Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
They Both Die at the End
by Adam Silvera

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unsurprisingly this was an emotional read but what impressed me the most was the incredible detail that went into the world building. I loved how this made me think and how when I finished I wanted to rush out and live my life. Absolutely brilliant.


THE BLURB

When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.

Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.

Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love…

Another beautiful, heartbreaking and life-affirming book from the brilliant Adam Silvera, author of More Happy Than Not and History Is All You Left Me.


MY REVIEW

Do you know what, I’m not sure that title was wise. This is an absolutely brilliant book but honestly I spent pretty much the whole time afraid to get too attached to Mateo or Rufus just in case they did in fact both die at the end. I kept hoping it wouldn’t happen, that they would be the exception, there was a mix up with the names and they received the call in error or that just by finding each other they’d save each other but just in case I kept myself that little bit detached. Consequently I think it lost that emotional punch I was expecting. It is still packed full of feels and some very touching moments but I was ready for out and out devastation.

It is an incredibly well written story and I really loved both Mateo and Rufus. Both are a little bit lost in the beginning but it was so wonderful to watch them develop over the course of the story. Mateo was probably the more relatable of the two, anxious and afraid to live (or leave his bedroom) in case he does something that results in the dreaded death cast call informing him he has less than 24 hours to live, I could see elements of myself in him. Wanting to go on adventures and be brave but just too scared and needing that little push. He was also just the nicest and sweetest guy. I really wanted him getting the call to be a mistake. Rufus took a little longer to warm up to, he’s beating someone up at the story, but you can’t help but grow to love him when he helps Mateo so much and starts becoming more like him.

The relationship between them is just so sweet and funny and wow. They begin the day as complete strangers and opposites but somehow they compliment and bring out the best in each other. Rufus encourages Mateo to be brave and break out and Mateo makes Rufus kinder and better…. oh god I’m gonna cry.

Anyway, moving swiftly on, I just loved their story but what made this even better was the little glimpses into the lives of others who cross their paths. The chapters more or less alternate between Mateo and Rufus’s povs but there are these other chapters thrown in from the pov of their friends, the people who make the calls to inform people they’re going to die that day, and others who have either received their call or just bump into Rufus or Mateo in some way. These gave such an insight into the world and raised so many questions I found it fascinating.

Actually the whole world just fascinated me. What would it be like to live in a world where everyone finds out between midnight and 3am whether they’re going to die that day? What would you do if you found out it was your day to die? Would you deny it, try to fight it? Would you accept it and try to make your last hours count? Take control and decide for yourself how you’re going to die? Or what if you don’t get the call? Does that mean you can’t die no matter what you do that day? Would you take more risks? It really makes you wonder about fate, self fulfilling prophecies and whether you have any control over your destiny.

The world the author creates and the way he presents all of these issues and questions was just brilliant. Such clever writing to create a world that’s so similar but so different in terms of attitudes to life and death. I think this is a story I’ll be thinking about for a long time.

Overall an absolutely brilliant but emotional read.

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Review: My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner

My Side of the Diamond
My Side of the Diamond
by Sally Gardner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the most unusual stories I’ve ever read.


THE BLURB

An extraordinary tale about the search for love from the acclaimed Costa and Carnegie winning novelist Sally Gardner.

Jazmin has been shunned ever since her best friend Becky disappeared. But Becky didn’t just disappear – she jumped off a tall building and seemingly never reached the ground. It was as if she simply vanished into thin air. Did Jazmin have something to do with her disappearance? Or was it more to do with Icarus, so beguiling and strangely ever youthful, with whom Becky became suddenly besotted . . .

With detailed and intriguing black and white illustrations throughout.


MY REVIEW

This is possibly one of the most bizarre and down right weird books I think I’ve ever come across and while that might put a lot of people off it’s actually the thing I loved the most about it. It took me a little while to figure out what the heck was going on but once I did I found it fascinating.

Where it went wrong for me was the form the story took. Rather than being in the moment it’s told through a series of interviews with the various characters involved in the events. This might have been okay except for the fact you never hear the questions asked, there are a lot of different narrators telling their stories and it jumps around in time. It is very cleverly done but this reflection on events which in some cases happened many years previously left me feeling distanced from them and from the characters. For me to love a book I need the closeness and the connection and that never happened.

