Audiobook Review: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Dark Academia

Publishing Info: Audiobook, March 2022, Tor, narrated by Steve West, Siho Ellsmore, Munirih Grace, James Patrick Cronin, David Monteith, Damian Lynch, Caitlin Kelly, Andy Ingalls

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

When the world’s best magicians are offered an extraordinary opportunity, saying yes is easy. Each could join the secretive Alexandrian Society, whose custodians guard lost knowledge from ancient civilizations. Their members enjoy a lifetime of power and prestige. Yet each decade, only six practitioners are invited – to fill five places.

Contenders Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona are inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds. Parisa Kamali is a telepath, who sees the mind’s deepest secrets. Reina Mori is a naturalist who can perceive and understand the flow of life itself. And Callum Nova is an empath, who can manipulate the desires of others. Finally there’s Tristan Caine, whose powers mystify even himself.

Following recruitment by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they travel to the Society’s London headquarters. Here, each must study and innovate within esoteric subject areas. And if they can prove themselves, over the course of a year, they’ll survive. Most of them.

The Atlas Six is one of 2022’s most talked about releases. Originally self-published, the novel was picked up by Tor Books and rereleased. With the intense amount of hype around this book, I felt a little wary going in as I didn’t want to be left disappointed. Dark academia is also not my usual genre of choice, but I was intrigued by the premise and decided to take a chance on something outside my comfort zone.

The opening intrigued me and the smooth writing style drew me in. It did, however, take a while to introduce all six point of view characters, and the formula of Atlas approaching each of them to make offers to join the Alexandrian Society felt a little repetitive after the first couple.

Having multiple POVs worked really well in this novel. It was fascinating seeing everything from different perspectives and getting to see how all the characters viewed each other, building tension very nicely. They are basically all morally grey in some way and each have an interesting backstory. There was a different narrator for each POV which was really effective, making it easier to distinguish the characters and feel immersed in each viewpoint.

Read More »

Audiobook Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: Audiobook, March 2021, Bloomsbury Publishing, narrated by Alana Kerr Collins

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

For the past two hundred years the Scion government has led an oppressive campaign against unnaturalness in London.

Clairvoyance in all its forms has been decreed a criminal offence, and those who practise it viciously punished. Forced underground, a clairvoyant underworld has developed, combating persecution and evading capture.

Paige Mahoney, a powerful dreamwalker operating in the Seven Dials district of London, leads a double life, using her unnaturalness illegally while hiding her gift from her father, who works for the Scion regime…

Having enjoyed Samantha Shannon’s epic fantasy novel, The Priory of the Orange Tree, I decided to delve into her backlist and try her debut novel, The Bone Season. While The Bone Season is vastly different from Priory, being set in future London rather than a secondary world fantasy, the pages were still filled with Samantha Shannon’s rich, detailed worldbuilding and readable, engaging prose. The audiobook narration by Alana Kerr Collins was also excellent and drew me into the story.  

After an intriguing opening, The Bone Season very quickly went in a direction I was not expecting, giving me a kind of book whiplash. It left me feeling a little baffled at first, wondering what, exactly, it was I was reading. However, once I adjusted my expectations and got used to this complex and strange future world, I found myself becoming more and more invested in Paige’s story. I won’t talk about plot specifics, because I think this is one of those books where it’s best going in not knowing much at all. Many of the plot elements are familiar, but Samantha Shannon’s immersive world building makes it feel fresh.

Read More »

Audiobook Review: The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance  

Publishing Info: Audiobook, June 2021, narrated by Elizabeth Knoweldon

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

A prim and proper lady thief must save her aunt from a crazed pirate and his dangerously charming henchman in this fantastical historical romance.

Cecilia Bassingwaite is the ideal Victorian lady. She’s also a thief. Like the other members of the Wisteria Society crime sorority, she flies around England drinking tea, blackmailing friends, and acquiring treasure by interesting means. Sure, she has a dark and traumatic past and an overbearing aunt, but all things considered, it’s a pleasant existence. Until the men show up.

