Paedar O’Guilin – The Call

Nessa and her friends attend Boyle College to train for the most dangerous time of their lives – THE CALL.

Without warning, each one of them will wake in a terrifying land, alone and hunted, with a one-in-ten chance of returning alive.

No one believes Nessa can make it, but she’s determined to prove them all wrong. And she will need every ounce of spirit and courage in order to survive…

The back cover of Paedar O’Guilin’s The Call also has a quote mentioning The Hunger Games and that comparison is apt. I was equally, but differently, bugged out by the dour material that both books deal with. I may not be the intended audience, at 38, but putting teens in a post-apocalyptic world where they have to fight for their lives makes for heavy reading, any way you slice it.  Read More …

Sam J. Miller – Blackfish City

After the climate wars, a floating city was constructed in the Arctic Circle. Once a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, it has started to crumble under the weight of its own decay — crime and corruption have set in, a terrible new disease is coursing untreated through the population, and the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside deepest poverty are spawning unrest.

Into this turmoil comes a strange new visitor — a woman accompanied by an orca and a chained polar bear. She disappears into the crowds looking for someone she lost thirty years ago, followed by the whispers of a vanished people who could bond with animals. Her arrival draws together four people and sparks a chain of events that will lead to unprecedented acts of resistance.

Sam J. Miller wasn’t an unknown name to me when Blackfish City arrived on my doorstep. I’d heard some of his short stories on the Clarkesworld podcast (read by the inimitable Kate Baker) and they were great, so I was excited to read a novel from his hand. And that excitement turned out to be completely justified. Because spoiler alert: I LOVED IT. Blackfish City may be my favourite read of the year thus far. I will try to not gush and fangirl too much, but that might prove hard with this one.  Read More …

Author Query – J.D.G. Perldeiner

jdgperldeiner-havenThe premise for J.D.G. Perldeiner’s Haven was fascinating: a post-apocalyptical story set in a medieval-like society. Unfortunately, due to my evermore threatening TBR-pile — one day it will topple and crush me — I couldn’t commit to reviewing the book, but I did want to highlight it, so I asked whether I could interview J.D.G. and he agreed, even after I made the mortifying mistake of mixing up his initials. (I’m so sorry about that, JD!) Enjoy the interview and do check out Haven if you can.  Read More …

Author Query – Mark Bacci

markbacci-asimplemanSometimes a book comes by and while it sounds quite cool, it’s just not the right moment. Mark Bacci’s A Simple Man is one of those books. I couldn’t commit to a timely review, but I did think some of my readers might be interested in it, especially given the current political situation in the States. Happily, Mark agreed to answer some questions for an Author Query and here we are. I hope you enjoy this interview and check out A Simple ManRead More …

Bryony Pearce – Phoenix Burning

bryonypearce-phoenixburningAs they sail the junk-filled seas, the crew of the Phoenix have just one thing on their mind — the search for the island where they can settle. But their ship is missing a crucial component, so when Ayla appears from enemy ship the Banshee offering to cut a deal, they accept.

Toby and Ayla must infiltrate a sect of sun worshippers, steal the parts they need and get out. But once they’re inside the cult it becomes clear that the price of failure is high … and leaving is far from easy.

Their only chance of survival is to work together. But can Toby trust Ayla?

Phoenix Burning is the second entry in Bryony Pearce’s Phoenix duology, following after last year’s Phoenix Rising. I really enjoyed Phoenix Rising and I remained firmly #BansheeCrew after finishing it, much to my own surprise really. As such I was really looking forward to Phoenix Burning to see whether what came next would change my stance and of course to see what would be next for Toby and Ayla.  Read More …

Elaine Dimopoulos – Material Girls

elainedimopoulos-materialgirlsIn Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls are pawns in a calculated but seductive system of corporate control, and both begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption. Will their new “eco-chic” trend subversively resist and overturn the industry that controls every part of their lives?

Smart, provocative, and entertaining, this thrilling page-turner for teens questions the cult like mentality of fame and fashion. Are you in or are you out?

When Elaine Dimopoulos’s Material Girls came up as a Read Now title on Netgalley, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and read it. Even if the blurb seemed to indicate it was a YA dystopian novel, which I usually enjoy, for some reason I dithered and it was hard to put my finger on what exactly caused this. So what convinced me in the end? The tag line, as I love Project Runway. Sometimes decisions are as shallow as that. Why tell you about the decision process here? Because that ambivalence has marked my entire process with this book; I’ve kept going back and forth on what I thought about the book. Did I like the characters? Was the plot interesting or bland? Did I enjoy the world building or was it too far-fetched to work? The answer changed again and again. I still don’t have any definitive answers. I certainly found it confusing but also interesting enough, because I never once considered not finishing it.