I was curious about what had happened and very intrigued as to who the interviewer was and why he was looking into the story but I wasn’t emotionally invested. I didn’t particularly like or relate to any of the characters and I didn’t fully buy into the relationships between them. The romances are very sudden and I didn’t feel any connection or chemistry to make them seem believable.

There were elements that fascinated me, there were parts that confused the heck out of me and there was even the odd creepy moment but unfortunately as a whole I have to say it didn’t do it for me.

It hasn’t put me off Gardner’s writing, I love how unique her stories are, but this was a little disappointing.

I won a copy of this book from ReadersFirst. This has not influenced my review.

Review: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

Hold Back The Stars by Katie Khan
Hold Back The Stars
by Katie Khan

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

More of a love story than a space adventure, this story may not be for everyone but I have to praise it for being so completely unique and yet so completely real.


THE BLURB

Ninety minutes.

A few years from now, not too far in the future, two people meet.

It is a classic story of boy meets girl.

Except that it’s not.

When we find them, they have an hour and a half left.

Unless they can save themselves, they won’t survive.

The clock is ticking.


MY REVIEW

It seems to have taken me forever to come up with a review for this as my thoughts on it have been and, a few weeks later, remain rather muddled.

Firstly I want to say that I absolutely loved it for its originality. In fact, I was so drawn to the concept behind it that I somehow ended up both buying a copy and requesting it from NetGalley (I forgot I already owned it). There was something about the idea of a man and woman adrift in space with only 90 minutes of air left and almost no hope of salvation that really appealed to me. Space has always seemed so big and terrifying to me and the thought of being adrift…. wow.

However, if you’re expecting a tense and nail biting fight for survival similar to Gravity or The Martian I fear you will be disappointed. While there is some attempt to save themselves the majority of the story is spent with Max and Carys reflecting back on their relationship. Interspersed with the current time, and their rapidly diminishing air supply, we get flashbacks to their first meeting and all of the ups and downs of their romance, leading up to how they ended up in their current predicament.

The story of their time together does make for a fascinating story and combining that with some truly incredible world building really did engage me but given how little air they had remaining I couldn’t help but think, shouldn’t you be trying harder and focusing more on that?

I felt there should have been more tension. The portrayal of their relationship is wonderfully real and the story is truly heartbreaking at times but I found it difficult to reconcile this leisurely stroll through their past with the thought of their rapidly approaching deaths.

Added to this I have to admit that I didn’t particularly take to either Max or Carys. The characters are believable and well rounded but Carys was too insecure and needy and Max too committed to his beliefs and unwilling to compromise. They do balance each other out in many ways but I never really got behind them as a couple and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was worth it (although maybe I’m just too much of a cynic).

The biggest highlight of this story for me was probably the world the author created. Set in the future it’s so incredibly well thought out and believable. There’s no info dumping but rather all of the details around the state of the world, the political situation and belief systems are revealed gradually and in a very natural way. I liked this idea that their are no real nationalities or religion but rather everyone is encouraged to be an individual, although it did seem a tad lonely and a selfish way of existing.

The pacing of the story is a little bit on the slow side but the writing does make it very readable and it was yet another I found difficult to put down. The ending when it comes is like a lot of the book, a little confusing, a lot unique but ultimately felt right.

Overall I have to say I loved how unusual this book was and also how real it was. I just wish there had been a little more tension and passion to it. If you’re looking for a sci fi space type story I don’t think this will necessarily be for you but if you like unique love stories this may be perfect. I know I will definitely be looking out for more from this author.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

ARC Review – Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Renegades (Renegades, #1)
Renegades
by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brilliant beginning to a new series from Marissa Meyer. It’s packed full of all the best super hero cliches making it a really fun read but the real highlight is the wonderful writing and twists and turns which make you question just who’s the superhero and who’s the villain. I can’t wait for book 2.


THE BLURB

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.


MY REVIEW

I’m a huge big fan of Marissa Meyer’s and a huge big fan of all things super hero so this should have been a match made in heaven for me and for the most part it was.

The writing is as always wonderful and Meyer certainly knows how to create brilliant and complex characters who are kind of morally grey but it was maybe that little bit too long and had a bit too much going on for me to love it.

