature of these books it’s hard to avoid the comparison, but the science Andy Weir uses makes sense within his plot. His main character is a fully bonofide astronaut and he’s keeping a diary to help himself from going crazy and to work out how to keep himself alive with minimal supplies and no help.

The characters in “One Way” are not scientists and the plot, if we go by the blurb of the book, is supposed to focus mainly on the murder mystery. The incredibly detailed science, though interesting, massively slows the plot down and made me very frustrated. It seemed self-indulgent of the author instead of beneficial to the story and I think the book could be halved in length and be much stronger for it. For example, I was at least 50% through the book before they’d even left Earth. So much of the book was uncessarily based around their training when I just wanted to read about them on Mars as I’d been promised.

In a way I think the book has been let down by the blurb giving away the murder mystery plot. The first few deaths are wholly believable as accidental but because you know there is a murderer you put your detective hat on and I think I realised who the murderer was after the second death.

The last 15% of the book was action packed, exciting and exactly what you want from a science-fiction read. I read it in one sitting and it was the first time I’d sat down to read this book where I wasn’t clock watching and keeping track of how much I’d read. It was pure enjoyment and it made me very disappointed that a) the rest of the book hadn’t lived up to my expectations and that b) the ending was so abrupt and disappointing.

After everything that had happened in the book I wanted to know how it properly ended. Did anybody get off Mars? Did Nasa arrive? Did the last survivor (mentioning no names) end up dying through lack of supplies before anyone could reach them? So many questions, such an unsatisfying ending.

My last issue with this book is the confusing extracts at the beginning of the each chapter which track the development of the corporation responsible for the convicts extradition to Mars. These extracts were in the form of emails and written documents and usually I like this sort of epistolary feature in books but in this case, I’m still confused as to why the project was begun, how it ended the way it did and what the corporation had planned for the future. I would have preferred less coverage of the training and more background from the corporation.

I don’t think I would recommend this book particuarly, which is a shame because from the outset I was really looking forward to reading it. It’s strength is the characters and the way in which they all interact and work together. Unfortunately, in my opinion there are a lot of weaknesses which make this book hard work to get through.

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Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

I’ve wanted to read Shatter Me for a long time and when I saw it available on Netgalley ahead of the release of the fourth book in the series, “Restore Me” in March 2018, I knew I had to request it.

I’m glad I did finally read it, but I also wish I had read it back in 2011 when it was published, before the YA market was saturated with dystopian fiction. The three star rating I’ve given in this instance is wholly based on my personal enjoyment of reading this book at this point in time, perhaps unfairly. I know that if I had read this in 2011 I would have raved about it as much as I raved about Hunger Games. The truth is, I’ve become a little tired of the YA dystopian genre because of the same tropes that appear time and time again in every story.

Shatter Me opens with Juliette in a secure prison, thrown in there by the Restablishment for accidentally killing a person with her touch. Juliette cannot touch another human without fatal consequences and it isn’t long before the Restablishment decide they might be able to use her as a weapon against the enemies of their cause.

I loved Tahereh Mafi’s writing style. I found it almost effortless to zip through the story and I felt invested in the characters within the first couple of chapters. I liked the backstory between Juliette and Adam, but I enjoyed the weirdness of Warner a lot more. I thought his obsession with power and with Juliette was very well written. He seemed almost to be on the brink of insanity which lent an exciting unknown entity to the plot.

I found some aspects of the story difficult to read. I never enjoy reading about children in danger, or being hurt and those parts of this book almost caused me to stop reading. I found it really disturbing and it just didn’t seem to be a necessary part of the story.

I did enjoy the X-men feel to the end of the book, and because of this I think I will end up finishing the series. The next book in the series was set up nicely and I need to know what happens to Juliette, Adam and Warner.

Shatter Me doesn’t add anything new to its genre, but it is a very strong YA dystopian read.

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