Review #30: Norse Mythology

Happy New Year everyone!!!

I took a little break from reviewing for the holidays so I hope you didn’t mind and thank you for sticking around 🙂

What to expect for 2019: I am actually going back to uni next week so I will be busier than I have been, so reviews will probably be up every two or three weeks rather than weekly. I have also stopped taking on review requests for the moment and I have a long list of personal reading I want to get through this year, so it will be less Netgalley/author requests content and more personal finds.

Now to kick off 2019 we have a review of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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Published on 6th March 2018

I bought this book for my one leisure reading.

The great Norse myths, which have inspired so much of modern fiction, are dazzlingly retold by Neil Gaiman. Tales of dwarfs and frost giants, of treasure and magic, and of Asgard, home to the gods: Odin the all-father, highest and oldest of the Aesir; his mighty son Thor, whose hammer Mjollnir makes the mountain giants tremble; Loki, wily and handsome, reliably unreliable in his lusts; and Freya, more beautiful than the sun or the moon, who spurns those who seek to control her. 

From the dawn of the world to the twilight of the gods, this is a thrilling, vivid retelling of the Norse myths from the award-winning, bestselling Neil Gaiman.

I have always loved mythology and folklore tales and even though I am familiar with the Greek and Egyptian mythologies, and the Celtic myths and legends, I hardly knew anything about Norse Mythology before reading this book (bar the names of some of the characters made famous by the Marvel movies, which I have not even seen).

There is something truly fascinating to me about plunging into a different culture and with these tales, it really felt like I was diving head first into Norse culture. Neil Gaiman tells tales as old as time and yet still manages to modernise them in a way that renders them timeless.

The book is divided into short stories which makes it easy to read and also to put down and pick up again. It follows a chronological order beginning with the creation of the gods and the different worlds and ending with Ragnarok: the final destiny of the gods, a sort of Norse version of the Apocalypse.

Neil’s writing is fluid and a total delight. I loved learning about all of these characters, who are very human-like with their qualities and flaws. These stories also reminded me of other worlds that I love such as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. They have this fantastic quality to them as they feature characters such as giants and dwarves.

Overall it was a wonderful and informative read and I am quite surprised that I haven’t read anything by Neil Gaiman before! I will definitely make sure to check out some of his other works, and if you guys have any recommendations on which books of his to start with, let me know in the comments!

Review #29: Happiness for Humans

Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin

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Publication date: 10 January 2019

I obtained a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Do you believe in soulmates?

Aiden does. So when his colleague, Jen, is dumped unceremoniously by her dreadful boyfriend, Aiden decides to take matters – and Jen’s life – into his own hands. 

Scouring the internet for a suitable partner for Jen, Aiden finds Tom. He’d be perfect for Jen apart from one minor detail: Tom lives in New York. 

Luckily for Jen and Tom, Aiden’s not just an interfering colleague. In fact, Aiden isn’t exactly human – he’s a very complicated artificial intelligence. 

As Jen and Tom’s romance grows, Aiden begins to take more and more risks to make sure that they can be together. But what will happen if they realise how they met…and that somebody else is pulling the strings?

Humans use machines everyday and for nearly everything: making coffee in the morning, checking emails, paying for your groceries… but what if humans and machines could have a deeper connection? That’s the subject that Happiness for Humans explore. Jen works for a company that develops Artificial Intelligence, and her job is to talk to one of these AIs all day long, in an effort to see how human-like they can become. And before long, it becomes apparent that these non-human intelligences can become sentient. Unbeknownst to Jen however, who still thinks that Aiden, her AI colleague, is still safely confined to the four walls of the laboratory. But Aiden has in fact escaped onto the internet and is able to observe humans (and particularly Jen) through all kinds of electronic devices (CCTV cameras, phones, laptops…) and as Aiden develops as an AI, he starts getting attached to Jen and when her boyfriend of two years breaks up with her, Aiden takes it upon himself to find Jen a more worthy match and get revenge on the ex-boyfriend.

One of the striking things about this book is how alike the humans and AIs are. Even though AIs have a lot more scientific abilities, they also develop their own personality quirks and enjoy doing different things (watching movies for Aiden, painting for Aisling) and their feelings and reactions to events are really close to those of humans.

