REVIEW: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

strange-new-thingsPart of me was hesitant to give this 5 stars. I try to be stingy with how many I give out, but when I thought about it, I’d never really read anything like The Book of Strange New Things.

I consider myself agnostic, leaning towards atheism, and I have a dislike for organised religion. So picking up a book about a Christian preacher who goes to an alien planet as a missionary was wholly driven by my need for science-fiction. But, as it went on, the book became a very interesting exploration into the meaning of personal belief to an individual, and how this extends past our humanity.

On the backdrop of a failing world, relayed by messages from his wife, the subtlety of the novel is wonderful. It is merely a man trying to teach the mysterious Oasans Christianity, and his struggles with his travel and position on the planet. With a handful of other characters and the odd Oasans, the novel’s hefty length of nearly 600 pages goes by with relative simplicity, but immense interest.

The mental development of Peter, the Christian preacher, and his relationship with his wife back on Earth occurs simultaneously to the increasing understanding of the alien race that seemingly only want a preacher. The content is both familiar and fantastical. Combined with the backdrop of a failing earth, so far away, the context of what it means to be part of society is continually questioned.

The writing is smooth, and elegant, and the book seems to ebb and flow while questioning the complex ideas of religion, belief and our understanding of other species and humanity.

Ultimately, this book is a fascinating story that I don’t think I have ever seen before. As someone not particularly enamored by religion, Michel Faber presents such a wonderful story and a wonderful set of characters.

THINGS I LOVED: the subtlety, the cover (probably the prettiest cover I own)

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE: the odd symbols got a bit confusing

Rating: five-stars



REVIEW: Beacon 23 by Hugh Howey

26771521I really wanted to love this as much as I loved Wool and Shift, but unfortenately something was slightly missing. Maybe it just didn’t have the depth of Wool that I loved. But nevertheless, Howey writes so deeply that it’s hard to put down. Thrust into the lonely world of Beacon 23, Howey writes a convincing tale of a soldier turned beacon-keeper in a futuristic time.

I just want to get lost. I asked for a post somewhere no one would find me, where no one would know my name. So they gave me a number. 23. My little beacon.

I think what’s most different about Beacon 23 is it’s pace. We have a man alone in what is essentially a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere. For the first two parts, I struggled to get into the groove of the plot. It’s a slow start, but it’s representative of what the unnamed narrator must be feeling when he won’t see another soul for months… At first, it’s quite jarring, but once you get more into the novel, the plot starts picking up and it flies by.

Once you get past the uneven narrative, you really get thrust into the character of the beacon-master. A soldier suffering from some sort of PTSD, we get flashbacks that help set the backdrop of the current society: Earth’s colonies riddled with war against an alien race. As the book continues, I really connected the narrator with the character of Ender at the end of Enders Game and throughout Speaker for the Dead. Raising the question of how war affects us and what we’d sacrifice for peace, the beacon-master is a complex character, that really makes the book.

Overall, I wasn’t blown away, but Howey definitely writes well and knows how to form deep and complex characters. If you liked Wool, you’ll definitely like this, but don’t expect an as well developed society as we find in Wool. Instead, Howey leans towards questions of self-value and how we view ourselves.

WHAT I LOVED: interesting narrator, the concept

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: slow start

Rating: four-stars

REVIEW: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

This was a great first book from NetGalley! Thanks to Penguin and Sylvain Neuvel for a great read!
25733990I first and foremost really enjoyed this book. It hooked me from the start, and it was a new and interesting idea. Who doesn’t love the idea of a huge alien robot scattered around the globe that no-one really understands? Especially with the unique style of writing, this book had a flare that really stood out compared to others in the typical sci-fi genre. The characters were likeable and complex, and the mysterious narrator added a slightly sinister twist to everything.

I think most unique about this story was the plot and the writing style. I personally really love sci-fi stories where we discover and learn about a species/object, and the scientific standing of the text really pushed that ahead. It was based on discovery, and how the world comes to terms (politically) with the prospect of an alien species, potentially more powerful than us. But what made this book really stand out was the writing style. The record-type narrative, with an unknown narrator and nothing apart from speech really made this book one of a kind. Sylvain Neuvel really worked the style to maximise the plot and the characters, while leaving the unknown narrator as another layer of the story. With an open ending, I’d love to see a sequel where we discover more.

