Melinda Snodgrass: In Evil Times

Relevant posts: The High Ground

In Evil Times Cover

I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Scholarship student Thracius “Tracy” Belmanor and Princess Mercedes de Arango have graduated from the High Ground and becomes officers in the Orden de la Estrella. Stung by Mercedes’ choice of Beauregard “Boho” Cullen as her consort, Tracy is glad that they are posted on battleships light years apart, but soon finds that without her protection he is nothing but a target. Meanwhile, Mercedes’ posting has its own challenges, not least her unfaithful husband.

Both young officers find themselves part of forces “assimilations” of settlers on Hidden Worlds, which lead them to doubt the intentions of the Solar League. And when Tracy witnesses an horrific event that threatens the fragile human and alien peace, Mercedes must decide where her loyalties truly lie. . .

The second novel in The Imperial Saga, In Evil Times focuses on Tracy Belmanor and Princess Mercedes de Arango a few years after the events of The High Ground, with both now having graduated from the military school. No longer working alongside Mercedes, Tracy begins to understand how much her position helped him to progress as his station and class are frequently used against him by those far better off than him, not taking into consideration his sacrifices and skills from the High Ground. As both of them work their way through their time aboard their respective battleships, they both become embroiled in situations that could greatly affect the relationships between humans and aliens.

Tracy and Mercedes have come far since the incident within the High Ground, both graduating exceptionally well and being stationed aboard battleships that become part of the action. However, it becomes clear that the relationship between the two has drastically changed since the ending of The High Ground – something that we began to see towards the end of that novel but becomes the backbone of their relationship within In Evil Times. What used to be a relationship that flourished off of each individual, has now become one of animosity and, in some respects, hatred due to their differences and the way events have panned out. In Evil Times found my stance towards Tracy drastically changing. I thoroughly enjoyed him as a character in The High Ground and really grew to like him however, as In Evil Times progressed and Tracy’s lower class background comes back to bite him around every corner, you begin to see his characteristics change – and not for the better. This change in personality really altered my perceptions of him, but highlighted how far Tracy had fallen and been affected by everything around him since his graduation. As well as that, the way in which Mercedes responds to Tracy and his actions – though clearly understandable due to her formidable position as the heir to the Solar League – really makes you question whether their friendship can be repaired, or if it has gone too far.

Snodgrass branches out within In Evil Times by bringing in issues that we had not previously seen such as the Hidden Worlds, and finally bringing in scenes and issues regarding the much mentioned Cara’ot genetic manipulation. With these situations being brought into the story, we begin to gain a better understanding of the Solar League and how they run, as well as why people have gone/will go against them from time to time. It also brings up the question of right and wrong, what should be covered up, and what should be revealed as things begin to unravel and spiral out of control. As well as this, we also get to gain an understanding of life aboard the battleships and how rules and guidelines are frequently gone against, as well as the camaraderie between the officers.

I definitely feel like In Evil Times developed exceptionally on events within The High Ground, though I do find myself slightly annoyed at the way in which Tracy declines and how that makes me feel towards him – though I can understand the reasoning behind it. The writing style has definitely improved since the first novel and certainly brings in issues and world-building elements that helped to greatly enhance the narrative and progress it forward. It is definitely one to read if you are into military sci-fi and looking for something a bit different.


Nina Allan: The Rift

Relevant posts: The Race

The Rift Cover

I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Selena and Julie are sisters. As children they were closest companions, but as they grow towards maturity, a rift develops between them.

There are greater rifts, however, Julie goes missing at the age of seventeen. It will be twenty years before Selena sees her again. When Julie reappears, she tells Selena an incredible story about how she has spent time on another planet. Selena has an impossible choice to make: does she dismiss her sister as a damaged person, the victim of delusions, or believe her, and risk her own sanity in the process? Is Julie really who she says she is, and if she isn’t, what does she have to gain by claiming her sister’s identity?

A work of literary science fiction, The Rift is Nina Allan’s new standalone novel that raises the question of identity and mental health when Selena’s sister, Julie, walks back into her life making claims that she has been living on another planet. After twenty years, Selena begins to feel a wave of emotions and finds herself questioning everything she has been told.

Having read Nina Allan’s The Race, I was just a tad skeptical about this novel. I didn’t particular enjoy The Race and had fears that the same issues I had had before, would transfer over. However, it is clear that Allan’s writing and ability to progress a coherent and continual narrative has vastly improved since The Race. The Rift was a novel that had continuity and everything connected to something else, whereas The Race was a novel that I couldn’t find links with and found that the novel jumped all over the place. One issue I did have with The Rift, was the character of Julie following her return. There wasn’t a lot of time spent trying to fully clarify who she was which I found to frustrate me, even at the end of the novel when things begin to become resolved. Selena only properly questions her once with a “question” that only Julie would know – a question that didn’t really hold much weight for me. Because of this, I found that there was something truly missing until towards the end of the novel with the resolution, though it wasn’t fully filled.