Ned Lightbourne is a sometimes assassin who is smitten with Cecilia from the moment they meet. Unfortunately, that happens to be while he’s under direct orders to kill her. His employer, Captain Morvath, who possesses a gothic abbey bristling with cannons and an unbridled hate for the world, intends to rid England of all its presumptuous women, starting with the Wisteria Society. Ned has plans of his own. But both men have made one grave mistake. Never underestimate a woman.

When Morvath imperils the Wisteria Society, Cecilia is forced to team up with her handsome would-be assassin to save the women who raised her–hopefully proving, once and for all, that she’s as much of a scoundrel as the rest of them.

Fancying a change of pace, I decided to pick up The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, expecting a historical romance with a dash of adventure. That is what I got, but with a tad more of the fantastical than I had anticipated.

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is bizarre yet brilliant, with Victorian ladies flying pirate houses using incantations, regularly attempting to assassinate each other, capably wielding guns and knives, and drinking tea. The juxtaposition between the well-mannered ladies and their piratical behaviour provided some excellent humour. The magical element is only a small part of the world as aside from the flying pirate houses, there wasn’t any other magic. After my initial bafflement at the concept, the idea was so well integrated into the Victorian world that it quickly seemed normal. Why wouldn’t women fly pirate houses around England?

Read More »

Audiobook Review: Knot My Type by Evie Mitchell

Knot My Type by Evie Mitchell

Genre: Romance  

Publishing Info: Audiobook, November 2021

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

He doesn’t do relationships.

She doesn’t do flings.

Everything they thought is about to unravel…

Frankie

When you say you’re a sexologist, people imagine Marilyn Monroe. They don’t expect a woman who uses a wheelchair. As the host of the All Access Podcast, I’m breaking barriers, crushing stigmas, and creating sexual connections that are fulfilling for my fans. I’m like cupid, but with pink hair and fewer diapers.

Only, I’ve hit a snag. A lovely listener wants some advice about accessible rope play and I’m drawing a big fat blank. Which leaves me with no option but to get out there and give it a go.

Which is how I meet Jay Wood—rigger, carpenter, and all-round hottie.

I’d be open to letting him wine and dine me—only Jay isn’t my type. He’s not a one-girl kind of guy. Monogamy isn’t even in his vocab, and I’m not a woman who’ll settle for being second choice.

But the closer we get, the more Jay has me tied up in knots.

And it’s making me think, maybe I could compromise and accept a little Wood in my life. Even if it’s only temporary.

Jay

Frankie’s funny, intelligent, and ridiculously sexy. This should be a no-brainer. A little fun in the sheets, and a little romp with some ropes—simple.

Only the infuriating woman is asking for more. I’m not that kind of guy. I wouldn’t even know how to be that kind of guy. I’m the definition of easy.

It’ll be fine. We’ll be friends. Just friends.

So, why does my heart feel frayed? And why is it I can’t help but consider taking the ultimate leap of faith—tying myself to Frankie. Permanently.

I’m not usually a romance reader but I’m always on the lookout for books with disability rep, and this cover caught my eye. It honestly made me really emotional reading this one. I don’t use a wheelchair, but I’ve been chronically ill for most of my life and seeing this kind of rep just fills me with so much emotion. Never underestimate the value good rep for underrepresented groups can have. There is a scene in Knot My Type where Frankie secretly leaves a party to find an accessible toilet in another building because the bathroom is too small in her partner’s house, and although this isn’t something I’ve experienced, I really related to having to adapt your life as a disabled person and the feelings Frankie went through during this scene. 

This is just the kind of disability rep I want to see in fiction. It appeared to be well researched (I can’t comment on accuracy) and it wasn’t a book about disability, it showed a disabled person living and enjoying life, going through all the highs and lows that everyone goes through, experiencing love and passion. Frankie is intelligent, bold, funny and sexy – she is a fully fleshed out character, and her disability is part of who she is.

Read More »

Book Review: Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction  

Publishing Info: September 2020 by Harper Teen   

Pages: 375

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

A deadly competition for the throne will determine more than just the fate of the empire in this duology opener.

Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy. Her mother sacrificed everything to bring peace to the quadrant, and her uncle has successfully ruled as emperor for decades. But the last thing Alyssa wants is to follow in their footsteps as the next in line for the throne. Why would she choose to be trapped in a palace when she could be having wild adventures exploring a thousand-and-one planets in her own ship?