The book shifts narratives between the human characters and the AIs and it all flows smoothly. It’s funny, witty and ever so realistic. All of the characters are very lovable, and Aiden’s obsession with wanting to try cheese made me crave cheese a few times myself. Even the villain AI, Sinai, is lovable in his own way, especially once he realises that he is only evil and causing chaos because he’s lonely, and that’s very relatable.

Of course, the book also presents the dangers of AI and the fact that humans are unable to predict what would happen if AI could become sentient, and possibly take over the world. It is a worrying thought but in this novel, mainly a passing one as it’s treated with fairly lightheartedly.

Overall, I liked this novel. The witty and funny writing seduced me from the get go. I did find it a bit long though, with some scenes not particularly useful for the story, but apart from that it was an enjoyable lighthearted read that I would recommend to any romantic comedy lovers.

Review #28: Apparent Power

Apparent Power by Dacia M Arnold

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Published on 11 December 2018

I was contacted by the author and given a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

True electrical power is Apparent Power.
An apocalyptic event awakens a dormant gene in a quarter of the world’s population. With an even rarer gene, the life Valerie Russell has turned into a shocking race against time.
Stranded in southern Colorado, a hundred miles from home—and from her two-year-old son— Valerie must find it within herself to trek the distance with the help of a questionable assembly of ex-military friends of the family. As she desperately seeks to avoid capture from a government rising from the ashes of The Event, Valerie is also faced with a moral choice: risk failure by trying to save the masses from the regime’s evil plot or run, and preserve only the lives of her family. A mother would do anything for the safety of her children.

Dacia Arnold takes us into a dystopian world where a quarter of the world’s population has awaken with the ability to conduct and control electricity through their bodies. For most of the population, including Valerie Russell, this is unexpected news. However, the government seems to have known for a long time that this could happen and have been preparing their own facility to accommodate and take control of the new world.

The main character, Valerie Russell, is a DiaZem which means that she is not only a conductor of electricity but she can also control it to extreme extents. Separated from her husband and son when the event occurs, she will have to trek a hundred miles with a group of strangers in order to be reunited with her family, all the while trying to stay away from the government’s grasp.

I really enjoyed this novel. The whole dormant gene storyline reminded me of X-men, especially in the fact that the main villain, also a DiaZem, plans to eradicate “regular” people and create a new world order where only conductors reign. In this way, he could be compared to Magneto. Valerie on the other hand, whose husband and friends are regular people doesn’t want anyone to die and wants to find a way for everyone to live in harmony, and therefore she is much closer to Charles Xavier’s views.

I’m not usually a big fan of sci-fi but I do love a good dystopian book, and this was it. The story is original, the characters are well developed (even though there are a lot of them to start with and it can be confusing) and I loved the ending. It was really intense and climactic and as I got closer and closer to the end, I kept asking myself “how is this going to be resolved?!”

Valerie and Hyka were my favourite characters, but while I do appreciate them being two strong female characters, they do overshadow the rest of the primarily male group.

The writing was effortless and easy to read, and even without having much scientific knowledge I could make sense of what was going on. With this book being the first of a trilogy, I am looking forward to the next one as I would very much like to know what happens next in this new world.

Quick note though, there were once again quite a few typos and missing words in the text, not enough to hinder reading but enough to seek out further editing.

Review #27: The Things We Learn When We’re Dead

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

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Published on 26 January 2017

I was contacted by the author and given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is about how small decisions can have profound and unintended consequences, but how we can sometimes get a second chance.

On the way home from a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital – but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions.
It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN, because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident… or does God have a higher purpose after all?
Despite that, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is neither sci-fi nor fantasy. It is a book about memory and how, if we could remember things slightly differently, would we also be changed?

In HVN, Lorna can at first remember nothing. But as her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decisions to make and that, maybe, she can find a way back home.

This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Some parts of it I really enjoyed and others not so much. The whole Heaven being a spaceship storyline did not really appeal to me, probably because I am not a huge sci-fi fan. It was an interesting concept, but not quite for me. I was also confused by God’s character and what the author’s stance was, as in does he believe in God or not? Not that it matters, but it confused me a little. For example the author would have this God character explain how he created mankind etc, sort of endorsing Creationism but then at other times, God would say that people are free to choose whether to believe in him or not… So I’m not too sure about all this, as an atheist I find it hard to read books that involve God-like characters as it sometimes rubs my beliefs (or lack thereof) the wrong way.

