Mar 23, 2017 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: CROOKED KINGDOM by Leigh Bardugo

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

Oh boy. What an amazing conclusion to the story.

Crooked Kingdom picks up right where Six of Crows leaves off, and I think it’s great that there was no “six months later” nonsense, that would have really destroyed the momentum gained in the first book. The plot in this book is a little more complex, and a lot more politically motivated, but no less intriguing. It was a lot of fun seeing everyone turn their skills to a very different type of thievery to what we see in Six of Crows. I also really appreciated the finale, as heartbreaking as it was. I won’t ruin it of course, but to have it end any other way would have been very dissatisfying. I’m still stamping my foot over it though.

“Isn’t that how things are done around here?” asked Wylan. “We all tell Kaz we’re fine and then do something stupid?”
“Are we that predictable?” said Inej.
Wylan and Matthias said in unison. “Yes.”

The character development was also brilliant, for the most part. I would have liked to see Inej grow a lot more than she did, but it’s a minor quibble really. Adding Waylan as a POV character was absolutely brilliant, I really enjoyed getting to know him more directly than in the previous book. I had hoped to see Kuwei play a larger part as a character, rather than a plot device … but then it might have been 800 pages long and honestly, I’m also not sure he could have done more than he did. Just feels a bit like a waste of a character.

Ultimately though, this book was amazing from beginning to end. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to throw it across the room several times. It was just about perfect.

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Six of Crows review

Mar 14, 2017 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE DJINN FALLS IN LOVE AND OTHER STORIES

Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends.

Some have called them genies: these are the Djinn. And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places. There is no part of the world that does not know them.

They are the Djinn. They are among us.

This was such an interesting collection of stories. I hadn’t heard of many of the authors before and that always makes an anthology more interesting to me – who doesn’t want new people to add to an unstable TBR pile?

Growing up with Aladdin, I really enjoyed that very few of the stories were in a similar vein – the variety of depictions of djinn nature and setting were fantastic. This variety made it a far more compelling collection of stories than if they had been the same old Middle Eastern trope, especially when several of the stories ventured into the future.

Standouts for me were:

The Congregation by Kamila Shamsie – This was such a beautiful beginning to the anthology, full of love and loss and longing, and had such a sweet and lovely ending. Would that we all find the contentment that Qasim eventually does.

Majnun by Helene Wecker – I really enjoyed the exploration of belief in this one. It was very well handled, and made for a compelling story. I also really enjoyed how the details were slowly teased out without needing to rush everything at the end – no small feat considering the average length of a short story.

A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds by Amal El-Mohtar – This is perhaps the shortest story in the book, and possibly the most heartbreaking. I could say more about this one, maybe even write a whole review just on it, but I don’t want to take anything away from it at all. Just go read it.

Reap by Sami Shah – This one was the creepiest in the book, and I loved it. The remoteness of the POV characters from where the actual story is taking place gives an otherworldly feel to the main narrative, while keeping you engrossed as you learn with those characters. I would absolutely love to see this turned into a considerably longer story – who can I harass for that??

Bring Your Own Spoon by Saad Z. Hossain – This one jumps into a post-apocalyptic setting, where the planet is pretty well ruined. Unlike the horror aspect of Reap, this one was terrifying in its realism, but despite that, our main characters find something good to pursue, and I think that’s something we could all do with these days.

History by Nnedi Okorafor – I really enjoyed this one, and it was a very strong end to the anthology. A bit like A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds, this one is hard to talk about without giving away the things that make it so wonderful. I will say though, the final line is pure brilliance, and I did chuckle when I read it.

As for the rest of the stories, I enjoyed them all to varying degrees and would definitely recommend them. There were a few, like The Sand in the Glass is Right by James Smythe or Message in a Bottle by K.J. Parker, that I loved the concept of but the formatting made it a less enjoyable read. Ultimately, it is a very strong anthology though, and I would definitely recommend anyone with a passing interest in all forms of djinn pick themselves up a copy.
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Feb 7, 2017 - Book Reviews    1 Comment

Book Review: SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

All of my super-favourite books lately have involved Bad People doing Bad Things for Good Reasons. Of course I was very excited to read a book about a criminal prodigy out to save the world.

Having previously read the first Grisha book, I had some idea what to expect from the worldbuilding and Bardugo’s writing, but I don’t think anything could have really prepared me for just how much I loved this book. It’s easy to see how Bardugo has grown as a writer since Shadow and Bone, running a much tighter ship throughout.

And the characters. Oh my the characters. It’s very hard to pick a favourite, I do adore them all. They come from such a range of backgrounds, and have such a variety of personalities, but it’s very easy to find something with each to identify with. I did particularly like Nina’s sass, she was quite delightful, especially when needling Matthias. I especially loved how they came together with their disparate skills and various preconceived notions, and found a way to work together.