But when Alyssa’s uncle becomes gravely ill, his dying wish surprises the entire galaxy. Instead of naming her as his successor, he calls for a crownchase, the first in seven centuries. Representatives from each of the empire’s prime families—including Alyssa—are thrown into a race to find the royal seal, which has been hidden somewhere in the empire. The first to find the seal wins the throne.

Alyssa’s experience as an explorer makes her the favorite to win the crown she never wanted. And though she doesn’t want to be empress, her duty to her uncle compels her to participate in this one last epic adventure. But when the chase turns deadly, it’s clear that more than just the fate of the empire is at stake. Alyssa is on her most important quest yet—and only time will tell if she’ll survive it.

This book reminded me why I’m such a sucker for space opera, and why I want to see more of it in YA. Crownchasers is a planet-hopping adventure and I had so much fun reading it. At just 375 pages, it was a pretty quick read, and I was on my edge of my seat for every single one of those pages.

The plot revolves around the crownchase, a competition between the prime families of the empire to determine who will be the next emperor. This involves a lot of space travel, discovering new planets, and working out mysterious clues. There is also a media element as well, as the whole galaxy seems to be watching the crownchase to see who will be victorious, which reminded me of The Hunger Games.

Alyssa Farshot is a reluctant participant in the crownchase. She loves exploring, and has never had any desire to sit on the empire’s throne. Alyssa brings a whole lot of snarky humour to this book and I loved how daring and reckless she is. Her voice is one of the best parts of this book, I felt like I was on this wild ride right along with her, and it was great to see how her character developed over the course of the story. As well as the pressures of the crownchase, she also has to deal with her grief over the loss of her uncle, and I thought Coffindaffer did an excellent job of weaving Alyssa’s character growth into such a fast-paced and action-packed book.

Read More »

Book Review: Malice by Heather Walter (eARC)

Malice by Heather Walter

Genre: Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Del Ray  

Pages: 400

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

Thank you so much to Del Ray and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The word ‘retelling’ is sure to get me interested in a book, and when I saw Malice was a Sapphic reimagining of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the villain, I just knew I had to read it. Malice includes many key elements of Sleeping Beauty (as well as a dash of other fairy tales, like Cinderalla), but weaves these into a new world and story in a refreshing way.

From the start, I really enjoyed the world building, and how the society of Briar is depicted. The upper classes are selfish and vain, obsessed with beauty and luxury, and how they can use the Graces to obtain those things. In return for their services, Graces receive payment and invitations to parties, but then when their magic Fades, they also fade out of the spotlight. Graces have little control over their lives due to the Grace Laws, and although their lives seem glamorous on the outside, there is an insidious undercurrent to the way this society functions. Good and evil isn’t so simple here, as almost every character falls somewhere in between.

Read More »

Book Review: Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance  

Publishing Info: September 2020, Harper Teen

Pages: 528

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

Serpent & Dove was a surprise read for me last year. There was so much hype around it that I was curious to read it and ended up loving it more than I expected. The sequel, Blood & Honey, has not been received quite so well, so I was a little cautious going into reading it as I didn’t want to set my expectations too high and be disappointed. 

It took me a while to orientate myself at the beginning of the book, and I had to search for a recap online in the end because there were some important points from the end of Serpent & Dove which I just couldn’t remember. So I would definitely recommend rereading Serpent & Dove or looking for a recap if it’s been a while since you read the first book.

Read More »

Book Review: A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth (eARC)

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth   

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 512

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones in this thrilling urban fantasy set in the magical underworld of Toronto that follows a queer cast of characters racing to stop a serial killer whose crimes could expose the hidden world of faeries to humans.

Choose your player.

The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.

A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.

A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.

The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.

For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A Dark and Hollow Star is a fun urban fantasy novel with stunning world building and brilliant characters. I had high expectations for this book since the blurb sounded amazing. Although I found it slow to start, by the end I realised I really loved it.

The world building in A Dark and Hollow Star is very well done. The level of detail is incredible. It’s clear the author spent a considerable amount of time working on the world building and it pays off. I felt completely immersed in a world which is familiar yet unfamiliar – our world but with faeries roaming the streets. The different types of faerie, the Courts, and immortals, the way it’s all hidden alongside our world, was depicted so vividly. I loved the mix of fantasy and modern-day technology and pop culture references.