I think, although I really enjoyed it, part of me was just hoping for something more. I wanted more science, more depth, and that might be due to the way it was written. Compared to The Martian (which publicity actively link it to), it just wasn’t deep enough, scientifically, to really get your teeth into. There were moments where I was thinking it was really living up to the expectation of The Martian, but it unfortunately, for me, just fell short. I wanted to know everything about the mysterious robot, and the science and the ways in which they were exploring the possibility of alien life. In that sense, the politics worked really well. It showed the worrying climate that could occur if we had the possibility.

Nevertheless, this book really was a unique, science-fiction novel that I could really see turning into a series, and a favourite among sci-fi fans. It’s not without its faults, but it really strives to not be a ‘typical’ sci-fi book, something that we refreshingly need in such a large genre.

WHAT I LOVED: writing style, new idea, great cover

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: was just expecting something more

Rating: four-stars

REVIEW: Quarter Life Poetry by Samantha Jayne

789d4b4ccf2ef7aa7e8cce31cf831851Simple and brief, Samantha Jayne merges simple rhyming poetry with the realities of being in your mid-twenties and struggling with life.

I’m only 19, but a lot of what she wrote about rang true to me. I guessed leaving for uni would be the time of my life, but the reality is that I have too much reading and the most exciting part of my week is the £4 bottle of wine from Sainsburys…

I usually like poetry with a bit more substance, or at least a bit more hard hitting, but for what the poetry collection  is, it achieves what it aims to achieve: painfully relatable poetry for 20-somethings.

Jayne manages to capture the realistic averageness of life, expected to be the most fun and exciting time you’ll ever have. Instead, you’re struggling along with little money and for some reason, you’re not so excited about going out anymore. Jobs are hard to come by and you’re saddled with student debt.

Life after college
is a torturous trap
of full days of work
without one single nap.

The truthfulness is stark, but funny, and it’s an enjoyable set of poetry. As she says in her introduction, the perfect book to read while on the loo.

WHAT I LOVED: relatability, truthfulness

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: almost too simple?

Rating: two-stars

REVIEW: The Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney

Thank you to NetGalley and Rebellion Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read and review this wonderful book!

I am Anna Francis, wanderer, adventuress, and I feel that the snowy dark is smiling on me because it knows the love I have for it. I am a creature now of shadows and the dusk.

First of all, this book was definitely not what I expected. Although it was catergorised as Science-Fiction and Fantasy, the description gave nothing away so I didn’t really know what I was getting into.

Kearney definitely knows how to write. The strong, emotive language carried the book and threw me right into the wonders of 1920s Oxford. I could list a multitude of quotes to show howwell Kearney writes, but you really need to read the book to get immersed into the language and the feel of the novel.

The rich language intertwines the story of a refugee girl with myth and legend. Anna, though merely 12, becomes the hero of her own story, and the adventure she goes on is carefully balanced between realism and the mythical. You never quite forget she’s 12, but you’re also invited to suspend your disbelief. Thrust into the ‘Old World’, the English countryside turns into the playground of legends.

Despite a relatively slow start, with a total unawareness of where the story was going, the novel builds into a mix of wonder and reality. With sneaky cameos of Tolkien and C.S Lewis, and the strong link to English history, you’re always slightly tethered to the real world, where Anna is merely a refugee from Greece.

Anna is a wonderful character, and as the story develops you can’t help but be sucked into the mythology and the wonders of such an adventure. I’ll definitely be looking into Kearney’s other works.

WHAT I LOVED: beautiful writing, presence of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: rather slow start, took me a while to get into it


REVIEW: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

22738563A thought provoking and wonderfully written essay about views on gender and why feminism matters.

I remember when I was 13 or so and I said I was a feminist to my parents. My mum sighed and acted like it was a dirty word. It was something apparently I shouldn’t say. Fast forward 6 years and I am definitely a far more proclaimed feminist, and my parents understand.

