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.

Waiting on Wednesday: Fireblood

“Waiting on Wednesday” is a weekly book blogger meme hosted over at Breaking The Spine. Each Wednesday you put the spotlight on an upcoming future release that you are eagerly awaiting.

This week the spotlight focuses on:

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Ice and fire are still at war.

Ruby has defeated the tyrannous Frost King, and Arcus, the exiled warrior who captured her heart, has taken his rightful place as ruler of the Frostblood kingdom.

But Ruby is the only Fireblood in a castle of frost and ice, and the courtiers will not accept her. Even worse, the dark threat released from the Frost King’s melted throne is stalking the land, bent on destruction – and as the one who set it free, only Ruby can stop it.

To find the knowledge she needs, she must leave Arcus and journey south to the land of the Firebloods. But the homeland Ruby’s never seen is treacherous, and friend and enemy wear the same face.

If she’s to save both kingdoms, Ruby must figure out who she can trust – and unleash a fire powerful enough to do battle with darkness . . .


Fireblood is the second in the the Frostblood Saga. A review for the first book can be found here.

Fireblood will be published in the UK on September 7th 2017 by Hodder and Stoughton.

Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman: Gemina

Relevant posts: Illuminae

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Hanna is the captain’s pampered daughter. Nik is the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. While the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the Jump Station Heimdall, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right towards them carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia – and possibly the known universe – is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.


Gemina is the second in Kristoff and Kaufman’s joint venture, the Illuminae Files. Following on from events in the first novel, Gemina focuses on two new main characters who live aboard the space station Heimdall – the same station that the Hypatia, carrying Kady and Ezra, is heading towards. All seems perfectly fine as the space station prepares for a day of celebrations, until the residents and amongst them, Hanna and Nik, must fight against enemy combatants intent on destroying the Hypatia and anyone with any knowledge of the destruction of Kerenza mining colony.

Yet again Kristoff and Kaufman do not disappoint in their continuation of the Illuminae files and the events that occurred during that first novel. The structure, layout, and writing style found within Illuminae transfers into this novel, alongside a couple of the key characters from those events. Though they are not the primary characters within this novel, the events of Gemina do not in any way detract from the previous events but add to the importance of the Hypatia making its way to its destination and highlights how badly the company behind such a tragic event needs to silence those in the know.

As with Kady and Ezra, we are given two characters that seem completely out of their depth and are thrust into a situation that is entirely out of their control, and a near impossibility. Nik and Hanna are two young adults who banter back and forth with harmless flirtations and an undercurrent of sexual tension between the two. It is hard not to like the relationship that begins and ends with this couple and, though presented through instant message logs and camera feed write ups, you can really feel the emotions between the two characters throughout. Considering the situation they become caught up in, the two – who appear to have an almost love-hate relationship at times – really work well together to outsmart the enemy players on board the Heimdall Jump Station and to make their way back to each other to help save the residents from annihilation.

Hanna, the well-off snob who gets what she wants whenever she wants from her doting father, really turns the tables on her stereotype as she puts herself at risk and makes tough decisions when communicating with the leader of the enemy – sometimes resulting in consequences she doesn’t want. Thanks to her father, she has been trained to fight and think strategically giving her an advantage on her home and putting her on par with some of the combatants she faces. Whereas Nik, the local drug-dealer with a sketchy past, brings humour through sharp witticisms and flirtations that help to liven the mood and keep Hanna sane whilst also coming up with some genius ideas of his own.

I enjoyed the way that the two novels linked back to each other and how it, by the sounds of things, will eventually progress alongside each other as well. As I said in my review for Illuminae, the writing style and structure does not in any way detract from the enjoyment of the novel though it does feel weird when you first start the novel due to how unconventional it is. Gemina was a brilliant second novel and continuation and I really look forward to seeing where Kristoff and Kaufman take the narrative in the next book.

Dan Mooney: Me, Myself and Them

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I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers as part of their Legend100 Club in exchange for an honest review.