As characters, I found Selena to be more understandable and someone I could relate to. I felt that Allan focused more on her emotions and actions as opposed to Julie, which could explain why I felt like something was missing in that I didn’t feel like we truly got to know Julie in the present – more in the past.

Overall, The Rift was an okay novel that I was interested in. However, having tried to write this review, there isn’t anything that really stands out about it. The plot didn’t wow me, the characters weren’t full of realistic emotion, and the resolution at the end didn’t particularly interest me. It’s been really hard to write this review which is why it is quite small, and there isn’t a lot to go on. The Rift is definitely mediocre, and I don’t think that I will be reading Allan’s work again.

RE-READ; Robert Jordan: The Eye of the World

Eye of the World Cover

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again.

What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under Shadow.

The Eye of the World is the first in an epic fantasy series by fantasy writer Robert Jordan. Spanning fourteen books, The Wheel of Time series follows a group of men and women from a country town as they become the future of the world. The pattern (the way in which the world weaves and changes) has brought them all together, bestowing upon them skills that will help, or hinder them, in defeating the Dark One whose goal is to shroud the world in shadow. In the Eye of the World, we meet these characters for the first time and begin to understand the seriousness of the situation regarding the Dark One, as well as what skills each character possesses.

The Eye of the World was a re-read for me. I first read this series a good eight or so years ago and, though I did thoroughly enjoy the series, I believe that – at that age – I didn’t take in as much as I did this time around. The Wheel of Time series is definitely not for the faint of heart; with its fourteen books all around 700-1000 pages long and filled with a vast array of characters both good and evil, the Wheel of Time is a series that will take up much of your time.

Over the course of my re-read I got to know the characters all over again and fell in love with them more than I did before. I understood the characters better and noticed things I never noticed before, and remembered scenes that I had forgotten before. The series is definitely not for someone who cannot stand characters walking for long periods of time within the book, as you can go whole chapters where the characters are walking between villages and towns – though still with some sort of conflict or issue following them the whole way.

The Eye of the World really sets up the series, introducing you to the magic system, the differences between good/evil, men/women in this world. All of the characters rub off the other whether it be in a good or bad way, though they all begin to understand that one cannot go on without the rest and that, no matter what separates them, they will always make their way back to each other. It is definitely a long-winded read and I found myself questioning my sanity so many times at deciding to re-read such an epic tome. However, Robert Jordan is a brilliant writer bringing to life creatures you had never seen before, introducing a magic system that has its faults, and perfectly embodying each character in the writing – you can’t help but have your favourites!

Ian McDonald: Luna, Wolf Moon

Relevant posts: Luna, New Moon

Luna Wolf Moon Cover

I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Corta Helio, one of the five family corporations that rule the Moon, has fallen. Its riches are divided up among its many enemies, its survivors scattered.

Two Helio children are under the protection of the powerful Asamoahs. One, still reeling from witnessing his parents’ violent deaths, is now a ward of Mackenzie Metals. And the last appointed heir, Lucas, has vanished.

Only one person suspects that Lucas Corta is not dead, and – more to the point – that he is still a major player in the game. Lucas would go to any lengths to build a new Corta Helio But he needs allies, and to find them must undertake an audacious, impossible journey – to Earth.

And while he schemes, the families erupt into outright war.

Luna, Wolf Moon is the second in the Luna series by Ian McDonald that follows the lives of five major families that live on and dominate the society, politics, and culture of the moon. After the annihilation and destruction of the Corta Helio empire, Wolf Moon centres on the remaining Corta family members as they attempt to rise out of the ashes and rebuild their name and empire. As each family member, and those of the other families, experience their own tragedies, ups and downs, the moon finds itself in amongst a war that seems to appear out of nowhere.

After the constant pounding dealt each other houses in New Moon, Wolf Moon could be described as the calm before the storm as we focus on scheming and tying up unsightly loose ends. We still see our fair share of assassinations, deaths, and family feuds but this novel definitely doesn’t have as much of a punch as the first novel.

With the events of the first novel carrying on into Wolf Moon, it was interesting to find out more about the Earth-based Cortas who still survive on the surface. As Moon and Earth Cortas meet we begin to see the similarities and differences between the two sides, as well as gaining an understanding of the consequences imposed upon Luna bodies when they attempt to live upon Earth for even a short space of time. Wolf Moon helps us to understand the areas of their society that we may not have fully understood from the first novel, such as those mentioned.