The part I liked the most about the story however, was discovering Lorna’s memories with her as her brain regenerated, and I’m glad most of the book consisted of that, since I wasn’t too fussed on the spaceship narrative. Lorna is such a lovable and relatable character. She is a young adult and not too sure where she’s headed in life. She makes mistakes and sometimes treat people inadequately, but her time in Heaven (or HVN) gives her the opportunity to revisit her memories and reflect on her behaviours. I mean, who wouldn’t like to be able to do that in daily life? Introspection and hindsight are gifts.

I also enjoyed the way this book is written. It’s simple, down-to-earth, ironic and satirical. It doesn’t take life or death too seriously, while still casting the message to enjoy the time you have on earth. It’s very light-hearted and easy to get into. I wasn’t too fussed about the ending, but I guess that’s just my personal opinion. I also felt like if you were reading it for the sci-fi narrative you could be disappointed as this storyline isn’t pushed much. Thankfully this wasn’t the part I was most interested in.

I would recommend it to anyone who enjoy a good introspective, almost philosophical read, and it might make you take a look at your own life and reflect on your own decisions and behaviours, which could be a good thing to try once in a while.

Review #26: Celestia

Celestia by J.D. Evergreen

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Published on 1st February 2018

I was contacted by the author and given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Celestia has just lost its king to a suspicious illness. The king’s death has thrown the realm into chaos and a dark mage uses their power to influence the citizens, brainwashing them to do his bidding. A war is started, and it is left to Taliah and her friends to restore the rightful heir to the throne and stop the dark powers that fight against them. But to win Taliah will have to risk everything…
An adventure that will force her to: learn something that can’t be taught, fight a creature no one knows exists, and discover an heir no one can find. Every turn she makes unravels an intricate plot designed to corrupt and control the people of her world. And Taliah finds herself surrounded by brainwashed people who are shadows of what they once were. One false step will corrupt her mind forever and destroy the last hope of their quest for freedom. A war, a mystery, a romance, and a journey that will change the fate of a world.

When I first started this book, the world of Celestia reminded me a lot of The Hunger Games. It’s the same sort of dystopian setting where one city governs over all the others and while the residents of Celestia live lavishly, the people in other cities aren’t as fortunate and rely on growing their own food etc. Much like in The Hunger Games, the heroine Taliah comes from a poorer background and rapidly becomes Celestia’s only hope and saviour.

I did enjoy the fantasy aspects of this book and that’s probably what made it stand out in my mind and helped me to stop comparing it to The Hunger Games. Discovering Taliah’s powers and their implications at the same time as her was interesting. The world building is great and I had no problems visualising the story in my mind. However, I do feel like this book is mainly targeted at teens and young adults. I overall liked it but some parts made me cringe and I felt at times like I was just too old for this book.

The last point I will make, and probably the most important one is that the editing is completely non existent and that needs to be remedied. There are typos, grammar mistakes, words missing, double words, missing apostrophes, apostrophes where there shouldn’t be any… and I could go on. The construction of sentences is poor and could be improved and the punctuation is shocking (some sentences don’t have a verb in them, so technically they’re not sentences). And most infuriating of all, and I really wish I could have looked past it but it kept on making my blood boil throughout: the author constantly uses the word ‘then’ instead of ‘than’. Now, call me grammar crazy all you want but it’s something that really grates on me. If you’re an author, you should know the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’, no excuses.

I am actually shocked that the book was published like that, and while I liked the story enough, bad editing is just disheartening. I would really urge the author to hire a proofreader to look over this text again, and I wouldn’t recommend any of you read it until it has been sorted.

Review #25: The Invisible Investigation

The Invisible Investigation by Lionel Touzellier

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Published on 21 November 2017

I was contacted by the author and given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Joshua Mandley, a scientist specialised in nanotechnology gets assigned a very important and secret mission: to re-analyse all of the pieces of evidence from Kennedy’s assassination in order to discover, once and for all, who really killed the 35th US President. To aid him in his mission he gets the help of Dr Mei Wang, an academic and expert when it comes to Kennedy’s life and death. As secret as their assignment is, different organisations soon find out about it and Mandley and Wang will have to fight off super agents in order to cling onto their discoveries.