Struggling to cope with a tragic loss, Denis Murphy has learned to live a bit differently. Both his friends are use to it – the only problem is his monstrous housemates.

When his enigmatic ex-girlfriend comes back into this life, she threatens to shatter the finely crafted world around him.

As Denis begins to re-emerge from his sheltered existence and rediscover the person he used to be, things turn nasty, and he is forced to confront the demons that share not only his house, but also his head.


My, Myself and Them is a work of literary fiction all about mental health. Denis Murphy has a mental illness where he hears voices in his head that manifest themselves into entities before his very eyes. After a tragic incident during his early 20s, Denis has shut himself away in his mind where everything is safe and he can keep control of the world around him. However, when his ex-girlfriend returns from her travels, it throws Denis’s life askew as she inserts herself back into his life believing that she can help him overcome his issues.

I found it perfectly apt to have read this book during Mental Health Awareness week in May, and it was definitely an eye-opening and thought-provoking novel that shows the extremes mental illness can send a person into. I won’t deign to try and name Denis’s mental illness as I am fully aware that there are a variety of mental health issues that have similarities but, Denis’ mental health causes him to manifest his own personal demons into people that appear before his very eyes. No-one else can see these people, and it is clear that any events that happen as a result of these demons are purely Denis at his lowest points. As the novel progresses and you begin to fully understand Denis’ mental illness and why they are there, it becomes clear that each and every “demon” is a part of his personality that he has put behind him in order to live in this new, controlled environment. Plasterer is the sad, brutish man who likes to dominate and command those around him; the Professor is the articulated and knowledgeable demon who is a bit passed his time; Penny O’Neill is Denis’ more feminine side; and Deano is the voice inside his head that tells him it is alright to do things a bit differently. However, not only are they Denis’ personality, they hold similarities to the people around him and as changes are made in his life, the narrative makes these subtle hints.

I felt that this novel was very poignant in highlighting the importance of mental health and the way in which people react and deal with these issues. Denis’ friends Ollie and Frank use Denis’ illness as an inside joke, making light-hearted quips about his cleanliness, attention to detail, and control which, in his darkest moments, do truly hurt Denis and his demons. Rebecca, coming from the outside, is the person who, ultimately, helps Denis to realise that the old him is deep inside, hidden and locked away by these more dominating personalities that show through in his demons. Rebecca frequently reminds Denis that she is there for him, that nothing has changed but his outlook on life and that his way of dealing with grief, though different to those around him, is exactly that. In her bid to help Denis see the truth and realise that nothing is his fault, that he does not need to feel guilt about anything, Rebecca gets herself hurt in trying to understand why Denis is hurting himself and destroying everything, and every relationship around him, not fully understanding that it is the demons inside his head that cause him to act out in this way.

I couldn’t put down Me, Myself and Them as I was so intrigued by Denis and his progress in becoming the person he wanted to be. The novel also highlights how little people are aware of mental illness and those that are more hidden away inside of the mind, with all of the characters deeming him eccentric and weird – not taking in the full extent of what is going on behind closed doors. It is only when Denis reaches the lowest of the low and things are looking grim that action is taken and his friends and family begin to understand how badly Denis was affected by the events of his past. So many times Denis wanted to announce the truth to Rebecca, to reveal all about the demons that resided in his house and ran riot, but he could not for fear of how Rebecca would take that information, that she would stop loving him knowing how far he had fallen. This reminds us that people may be calling out for help in subtle and hard to explain ways and that we should be aware of these situations so that we can help them in their time of need.

Me, Myself and Them is a novel that should be high on everyone’s lists and is a great topic of conversation surrounding mental health. It is insightful, heart-breaking and, at times, hard to bear as you try to understand why Denis is this way without knowing the full reasoning behind what caused his mental health issues. I’m so glad I read this novel, as it wasn’t one I fully understood heading into it but it has really opened my eyes up to the more hidden forms of mental illness.

