Monday, May 30, 2016

Review: Railhead (Philip Reeve)

Title: Railhead
Series: standalone
Author: Philip Reeve (site)
Publisher: Switch Press
Release Date: April 1, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Epic Science Fiction
Told: Third Person Omniscient, Past Tense
Content Rating: Teen (violence, human and animal attack, train wreck)
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
Find OnGoodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository

The Great Network is an ancient web of routes and gates, where sentient trains can take you anywhere in the galaxy in the blink of an eye. Zen Starling is a nobody. A petty thief from the filthy streets of Thunder City who aimlessly rides the rails of the Network. So when the mysterious stranger Raven offers Zen a chance to escape the squalor of the city and live the rest of his days in luxury, Zen can’t believe his luck. All he has to do is steal one small box from the Emperor’s train with the help of Nova, an android girl. But the Great Network is a hazardous mess of twists and turns, and that little box just might bring everything in this galaxy — and the next — to the end of the line. The highly anticipated novel from Carnegie-medal-winning author Philip Reeve, Railhead is a fast, immersive, and heart-pounding ride perfect for any sci-fi fan. Step aboard — the universe is waiting.

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Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review. Thank you, Switch Press!

In a Sentence: A diverse teen epic sci-fi with a choppy writing style but mind-blowing universe.

With its intriguing title and vibrant cover, this book had me scrambling for a copy at "sentient trains." While it wasn't quite what I expected, in many ways it was so much better as its highly imaginative universe and effortless diversity completely dazzled me.

Story: From the summary I expected a snatch-and-grab heist where everything naturally goes horribly wrong in a thrilling tale of close calls and triumph against the odds. Instead, it turned out to be a long con in which Zen infiltrates the royal family to steal a mysterious box at his leisure. While this made for a slower plot that got a tad bit tedious at times, the quieter story allowed for the introduction of interesting characters and exploration of exotic worlds until the heist reached its climax and, even more than anticipated, everything went as horribly wrong as it could've gone in a shocking culmination of destruction and devastation.

The heist was only the first half of the book, though. Heist concluded, the second part of the story became a complete mystery and engaging discovery read as Zen struggled to deal with the heist's fallout and because of it find a new place for himself in the universe. I don't want to say much about the second half because the discovery is half the fun, but Zen's search leads him all over the galaxy and beyond as he flees pursuers, makes unusual allies, and discovers there is more to life and the universe than anyone has ever known.

Characters: A bit of an antihero, Zen was driven mainly by self-interest until love got the better of him. Although his motivations weren't always pure and his line of reasoning didn't always make complete sense, he was a strong and intriguing character to focus the story on. But while Railhead was essentially Zen's story, it progressively broadened to become the story of the universe and how Zen's actions, however unintentional, altered the essence and structure of the galaxy. This made for an initially disorienting read as the book began mainly Third Person Singular, focusing on Zen, and then expanded into an Omniscient epic that mind-hopped across the universe, but after I accepted the POV shift it produced some interesting diversions and side-plots that expanded the amazing universe even further.

Writing: In addition to the disorienting POV shift, the writing style was rather irregular and choppy for my tastes and had a hand in some of the confusion of Zen's logic. However, the description was detailed and brought the world of the book to vivid life.

Setting: The universe was what really made Railhead for me. Set several millennia in the future and light years into space, both technology and organics had significantly evolved. While most of the tech was relatively standard futuristic fare (still intriguing, though), the K-gates and their sentient trains were unusual and fascinating, and the organics saw the ability to grow train cars and houses like plants, genetically breed and manipulate ancient creatures, and somehow spawned humanoid bug people. And then there was the sweeping diversity: the races so intermixed that humans are almost all "various shades of brown"; gay marriage commonplace even among royalty. Motorik (humanoid androids) are gender fluid and able to switch at will (which made things a little confusing for one of the characters, but Flex was still a favorite), and some of the digital-minded Guardians even created genderless or alien interface bodies to downloaded themselves into. It was all so different and advanced yet so familiar and timeworn and made for a refreshing setting I thoroughly enjoyed discovering.

Conclusion: While not quite the heist story I expected, I was blown away by the imaginative universe and effortless diversity, and the uncharted territory of the second half of the book made for an engaging discovery read. Although Zen's story wrapped up well enough, and Railhead is currently a standalone, I would definitely be interested in another book set in the Network Empire. Highly recommend for sci-fi lovers and anyone looking for a diverse read.

Scribble Rating
4.5 of 5 Scribbles

Friday, May 27, 2016

The #FridayReads Review (5/27/16)

Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!

Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1)The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy

Prudence by Gail Carriger (PBK)
Re-read to generate content for the read-along (read-along info to come soon). With its fresh wit and playful adventure, I'm enjoying it even more the second read!

