Science fiction

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Book Tag – Shelfie By Shelfie #3

Published December 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image edited from: <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/frame”>Frame image created by Jannoon028 – Freepik.com</a>

Hi everyone and welcome to a brand new tag – Shelfie by Shelfie that I was inspired to create late one night when I couldn’t sleep. If you want to join in, you share a picture (or “shelfie”) of one of your shelves i.e. favourites, TBR, however you like to organise them, and then answer ten questions that are based around that particular shelf. I have quite a large collection and am going to do every single bookshelf which comprises both my huge TBR and the books I’ve read and kept but please, don’t feel obliged to do every shelf yourself if you fancy doing this tag. I’d love to see anything and just a snapshot of your collection would be terrific and I’m sure, really interesting for other people to see!

For my very first Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

For my second Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

Anyway – on with the tag, here is the third shelf of my first bookshelf (I’ve chosen to split it up into two separate shelfies because of the sheer number of books (oops!) so here is the back shelf):

And here are the questions!:

1.) Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Yes! For once there is some proper organisation on my bookshelves! This back shelf consists of some of my favourite books, (usually five stars) some I can’t bear to throw away but weren’t necessarily five star reads and the Throne Of Glass series so far which I adore.

2.) Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you i.e. how you got it/ a memory associated with it etc.

I’m going to mention a book you can hardly see, the lighting is quite bad (sorry!) and it’s quite a slim little thing. It’s Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. This book is so special to me, it was one of my favourite reads from childhood and I read it again a few years ago as part of my Kid Lit challenge with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. I’m quite the arachnophobic so you would think a book with a spider as one of its main characters would be hideous for me but I adored Charlotte and of course, the entire story. Super nostalgic!

3.) Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

I bet my sister is laughing at me right now. When she did her Shelfie by Shelfie (check out her post HERE) she decided to do her favourites shelf and I had a chuckle at her when she told me off for this question! Ugh – okay I have to answer it….I made her answer it. It would be The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. It’s such a brilliant non-fiction science book but I’m honestly not sure if I would read it cover to cover again in the near future.

4.) Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

Easy peasy for this one (although I was torn for a second between two). It would be A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I’m a bit of a Ness fangirl and this copy of the illustrated edition is actually signed by the great man himself when I met him at YALC. It’s very precious to me!

How lucky am I?!

5.) Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

That would be Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I’ve had this exact copy ever since I first read it when I was about fifteen I think? This is one of my all time favourite books and although it’s a bit of a beast at just over 1000 pages, I think I’m definitely due a re-read!

6.) Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

The White Road by Sarah Lotz. I read it this year and it automatically went to the favourites shelf as a definite five star read. This is a proof copy but I’m planning to buy a final paperback version soon as it’s one I’m going to be keeping and re-reading in the future.

7.) Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

I think I’d really like to re-read The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger quite soon. I read it in my pre-blogging days and thought the intricacies of the story were absolutely beautiful. I’d love to write a review on it after reading it for the second time – hopefully I’ll love it just as much!

8.) If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There isn’t any object on this shelf, there’s no room for anything else apart from books (and even then, not enough room for some of them, eek!).

9.) What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

It tells you some of my favourite books of all time and again, probably says something about the eclectic taste I have as a reader. There are so many genres up there – YA, romance, classics, thrillers, science fiction and historical fiction. I like to push the boat out in terms of what I read and don’t like to chain myself to a particular genre.

10.) Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

Anyone who wants to do this, please feel free, I’d be delighted but please tag me in your post so I can see your shelfie in all its glory. This time round I’m going to choose a question for myself:

Is there any book on this shelf that you’ve had a strong emotional response to?

As this is a favourites shelf, there’s been quite a few. I tend to want to keep books that elicit any emotion from me whether that’s sadness or happiness. I’m going to choose The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It was a recommendation from a podcast I used to listen to, sadly no longer running called Books On The Nightstand. When I first started reading it, I found it a little slow but I wasn’t prepared for how much I became invested in the story and some of the events of the novel were incredibly harrowing.

COMING SOON on bibliobeth : Shelfie by Shelfie #4

 

 

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

Published November 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

With elements of The Wizard of Oz, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Lovely Bones, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead shows how small decisions can have profound and unintended consequences, and how sometimes we can 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?

At first Lorna can remember nothing. As her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decision to make and that maybe she needs to find a way home.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to the author Charlie Laidlaw for reaching out to me via email and offering me the chance to read this wonderful novel in return for an honest review. To be perfectly honest, as soon as he mentioned “a modern retelling of The Wizard Of Oz,” I was pretty much sold and when it arrived, I was completely charmed by the cover (yes, that’s a little hamster’s face in a spaceship!) but was even more delighted by the story that I found within.