Winnie M Li: Dark Chapter

Dark Chapter Cover

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

Vivian is a cosmopolitan Taiwanese-American tourist who often escapes her busy life in London through adventure and travel. Johnny is a 15-year-old Irish teenager, living a neglected life on the margins of society.

On a bright spring afternoon in West Belfast, their paths collide during a horrifying act of violence. 

In the aftermath, each is forced to confront the chain of events that led to the attack.


*I would like to leave a trigger warning here for rape and assault. I would not recommend reading this book if these occurrences will affect you in any way.

Dark Chapters is Winnie M Li’s debut novel and is based on true events that happened to her. When Vivian takes a trip to West Belfast as an honorary guest for a special occasion, she uses the opportunity to take a hike around the local park and to spend time by herself. Little does she know that, on this spring day, her whole life will change through a chance encounter with Irish traveller, Johnny Sweeney. Dark Chapters explores the ways in which encounters with strangers can lead to life-changing events as both Vivian and Johnny have their lives changed drastically by this event.

Any novel that focuses heavily on incidents such as rape or assault are bound to be hard-hitting and emotional – and this one is no different. Based off of true events in Winnie’s own life, it hits right to the core as Winnie doesn’t hold back going into detail during the rape scene and truly submersing the reader in these raw emotions that show through at such a traumatising time in Vivian’s life. I did frequently find myself uncomfortable through certain scenes which I believe enhanced the emotions that were being portrayed and really helped me to connect with the characters – though I can only imagine what they would be going through. There is a particular scene during the trial between Johnny and Vivian that really showed how connected I had become to Vivian when she found herself becoming frustrated and angered by the questions that were battered against her story and attempted to depict Vivian as the instigator of such an act. I found myself becoming riled up alongside Vivian and really felt like I wanted to shout out the truth to this side-character as I couldn’t believe that he could suggest such a thing!

With this being Winnie’s first novel, there is expected to be some minor issues with writing, character, plot and so on. However, anything that did appear did not bother me in the slightest. I felt that Winnie did a brilliant job at portrayed this life-changing event and you really went deep into both characters lives before, and after, the event. I enjoyed that we got to see Johnny’s side of the story and felt that he was a well developed character who fit the role he had been given perfectly. One issue I did find some fault with was the way in which Vivian, within days, minutes, hours, of her rape was freely telling everyone that she had been raped – including work contacts. Though I can see that Winnie was trying to highlight the stigma around rape and assault victims not coming forward and firmly suggesting that they do, I felt that this was a bit out of character as I certainly would not tell people I barely knew – only close friends and family. This did rattle me a bit but it was something that I easily got over.

Dark Chapters is definitely not a novel for the light-hearted or for those who are deeply affected by events such as these. There is a lot of rehashing over the rape scene by the main and side-characters as the police and the legal system attempt to understand the situation. I definitely believe that it is a story that needed to be told and I did identify with Vivian (even before she was raped she was wary of men who were alone, especially when she travelled alone in another country) which helped me to immerse myself into the story.

Ian McDonald: Luna, New Moon

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

The moon wants to kill you.

She has a thousand ways to do it. The bitter cold of vacuum. The lethal sleet of radiation. Choking dust as old as the earth. Your weakening bones.

Or you could run out of money for water. Or air. Or simply run foul of one of the Five Dragons, the corporations that rule the Moon and control its vast resources.

But you stay, because the moon can make you richer than you can imagine.

Until war breaks out . . .


The first in the Luna series by Ian McDonald, Luna: New Moon sets up the story of five major families that live on and dominate the society, politics, and culture of the moon. When an engineered bot attempts to assassinate a key figure in one of the families, the politics of the moon shift exponentially with old rivalries rising to the surface and leaving everyone questioning who they can, and cannot, trust. Marketed as being Game of Thrones set in space, Luna is a science-fiction series filled with sex, politics, culture and family rivalries resulting in multiple deaths, assassinations, and questionable motives.