The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey (HBK)
Halfway through. While it feels a little repetitive sometimes, I'm getting quite a bit out of it.

Kiss Him, Not Me!, Vol. 4
Kiss Him, Not Me vol. 4 by Junko (PBK)
2 Stars. While the series started out really fun and highly amusing, I  found this volume very lackluster. Will give it one more to see if it improves.

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love
The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash (ARC)
Next, my pretty, next...

So what are you reading this week?

Friday, May 20, 2016

The #FridayReads Review (5/20/16)

Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!

The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy
The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey (HBK)
Marissa Meyer recommended this in her e-newsletter and just by glancing at the cover I knew it was a book for me. I've taken to reading a chapter a day and I'm already feeling more motivated and engaged both at work and at home!

Zero DayDimension W, Vol. 1

Zero Day by Jan Gangsei (HBK)
3 Stars. An engaging story with decent drama but predictable twists. Review to come.

Dimension W vol. 1 by Yuji Iwahara (PBK)
3 Stars. An interesting future story of bounty hunters, robots, and Iron Man-esque Tesla coil batteries. The art is a little more rugged than I normally prefer, but there's a lot of great detail and some cute-ish characters. While it didn't quite grab me as I'd hoped, the book ended in the middle of an engaging arc so I might try the next volume.

World Trigger, Vol. 9 (World Trigger, #9)
World Trigger vol. 9 by Daisuke Ashihara (PBK)
The library finally got in the next volume! I've been really enjoying this intriguing alien action story.

So what are you reading this week?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Review: Tell the Wind & Fire (Sarah Rees Brennan)

Tell the Wind and Fire
Title: Tell the Wind & Fire
Series: standalone
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan (site)
Publisher: Clarion Books
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Alternate Magical Realism Retelling
Told: First Person (Lucie), Past Tense
Content Rating: Teen (violence, sensuality, some minor innuendo)
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
Find OnGoodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository

In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

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Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review. Thank you, HMH!

In a Sentence: A tale of love, magic and revolution that began awkward but finished strong and tear-soaked.

Confession: I have never read A Tale of Two Cities. I don't believe I've even seen a movie adaptation, although I do think a half-hour Wishbone episode covered it a few decades ago. So when I was informed hours before starting Tell the Wind and Fire that it was a retelling of the classic, I was conflicted. I was a little discouraged since I'm not one for classics outside of Jane Austen, but also a little excited to offer a non-biased review among those who would compare it. So it was with both interest and trepidation that I began.

Story: After very publicly rescuing her father from torture in the Dark and securing them a life in the Light, Lucie wants nothing more than to live peacefully and enjoy her loving boyfriend, Ethan. But when Ethan is accused of treason and his illegal doppelganger suddenly appears and rescues him, her quiet life is thrust back into the limelight as one mistake after another stirs up secrets and lies and a revolution that throws her contented world into chaos. With all she knows and cares about threatened, Lucie must decide if she will continue to hide in the Light to save herself, or journey back into the Dark to save those she loves.

The story started really awkward for me, opening in the middle of sweet happiness quickly followed by sudden despair with next to no explanation about the world or the characters. I stumbled through the first two chapters lost and confused, only to get mired in a life and world history infodump in Chapter 3 that laid things out yet at the same time caused only more confusion. But despite my confusion and more telling than showing I pressed on, intrigued to see where the story was going, and was eventually rewarded as the book gradually grew on me at a point where I've heard other readers chose to drop out. Although the story was first and foremost a love story and decidedly more about character development than the magic and revolution as I would've liked, I did ultimately quite enjoy the read, and the end was strong and powerful and I cried through the last few chapters.

Magic: Essentially drawn to this book for the magic, I was rather disappointed when it turned out to be more prop than setting, a reason for the discrimination that brought about the revolution. What there was of the magic was moderately unique with unusual and dark twists, but while it felt simple enough to understand, the how and why of it - especially the rules and restrictions - were rather hazy and hard to follow. Despite the significant infodump in Chapter 3, enough just wasn't explained for me, or explained in a way I could fully comprehend, and disappointingly I never got a handle on much of it.

Setting: The world was also rather confusing. They seemed to live in an alternate, isolated New York City split into two halves: Light and Dark. These halves were separated by a wall and not supposed to mix (despite a train that ran through both of them), and yet at the same time they couldn't live without each other for magical reasons and were therefore forced to intermingle... somehow. Overall the whole world structure just didn't fit together for me, and I never made much sense of it.