The story itself felt very X-Men, two groups of people with super powers (the Renegades and the Anarchists) who have very different ideas about what’s best for society and end up at odds. Nova (or Nightmare to use her super villain name) has been raised by the Anarchists following the death of her family at the hands of a gang. She feels the Renegades let her down and is determined to bring them down at any cost.

Adrian (aka Sketch) is a Renegade and, while he’s not wholly on board with the way some of the Renegade teams operate, he believes in the cause and wants to protect all of those who need it. His mother was one of the original members of the Renegades and after she died in mysterious circumstances he’s been determined to find out what happened to her.

When an attack by the Arnarchists on the Renegades goes wrong Nova decides her best chance to defeat them is to become one, going undercover to destroy them from the inside. Adrian however is obsessed with tracking down Nightmare as she seems to hold the clue to just what happens to his mother. Like Nova though, he also has a secret identity to protect.

I absolutely loved how twisty this story is. Pretty much every one seems to have some kind of secret so there’s a lot of mystery and reveals. The whole secret identity thing is just so wonderfully superhero-y. Although, like Superman, I found myself wondering just how no one could spot it was the same person with a change of clothes/mask/pair of glasses.

There are in fact a lot of the best cliches from the super hero movies, tragic backstory, discovery of powers, changing allegiances, double crosses, ya know all that good stuff. It may not be wholly original but it’s fantastically good fun. What I loved most however is how Meyer manages to take something that should be black and white and make it grey. As the story progresses it become increasingly difficult to work out just which side are the baddies and which are the goodies and I think I ended up with more sympathy for the villains than the heroes.

I really, really liked both Nova and Adrian as characters. Nova is a wonderfully strong character. She begins with some very strong convictions but finds herself questioning them. She does come across as a little naive (especially considering she’s part of the Anarchists) but I can let that go. Adrian is just very sweet and awkward and extremely gallant. He just wants to save everyone.

I absolutely adored the relationship between them. It’s a little bit Romeo and Juliet although Adrian is completely clueless that Nova’s there to destroy his family and she’s completely clueless about his secret identity too. It’s frustrating as hell (why don’t they know) but it’s also totally addictive reading.

The other characters are very well done and many of them surprised me. One in particular I was completely shocked to find myself feeling sorry for but it’s just a mark of how good the authors writing is that I was almost in tears when this horrible character got their comeuppance.

If I had one big gripe about the story it’s that there is possibly too much to keep track of. There are a lot of characters and I have to admit I struggled throughout to keep them straight in my head. Each one has a real name, a superhero name and a super power and it was all just too much for my feeble memory. I kind of hope there’s some kind of character list with all of this information, their relationships to each other and affiliations in the physical book and with a bit of luck in the next book too as I’m never going to remember.

I also think it was maybe a little bit on the long side. There were a few moments in the first half of the book which were on the slow side to allow for all of the world building and scene setting. I can completely understand why it was needed and by the second half I couldn’t put it down but I do wonder if it could have been done differently.

All that being said though I do think this was a brilliant start to the series. Towards the end I was finding it incredibly difficult to put down and ended up staying up till 1am wanting to know how it was going to end and it was totally worth it. That ending was wow and now I don’t know how I’m going to wait for the next book, I need it now.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

ARC Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

ArtemisArtemis by Andy Weir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An absolutely brilliant heist story set on the moon. Full of detail and, like The Martian, a lot of science but it’s a fascinating and fun read with a great cast of characters and a lot of action.


THE BLURB

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of Jazz’s problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself – and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even more unlikely than the first.


MY REVIEW

So it’s safe to say that I have a rather complicated relationship with sci fi. I always say that I don’t really like it but there’s a surprising number of books in the genre that make my all time favorites list. When it works best for me I think is when it’s light on the science and heavy on the fiction. Long winded descriptions of how things work and why are a big turn off, I honestly don’t care.

This wariness of books heavy with science is in fact the reason I have never read The Martian. I heard there was a lot of descriptions and decided to stick with the movie (which I absolutely love btw). However, having now braved Artemis I think I may need to reconsider.