Set in Edinburgh and North Berwick, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is the story of Lorna Love who steps out in front of a car on the same day of the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005. She wakes up in what she believes to be a hospital bed but she is astounded to discover that she’s actually dead and in heaven, more specifically HVN, aboard a spaceship where they have a serious hamster problem as they continue to breed and nibble through the wiring of the ship (See, the hamsters were relevant!). Lorna has always been an agnostic but this idea of heaven is like something she could never have imagined. All the inhabitants choose to look like a celebrity of their choosing, for example, her nurse looks like Sean Connery and the chain-smoking woman who helps her adjust to life after death Irene, is a dead ringer for Kate Winslet.

When Lorna comes face to face with Captain God she learns that there is a real purpose to her being there and a reason why he has chosen her out of many people to live in the ship with the lure of being able to eat and drink whatever she wants when she wants, choose from a range of designer clothes that she never would have been able to afford on Earth and be able to transform her face and body to match any celebrity that might take her fancy. (Kate Winslet is quite popular, it turns out). However, until she recovers all her memories of her life, God will not tell her why she is there. We then follow Lorna’s life from childhood and adolescence to adventures with her best friend, the outgoing Suzie, her meaningful (and not so meaningful) relationships with men, how she juggles a menial job that she hates in a supermarket with training to be a solicitor and the struggles she has faced throughout her life. As Lorna looks back over significant events in her life, she begins to appreciate just how wonderful living is after all.

I have to admit, when I started this novel, I wasn’t too sure about whether I was going to enjoy it. I loved the fact it was set in Scotland being a Scots girl myself, and I instantly warmed to Lorna, a fantastic character who makes some bad decisions in her life but is so wonderfully endearing and an all round “good egg” that you can’t help but admire her. However, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead was a whole lot darker and infinitely more humorous than I first gave it credit for and by about one hundred pages in, I was completely hooked. This book was poignant, heart-warming and made me feel quite nostalgic as I look back over my life so far, the paths I’ve chosen to take and the people I’ve met (good and bad) along the way. It’s a quirky look at an alternative life after death and the highly charged emotional parts are perfectly balanced with some fantastic comedy moments. If you’re in the mood for something a bit different that warms the cockles of your heart this is definitely the book for you.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) – Marissa Meyer

Published November 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

What did I think?:

The Lunar Chronicles is one of my arguments for giving a series another shot. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the first book in the series, Cinder but I was persuaded to carry on and after Scarlet and Cress, I became quite the fan. Fairest is another fantastic addition to the world that Marissa Meyer has created and is in fact, a novella that should ideally be read between the third book, Cress and just before the final book in the series, Winter. I don’t think you should feel obligated to read this short tale (I know not everyone loves novellas) and you won’t miss out on anything important but personally, I thought it really brought something special to the series as a whole and if you have the opportunity and the inclination to read it you definitely should!

I say you won’t miss anything if you choose not to read it because in Fairest we actually travel back to the past, more specifically the past of Queen Levana, following her childhood and adolescence with absent, cold parents and the events that precipitated the horrific accident she had which leads her to hide her true self away from others by using glamour. I don’t really want to say too much about what happens in her life but the reader certainly comes to understand why she has become such a wicked, calculating villain in the most recent novels. Levana certainly goes through some harrowing experiences which may even lead to you feeling some sympathy for her as a character but in fact, it is the way that she deals with these issues and wreaks her revenge that leaves you with little hope for her redemption.

This was such a fascinating insight into the heart and mind of the Lunar Chronicles’ most despised villain and even though it is brief, at merely 222 pages, it packs an almighty lot of action, intrigue and emotion into those pages making it feel much “meatier,” as a result. I love to hate Queen Levana in this series but I was so impressed how Marissa Meyer managed to elicit my pity and sympathy at points in the narrative when she faced certain trials in her life. Not for long, mind you. By the end, she was completely back to the mean, nasty and despicable character that we know and appreciate from the full-length novels in the series. I just have to mention the cover art as well for this series which is truly magnificent and was a huge factor in me picking up these books in the first place. The Lunar Chronicles is due to finish with the final novel, Winter which I’m eagerly anticipating but have to admit to feeling a bit sad realising this is soon all going to be over! Until the re-read that is.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Next Together (The Next Together #1) – Lauren James

Published October 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

How many times can you lose the person you love? 

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different…

A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about time-travel, fate and the timelessness of first love. The Next Together is told through a mixture of regular prose, diary entries, letters, “original” historical documents, news reports and internet articles.

What did I think?:

I really love having a sister who is also a book blogger. She understands the excitement of review copies and makes some brilliant recommendations that, because she is my sister and obviously knows what I like, I’m certain when she raves about a book that I should expect great things. This was the case with The Next Together, part of a duology and encompassing so many genres that you would think it would feel a bit muddled. Not in the slightest. This novel is part historical fiction, part science fiction, part fantasy and part romance and manages to slot into each of these categories with ease and grace making it such an exciting and rewarding reading experience.

