Golden Son – Pierce Brown

Golden SonThe story: Having made it through the Institute and secured a patronage from one of the most powerful men on Mars, Darrow has continued his studies in warfare and leadership. This goes further afield than his own planet and includes commanding fleets of ships in epic space battles. He’s fully embedded in the Gold ruling classes, while also working hard to break it apart from within.

My thoughts: I’ve read enough YA thrillers to know that sometimes they fall down flat when they try and move past the trials of book one into the wider universe of their fictional book world. Golden Son manages this feat magnificently, despite having a far vaster and more complicated world than any other series I’ve ever read.

Where in Red Rising we were focused on just one tiny part of the universe Pierce Brown has created, in Golden Son we see much more of it. We also learn more about the structure of society and how it all fits together. Politics and strategy play a far greater role in this book, and there’s an emphasis on how all actions and decisions have consequences. Continue reading

The Chemist – Stephanie Meyer

the-chemistStephanie Meyer’s first foray out of the supernatural/science fiction genre was always going to get mixed reviews, but I thought it was a good read and a decent thriller. It’s also worth saying that I listened to this as an audiobook – I always think thrillers work particularly well in this format and The Chemist was no exception.

The story:

An ex-government interrogator is living in hiding, in fear of her life, when her old employer draws her in for one last job that could mean the difference between life or death for thousands of people. But when it becomes clear that her target may not be who she thought he was, she has a decision to make. The situation escalates fast, the stakes are high and it’s not only her life that hangs in the balance.

My thoughts:

There’s nothing too deep about The Chemist – it’s just an easy, entertaining read. There’s a good amount of action – but also quite a lot of description for a thriller. This is all backed up by a decent back story and a bit of romance. It’s quite predictable, if you read thrillers regularly then you’ll be able to see the main story arcs coming together easily. I kept seeing plot twists where they weren’t any and expecting characters to be hiding secret agendas when they weren’t – things were actually just that easy to guess!

I wasn’t overly keen on the romance aspect. The love interest seemed way too nice and just didn’t seem to have much of a personality at all. I kept waiting for him to show hidden depths and double-cross her. Continue reading

‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’ by Claire North

first 15livesofharryaugustIn the First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, author Claire North plays with our concept of time. In her vision, time runs over and over on a constant loop. Some people have the ability to retain their consciousness from one life to the next, and are born again and again – always in the same time, in the same place and to the same parents, but with the knowledge of the lives lived before.

Here, being reborn isn’t reincarnation, it’s more like doing endless laps around a track. People like Harry cross paths with the same acquaintances every life, and develop relationships that span more lifetimes than they can remember. Major events and landmarks pass by again and again, and even with their extensive knowledge, there’s nothing they can do to stop or change them.

For Harry and those like him, life is both a constant experiment and a bit of a bore. Childhood is a chore to get through. Death isn’t final and is sometimes, in extreme cases, welcomed. But then news of a disaster starts to filter through from the future. The end of the world is coming, and it’s getting closer with every generation. Someone is disrupting the balance, inventing technology far before its time with devastating consequences. When people start disappearing, murdered in the womb before they can be born and breaking the cycle for good, it becomes obvious that this threat is very real. Continue reading

‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ by M. R. Carey

The girl with the giftsTen-year-old Melanie’s world consists of the four walls of her room, the corridor and the schoolroom. She loves school, and even more so if it’s Miss Justineau’s day to teach. To all extents and purposes, Melanie seems just like any other little girl, but it soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems. Every time Melanie leaves her room, she’s strapped into a wheelchair, unable to move or even turn her head. Her classmates have a habit or disappearing and never coming back, and the guards never relinquish their grip on their guns.

It’s hard to go much further without giving away spoilers, but we soon find out that Melanie and her classmates are anything but normal children. In the wake of an unexpected and deadly event, society is struggling to survive. Melanie’s schoolroom is on a scientific army base, where people are desperately searching for solutions, whatever the cost. Continue reading

Koethi Zan’s ‘The Never List’

The Never ListBest friends Sarah and Jennifer list by the ‘Never List’ – a set of rules which dominate their lives. Above all, never take risks. But despite all their planning, the worst happens, and the girls are thrown into the middle of their worst nightmare.

Ten years later, Sarah is trying to move on with her life. But she’s still tormented by the past and trapped in a prison of her own making, and it seems that her persecutor hasn’t forgotten her. To give herself any chance of having a normal future, Sarah must face up to her demons. But is she putting herself back in harm’s way? And will what she is about to discover destroy her forever?

Koethi Zan’s The Never List was quite readable, but to me, it didn’t feel like it really offered anything new to the genre. The characters are described as going through some intense emotions, but they never really came alive to me and fell a little flat. The story trundles along well and picks up pace with some well-placed action scenes towards the end, but the twists were disappointingly predictable.

The author plays on society’s fears of hidden sociopaths disguised in plain sight. Continue reading

Chrysler Szarlan’s ‘The Hawley Book of the Dead’

photoReve Dyer and her husband Jeremy run a successful magic act in Vegas – until the day that a bullet trick goes horribly wrong, leaving Jeremy dead and Reve suspected of his murder. But as Reve attempts to comfort her grieving family, burned photographs of her and her three daughters going about their daily lives start to appear. Fearing for their safety, Reve flees home to Hawley Five Corners.

A village abandoned by its inhabitants during the 1920’s, Hawley Five Corners offers a safe haven. But Hawley Five Corners is haunted by secrets, rumours and unnatural disappearances, and being back in the place of her ancestors raises more questions that Reve isn’t yet ready to face. For the women in Reve’s family each possess a magical gift – an ability to find lost things, to heal or in Reve’s case, to disappear, temporarily slipping behind the veil between worlds. The more time that Reve and her daughters spend in the village, the more they start to understand their personal history and the mysterious powers of the Hawley Book of the Dead. Continue reading

‘The String Diaries’ by Stephen Lloyd Jones

String diariesThe best mystery novels keep adding twist after twist.
The best thrillers ramp up the tension and don’t let us go until we turn the last page.
The best supernatural stories include just a pinch of horror to keep us on the edge of our seats.

Stephen Lloyd Jones’ ‘The String Diaries’ was a perfect fusion of all three.

From the moment this book started, with our protagonist driving on a dark, remote road, trying to escape from a nameless but clearly dangerous pursuer, the bar was set high.

Hannah, along with her husband and her young daughter, is on the run from an enemy that has stalked her family across generations. He has the power to change his appearance at will and to speak in other people’s voices, and he is unswerving in his desire to hunt down Hannah as he has her predecessors.

From a remote farmhouse in Wales to a library in Oxford and a masquerade ball in nineteenth century Hungary, Stephen Lloyd Jones creates a thoroughly convincing story of an ancient hidden race, a spurned son and a dangerous obsession that won’t die. Continue reading