Characters: For most of the book Lucie was an ostrich with her head in the sand, hoping that if she went with the flow and ignored the discontent around her it would just go away. This made her rather sloppy and susceptible at first, but the more mistakes she made the more she rediscovered the strength that she had embodied as the Golden Thread in the Dark, and by the end she was a force to be reckoned with. Carwyn was an emotional tug-of-war of mild affection and firm disgust from beginning to end, which made the final chapters both easier and harder to read. Overall though he was a complete jerk who's sass fell flat for me, and like Lucie I seriously craved Ethan whenever he was around. Perfect boyfriend Ethan was a bit too perfect in my opinion, but it was a soft and sweet perfection that, paired with his innocence and big heart, made Lucie's struggle to protect him worth rooting for.

Conclusion: While the beginning was a bit of an awkward and confusing struggle, the book gradually grew stronger until it delivered a powerful and tearful end. If you enjoy dark, tragic tales of love against the odds, then I recommend giving Tell the Wind and Fire a try.

Scribble Rating
3.5 of 5 Scribbles

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mythical Creatures in The Inquisition by Taran Matharu - Blog Tour + Giveaways

Welcome to my stop on The Inquisition Blog Tour! Today I'm excited to welcome author Taran Matharu for a special guest post on the mythical creatures of The Inquisition, the second book in his Summoner series. See below for more information about The Inquisition, as well as links for the previous books in the series, and enter to win copies of both Books 1 and 2, as well as signed bookplates, at the end!

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In the Summoner series, summoners must capture demons using portals between the demon world (the Ether) and their own. These demons become their familiars, and are also their owner’s source of mana (energy used for performing spells). Young summoners are trained at Vocans Academy, until they graduate as battlemages and become officers in the army, join the Celestial Corps (demon riding pilots) or join the Dragoons (demonic cavalry). Below are just a few of the demons that appear in The Inquisition, released on May 10th in North America.

Damsel - Level 3 (Verity Faversham)

An insect-like demon akin to a giant dragonfly, with an iridescent carapace and four wings. These deceptively fast creatures are highly manoeuvrable in the air, capable of changing direction on a penny. They are a close cousin to the Mite, with a sting that is three times as potent. These demons are common throughout the known ether.

Kamaitachi - Level 3

A demon that appears similar to a large fanged weasel, with serrated bone-blades replacing its paws. Relatively common in the orcish part of the ether, these expendable demons are regular attackers of Hominum’s frontlines.

Vesp - Level 4

Appearing much like an overgrown wasp or bee, these demons are often difficult to capture because of their tendency to travel in swarms. Armed with a sting just as deadly as a Damsel’s and a pair of potent mandibles, these demons are a favourite among orc shamans.

Strix - Level 4 (Inquisitor Damien Rook)

Often mistaken for the Gryphowl, the Strix appears as an owlish bird with four clawed limbs. Their feathers are tipped with red, giving them a fearsome appearance. They are common in known parts of the ether, but are rarely captured due to their vicious nature. It is not unknown for a Strix to kill and eat its siblings when they reach maturity.

Gryphowl - Level 4 (Fletcher Raleigh)

This demon is a combination of cat and owl and is closely related to the Griffin and Chamrosh, though it is far rarer. Their sharp retractable claws and beak are their best weapons, but it is their keen intelligence and agility in the air that make them such a desirable demon. The Gryphowl is a loner by nature, but will often form a close bond with their summoner and fellow demons if treated well.

Raiju - Level 5 (Cress Freyja)

The Raiju is so rare that only five have ever been captured in Hominum’s history. Appearing much like a hybrid of squirrel, racoon and mongoose, this mammalian demon has large yellow eyes and dark blue fur that is emblazoned with whorls and jagged stripes of teal. They have unusually high mana levels and at its most powerful, the Raiju’s lightning bolt attack is capable of killing a bull orc. Strangely, this demon prefers to sleep on its summoner’s stomach, curling around their masters’ navels.

Enfield - Level 5 (Verity Faversham)

The Enfield is both rarer and smaller than its cousin, the Vulpid, and is the size of a large dog. It has the head of a fox, forelegs of an eagle, the narrow chest of a greyhound and the hindquarters of a wolf. Its front talons are dangerously sharp and it has tawny brown feathers interspersed among the red fur of its front and the grey of its back.

Chamrosh - Level 5

This hawk-dog hybrid is a quarter of the size of its closest cousin, the Griffin. The Chamrosh is renowned for its loyal and loving nature and will often become lonely when separated from their master. As the preferred support demon of the Celestial Corps, this demon is a favourite among summoners.

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Taran Matharu
Taran was born in London in 1990 and found a passion for reading at a very early age. His love for stories developed into a desire to create his own during early adolescence, beginning his first book at 9 years old.

