Rosie Reviews: Yesterday by Felicia Yap

Yesterday

Title: Yesterday

Author: Felicia Yap

Publisher: Headline

Genre: Mystery & Thriller

Source: NetGalley

Review

Yesterday by Felicia Yap was just the novel I needed to break me out of a reading slump. The concept was refreshing, fascinating and added whole layers to the story while the characters were deplorable yet you ended up rooting for them regardless.

It is a thriller, set in world divided in two: those who can remember the day before (Monos) and those who can remember two days before (Duos). Due to their limited memories, the Monos tend to be treated as second-class citizens and marriage between Monos and Duos are both rare and frowned upon. As well as this, people can only remember their lives by writing ‘facts’ down in their journals, to be gone through the following morning. Add a murder to the mix and you have the recipe for a compelling novel about memory, society, fact and fiction.

There are four principal characters in Yesterday, all of which have their own point of view. Mark is a famous Duo novelist running for a political seat whose position stems heavily on his advocacy of mixed Mono-Duo marriages, being in one himself. Unfortunately, his Mono wife, Claire, feels inferior to him and unhappy in their marriage as a result of their memory differences. Enter Sophia, a woman who has just been released from an asylum after 17 years, who claims to have full memory capacity and blames Mark and Claire for ruining her life. Finally, we have Hans who is the detective tasked with solving the central murder of the novel, and whose whole career rests on the fact everyone thinks he is a Duo when, in fact, he is a Mono. This combination of characters makes for an intriguing cast, with conflict, emotion and revelations appearing in nearly all their interactions.

All in all, despite the characters and the intrigue surrounding the central mystery, what really drew me into this novel were the questions it raised around fact vs. memory. Hans, being a Mono, must solve the case in one day in order to be fully aware of all the facts. These facts, however, are mostly defined by what other characters have written down, and people could write down anything. The inability to remember gives people license to change the past but also allows that past to be taken away from them.

The novel itself isn’t perfect. The society is difficult to get your head around and the characters are very difficult to like. I also didn’t enjoy the ending and, if I were to read this novel again, I will probably stop reading before the epilogue, which just felt a little bit unnecessary and added a reasonable amount of confusion when it should have been rounding everything off. However, the writing and concept of this novel did capture my attention and, ultimately, Yesterday was the perfect novel for helping me to get back into reading.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33140164-yesterday

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Yesterday-Felicia-Yap/9781472242228?a_aid=rosienreads

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Rosie Reviews: The Border by Steve Schafer

The Border

Title: The Border

Author: Steve Schafer

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult

Source: NetGalley

Review

With Trump’s proclamation of building a wall between America and Mexico, and the general anti-immigrant climate occurring across the world, The Border by Steve Schafer is incredibly pertinent. It follows four Mexican children who, following the brutal murder of their families and while hunted by the perpetrators, must make the treacherous journey to the one place that they can find safety – the United States.

Lots of facts and figures about immigration and refugees are being thrown around in the media today, so the shift of focus to a more personal (albeit fictional) story is refreshing. The four main characters are forced to cross the deadly Sonoran Desert, with very little in the way of money and supplies. The Border allows you to join their journey, from the very incident which sets it off, all the way to the conclusion. It explores the different techniques they try to survive, details the many hardships they endure while still retaining a focus on who they are as people.

That being said, for a novel which is primarily about these four people’s experiences, I did find it difficult to connect with them and, after reading, I can only remember two of the characters names (Gladys, the sole female character, and Marcos, whose character felt the most well-formed). The main narrator, unfortunately, was quite passive and served more as a conduit for the reader than as a character in and of himself. While the personalities were not as fully fleshed out, their experiences were poignant and you couldn’t help but feel for them when the going got particularly tough.

For me, at least, the book did a good job of highlighting the struggles of escaping across the desert for an uncertain safety on the other side. It was well paced, balancing out the slower and more expansive parts of the novel with sections of action and gun-fire. While the characters did not stand out particularly to me, their plight did catch my attention and, while I have fortunately never been in their situation, I could really visualize what they were going through. While not an own voices novel, it did feel like Schafer had done his research and I do recommend this novel to anyone who is in any way interested in the topic at hand.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29542264-the-border

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Border-Steve-Schafer/9781492646839/?a_aid=rosienreads

Rosie Reviews: Magpie’s Song by Allison Pang

Magpie's Song

Title: Magpie’s Song

Author: Allison Pang

Publisher: Indie

Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Magpie’s Song is a fun, steampunk-esque novel about a girl with a clockwork heart who finds a dragon. In this novel, Allison Pang creates a world plagued by a mysterious rot to which only the even more mysterious moon children are immune. The girl with a clockwork heart is one such moon child. Raggy Maggy, orphaned and defined by her distinctive white hair, is a member of the Banshee clan, forced to scavenge for snacks in order to survive. The discovery of a metal dragon in the scrapheap, however, leads Maggy down a road of conspiracy, discovery and betrayal.

