Monday, 12 February 2018

Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds

Series: Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, Book Two
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Hardcover
Published: 25th January 2018
Number of Pages: 416
Book: For Review* 
Genre:  Science-Fiction, Space Opera, Crime Fiction, Thriller-Suspense, Mystery, Adult
Recommended Age: 13+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing
Author's Site: Alastair Reynolds

Blurb From Goodreads:
Featuring Inspector Dreyfus - one of Alastair Reynolds most popular characters - this is a fast paced SF crime story, combining a futuristic setting with a gripping tale of technology, revolution and revenge.
One citizen died a fortnight ago. Two a week ago. Four died yesterday . . . and unless the cause can be found - and stopped - within the next four months, everyone will be dead. For the Prefects, the hunt for a silent, hidden killer is on . . .
Alastair Reynolds has returned to the world of The Prefect for this stand-alone SF mystery in which no one is safe. The technological implants which connect every citizen to each other have become murder weapons, and no one knows who or what the killer is - or who the next targets will be. But their reach is spreading, and time is not on the Prefects' side.

He saw it now, what had always been there, always explicit, but which he only now forced himself t acknowledge in all its truth and simplicity.  To destroy Devon Garlin – to destroy the enemy of everything he held precious - it was first necessary to destroy Wildfire.
And so he would.”
The Glitter Band is a man-made system of planets and microworlds.  Run by the people, they are a utopia of sorts, where crime is almost non-existent.
But when it occurs, they need someone who can deal with it.  That’s why the Prefects were formed – a planet of police, ready to deal with anything that threatens to harm the Glitter Band.
Until they were forced to protect it by doing something unthinkable...
Now, dissent is rising among the worlds of the Glitter Band – led by a man named Devon Garlin, worlds are declaring independence from the Prefects.
Meanwhile, Prefect Tom Dreyfus and his fellow operatives are trying to stop a series of deaths – scores of people are dying, their implants overheating for no discernible reason, with no connection between the victims.  And the rate of Wildfire deaths is ever-increasing – soon it will be in the thousands and before long all of the Glitter Band could perish...
But when links begin to appear between the two cases, the risk of the destruction of the world as Dreyfus and the others know it is rising ever higher...
I have never read anything by Alastair Reynolds, but Elysium Fire intrigued me from the moment I received it.  Even though I hadn’t read any of the books in the series, let alone the previous Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, I was soon sucked right into the story.  I need to get my hands on the other books now – I am just in love with Dreyfus and the Glitter Band!  
Also, I’m pretty awful at reading sci-fi – let alone adult hard-core sci-fi space operas.  And there were a few terms I may have had to look up, but I found it really, really easy to just immerse myself in this world, in this story.  I’m a sucker for crime thrillers, although I think crime thrillers in space may have ruined me for the more mundane earthly kind!  
It helped that I just loved all of the characters in the book!  They were all brilliantly complex and three-dimensional.  I just need to read the first Prefect Dreyfus book so I can fully understand them all!  Because I need some more backstories, guys!
I love Tom Dreyfus – he is such a badass.  Plus he’s so driven and dedicated to protecting everyone.  I also love that while he’s very level-headed, he does lose his cool occasionally (to be fair, Garlin was a dick). I really have to read book one because I want to know more about him!
Jane Aumonier was awesome – such a brilliant leader and so very, very badass too.  She was tough, but fair – and when you messed with her, watch out!  I also loved Thalia and Sparver - they were amazing prefects and I just loved how they interacted together.  And I really enjoyed the characters of Julius and Caleb – and trying to figure out what their story was.  Those two intrigued me from the very beginning... 
This story was just genius.  I just loved the multiple story lines – we had the Prefects trying to solve the implant-caused deaths, then them trying to deal with the anarchy Garlin caused, and then there was another storyline following two boys with many a secret in their family past...  I just loved seeing how it all tangled together, all the little clues that we were given to unravel the plots and discover what was happening.  It was just so exciting and utterly addictive.
And I will admit, it probably would’ve helped if I’d at least read the previous Prefect Dreyfus book, because there were quite a few references to what occurred in it – but I managed to guess most things and catch up, so it really didn’t confuse me or take away from my enjoyment of Elysium Fire.
Oh, and have I mentioned the multiple perspectives?  No?  It was brilliant.  It let us follow so much action and mystery and plot lines in a single chapter and it really could’ve been confusing but it just wasn’t.  I loved it so very much! 
I honestly don’t know why I don’t read more sci-fi books – I enjoyed this so much.  Elysium Fire was exciting and intriguing and wonderful and I seriously have to get the rest of this series!  I definitely recommend the Prefect Dreyfus series to sci-fi lovers – and even those who don’t generally read sci-fi!  The crime thriller aspect is just amazing and I honestly can’t wait for my next adventure with Tom Dreyfus!