However, as much as I loved learning about the world, it felt very overwhelming. There is so much information crammed into the first few chapters that my brain felt like it was going to explode from trying to absorb everything. The focus on world building also meant I felt more distanced from the characters at the start, who were well-written, but felt side-lined by the world building at times in the first half. It also meant the book had a slow pace in the early parts.  

The way the world building interrupted conversations for several paragraphs made it feel disjointed and I found it hard to get into many of the early scenes as they didn’t flow. The world building is so very good, but needed to be better woven into the narrative. However, I enjoyed the second half a lot more. It wasn’t as bogged down by long descriptions and explanations, and I was able to really get into the story and enjoy the ride.

Read More »

Book Review: Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2020 by Rock the Boat

Pages: 497

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Our heroes are back… kind of. From the bestselling co-authors of the Illuminae Files comes the second book in the epic series about a squad of misfits, losers, and discipline cases who just might be the galaxy’s best hope for survival.

First, the bad news: an ancient evil—you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal—is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first.

Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces.

And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri.

Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted.

When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV.

Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes—and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well.

Aurora Burning is the second book in the Aurora Cycle series. Aurora Rising is one of the best books I have read this year, so I had high expectations for its sequel. While I did love Aurora Burning, it didn’t quite hit the same high note as Aurora Rising for me.  

We’re thrown right into the action with a superb opening which really reminded me why I loved Aurora Rising so much. The first third or so of the book is action-packed and full of the humorous exchanges that make this series such a fun read. Unfortunately, the pacing slowed and started to drag a little in the middle and the beginning of the second half. I just wasn’t as gripped and didn’t feel such a connection with the story. There is a bit more of a serious tone in the second half, which makes sense since the stakes are really high for the characters, but that meant it lacked the fun spark that the first half of the book and Aurora Rising had. Having said that, I still didn’t want to put it down. There are some seriously big reveals and twists in this book that I didn’t see coming!

Read More »

Book Review: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance  

Publishing Info: May 2018 by Simon and Schuster Children’s UK (first published 2017)

Pages: 699

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again?

And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear—before it’s too late.

Lord of Shadows is the second book in the Dark Artifices trilogy. The first in the series, Lady Midnight, instantly became one of my favourite Shadowhunters books when I read it earlier this year. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed Lord of Shadows, I didn’t get quite the same feeling from it as the first book.

Lord of Shadows is very long and felt too drawn out to me. Too much time seems to be spent on the relationship drama, and the main plot falls to the wayside too often. Relationships are always a big part of Cassandra Clare’s books, but the plot was very strong in Lady Midnight with a clear arc and goal for the characters. While the characters did have a goal in Lord of Shadows, that didn’t become clear until a fair chunk into the book, and then the main conflict seemed secondary to character drama for too much of the remaining pages. The final, shocking chapter felt too rushed and ended very suddenly.

The Blackthorn family and their dynamics is part of what I loved about Lady Midnight, and is also one of the best aspects of Lord of Shadows. While I did feel the relationships dominated too much at times, I did appreciate the character development in this book. We got to see a lot more of some of the characters, such as Kit, Ty and Diana. I wasn’t keen on Kit at first but he grew on me and I liked seeing how he came to terms with his new position (can’t say more without spoiling Lady Midnight!).  

The Blackthorns end up in the London Institute for a time, and readers of The Infernal Devices will enjoy some references to that series. I haven’t read Chain of Gold yet, but there also seemed to be some references to the characters from the Last Hours series, which was published after the Dark Artifices series. It always astonishes me how far in advance Cassandra Clare seems to plan this stuff out!

I gave Lady Midnight 5 stars because I just fell in love with the story and the characters. Sadly, Lord of Shadows didn’t hit the same note for me. I’m still excited to see how the trilogy concludes in Queen of Air and Darkness though, especially after that final chapter took the story in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. I’m glad I don’t have to wait for it to be released. However, the final book in the series is an absolute monster at 870 pages so I’m really hoping the angst doesn’t take over too much…