The novel itself is the first in a series and, as such, it involves a lot of world-building. We, as readers, are introduced to the social structure, the impenetrable meridian and those that live in its shadow. Unfortunately, this set up means that it does take a good two-thirds of the book before the main story kicks off. That being said, a lot does happen during those first parts, helping to set up the novel with action as well as description; as Maggy is forced from her normal, everyday life into playing a part for plan we’ve only seen the surface of.

Nothing feels completely safe and plenty of questions are asked, some of which are answered but some we will have to wait for the sequels. What is particularly interesting is the mystery which revolves around Raggy Maggy; the mystery of where she comes from and the reason for her clockwork heart.

Maggy, as our lead character, is reckless and also prone to mistakes, but she also has a heart. These traits make her an endearing lead. It is strongly implied, but never actually stated, that she is bi- or pan-sexual (and, indeed, there are a few diverse characters in this book). Those she teams up with are also quite distinct: Ghost, who lives up to his name; Lucian, the careful doctor with a hidden side and Molly, the harsh brothel-owner and scrap-dealer. Each contributes to the novel in their own way and each feels integral to the plot.

This novel does have a dark side, one with death, torture and hopelessness, but Pang handles it well, keeping the novel’s heart even when things take a turn for the worse. As such, it can be enjoyed by people of most ages (although it is more orientated towards teens); the writing is easy to understand and helps the story flow. If you enjoy steampunk novels with action, mystery and compelling characters, then you may enjoy this book too.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35428398-magpie-s-song

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Magpies-Song-Pang-Allison/9780998534312/?a_aid=rosienreads

Rosie Reviews: Darien by C.F. Iggulden

Darien

Title: Darien

Author: C. F. Iggulden

Publisher: Michael Joseph

Genre: Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Summary

C.F. Iggulden is a well-known historical fiction author; Darien is his first foray into fantasy. It revolves around the city of Darien, where powerful magic is a thing of the past but remnants remain in objects and as knacks in a few select people. The novel follows a number of these gifted people as they all converge on the city for Reaper’s Eve. By morning, everything has changed.

Plot

The novel follows multiple point of view characters, and so covers a wide range of plots and sub-plots. Ultimately, however, all the threads come together to shake the foundations of Darien’s ruling class. It is a novel in two parts and, ultimately, I much preferred the first part of the novel and felt it could have ended when part one ended. The first part is, admittedly, slow in places, but it does a brilliant job of capturing the magic of the world and introducing the characters, all the while building to the climactic scene where all the threads come together. The second part, unfortunately, just did not work for me – by the time I got to it, it felt like the novel was nearly over. Instead, I was  to embark into another extended climactic scene. It almost felt like it could have been a sequel if expanded slightly.

Characters

As I’ve mentioned, the first part of the novel does a brilliant job of introducing the characters. Of them all, Elias and Nancy stood out to me as the most interesting, two sides of a coin. One only wanted to save his family while the other was purely motivated by revenge. Unfortunately, once the novel hit the half-way mark, I felt like the characters lost a little bit of what made them special in order to allow the more battle-filled scenes to occur. The two female characters, while brilliantly crafted, were also subjected to romances which felt both forced and sprung out of nowhere.

World/Setting

That being said, Iggulden’s experience with historical fiction has led to creation of a world which feels deep-rooted in the novel as well as our own world. I felt I was present in the novel from the beginning, experiencing everything alongside the characters. The set-up of the city felt like you could walk the streets. The only trouble I could find with this was that Darien is supposedly the heart of an empire, yet it felt more like an individual, solitary city than an empire. Even so, it was a city which jumped off the page and I have a feeling that we will see more of the empire in future books.

Final Thoughts

While it is not going to a be a favourite book of mine, I did enjoy Darien. It captured a world built on magic, but where only remnants survive. It introduced me to a number of intriguing characters. It’s also a novel with spectacular writing style – Iggulden can write incredibly well. The novel wasn’t perfect and I was not particularly hooked throughout but I think there is enough in it to make me curious to read the next book in the series.