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5 

Read this book if you liked:
Prefect Dreyfus Emergency by Alastair Reynolds
Agent Cormac by Neal Asher
Invictus by Ryan Graudin
The Androma Saga by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious, Book One
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: ARC**
Published: 16th January 2018
Number of Pages: 432
Book: For Review*
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller-Suspense, Crime Fiction, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing, Alcohol, Smoking References
Author's Site: Maureen Johnson

Blurb From Goodreads:
New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.
Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”
Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.
True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 
The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

“Riddle, riddle, on the wall
Murder comes to pay a call
The detective’s here. It’s time to play!
Truly Devious lives another day.”
In 1936, Albert Ellingham, one of the richest men in America, opened up a school for geniuses of all kinds.  It was meant to be an idyllic place where anyone could come to learn - where learning could be a game.
But the game took a dangerous turn when one day Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter vanished while on a drive, along with a young student.  A kidnapper who called themselves Truly Devious demanded a ransom, but Iris and Alice Ellingham were never seen alive again.
Now, eighty years later, crime obsessed Stevie Bell arrives at Ellingham Academy as a new student.  Her goal?  To solve this impossible mystery and discovered what really happened all those decades ago.
But her cold case is not so cold anymore as Truly Devious makes a shocking return and one of Stevie’s classmates ends up dead.
Once again, someone is playing a game with life and death and once again they seem to be getting away with it.
But the detective is on the scene now and Stevie will solve this case – before it’s too late...
Oh.  My.  God.  OhmiGod!  This book.  I’m such a massive geek when it comes to mysteries.  I watch way too many police procedural shows and I’ve been reading crime thrillers from much too young an age (I’m still scared of James Patterson’s books after being scarred for life by Kiss The Girls at the age of twelve or so).  So when I got sent Truly Devious, I was beyond excited – I have a real weakness for YA mysteries and I adore Maureen Johnson.  And Truly Devious totally did not disappoint – it was a twisty, exciting, utterly absorbing murder mystery and I loved every single second.  Because Truly Devious doesn’t just have one murder for us to solve – it has three!  I raced through the book, guessing all the time and getting pretty much every theory I had instantly thrown out of the window.  And that ending!  Bloody hell, Maureen – that was just cruel!  And I have to wait until 2019 for the second book!  2018 has only just started!  So please excuse me while I go have a minor breakdown and throw a pillow at the wall in a fit of detective-deprived fury.
Alrighty, I’m back!  Let’s talk suspects – I mean characters!  Maureen has created a lovely diverse cast, rich with possible suspects and bizarre personalities.  It’ll be hard to say too much without giving anything away – no spoilers, which means no giving away anything that might ruin the suspense!
Stevie – oh how I loved her!  She was such a great protagonist – brave, loyal, smart, a detective through and through.  She really was very Sherlock-esque at times, which is always fun!  Plus she was very dog-with-a-bone and I loved how intuitive she is.  And while I know I’m certainly no expert whatsoever on social anxiety, depression and panic attacks, I feel they were all accurately portrayed – or definitely in a way that felt utterly believable to me.
Janelle was an awesome best friend – totally weird and adorable and always wearing the most gorgeous clothes (I want her fashion sense).  Plus her and her paramour are just the cutest ever.  And then there’s Nate – a boy after my own heart, with his fantasy book and writing obsession!  Plus he totally gets the frustration of writing! 
The rest of the cast is... interesting.  Special props to Larry the security guard, Pix with the teeth and Ellie with her hidden alcohol stashes.  And as for David... well.  Let’s just say I have many reasons for wanting book two...  
Ah, the way Truly Devious was written!  I’ve read a few books that have a then/now kind of narration and I’ve always enjoyed it.  But Truly Devious just had more –because while we did get snippets into the past via the perspective of the past characters, we also got police interviews and articles and more!  I just loved it! 
But I’m docking a star for that ending – it was cruel!  Oh my God, Maureen Johnson!  That was so unfair!  I’m on the verge of another rant here – so I’m going to cut myself off before I can start.  Anyways, I’m often pretty good at guessing twists and t urns, but I was never able to untangle the mystery of Truly Devious.  I loved all the threads, all the clues, all the riddles and mysteries and murders.  It was all just so fun – in a bad, murder-y way.  And yes, I would honestly sell my soul or my kidney for book two right now.  Please, Maureen.  Please!
So clearly I adored Truly Devious.  It was just so brilliant and engaging and I honestly just couldn’t get enough.  Sort of like my beloved Murder Most Unladylike series, just for teenagers, Truly Devious was amazing – even if that cliffhanger almost killed me!  I was scared she would rush the ending – instead, she leaves me hanging, clinging to the edge of the cliff, hoping I don’t fall into the insanity that is waiting for a new book.
I feel this metaphor got away with me.  The point is Truly Devious is awesome and you all need to go read it.  Like, right now.