In all, it was a fantastic beginning to the adventure, and kept me hooked right from the first page. I may have even sniffled a few times throughout. Highly recommended for anyone who likes to see realistic characters facing impossible challenges – both internal and external.

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Sep 15, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: TIME SIEGE by Wesley Chu

26028483Having been haunted by the past and enslaved by the present, James Griffin-Mars is taking control of the future.
Earth is a toxic, sparsely inhabited wasteland­­the perfect hiding place for a fugitive ex­chronman to hide from the authorities.
James has allies, scientists he rescued from previous centuries: Elise Kim, who believes she can renew Earth, given time; Grace Priestly, the venerated inventor of time travel herself; Levin, James’s mentor and former pursuer, now disgraced; and the Elfreth, a population of downtrodden humans who want desperately to believe that James and his friends will heal their ailing home world.
James also has enemies. They include the full military might of benighted solar system ruled by corporate greed and a desperate fear of what James will do next. At the forefront of their efforts to stop him is Kuo, the ruthless security head, who wants James’s head on a pike and will stop at nothing to obtain it.

The second book in a series can be a bit rough. A lot of the set up has already been done in book 1, it’s too early for the big finale, and you have a few hundred pages of Interesting Stuff to get through. Not every second book survives that, but luckily for me, this one does a fantastic job.

Unlike Time Salvager, which spent a lot of time in the past, Time Siege is almost exclusively set in the present, and everyone spends a lot of time dealing with the consequences of their actions. I really enjoyed the time jumping in the first book, so I was a little disappointed to begin with when I realised there would be less of it, but the shenanigans throughout the book more than make up for it.

James was considerably less exasperating, but he also lost some of his spark. Kuo was very interesting, kind of like the snarling dog you don’t want to walk away from, and would maybe like to try patting. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there were a couple of characters reintroduced brilliantly, and I really liked the effect this had on the plot.

The writing style was just as good as in the first book, and while there’s less time jumping, the action is just as intense and well-paced throughout the book. It’s definitely a strong continuance of the series, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it all ends.

Publisher: Tor
Release Date: 12th July 2016
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sep 8, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire

25526296Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

This my first time reading something by Seanan McGuire, and I was absolutely not prepared for it at all. This is such a beautiful and heart-wrenching story. I loved every second of it.

The characters were all fantastic, I can’t even pick a favourite. I want to know more about all of them, follow them all through their own experiences and how they’re coping with their return to the “real” world. I loved watching their personalities and stories unfold, and seeing how they come closer to finding their own imperfect place in an imperfect world.

The exploration of range of issues such as gender/sexual identity, mental illness and belonging is done so tenderly, and it was refreshing to see that no two characters came away from their experiences with the same responses – even if they went to the same world. Human experience is so varied, and I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see that reflected in a book.

The writing and worldbuilding throughout was spot on. McGuire created the perfect atmosphere for this murder mystery, and none of the beauty was lost even as it became creepier and creepier. The glimpses into the various worlds are tantalising, and I hope that future installments in the series will explore them in more detail.

I highly recommend this novella to anyone with a heart, and I’ll definitely be hunting down more of McGuire’s work.

Publisher: Tor.com
Release Date: 5th April 2016
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sep 1, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS by Jim Butcher

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predatorto its fighting glory.
And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

I have been a fan of Jim Butcher since I first picked up a Harry Dresden book. His short, snappy writing style has always been perfect to slip in between the longer series I usually read. So, when I found out that he was writing a longer series – one with airships no less! – I was very excited.

While I’d hesitate to say it’s my favourite of all his books, The Aeronaut’s Windlass is full of all the things I like about Jim Butcher – it has a great plot, it has interesting characters, and it has a sassy feline. I’m not sure I could ask for anything better.

Grimm wasn’t one of my favourites, he was a bit prickly and it was hard to connect with him. He was surrounded by a great supporting crew though, so I found that easy to overlook. Overall, I liked Gwen, but there were a few moments where I rolled my eyes at her, she was a little exasperating. Bridget and Rawl, however, were very fun. I really enjoyed the feline society, and he definitely nailed their mannerisms perfectly. My absolute favourites though, were Master Etherialist Ferry and Folly – their whimsy was a constant delight throughout the whole book and I really look forward to seeing more of them.

Ultimately Jim Butcher has done exactly what he does best – written an action-packed, character driven novel that keeps one interested all the way until the end. I’m looking forward to seeing whether he can keep the momentum up throughout the rest of the series.

Publisher: Hachette Australia
Release Date: 29th September 2015
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Aug 25, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: INQUISITOR by Mitchell Hogan

Inquisitor Angel Xia, former mercenary turned detective, is used to being the hunter. But on another routine murder investigation the bodies begin to pile up, and Angel finds herself a target of sinister powers determined to conceal the truth.
The hunter has just become the hunted.
Betrayed by those she trusted most, and barely escaping assassination attempts, Angel receives a cryptic message from child begging for her help. Framed for horrific crimes, the only chance to clear her name is inextricably linked to a little girl – but the enemy is on her heels.
Running for her life, Angel races to forgotten places at the edges of known space that hold the darkest secrets of humanity…and the greatest threat to its future.