Very much like The Martian, Artemis is heavy on science, however this time rather than one astronaut trying to survive alone on Mars we have a whole colony living everyday life on the moon. All of them completely dependent on a myriad of systems that let them breathe, eat, drink, move around and keep them safe from any number of threats. It’s absolutely fascinating just how complicated these systems are and how everyday things are just a little bit different in such an environment. There is a lot of description in this but I absolutely loved it.

I have no idea how much is accurate or “real” science but it feels incredibly real and detailed and so well thought out. It’s never too overwhelming though and for someone like me it’s not too heavy and works around the story which is much more heist like in nature. Think Ocean’s Eleven on the moon.

Jazz is a porter and smuggler on Artemis and desperate to raise a very specific sum of money so when she’s offered a less than legal, highly risky job with a potentially huge reward she can’t resist. It all goes wrong however and she ends up on the bad side of some very dangerous people and the law. She’s forced to use her smarts and call in every favor she’s owed from her friends to pull off one more job which just might get her out of trouble or possibly even further in.

I have a feeling that Jazz will not be quite as popular as Mark Watney. She’s abrasive, has dubious ethics and despite being highly intelligent (possibly genius) she’s always looking for the highest reward for minimal effort. She keeps everyone at arms length, reader included, but despite some initial reservations she did grow on me. I loved her rebellious attitude and smart mouth and some of her comebacks really made me laugh. She’s a risk taker and is completely unpredictable which always makes for good reading.

The supporting cast of characters also make for great reading. Some are a little bit stereotyped in places but there’s something very likable about them and I loved the way they bounced off each other. The moments where they’re bantering were probably my favorite parts of the whole book.

The story is a little complicated in places (and not only because of the science) but it’s pretty fast paced and there’s plenty of action. There is the odd moment where it slows down but it did hold my attention throughout and it’s incredibly impressive the amount of detail and work that has clearly gone into it.

Overall, I’m really glad I gave this a go and it’s definitely one I’d recommend if you like a clever heist story.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC, as always all views are my own.

Review: The Empress by S.J. Kincaid

The Empress (The Diabolic #2)The Empress by S.J. Kincaid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I may not have been sure I wanted a sequel to The Diabolic but I’m so glad we got one. It’s completely unpredictable, full of action and a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Nemesis is an absolutely brilliant character and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

*Spoiler Alert* This is second book in a series so while my review has no spoilers for the book both it and the blurb contain major spoilers for The Diabolic.


THE BLURB

It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.

But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.

Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it?


MY REVIEW

I was a huge big fan of The Diabolic (it was one of my favourite reads of 2016) but have to admit I thought it was a standalone. I wasn’t too sure what to think when I heard we were getting a sequel. I liked the ending to The Diabolic but I was quite excited at the prospect of finding out what’s next for one of my favorite characters.

The story picks up almost immediately after book one with Tyrus on the throne and Nemesis by his side but while it seems they’ve gotten everything they want they’re in a very precarious position. The other senators are not happy with Tyrus’s radical ideas and aren’t overly keen on the idea of Nemesis becoming Empress. Add to that there’s something uneasy about the relationship between Tyrus and Nemesis. Neither fully trusts the other and they are so very different it’s difficult to see how their relationship can survive.

I kind of wish I’d re read The Diabolic before I picked this up as it took me a little while to get back up to speed on the world, it’s characters, the governance system and just who killed who. This is definitely not a book you can just pick up without reading the previous book and even then there’s a lot to remember. The author does a pretty good job of bringing you up to speed without info dumping though so it wasn’t long before I was fully immersed in this world of political maneuvering, deceit and violence.

Rather than going over old ground however the focus of this story is in moving things forward and questioning all that we seemingly know. She builds on the structure already in place adding so much more depth and detail but also bringing in so much new information on their religion and history. There are a few surprises in store for both the readers and the characters.

With this increasing focus on the religion the author asks some very powerful questions such as what does it actually mean to be human. Can someone who was created in a lab from various bits of DNA really be considered human and do they have a soul? It also raises issues around if and where a line should be drawn on genetic engineering and technological advances and is controlling technology and knowledge a way to control the masses. All things which I find fascinating.

