Review: Conclave by Robert Harris

Conclave by Robert   Harris

The Pope is dead. 

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election. 

They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.

I enjoyed this book a surprising amount. The political process behind choosing a new Pope was fascinating, as were the traditions that go alongside it. This is of course fictionalised and we’ll never quite know what happens in a Conclave but even so, the book felt like it had solid research behind it and was more captivating for it.

The characters were well rounded and I felt for Lomeli at various points through the book when he struggled to know what the right thing to do was. 

I felt the tag line on the front cover summed this book up perfectly, it really was ‘The Power of God. The Ambition of Men’ 

This was my first Robert Harris book and I’ll certainly be reading more.

Review: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

Wildness is a kind of magic

Daine has always had a special connection with animals, but only when she’s forced to leave home does she realise it’s more than a knack . . . it’s magic. With this wild magic, not only can Daine speak to animals, but she can also make them obey her. Daine takes a job handling horses for the Queen’s Riders, where she meets the master mage Numair and becomes his apprentice.

Discover a land of enchantment, legend, and adventure in this first book of The Immortals series, featuring an updated cover – perfect for longtime fans and newcomers alike.

I first read ‘Wild Magic’ many years go as a young teenager. when I saw that they had been re-printed recently (with gorgeous new covers) I couldn’t resist visiting Daine and Tortall again.

It’s always a bit of a risk to re-visit a series after a long break especially a series aimed at a younger market but I was immediately reminded of why I had loved this series so much. I would still love to have Daine’s ability to talk to animals, her relationship with Cloud (her horse) and other furred and feathered friends are as important as the human friendships she makes along the way.

The Stormwings are just as chilling as they were when I was younger, the Spidrins terrifying and the story is as fantastical as it was in my memory.

I’ll definitely be tracking down and reading the rest of the Immortals Quartet.

Review: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Elizabeth Is Missing

Meet Maud. Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognizable – or her daughter Helen seems a total stranger.

But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing.

A thought provoking book that kept me gripped the whole way through. Maud was a likeable character and despite the sadness of her decent into dementia overall the book felt hopeful and full of love rather than weighed down with sadness.

Emma Healey did a great job of taking you along with Maud as she navigated her way through the confusion of every day life, – and back in time to the disappearance of her sister not long after WW2. I really felt for Maud and her family as they navigated their way through everyday life and the Maud’s dementia.

A story about family, friends and getting older, told with compassion I would recommend this book.

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One

It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread. 

Like almost everyone, Wade Watts has an escape – the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like almost everyone, he’s on the hunt for the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality – control of the OASIS, courtesy of the wish of its now-dead architect, James Halliday.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based in the culture of the late twentieth century. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle.

I loved, loved, loved this book. Right from the first page it had me gripped. The pure geekiness of it, the story, the characters, the wold building, it all came together in a fabulous romp.

The IOI were great villains and Wade and his mismatched collection of fellow Gunters were just the sort of downtrodden hero’s every sci fi book needs. A brilliant run through everything geek (especially 80’s geek) and a story about growing up and realising that maybe the world isn’t so bad after all…

If you enjoy science fiction and dystopian novels but haven’t read this yet I recommend you bump it to the top of your TBR pile.

Review: Do you Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

Do You Dream of Terra-Two

A century ago, scientists theorised that a habitable planet existed in a nearby solar system. Today, ten astronauts will leave a dying Earth to find it. Four are decorated veterans of the 20th century’s space-race. And six are teenagers, graduates of the exclusive Dalton Academy, who’ve been in training for this mission for most of their lives.

It will take the team 23 years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years spent in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong. And something always goes wrong.

I’m struggling a little bit to know how to review this book, part of me loved it and while I didn’t ‘dream of Terra-Two’ I certainly couldn’t wait to pick it up and carry on reading. I loved the characters, the journey they had both literally and figuratively. The space travel was interesting and watching they crew cope (or not) in their various ways was well written. 