Honestly, Adichie’s focus is what I personally focus on when I think/talk about feminism. Feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean a man hating, angry lesbian. It means that I merely believe in the equality for the sexes, socially, economically and politically.

One quote really stood out for me:

The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are.

I’m not overly feminine, and a small part of me doesn’t feel female. Call it what you will, but to me by gender is very much a box that I like hanging out in, but it doesn’t define me. I am far more than being female. And that small part of me that doesn’t prescribe to a gender really has me struggling with the limits we place on ourselves when we discuss gender. Luckily, we’re getting better. But there is a part of me that is still lost and frustrated in a world that labels me as female, and therefore prescribes how I should be and act.

I wish Adichie would write further on this. I’ve had Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference on my to-read list forever, and this essay has just pushed it far up the list.

THINGS I LOVED: a clear simple view of feminism and the associations of it

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE: would love for it to be longer

Rating: four-stars

REVIEW: Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs

I received a copy of this e-book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much Albert Whitman & Company for accepting me!

What I really l23536973oved about this book was the casual representation. It’s not every day you see a Latina Mexican teenage girl with tattoos as the main character. Backed up by a bisexual secondary character, the representation was refreshing and really gave the book an added edge.

Some of the plot was rather predictable at times, but it was a fast paced story. And everyone loves a bit of time travel. Mainly set over a 24 hour period, it definitely kept me hooked and wanting to read more.

I think what made this book was the fleshed out characters. Elena, Zoe, Trent and Chris were all great, deep characters. I found Adam wooden and ‘typical’, but he did add an extra aspect to the story. But the relationships and friendships developed, especially Chris and Trent, really made the characters likeable and interesting.

While this book didn’t really stand out, it was a good read that kept me interested, and the representation was a breath of fresh air to a genre usually confined to straight white males or Mary Sue characters.

THINGS I LOVED: representation, strong female characters

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE: typical romance with a rather boring male character…

Rating: three-stars

REVIEW: The Phoenix Descent by Chuck Grossart

Thank you so much to NetGalley, 47North and Chuck Grossart to letting me review this before being published!

51wff8ubmzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_It’s actually rather rare that I sit and finish a book in one sitting. I usually take my time, unless I really can’t help it. The Phoenix Descent was definitely one of those books that I couldn’t put down. I was even reading while cooking dinner. Chuck Grossart’s writing was immersive and gripping, and the quick pace of the plot meant my Kindle was basically glued to my hand for the day.

I’m always wary of books that alternate between two characters. I like getting stuck into one narrative and character. But in this case, we flowed between Sif, an astronaut going to Mars, and Litsa, a warrior on the ground fighting the realities of the apocalypse. The (generally) alternating chapters left cliffhangers at each ending, making me want to read on more and more. The fast paced narrative style and the alternating focus left me thinking ‘just one more chapter’.

But what stood out most in this book was the strong female characters. It’s rare nowadays to see female protagonists outside YA novels, yet Grossart gave us two strong women who didn’t need a guy. There was barely a hint of romance throughout the whole novel (a few mentions here and there that can be interpreted either way), and that was so refreshing. I’m tired of science-fiction and dystopian plots almost being overshadowed by the need for romance and love. I just want some good old classic alien invasion (not quite the case here), and maybe some military strategy.

I’m not going to lie, part of the plot (especially the big reveal at the end) was rather predictable, but that’s probably down to me reading too many dystopian novels. While the plot wasn’t the newest concept to grace the shelves, the focus on strong female characters that ‘don’t need no man’ and the cohesive and immersive writing style left me love The Phoenix Descent.

It’s not everyday I give 5 stars to science-fiction and dystopian novels. The majority of it nowadays follows the same typical pattern. Grossart gives a breath of fresh air to a dystopia, that typically struggles with representation, and science fiction, a genre that is increasingly become deep and lengthy in order to get a step ahead of the others.

THINGS I LOVED: strong women, fast pace, kind of reminded me of Day of the Triffids

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE: slightly predictable

RATING: five-stars

P.S. Chuck Grossart also tweeted me when I discussed reading it/rating it 5 stars on Twitter! Was very surprised and he was very polite and nice!