Based on what I’ve said so far you’re probably thinking oh god this sounds so boring but it’s anything but. From almost the very first page you’re straight into action and it never lets up. It’s violent, horrifying and often heartbreaking and it’s completely unpredictable. Every time you think you know where it’s going some huge great spanner gets tossed in.

It’s safe to say there’s a lot of death and destruction, the scale of it is immense and it’s often sudden and shocking. What can you expect I suppose when your main character was grown in a lab with one purpose, protect a certain person at any cost.

I really, really love Nemesis. She’s such a wonderfully unique character. Due to her upbringing she has absolutely no empathy and no conscience. She’s very stab first, ask questions later when it comes to protecting those she loves. There’s no questioning her actions or indecisiveness which is incredibly refreshing.

What I love though is how she’s developing over the course of the series and in this book in particular. She’s becoming more human and learning what that really means. The contrast between her and Tyrus is fascinating to watch. He’s much more of a thinker than a doer so they balance each other out in a lot of ways but also often end up at odds when she wants to act and he doesn’t. I do love them together though. They get a really rough ride in this but the moments when it’s just the two of them are some of my favorites.

The differences between her and some of the other characters are also interesting. She’s considered a monster but she’s actually very naive in a lot of ways and sees the world in very simple terms. Those around her plotting and scheming and committing terrible acts could be considered far more monstrous than she ever is.

The pacing of the story is pretty much spot on and it’s definitely a very readable book. I more or less read the whole thing in a few hours. It’s so unpredictable and so packed full of twists it’s difficult to put down and the conclusion when it came was truly epic. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. As always all views are my own.

Review: Spandex and the City by Jenny T. Colgan

Spandex and the City

Spandex and the City by Jenny T. Colgan

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars for being so hilariously funny, brilliant and a little bit mad.


THE BLURB

LOCAL GIRL SWEPT OFF HER FEET

Mild-mannered publicist Holly Phillips is unlucky in love. She’s embarrassed beyond belief when the handsome stranger she meets in a bar turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’ – a superpowered hero whose rescue attempt finds her hoisted over his shoulder and flashing her knickers in the newspaper the next day.

But when Holly’s fifteen minutes of fame make her a target for something villainous, she only has one place to turn – and finds the man behind the mask holds a lot more charm than his crime-fighting alter-ego.

Can Holly find love, or is superdating just as complicated as the regular kind?


MY REVIEW

This book is out of this world…

Or should that be “involved in some kind of industrial accident that gave it super powers”??

I really, really loved this book. I am a big fan of Jenny Colgan but I’m an even bigger fan of Jenny T Colgan. This book has the usual mix of fun, humour and romance but with the added bonus of Ultimate Man. Yep we’re in super hero territory.

Have you ever wished you could be involved with a super hero or have you, like main character Holly, realized that actually being romantically linked to a man who wears a purple costume and is on a mission to use his superpowers to save the world is a little bit rubbish. Saving the world is admittedly more important than going on a date but being ditched is no fun, the costume is kinda naff (does everything really need to be purple) and let’s face it you’re going to end up as the damsel in distress. On the other hand though, if you’re single in the city with not many options you could probably do worse.

I absolutely loved how Colgan poked fun at the whole superhero world (in the most affectionate of ways) and how completely unimpressed Holly was by Ultimate Man. It had me giggling away on more than one occasion but is oh so true. Holly was a brilliant character and very relatable. She’s a little bit ditzy and seems to spend an awful lot of time embarrassing herself but she knows what she wants and despite having no powers she’s willing to get stuck in.

The romance is pretty sweet and funny as you would expect but there are also a few unexpected complications and bit of a love triangle which makes it a little bit unpredictable. It’s by no means certain how it’s all going to end. The whole superhero vs his nemesis storyline is fun and I loved how Colgan managed to sneak in a little dig at our current obsession with technology. If I had one minor niggle (and it is very minor) it’s that I thought some of the action scenes could use some work. It may just be me but I found it a little confusing trying to figure out what was going on.

Overall though I absolutely loved it. It may not be for you if you’re looking for Colgan’s usual cosy food related romances but if you don’t mind something a little bit different and a lot funny I’d definitely recommend.

I received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. This has in no way influenced my review and if it helps I also bought a physical copy.