This is the story of Katherine and Matthew who have lived many lives/reincarnations, from the The Siege of Carlisle and The Crimeon War in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries respectively, to the near futures of 2019 and 2039. Each time they live their lives they encompass different roles i.e. a noble lady and her servant, an ambitious journalist and his eager assistant, two talented scientists who make a breakthrough discovery and finally, two teenagers who are attempting to find out more and clear the names of the scientists who pre-dated them. In each life, they meet each other and fall deeply in love and then are torn apart when something happens in that particular time period to kill one of the pair. The story based in 2039 is critically important and may shed some light on why Katherine and Matthew can’t simply have a “happy ever after,” but we get some wonderful glimpses of those three other past lives that are both poignant and heart-warming.

As I mentioned before, this book has got a bit of everything genre wise, and I loved how the author combined all the elements to make this a fascinating, exciting and at times, nail biting read that I thoroughly enjoyed. As with all romance novels, I’m always worried that the romance could come off as a bit cheesy but I had no need to worry with The Next Together. Katherine’s wonderful and hilarious sense of humour and Matt’s strong, dependable persona made their relationship a delight to read about and wasn’t at all sickly sweet or unbelievable. I adored how Lauren James told the story in a mixture of notes, emails etc between Katherine and Matt which provided a lovely modern contrast between the more historical sections of the narrative and again, for me, made the love between them feel all the more authentic. I’ll be reading the second novel in the duology, The Last Beginning very soon and cannot wait to get started (especially after the gripping ending!) If it is in any way, shape or form as beautiful as The Next Together I’m in for a huge treat.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

 

The Immortals – S.E. Lister

Published September 19, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Rosa Hyde is the daughter of a time-traveller, stuck in the year 1945. Forced to live through it again, and again, and again. All she ever wanted was to be free from that year, and from the family who keep her there.

She breaks out at last and falls through time, slipping from one century to another, unable to choose where she goes. And she is not alone. Wandering with her is Tommy Rust, time-gypsy and daredevil, certain in his heart of hearts that he will live forever.

Their journeys take them from the ancient shores of forming continents to the bright lights of future cities. They tell themselves that they need no kind of home. That they are anything but lost.

But then comes Harding, the soldier who has fought for a thousand years, and everything changes. Could Harding hold the key to staying in one place, one time? Or will the centuries continue to slip through Rosa’s fingers, as the tides take her further and further away from everything she has grown to love?

What did I think?:

First of all, can I just talk about this gorgeous cover? I posted a photo of it on my Instagram as I was reading it and it seriously does not do justice to how stunning the cover art actually is. I was recommended this book on a reading spa I went to with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath. If you haven’t been there before, I highly highly recommend it. Not just for the reading spa which was amazing (and the second one that we’ve actually had there!) but the bookshop itself is just beautiful and the staff so knowledgeable and friendly. Check out their website HERE and my post about our first reading spa HERE. Anyway, back to the book! I was so sure this was going to be a five star read for me, purely from the synopsis. It came ever so close in the end but didn’t quite make it. However, I urge you with every fibre of my being to read this book as everything from the writing, setting and characters is all kinds of fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent reading it – it’s truly a story to be savoured.

In a similar manner to The Time Traveller’s Wife (another of my all time favourite reads) The Immortals follows a young woman called Rosa who is forced to travel forwards and backwards in time without much control. Her father was a time traveller himself although he became stuck in one particular year, 1945 which he is obliged to re-live again and again every New Years’s Eve when he travels right back to the beginning of the year with his wife, Rosa and her younger sister. Rosa is aware that her father is re-living this nightmare year because of a traumatic event in his past that he refuses to come to terms with but she is getting fed up of it so decides to run away and live her own life, flitting from decade to decade and embarking on crazy, wonderful and in some cases, not so wonderful adventures. She meets a host of interesting people, including Tommy Rust who becomes her time-travelling buddy for many years but it isn’t until she meets a distressed soldier called Harding that she begins to realise the nature of time and the effect it could be having on her body.

Can I just say – what an imagination this author has to be able to write a fantastical time-travel novel such as this? It’s beautifully layered, complex yet easy to read at the same time and filled with some brilliant, wonderfully drawn characters that instantly pull you into their lives and make you care about them, even if you might question some of their actions at times. I had an especially hard time with Rosa. Some of her motives and decisions are incredibly selfish and questionable as she jumps backward and forward in time yet still she seems to learn from her experiences and I felt a strange sort of affection for her as the novel progressed. The only thing I’m in a bit of a muddle about is the character of Harding. He appears relatively late on in the narrative and, on reflection, I think it would have been a slightly stronger story if he had appeared earlier and we had learned more about him as a character as I was infinitely more interested in his past than I was in Tommy Rust’s. That’s probably the only reason I haven’t given this novel a higher rating. Otherwise, this is everything I could ever want from a novel – captivating writing, magical elements, amazing world-building….go and read it!!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