Being the second novel, it is hard for me to write a long and drawn out review without ruining a lot of the first and current novels. It definitely wasn’t as fast-paced and interesting as the first novel – which is understandable. However, it is definitely a filler novel that helps to progress the novel forward and bring key players to the forefront of the war between the families.

Hannah Jayne: The Revenge

The Revenge Cover

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Break ups can be messy. After his ex-girlfriend Hope embarrasses him in front of the entire school, Tony wants revenge. So he signs her up for online dating sites, subscriptions, and even makes the location of her phone public. And it works. A few days later, Hope calls begging Tony to stop the prank. Then Hope screams and a car door slams. The call drops.

Tony tries to keep cool. It’s just like Hope to get back at him with more drama. But when Hope isn’t at school the next day, Tony knows the joke has gone too far-and he may have lead a predator right to his ex’s door. Can Tony find Hope and save her before it’s too late for both of them?

The Revenge is a young adult, mystery/thriller that sees popular high-school student Hope suddenly go missing. All signs point to her ex-boyfriend, Tony who – following the split from Hope – was humiliated by her and, in an act of revenge, shared all of her personal information online. As a harmless “prank” by both parties escalates, Tony begins to realise that things are getting out of hand. Can he save Hope before it is too late?

I would like to start this post by saying that, yes – I have seen all the comments regarding doxxing and posting personal information online. There is a lot of hate towards this novel because of this. However, as I have seen one reviewer state, this is a fact of life and does happen – even at this stage in life. I am sure we have all gone through, or know someone that has gone through, something similar to this, or been “pranked” in a way that has been extreme. Everyone is always calling for teen/YA novels to focus on topics that seem to be skimmed over and focused more heavily in NA and AF, and this is no exception! This is my opinion. I would also like to state that, before reading this novel, I was not aware of any of these issues that had been brought up via Twitter.

The Revenge was a novel that stood out to me for its premise as well as the cover design. I am always looking for new mysteries/thrillers and feel that there are not very many in the Young Adult market. I appreciate that Hannah Jayne has taken a topic and put it into a real life situation, showing how a so-called “harmless prank” for petty revenge during high school can escalate quickly and result in more serious consequences. However, I did feel that the novel was extremely lacking in progression, character development/relatability, and how the characters themselves reacted to these circumstances.

When Hope appears to disappear of the radar, I really had a feeling that something bad had happened to her. I could understand how Tony was reacting by the description of Hope we had already received; someone that runs hot and cold, changes her emotions at any moment, one second you’re her best friend and the next you’re her worst enemy. However, when it turned out that it truly was just a revenge prank that seemed so typical of Hope – I was sorely disappointed. That is until later in the novel. I felt that the progression of the events that happened to Hope and how Tony tried to fix things was stagnate throughout. The side-characters that were involved within the situation or were a part of each persons life added to this through their lack of sympathy, inability to put themselves into action searching for Hope, and the way in which – even those closest to them such as friends and family – did not believe the truth of the matter, particularly in Tony’s case. I found this frustrating and extremely unrealistic to believe that Tony’s own family would turn away from him in disappointment purely from the hearsay of the media. In a realistic scenario, they would believe him to the best of their abilities and be there to comfort him and understand what he has/hasn’t done as opposed to leaving the room as soon as he entered.

It is from this that I found the character development and my ability to relate to them to be lacking. Yes, each of the high-school characters is a stereotypical high-school trope. But it is plain to see that they are all acting out a part. Even Tony doesn’t seem to show any true development until towards the end of the novel when events become crystal clear to him and he realises the seriousness of the situation. I found the fame aspect of Hope and her parents to be completely unrealistic as well, which added to me not being able to relate to Hope in any way. As well as this, even the police within this narrative were assholes and didn’t listen to Tony’s side of the story!

Finally, the ending, dare I say it, was shit! I clicked onto the next page on my Kindle and boom(!), acknowledgements. There was no resolution. There were just more questions and answers. You don’t get to find out if Hope made it back to her family, you don’t get to find out if Tony got convicted of kidnapping and homicide, you don’t get to find out what happens to the other characters that I don’t want to mention without spoiling the novel. It ended so abruptly and I don’t feel like there is even a second novel to continue on from that ending.

With that being said, The Revenge was a quick and easy read with the only good point being its premise. I was sorely disappointed in every other aspect of the novel and I will not recommend this to anyone.

Fiona Barton: The Child

Relevant posts: The Widow


I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers, it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.

For another, it’s the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

The child’s story will be told.

The Child is Fiona Barton’s second novel, another psychological thriller that sees the return of journalist Kate Waters who pops up within The Widow. In this novel, Kate comes across a small piece in the newspaper about a baby found buried underneath a building site. Using her journalistic instincts, Kate believes that there might be something more to this story and sets out to pursue the truth of who this baby really is. Little does she know how deep the investigation will go, and the lies and secrets that will be uncovered because of her digging.