Straight after graduating with a First Class degree in Business Administration, Taran was keen to explore a new avenue and get inside the publishing world, landing an internship in Digital Sales at Penguin Random House, from June to September 2013.

Thereafter, while taking time off to travel, Taran began to write ‘Summoner’ in November 2013 at the age of 22, taking part in ‘Nanowrimo 2013’. 

Thanks to and updating daily, its popularity dramatically increased, reaching over 3 million reads in less than six months. 

After being featured by NBC News, Taran decided to launch his professional writing career and has never looked back.

His SUMMONER trilogy is published by Hodder Children’s (Hachette) in the UK, Australia and Commonwealth, Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan) in the US and Canada, Hachette Jeunesse in France, Heyne in Germany, Planeta in Spain, Crown in Taiwan and Record in Brazil. Book 1 will be published by EKSMO in Russia, Jaguar in Poland, Ecliptic in Bulgaria and Alpress in the Czech Republic.


The Inquisition (Summoner, #2)

Title: The Inquisition
Author: Taran Matharu
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

More demons, epic battles, and fights to the death: introducing the unmissable next installment in the Summoner Trilogy...

On trial for a crime he did not commit, Fletcher must face the Inquisition who will decide his future - the process is gruelling, lead by those who will do anything to see him suffer and haunted by ghosts from the past with clues to Fletcher's tragic origins.

But Fletcher has little time to dwell on these new revelations when the king announces a deadly challenge to the graduating students at Vocans. One that involves entering Orc territory to complete a risky mission. With loyal demons by their sides, commoners and nobles, dwarves and elves must overcome barriers of class and race and work together to triumph. The reward: a fortune in gold, the safety of an empire and PEACE.

With the entire empire watching, Fletcher has much to prove, but there are those out to get him and it soon becomes clear that there's a traitor in their midst, trying to thwart the mission and create unrest within the Empire.

With everything stacked against him, Fletcher must use everything in his power to fight his way to victory.

The Novice (Summoner, #1)Origins (Summoner #0)

Book 1: The Novice

Prequel: Origins


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Win a Summoner Prize Pack, which includes a paperback copy of The Novice (book one in the Summoner Trilogy), a hardcover copy of The Inquisition (book two in the Summoner Trilogy), and Fierce Reads swag

Check out the rest of the tour HERE!

Friday, May 13, 2016

The #FridayReads Review (5/13/16)

Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!

Zero Day
Zero Day by Jan Gangsei (HBK)
I've been itching to read this for a while now and decided to finally give in. Although I'm having to suspend some disbelief and am not a big fan of Third Person Omniscient, I am a big fan of characters who act one way and think another and this book is packed with that so it's been an engaging read so far. 

The Lost Compass (The Fog Diver, #2)The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

The Lost Compass by Joel Ross (ARC)
3.5 Stars. Another adventurous read with a fun cast and thrilling climax! The first third of the book was a bit moderate with lots of exploration and little action, but it was the calm before a storm of tense action and surprising twists I did not see coming. Review to come.

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil (HBK)
3 Stars. A crudeish but sweet teen contemporary about best friends, the end of the world, and life after graduation. Review to come.

Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1)
Prudence by Gail Carriger (PBK)
I'm planning a read-along next month so it's time for a content-generating re-read!

So what are you reading this week?

Friday, May 6, 2016

The #FridayReads Review (5/6/16)

Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!

The Lost Compass (The Fog Diver, #2)Dimension W, Vol. 1

The Lost Compass by Joel Ross (ARC)
Started a bit slow but after some unexpected twists it's been an adventurous read!

Dimension W vol. 1 by Yuji Iwahara (PBK)
An extremely rare Goodreads win! Very interesting future story of bounty hunters, robots, and Iron Man-esque Tesla coil batteries.

The Knights of Crystallia (Alcatraz, #3)
The Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson (HBK)
4 Stars. Not quite as adventurous as the first two books, but still a fun and witty story with a strong ending. Can't wait for the next book! Review to come.

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love
The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash (ARC)
I've been looking forward to this one for a while and am excited to finally read it soon!

So what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

WoW: The Diabolic (S.J. Kincaid)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blogging event hosted by Breaking the Spine, in which one spotlights an upcoming release they are eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Diabolic
Title: The Diabolic
Author: S.J. Kincaid
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BYR
Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this epic novel about what happens when the galaxy’s most deadly weapon masquerades as a senator’s daughter and a hostage of the galactic court.

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

Why I'm Looking Forward To It: A thrilling premise with an unusual twist! Sci-fi is my jam genre so this had me at "galactic court," but a devoted and deadly doppelganger named Nemesis? Oh yes please.

So what book are you waiting on?