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5 

Read this book if you liked:
The Shades of London by Maureen Johnson
One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus
Wells & Wong by Robin Stevens

Happy Reading
* This book was received from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review
** Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Series: The Belles, Book One
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: ARC**
Published: 8th February 2018
Number of Pages: 448
Book: For Review* 
Genre:  Fantasy, Paranormal, Mythical, Mystery, Coming-Of-Age, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Alcohol References
Author's Site: Dhonielle Clayton

Blurb From Goodreads:
I am a Belle. I control Beauty.
In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle's powers can make them beautiful.
Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle - the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.
But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater - and far darker - than she ever imagined.
When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever.

 “Even if the pain crescendos in waves so high it pulls screams of anguish from their throats, or if the cost threatens to plummet them into ruin, the men and women of Orléans always want more.  And I’m happy to provide.  I’m happy to be needed.”
In a world cursed with ugliness, greyness and insanity, though that can create beauty are coveted above all else.  The Belles have been gifted by the Goddess of Beauty to return colour and uniqueness to the people of Orléans.  
They are raised to believe that beauty is everything and they are raised to join the Royal Court, where one of the six sisters will be named the Quueen’s Favorite and live in the palace alongside the Royal Family.
Camellia Beauregard wants to be the Favourite.  She wants to make the people beautiful - as beautiful as can be.  Because, after all, who would not wish to be beautiful?
But the rosy image and the Palace’s gilded walls hide a darkness, a rottenness.  There are talks of other Belles and the sisters keep hearing screaming and crying - and no one will tell them the truth.
The Belles were raised a certain way, but Camille soon realises their education hid many of the truths of what it is to be a Belle.  And as she grows more entangled in the games of the Queen and the ruthless Princess Sophia, Camille begins to feel awfully out of her depth...
In a world where beauty is everything and rotten cores lurk behind sweet smiles and magicked facades, can one ever know what is real?
I have heard so so much about The Belles over the last year and basically all of it has been so positive.  So when I began reading, I did so with rather unattainably high expectations.  But my Gods, if it didn’t meet every single one of them!  This book... this book!  From the cover and description, I was expecting some frilly princess-esque story where the pretty girl just wants to find her prince!
I could not have been more wrong.  The Belles may look gilded and beautiful, but it hides a dark monster of a story that utterly overwhelmed me.  It was beautiful and it was horrible and it was so very clever.
Nowadays, we’re constantly assaulted with 'ideals of beauty' - that we must be a certain shape, have a certain appearance to be beautiful, most of which are just purely unattainable or even unhealthy.  
So imagine a world where a beautiful girl could make you look however you so desired.  With magic!  At a price.  What would you pay?  What would you be willing to give?  What wouldn’t you give, to be accepted and admired...?  
But do you see what I mean?  The Belles may look like a pretty, light read, but it isn’t. It is so deep, so dark, so very needed.  It tackles so many issues and I honestly just want to hug Dhonielle Clayton for writing this absolutely stunning beautiful breath-taking book.  