And all will be determined by what she chooses to do next. That is…if she can stay alive.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge sci-fi fan. The majority  of the time, the science side of things is so far beyond me that I simply can’t enjoy the story – I don’t understand enough about the theory to know what’s going on. So, when I find something that isn’t just understandable, but enjoyable, well I just cling to that book like the world is ending.

This is one such book.

I really enjoyed how it moved through several genres as the story progressed and developed, but without losing its way. It kept the plot fresh and moving. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews of Mitchell’s work, he has an excellent sense of rhythm with his work, and is fantastic at keeping the plot moving at a relatively quick pace, without sacrificing detail, character development or worldbuilding.

I also really enjoyed the characters, it was hard not to feel for Angel as she navigated her harsh new world. Charlotte-Rose creeped the hell out of me, but that was also fantastic in its own way. Everyone ought to be creeped out sometimes, and she was definitely intriguing.

Highly recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in sci-fi, it’s well worth the time spent.

Publisher: Self published
Release Date: 12th June 2015
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Aug 21, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: PRINCE OF FOOLS by Mark Lawrence

The Red Queen is dreaded by the kings of the Broken Empire as they dread no other.

Her grandson Jalan Kendeth – womaniser, gambler and all-out cad – is tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures.

Until, that is, he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axeman and dragged against his will to the icy north…

I’m a little bit slow to read anything by Mark Lawrence, and this was my first foray into his work. Of course, now I’m kicking myself for not having picked up anything earlier!

This was such an easy book to read – not because it was simple, but because it was so engrossing that I had a lot of difficulty stopping for essential needs. The plot was brilliant, with the worldbuilding and plot reveals drip fed at just the right pace. And the characters! You quickly and easily get a great sense of who Jalan and Snorri are, and I found myself quite invested in both their stories almost immediately.

I was particularly fond of Jalan, he’s a bit of a fool and a bit of a coward, but he also ultimately ends up doing the right thing. He is immensely quotable and relatable, and I often found myself chuckling at his observations.

“I would miss the horse. I’ve never liked walking. If God had meant man to walk he wouldn’t have given us horses. Wonderful animals. I think of them as the word escape, covered in hair and with a leg at each corner.”

Mark Lawrence has a brilliant way with words, he’s just exceptionally good at creating sentences. It is, as far as I’m concerned, a type of sorcery – one that should be shared with as many people as possible. I highly recommend anyone that likes endearing, morally-ambiguous characters dumped in a brilliant epic fantasy setting pick up this book immediately.

Publisher: Harper Voyager AU
Release Date: 1st May 2015
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Australian SF Snapshot 2016 – Kirilee Barker

Kirilee Barker is a twenty-something writer from Brisbane, Australia. Her first novel, The Book of Days, was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. She also received the John Marsden Prize for Young Australian Writers, and is in no way trying to pad this bio out, no sir.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m backpacking around Europe/Asia with my boyfriend for ten months, which has put a damper on writing time, but inspiration can spark in the strangest places and I was on an overnight train from Munich to Rome when I came up with the idea for my current WIP. It’s an odd epistolary novel about trying to restore the French monarchy, a girl who can grant people’s heart’s desire, and the 1889 Paris World’s Fair. It’s currently called Odd Novel I Can’t Genrify, so we’ll see what comes of it!

You also enjoy cosplay, do you have a go-to character, or do you play someone new each time?

I enjoy the costuming side of cosplay more than anything else, so I tend to care more about whether the character has an awesome look than having a go-to character. That being said, after certain badass events in the last episode of Game of Thrones, I might have to cosplay Cersei again. She is my drunk, evil spirit animal.

You can also check out my cosplay adventures and thoughts on tumblr at gallimaufrygirl.

The Book of Days ended with plenty of wiggle room for a sequel – do you have any plans to write any more of Tuesday’s adventures?

I would love to write a whole series about Tuesday! I’m about 30 000 words into the fully-plotted sequel, but I just wasn’t loving it, so I took a break to work on some new stuff. But if people want to read more about Tuesday and the gang, I’ll always be happy to write it.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

It might not be current, but I recently read Rosamond Siemon’s The Mayne Inheritance and loved it. I’ve been on a true crime kick recently and it definitely scratched the itch.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Having just taken some pretty long plane trips, I know that I’m not in the mood to chat to anyone during them, so maybe a long-dead author that I could kick off the seat next to me to get some more leg room? Maybe Shakespeare? I’m sure he’d write a sonnet about it.


Check out other interviews from 2016’s Australian SF Snapshot here.

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