Then I realised I was over 80% of the way through the book and it felt like there should be loads left to come, no problem I hadn’t realised it was the start of a series and I’d just have to look forward to the next one. Then all of a sudden the author wrapped up the story within a few pages (with a dream sequence!) and it ended! No warning, no real resolution to a lot of things. It left me feeling a bit cast adrift, cheated out of a good story.

There was so much more the author could have explored, making this into a series or a longer book, I wanted to learn more about the Chinese generation ship also on the way to Terra-Two. I wanted to watch the Beta grow older, wanted to see more of the Earth and people they had left behind, wanted to see them adjust to life on Terra-Two if they could. Instead I got a dream sequence that barely lasted two pages. It was like your favourite TV show being cancelled mid season and everything being wrapped up in one episode (Angel, anyone?). I’m not sure why the author made that choice but it was an odd one. 

I loved 90% of this book, but the end let it down. I honestly don’t know if I could recommend you go read it, the end was that bad.

With thanks to Netgalley and publishers for a preview copy in exchange for an honest review. Do you Dream of Terra-Two? will be published 7th March 2019.

Review: Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby

Smoke Eaters

Firefighter Cole Brannigan is on the verge of retirement after 30 years on the job, and a decade fighting dragons. But during his final fire call, he discovers he’s immune to dragon smoke. It’s such a rare power that he’s immediately conscripted into the elite dragon-fighting force known as the Smoke Eaters. Retirement cancelled, Brannigan is re-assigned as a lowly rookie, chafing under his superiors. So when he discovers a plot to take over the city’s government, he takes matters into his own hands. With hundreds of innocent civilians in the crosshairs, it’s up to Brannigan and his fellow Smoke Eaters to repel the dragon menace.

Dragons, fire fighters, robotic dogs, cool future tech and good world building. Smoke Eaters has all of these and more. Sean Grigsby’s fire fighting background shows in the descriptions of the fires being tackled throughout the story which makes the whole thing really come to life.

I enjoyed the story – dragons having returned to Earth, burrowing up from underground creating mayhem in their wake with the newly created Smoke Eaters department of the fire service the only ones standing in their way. And boy do the Smoke Eaters have some excellent tools at their disposal, laser swords, foam shooters and magic blue healing gel to name a few.

Our main protagonist is Cole Brannigan, long time fire fighter who in his last week before retirement is forced by circumstances to enter a burning house where a Dragon has just emerged. A stunned Cole finds he has hat it takes to be a Smoke Eater and is immediately co-opted by the department throwing this experienced fire fighter back in at rookie level.

In some places the dialogue was a bit clunky with our 60 year old protagonist sounding more like a 15 year old boy. There were also a few moments of casual sexism that were a little uncomfortable to read, and jarring as most of the time Cole took orders from women with no issues and there were plenty of kick ass female characters to be found in this book.

Overall an enjoyable read and I look forward to seeing how this author develops in the future.

With thanks to Netgalley and Angry Robot for a review copy.

Review: The Passengers by John Marrs

The Passengers

Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.

When someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course.

The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife – and parents of two – who are travelling in separate vehicles and a suicidal man. Now the public have to judge who should survive but are the passengers all that they first seem?

This is the first John Marrs book that I’ve read. I’m happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be looking up his previous works to add to my TBR pile.

The Passengers was one of those books with that magic indefinable something that kept me picking it up in any spare moment I had. Libby was a strong and interesting character. The slow reveal of her back story along with those of the people trapped in the cars was well done.

If I’m being picky (and I am) there were a couple of points that I felt let the book down a little – mostly around Claire’s character, and it was a pet peeve of mine. I won’t say what as I don’t want to spoil anything but it did make me roll my eyes and wish for a little more realism.

However the suspense and intrigue of The Passengers kept going right until the last page and I found it overall to be an enjoyable read.

With thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Random House/Ebury for an advance copy in return for review. The Passengers is published 30 May 2019