Darien is out now.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33245839-darien

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Darien-C-F-Iggulden/9780718186463?a_aid=rosienreads

Rosie Reviews: The Fire Sermon series (Books 1 and 2) by Francesca Haig

It is a rare thing for me to read a sequel immediately after finishing a book; normally, I like a break, a chance to take a breath, before continuing on with the adventure. For this series, however, the second book was in my hands within seconds of the final page of the first being turned. That series is The Fire Sermon series by Francesca Haig.

I actually first got my hands on the series about a year ago; I bought the first one and received an arc of the sequel for free at YALC last year. That being said, it’s taken me a year to read them and, with the finale out now, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

The Fire Sermon is set in a world obliterated by fire, implied to be nuclear warfare. Technology is a thing of the past and only twins are born. Of these twins, the Alpha twin is perfect yet the other, the Omega, receives the brunt of radiation damage, being born with anything from an extra arm to missing limbs. Alphas rule while Omega’s live in abject poverty. Despite this, their lives are intrinsically connected – when one dies, so does the other.

Cass, the series’ main character, is born an Omega. Yet, her imperfection is mental rather than physical – Cass is plagued by visions of the blast that destroyed the world, but within that are also visions of the future. These visions guide her as she embarks on a journey to find her own freedom, but ultimately being caught up in something which could see the past repeat itself.

Everything about this series has worked for me so far. Even from the very first pages I was captivated, thinking about the story and everything it entails even when I was not reading. What I particularly enjoyed about the book is that, while it explores so many themes that are so applicable to today’s society, it does so in a way that you don’t realise that’s what it is doing – the themes are perfectly woven into the story.

Haig’s writing melds the story, the characters and the ideas together beautifully, creating a story that requires no thought to get into but will keep your mind active from the moment you’re sucked in. The balance between action and breathers allows you to read without being overwhelmed by all that is going on and the characters are really enjoyable to read (even those which aren’t particularly pleasant).

There is also a fair amount of diversity, particularly with regards to physical disabilities, and, as far as I can tell, these are handled well. The Omegas are shown to be able to function just as well as the Alphas (if not better in some cases), and their disabilities are just facets of who they are rather than a defining characteristic. The book does fall down with regards to mental disabilities; the only one we see is Cass’ ability to see the future, which is not something we see in the real world. That being said, there is an interesting dialogue with regards to Cass’ struggles with fitting in due to her ‘defect’ being invisible rather than physical. The novel also includes prominent PoC characters, and a lesbian character (although, be warned, The Map of Bones does suffer from the dead lesbian trope, albeit this part of the story line is paralleled with a straight character).

On the whole, the first two novels in the series were just what I needed to read when I read them. They got me thinking while also bringing me into a story and world I was properly invested in. I fell in love with the characters, and the book just made me desperate to find out what happened to them. Unfortunately, I have yet to read the first – while the hardback of the third book, The Forever Ship, is available, I am currently on a book-buying ban and I would rather get the book in paperback to match the first two (that being said, the paperback comes out in January 2018 – I’m not sure I can wait that long!).

I definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a good dystopian, realistic characters and a thought-provoking read.

The entire trilogy is out now!

The Fire Sermon rating (4.5/5): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18109771-the-fire-sermon

The Map of Bones (5/5): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26174866-the-map-of-bones

The Forever Ship: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35519886-the-forever-ship

 

 

 

Rosie Reviews: Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson by Richard Patterson

Jack the Ripper

Title: Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson

Author: Richard Patterson

Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Goodreads First Reads

Review

Most of us have heard of Jack the Ripper – the almost demonic presence which haunted London in 1888. Jack the Ripper was someone who was never caught, but speculation over their identity remains to this day, capturing the attention of countless, some even devoting their lives to the mystery. In this book, Richard Patterson introduces a new suspect into the fold, building on an article published by Dr. Rupp who first suggested this person in an article on the centenary of the murders in 1988.

Francis Thompson was born into a Catholic family, the son of a doctor, who failed to get into priesthood and went through Medical school 3 times, but failed to be become a doctor himself. Before long, he was addicted to laudanum and living on the streets of London. He was destitute, living with a prostitute. That is, until he came to the attention of the Meynells, publishers to whom he had submitted some essays and poetry. Mid-1888, on discovering Francis’ work published by them, the prostitute ended their relationship and disappeared. In the period of the Jack the Ripper murders, Francis is living in Whitechapel, searching for this prostitute. A few days after the final murder, he is admitted to hospital before being sent to an all-male hospice.

In Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson, the author examines each piece of evidence, from aspects of Francis Thompson’s life to the words in his poetry. The case he presents is commendable and compelling, although relies heavily on circumstantial evidence. While the who and the opportunity is heavily explored and fairly convincing, where the book falls flat is the motive. Patterson does try to explore why Thompson might have become the Ripper, but none of the possible motives felt particularly convincing to me.

That being said, the book is thorough in what it contains, examining different facets of the theory and backing up hypotheses with evidence, albeit that evidence mostly coming in the form of poetry. Regular summaries are provided, so you gradually get a build-up of the various layers in the tale that Patterson is trying to get across. It is an interesting read and, while I was note entirely convinced, it is certainly a book for anyone interested in the mystery that is Jack the Ripper.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34385855-jack-the-ripper-the-works-of-francis-thompson

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Jack-the-Ripper-the-Works-of-Francis-Thompson-Richard–Patterson/9781786934499?a_aid=rosienreads

Rosie Reviews: Godblind by Anna Stephens

Godblind

Title: Godblind

Author: Anna Stephens

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Summary

Intense, captivating and powerful; Godblind is the fantastic debut fantasy from author Anna Stephens. It is a novel that is filled to the brim with war, political intrigue and gods, capturing a number of different themes from free will to feminism, but all within the threads of the novel. It is set in a world where the Red Gods have been exiled and their people cast out, but now revenge is on the horizon and no-one can escape the call of the Gods.

Plot

I will admit, I really was not sure about this book when I began. The contents page told me that it would be told from a large number of character perspectives. The first page was full of so much world-building, it was near-impossible to take in. Yet, once the book got going, the daunting beginning turned into something which took you elsewhere, to the world within the pages. The multiple points of view worked well in creating a rounded narrative which both increased the intensity of the story and showed how a war can be fought on multiple fronts, with multiple perspectives.

My main gripe with the novel was the pacing, or rather the effect the pacing had on my reading experience. The pacing itself was perfect – it kept the novel moving and successfully navigated the balance between action and breathers. However, it also convinced me that I was reading a stand-alone novel. So much happened and it felt like Godblind was rounding up to a brilliant conclusion, and then the cliff-hangers began. This novel is not, as I first thought, a stand-alone fantasy novel, but rather the first in a series. The series, I have no doubt, will be brilliant, but it was such a frustrating ending to have gone through so much with the characters and then not have any conclusion at the end.

Characters

As I mentioned, this book features a lot of characters, both POV and secondary characters. This did concern me when I first started as I find that having too many character perspectives can be confusing and a bit of a turn off but Anna Stephens handles this beautifully. Each one has their own story-line, but at no point does it ever feel like the characters are there for no reason. Everything is inter-connected and every character feels integral to the plot. I also particularly enjoyed how even the more villainous characters got their own perspective, showing their motivations and how there are not just two sides to the war.

The Gods themselves are particularly intriguing. We only really see the Dark Lady in close detail, but it was fascinating to see her bring all her pieces into play, in her attempt to achieve her goals. The Gods’ interactions with the other characters was interesting to read, particularly as it made you question who really was in control at times.

World/Setting

The world in this book is phenomenal. Despite a rough start of intense world-building, it settles down quite quickly and the world begins to gradually rise around you as you read. The different character perspectives allow you to see a large number of different places and lifestyles of the world Anna Stephens has created and it is a fascinating one.

The cultures for both the Rilporians and the Mireces are well established, especially how their cultures have been built up around the traits of their gods. The interaction between the Gods and the mortals also added another layer to the novel, particularly with the similarities and differences between the worship of the Red Gods and the Rilporian Gods. I just wish I’d had a map, just to be able to better picture the distances and where the towns and cities were in relation to one another.

Final Thoughts

If you are to read any fantasy novel this year, this should be near the top of your list. It was unlike any fantasy book I’ve read recently and stood out to me both in story and writing. I do wish I had known it was the first in a series when I was reading it as the ended was a bit disappointing for me, especially since I’m going to have to wait so long for the sequel, but everything else worked brilliantly. Godblind is a fantastic novel and a remarkable debut.

Godblind will be released on the 15th June 2017.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32072924-godblind

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Godblind-Ann-Stephens/9781945863066?a=aidrosienreads