I wasn’t initially aware that Fiona had another novel coming out but, when the publishers from Penguin Random House emailed me about their upcoming release having read my review of The Widow, I couldn’t turn it down. The Child is definitely a step up from The Widow and sees Fiona weave a tale that is more intricate, deep, dark, and – in some places – twisted. There is a lot going on within this novel and it throws a lot of questions at you. I felt that The Child was a far stronger novel than The Widow and it is clear to see in the progression of this investigation and how secure the plot of this novel is. There were no loose threads and everything connected perfectly.

In The Child we focus primarily on three main characters: Kate Waters, Emma Massingham, and Angelia Irving. All three characters are, in some way, connected to the buried baby at the building site. Fiona presents the novel through each characters perspective, sometimes retelling the same event through two people in order to understand the emotions and actions of the people involved. Kate is ready for her next big scoop having lost momentum from disclosing the story seen in The Widow. She is a workaholic who knows how to push peoples buttons to get what she wants and get the answers that she needs. Emma is an anxious woman who is a bit unsure of herself. As the novel progresses we begin to understand that this stems from her childhood and the terrible upbringing that she had. When news breaks out about the baby, she becomes flustered, anxious, and concerned for herself and the secrets she keeps. Angela is a woman wracked by grief following the disappearance of her baby from the maternity ward when she first gave birth. Ever since she has not given up hope that her long lost child is out there somewhere and just wants to know the truth – whether she is alive or dead. She is a paranoid and anxious woman who sees the worst in what she is told and finds it hard to look on the bright side.

The Child is a brilliantly written psychological thriller that really shows how Fiona Barton’s writing has progressed and her ability to build upon narrative strands has grown. It was an absorbing and gripping novel that had some dark moments and really highlights how easily it is to hide something directly under someone else’s nose. The novel progresses nicely with no deviation from the endgame and each character develops from the events that take place, growing stronger, determined, and more sure of themselves. Fiona Barton is fast becoming an auto-buy author and I cannot wait to see what dark, twisted story she will throw at us next.

Bob Collopy: The Phoenix Cycle

*Please note that this book at the time of reading was in beta and has since then been updated this to information provided by other reviewers. The finished copy will differ from what I have read.

The Phoenix Cycle Cover

I received a free digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

New San Francisco is the last city standing on a world ravaged by storms of ash and debris. The city survived by putting the ideals of the American dream on steroids and inspiring its people to persevere, though they have become ruthless in the process. Its citizens are ruled by the General, who has made sure that his people understand that gentleness and pity have become weaknesses that nature no longer tolerates.

Now Steve and Leslie must choose whether they will apply for the General’s once in a lifetime opportunity to “Rise from the Ashes” and join the Inner Circle that rules the city. If they don’t, they will be damned to spend the rest of their lives in the ghettos of Edingburg, a place where virtual reality has become a government-subsidized addiction.

For Steve, the choice is easy. His loyalties lie with the IRA, a revolutionary army led by a voice only known as “Mom.” They are trying to overthrow the General and free the people of New San Francisco from the cruelties of the City Guard. Steve’s mission is to broadcast a recording of a speech that a famous philosopher died to tell. Many thousands have and will perish to get this message out, but is anyone willing to listen?

The Phoenix Cycle is a dystopian-style novel where the world has destroyed itself so much that it is ravaged by ash clouds and storms every night causing the remaining citizens of New San Francisco to hide underground, in bunkers, or secure buildings. New San Francisco is our setting for The Phoenix Cycle and is run by a dictator who goes by the name, the General – a man who frequently informs his people that anything other than power, strength, and ruthlessness is a form of weakness. We follow Steve as he attempts to change the mindsets of everyone around him and knock the General off his seat of power.

The concept of this novel is definitely one that I found interesting. It sounded dark and gritty and suggested a world filled with fear. However, coupled with some other elements of the novel I did find it hard to follow the plot and events taking place. These elements included the mish-mash of Scottish, Irish, and American cultures within New San Francisco which I found a bit disjointed as I couldn’t really see how it connected in any way. I was also interested by the idea of every main character being based off of a philosopher or philosophy. However, with little knowledge of philosophers and philosophy, I feel like this element of the novel was lost on me as some of the characters dialogue seemed – to me – to stray into unknown territory away from the main plot-line.

With that being said, I did enjoy the variety of characters that were presented in the novel. There was a mixture of personalities that clashed and complimented each other and their dialogue made for enjoyment and laughter thanks to sharp witticisms and actions between the characters.

Though I did enjoy the novel, I have found it hard to write this review. I didn’t find it to be anything special and nothing really stands out for me. I believe the concept would have worked well in another scenario but I just found myself confused and losing concentration a lot.