Published September 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

What did I think?:

I’ve put off reading this book for absolutely ages purely because of the hype surrounding it and I was slightly concerned that I wasn’t going to love it as much as everyone else seems to. It was long-listed in 2016 for the Women’s Prize For Fiction, one of my favourite literary prizes and I’ve heard other reviewers whose opinions I totally respect raving about it. So, I bit the bullet and finally did it and am I glad I did! I’ve always been slightly tentative about reading science fiction but after reading the amazing The Sparrow it proved to me that science fiction doesn’t always have to be intimidating, if it’s done in the right way. The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet is an incredible adventure in space with a host of fascinating characters that I instantly fell in love with and whom I feel that I know inside and out, almost as if they weren’t fictional fantasies at all.

The story follows a crew in space on board their ship, The Wayfarer whose purpose it is to tunnel, build and make connections between different parts of the galaxy. They have recently had a new member of staff onto the ship, Rosemary who will play a clerking role alongside the captain, Ashby, the engineering crew Kissy and Jenks, the pilot Sissix, grumpy algae-protector Corbin, the chef and doctor Dr Chef, the ship Artificial Intelligence Lovey and Ohan the navigator. The crew welcome Rosemary into their midst and she quickly becomes part of the family. Then the crew are given an opportunity to make more money with a rather dangerous job near an unstable planet with a potentially hostile alien species. They must pull together and work as a team if they are to complete the mission and maintain their reputation. However, all members of the crew have their own secrets and concerns and not all of them may survive the process in the same shape as when they began.

There’s a multitude of characters in this novel (nine “main” ones in fact)- do not be put off by this, it’s not long at all before you figure out who everyone is and what role they play in the narrative. I honestly don’t think I’ve read a book for a long time where each character is fleshed out so perfectly. Each of them had their own little quirks and foibles and I absolutely loved them for this and, as I mentioned before, felt like I knew them all intimately by the end of the novel. It has the most wonderful mixture of action-packed sequences and slower, more methodical scenes and as I was reading it, I was almost comparing it in my mind to the most expensive and exquisite three course dinner where each course is so delightful it just deserves to be savoured over a longer period of time. One of the best things about this novel was how diverse and unique our protagonists and indeed, the world the author created was. We have a range of different species, sexual preferences, races and ethnic backgrounds living (mostly) in harmony with each other and it was captivating to read about the variety of things that made them special. I would recommend this novel to anybody who is a little bit scared of science fiction and enjoys a terrific character study with a dash of eccentricity. I’ve put the second book in the duology A Closed And Common Orbit on my wishlist already and can’t wait to catch up with this astounding set of characters once more.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

American War – Omar El Akkad

Published September 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war – part of the Miraculous Generation – now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past, his family’s role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.

What did I think?:

First of all, happy publication day to Omar El Akkad and a huge thank you to the lovely people at Pan Macmillan publishers who were kind enough to send me a copy of this stunning and powerful novel in exchange for an honest review. American War is set in the future yet feels ever so timely, especially with the things happening in the world at the moment and I was completely bowled over by how wonderful both the writing and the plot of the novel is. It’s a gritty, no holds barred account of everything that may occur when a country is at war and at times, it was quite an emotional reading experience.

Our narrator for the story is Benjamin Chestnut who is telling the story of his aunt, Sarat Chestnut and her life after war broke out between the South and North factions of America in 2074, initially over the usage of oil which becomes an illegal commodity. Sarat, her mother, twin sister Dana and older brother Simon are forced to leave their home and become refugees at Camp Patience with hundreds of others. From there, Sarat comes of age, survives a horrific incident that decimates part of her family and comes into contact with a gentleman that becomes quite excited about her potential to exact revenge on the perpetrators that ruined her life. This is the story of how war affects one particular family, how a series of traumatic events can change a person for good and how violence and mistrust can have such devastating consequences for an entire population.

This story is almost epic in its outlook. It looks at the characters from a family over a number of decades who have all been subjected to unbelievable suffering. The prospects of this actually happening are not entirely within the realm of fairy tales – I think this is what makes it all the more frightening and poignant to read. Climate change has obliterated many parts of the country, leaving them underwater and America a shadow of her previous mighty self. With the recent floods from Hurricane Harvey still affecting so many lives it is a terrifying thought that the events of this novel may not be as inconceivable as perhaps once thought. The author also provides us with a fascinating character in his main protagonist, Sarat who is ultimately flawed and commits some heinous acts but still managed to elicit my sympathy due to the hardships and the suffering that she had to face. I’m crossing all my fingers for this novel to do really well, personally I think it’s a phenomenal piece of writing and such an important read and I can’t wait for more people to experience it so I can gush about it even more.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0