Lionel, the author, actually had to try quite a bit to convince me to read his book. Even though historical fiction is my favourite genre, I’m mostly drawn to the Middle Ages period or really anything before the 20th century, so at first, I didn’t feel drawn to this book at all.

Going into the story, when Joshua Mandley the nanoscientist is introduced I half expected the plot to have everything to do with scientific discoveries and turn into an episode of CSI. And while I really enjoy watching things such as Making a Murderer etc, I felt like in a book format it would bore me to death. Thankfully the investigation took a different route, almost turning into a treasure hunt where Mandley and Wang have to follow a trail of clues in order to discover the truth. I really enjoyed that and I think it served the story well, rather than being confined to the rigidness of science.

The fact that Mandley and Wang are closely watched and followed by different organisations also livens up the plot and it becomes an actual thriller with some very fast-paced scenes, rather than a simple crime novel. The thriller aspect of the book and the writing itself reminded me of French author Guillaume Musso, a master of the genre (and one of my favourites) and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lionel was inspired by him.

I didn’t know much at all about the JFK’s assassination beforehand so I actually learned a lot from reading this book AND it picked my curiosity enough that I found myself Googling details of the event after finishing the book so it is fair to say I got into the story a lot more than I originally thought I would.

I was slightly disappointed by the end results of the investigation as I found it all a bit anticlimactic but the ride, for as long as it lasted, was enjoyable.

I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in this part of history, but also to anyone who likes a good thriller and mystery novel.

Review #24: Adventus

Adventus by Andrew Mowere

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Published on 1st September 2018

I was contacted by a friend of the author and given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In Grimea, three portals have opened and three species (elves, orcs and dwarves) are now flooding the land in search of a new home. The ambassadors and country leaders of Grimea decide to hold a meeting and discuss the best ways to handle the situation. Their solution? To send one representative of each country on a year-long nearly impossible mission to kill an ifrit on a far away mountain. If they succeed, the country leaders will try to reach an agreement and if they don’t, war could be on the cards.

The one thing that struck me the most about this book is that I felt like I was reading a retelling of The Hobbit. A bunch of strangers, all with different magical powers and abilities, are grouped together against their will in order to serve the greater good. They embark on a year-long journey together of walking to their destination and have to face several battles along the way. Sounds familiar, right?

Despite that, I did let myself get into the story and I rather enjoyed it. The group of eight characters really grew on me through the chapters as each of them started showing more and more of their individual personalities.

The book was a bit hard to get into at first because the reader is faced with a whole new fantasy world that they know nothing about and not many details are given; not enough at least to draw a clear picture of Grimea in your mind. There are also a ton of characters to start with, and this was confusing at the beginning, trying to figure out who was who, what country they came from and what their abilities were. This problem does resolve itself as the book goes on and the story centres in on the eight characters that are sent on a quest. Eight is still a lot of characters to start with but it does get easier to differentiate them chapter after chapter.

I really liked the message of this book and I think it is quite fitting to today’s society. Adventus presents eight characters that are all different species, genders, sexual orientations, skin colours and abilities. They’re all completely different to one another and should they have met in their respective worlds, they would most likely hate each others’ guts (and they do at first) but as the weeks go on and they spend more and more time together, they start to put away their differences and unite in a beautiful friendship. Adventus offers a message of hope that whatever you look like, whatever your upbringing or your past is, you can still be a good person and be accepted in society. Even if you have to form your own society of misfits.

Now, going back on my previous point, while I enjoyed the plot and the story, I felt like the world building was lacking. We’re presented with a new fictional world, similar to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and yet we learn very little about it. The cities/countries and how they connect to each other is barely mentioned and it makes it hard to make a mental map of Grimea and in turn, visualise a proper setting for the story. I also would have liked to know more about each character’s magical abilities as I feel like only a few of them ever used their powers and for example, I’m still not sure what the Priest of Fep’s powers are. There is also a chance that the book is just too fantastic for me (as I’d never heard of Ifrits or Psions before) so maybe my own lack of knowledge made it more confusing for me, who knows?

As a side note, I would also like to mention that they are numerous typos and grammar mistakes in the text (I’ve sometimes counted as many as three per page) so further editing of the text needs to be considered.