Spoilers beyond the cut.  Read More …

Bryony Pearce – Phoenix Rising

bryonypearce-phoenixrisingSail. Salvage. Survive. 

Toby’s father is a wanted man. For as long as Toby can remember, they’ve been on the run. The Phoenix has become their home, their backyard the junk-filled seas surrounding it. 

The crew of the Banshee lives for hunting down the Phoenix and now they’re closing in. Ayla has spent her whole life fighting – preparing for the moment when the Banshee will face its ultimate enemy. 

But Toby doesn’t want to run any more and Ayla is his only hope. Can he turn an old feud into a new alliance? 

The future is in their hands. 

Bryony Pearce’s last book, The Weight of Souls was one I enjoyed tremendously, so I was looking forward to reading her next book. What made Phoenix Rising even more interesting was that it is a departure from what Pearce has written previously; both Angel’s Fury and The Weight of Souls were supernatural YA stories, where Phoenix Rising is very much a dystopian narrative. The future Pearce evokes for us is bleak and its causes are frighteningly plausible.  Read More …

Sarah Pinborough – The Death House

sarahpinborough-thedeathhouseToby’s life was perfectly normal… until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House: an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It’s how you choose to live that counts.

Sarah Pinborough is not only one of the more prolific British SFF writers, she’s also a very varied writer who switches between sub-genres with remarkable ease. Fantasy, racy fairytale retellings, science fiction, YA, she writes it all. When I heard about The Death House I was immediately intrigued. A dystopian YA story set at a boarding school from which no student ever graduates, it sounded but creepy and fascinating. Because why are they there and what is this disease that condemns them to be inmates of The Death House? Pinborough gives us some of the answers, but mostly she delivers an exquisite exploration of life and love in the face of death.  Read More …

Alex Campbell – Land

alexcampbell-landThe sea rose. Civilisation drowned. Land became our saviour.

Seventeen-year-old Christy knows that life is a set of rules, and rules are inherent to survival. The rules of Land decide what colour clothes you must wear. What job you must do. How much food you can eat. Where you can live. How long you can live for.

Rules are not there to be broken. Not in Land.

So when an unexpected path is laid out for Christy, she quickly realises that taking it will have extreme repercussions. This new life – one of danger, that of rebel, spy, lover and assassin – will mean choosing death.

What initially drew me to Alex Campbell’s debut Land was its setting. Land is set in the closed community of Land, a walled-off island somewhere in Europe, surrounded by water after the majority of earth has been submerged by a major flood. Living in a country where much of the land was hard-won from the water and where dikes and dams are what keep our feet dry in the western part of the country, this is a catastrophe that is very much a real probability, even if most likely on a smaller scale. As such, Land’s setting intrigued me and I was curious to see how Campbell would use it to create her dystopian society.  Read More …

Laure Eve – Fearsome Dreamer

laureeve-fearsomedreamerIn the world of FEARSOME DREAMER, England has become Angle Tar – a technophobic and fiercely independent country holding its own against the mass of other nations that is World. Rue is an apprenticed hedge witch in rural Angle Tar, but she knows she is destined for greater things. After being whisked off to the city by the enigmatic Frith, Rue becomes the student of White, a young Worlder with a Talent that is much in demand: White is no ordinary Dreamer – but then neither is Rue. Both can physically ‘jump’ to different places when they dream – and both have more power than they know.

Rue and White find themselves electrically attracted to each other – but who is the mysterious silver-eyed boy stalking Rue’s dreams? And why is he so interested in her relationship with White? Is Rue about to discover just how devastatingly real dreams can be…?

Fearsome Dreamer has been on my radar ever since I first learned it was to be published. I was lucky enough to grab a copy and get it signed by its author, Laure Eve, at WFC in Brighton last year, but as so many books that I got at WFC it landed on my TBR-pile, to remain there until this month. With the sequel The Illusionists out next month, I decided it was high time to finally read Fearsome Dreamer. And I’m glad I did. While Eve’s debut novel wasn’t perfect, its world-building was intriguing and its characters satisfyingly complex.  Read More …