Camille - Oh, my sweet Camille!  She was just such a precious little flower - I wanted to hug her so much.  Brave, caring, dedicated, loving and open minded, she was such a breath of fresh air in the murky depths of the court.  Camille was just so wonderful and I loved how much she cared about everything and everyone.  Plus it was so so wonderful to see her grow as the book went on.
I adored all of her Belle sisters too - some of my favourite scenes were when they were all together.  The six of them are so sweet and you can just feel how much they adore each other, even when they’re fighting.  I really wish they’d showed up more because the dynamics were just wonderful.
I can’t really say too much about the other characters, at the risk of spoilers.  Pretty much no one was as they first appeared - and I loved that so much.  I was constantly guessing about everyone’s intentions, their secrets, their personalities... I just loved it – and I adored who I shall call the rotten one, who was just so terrifying that I loved every scene because I honestly had no idea what they’d do next.
God, this book!  This plot!  This writing!  This world!  Maybe writing this review (or attempting to anyway) right after reading it was a bad idea, because I’m still so completely and utterly wrapped up in how absolutely wonderful everything was and how much I just loved every single thing about The Belles.  For one, the writing was just absolutely scrumptious - beautiful and lavish and haunting.  The plot was utterly hooking and full of twists and betrayals.  And the world was just incredible and so very very unique and brilliant.  I honestly can’t get enough of this world - it is just... so unlike anything I’ve ever read about before.  
Oh, and I need someone to invent teacup dragons.  I never knew I needed something in my life so much until reading The Belles.  Because oh my god can you imagine?  Wouldn’t that just be the best?
Seriously though, the amount of issues covered in this book was stunning - and all of it was done with so light a touch.  It was like pure magic - these stunning descriptions of the world, the beautiful flowers and women, the beauty of everything around, all hiding this rottenness and deceit and insecurity...  Just pure genius.
The Belles may be one of the first books I read in 2018 but I already know it’s going to be a favourite of mine.  It absolutely took my breath away and I cannot express to you all how much I adore it and how simply everyone must read it.  It has such an important message about body image, bullying and family - about doing what’s right not what’s easy.  And I just... I could just go on for days about The Belles, I truly could.  This review is already nearing essay length and I apologise for rambling like this.  It’s just hard to be articulate when my mind is so very blown.  Just... wow.  Wow.  Please, just read The Belles.  It’s something everyone ought to read - but especially teenage girls.  
On that note, Dhonielle, just... thank you.  I know you say this book contains monsters (and it most certainly does) but it also contains magic and I just want to thank you for it - for all of it.  For sharing your monster with us and allowing us to exorcise our own monsters in this book. 
I need to go lie down now and mourn the end of this book and lament the wait until book two.  Sigh.  It’s so very far away.

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5 

Read this book if you liked:
Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Fallen Isles Trilogy by Jodi Meadows

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review
** Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book