Within the first few pages I could immediately feel the similarities with Game of Thrones. On page two, before we are properly introduced to any characters, we are presented with information on sexual encounters with the current character in question. McDonald doesn’t subtly describe these interactions but throws it out in the limelight – this is a culture and society where sex, of any kind, is not frowned upon or deemed inappropriate. As we progress through the novel we see an array of sexualities and sexual encounters that proves this all the more. The warring families is also on a parallel with Game of Thrones but I felt like there wasn’t as much blood, guts, and gore but, when there was, McDonald didn’t hold back.

With the technology of the future and the ways in which these people are enhanced through genetics, the use of their AIs and more, I also felt that there were some similarities to the Red Rising series. I felt this more at the beginning of the novel than at any other point but I can also see this in the warring families and the subsequent events, particularly towards the end.

Something that can be quite hard to get around, especially in Game of Thrones, is the multitude of characters that provide the story and help us to understand the world. It can get quite confusing with the many different family members and the ways in which the families have married into each other. McDonald provides a handy glossary that helps to understand the different terms and their meanings which really helped to understand who each character was and how they were connected to each other. I definitely felt that there were a couple of more stand-out characters that I was more drawn to than others. However, I also really appreciated the variety of personalities we got with all the different characters; you had the quiet, authoritative, the sexual, the fighters, and so on. It helped to provide, not just animosity between the houses, but animosity within the families themselves.

Luna is one of those novels that, though you can’t binge-read (well, I certainly can’t) due to how much is going on, is a thoroughly enjoyable novel with so many twists and turns and hidden secrets. The novel is full of scandal, mystery, action, romance, guilt, revenge and so much more. It is a novel, and series, that I have become fully invested in and fulfills everything that I gain from Game of Thrones. Though it holds similarities, it is different and unique in its setting and the ways in which these families fight against each other, alongside the laws, politics, and cultures of this new society.

Sophia Kingshill: Between The Raven and The Dove

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

As far back as she can remember, thirteen-year-old Mag has lived with her father at a home for the mentally ill.
The patients are all clearly mad, so when the usually silent Grace claims that she’s Mag’s real mother – and also a witch – Mag’s world is turned upside down.
As things take a turn for the weird, and Mag sees things that others can’t, it may just be that she is a witch after all.
In this new world, Mag discovers that the difference between good and evil isn’t exactly black and white…


Between The Raven and the Dove is a young adult, fantasy novel set on an island where Mag lives in a home called The Residence that houses the mentally ill. After a spout of dreams that leave Mag confused and restless, she decides to re-enact the events that occur resulting in secrets being revealed that are too good to be true. With the realisation that her Mother has been with her her entire life, Mag’s life changes in so many ways as she attempts to stop the bad guys from hurting her and her family, and righting the wrongs that they started.

Mag is a young teenager at just thirteen-years-old and has always believed herself to be different, mainly due to the The Residence. She hasn’t known anything different and that sets her apart from everyone at school. Mag understands her place in school politics, putting herself out there from the get go when she joins Crossbeams by announcing herself by her unchosen nickname, Maggot. She’s not someone that likes to elevate herself or believes herself to be better than others, but she does know her own mind, making decisions about new side-characters as and when she meets them. However, as the events of the novel unfolds she realises that each of these characters are different and that they play a part within this new magical world that has been revealed to her.

The magic system within The Raven and the Dove is based off of music, and our ability to hear the music of others as well as ourselves. Witches who can hear this music are able to cast spells or manipulate people into doing tasks without them realising. In amongst all the chaos that ensues, there is this sense of calm that comes over our characters (and the reader) as they attempt to seek out the enemies music and stop them in their tracks. It’s like those moments in superhero films where the hero is in the thick of the action but everything seems to slow around them as they try and comprehend what to do next or own their differences.

Between The Raven and the Dove was a quick and light-hearted read that questions who you can really trust when you are told multiple versions of the same story. Who can Mag bring into her confidence, and what does she truly believe? The magic system was interesting and provided tricky elements that could have resulted in Mag failing and the writing was simple but descriptive and informative where needed. I loved the different array of characters and the way they were involved in events providing more people that Mag must question on their loyalty and trust.