It is Mexico City, 1988. Meche, short for Mercedes, loves music, a passion inherited from her father. This is the time long before iTunes, Spotify, or MP3 players. It is all about the vinyl, and her beloved portable record player. Meche is an awkward fifteen year old teenager, unpopular with few friends, and her parents’ marriage is falling apart. She throws herself into music as an escape, and discovers magic. Her friends Sebastian and Daniela help her discover the extent of her powers. But then it all goes terribly wrong, and friendships shatter. Meche flees town, never to return, she thinks. However, nearly two decades later, her estranged fathers funeral drags her back, and she has to face up to what happened all those years ago.

This story is told through multiple storyline approach. The primary is set in the 80’s when Meche and her friends are coming of age, trying to find themselves and where they fit in the world, and how to cope with all the changes that life brings. The other is then twenty years later, with Meche’s return, and trying to cope with the anger she still feels. I was a bit conflicted reading this one. While on one hand I enjoyed the coming of age, mixed with the discovery of magic and how its power was found, I found the intense anger still felt by Meche twenty years later a bit confusing. She was a successful woman, with an excellent job, living a great life, yet still held onto resentment that one would  imagine would have faded somewhat over the years.  

As a story about love and hate – and how sometimes it can be hard to separate one from the other, it was written well. The characters are well developed. Some become a tad annoying – Sebastian I am looking at you!! But the emotions felt, the growth, the life portrayed was all done very well. I always enjoy reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s work, and while this was perhaps not my favourite to date it still did bring Mexico to life, along with three teenagers just trying to belong.

*I received this copy from NetGalley for review, but all opinions are my own.

Book Review: Signal To Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Sean Wren is a talented linguist, a refugee who’s world was destroyed, a criminal, a smuggler working out in the galaxy. With his childhood friend, and only other survivor of their homeworld’s destruction, they carve out an existence among the stars. Then they get caught. They are made an offer they can’t refuse. Life in prison, or a salvage mission – recovering data from a nameless ship, empty, abandoned and long forgotten. The ship is at the edge of known existence, close to a dying star. There is not long left before it gets destroyed by the star. Sean and Benny need to retrieve some long lost data in a long dead language, that fortunately Sean speaks.

They learn the data is known as the Philosopher’s Stone. When they arrive on the ship they also learn they are not the only ones looking for it. Oh and they also learn that the ship is not as empty as they were led to believe. What ensues is a frantic race for the data and survival. 

This was a wonderfully entertaining read. Sean was a Stainless Steel Rat/meets MacGyver/meets wanna be Indiana Jones type character. His humour in the face of adversity, making light of situations, but inevitably pulling through when needed was a constant enjoyment. On a ship full of mutant aliens, a fanatic alien species, creepy children (think Village of the Damned!), the odds are against them. But he never gives up. On a crumbling and fast deteriorating spaceship, nothing goes right, and we are held by the seat of our space suits to see where they go next. I don’t want to say any more for fear of spoilers. The characters are fantastic, the pace fast, the story fun, the use of flashbacks to memories used very well. The supporting characters were just as engaging and interesting as the main cast. Does Sean need a little more depth to be more plausible? Perhaps. We are, however, talking about a murderous alien-filled spaceship where we are hunting for the Philosopher’s Stone. So as long as I am entertained, I will suspend my hunt for plausible!

Book Review: The Immortality Thief by Taran Hunt

An apocalyptic event has wiped out most of the world as people knew it. Tech companies now rule the world, and tech body modifications and implants have become the norm. Eighteen year old Sil Sarrah has embraced the tech modifications to the extreme. Working for the Syntex corporation, she has a super computer embedded in her brain. She IS a super computer, designed to rescue Syntex field agents – by taking over their minds remotely and getting them to safety. She is a Mindwalker, and the best one to date. She has less than a year remaining before the computer grafted to her brain burns out, killing her. 

In her ten years working for Syntex, she has a flawless record. Until something goes wrong – and she ends up on the run, fighting for her life and desperate to find a way to prove she is not a traitor. In this search she finds much more than she expected. The resistance takes Sil in, and she starts to realise that her view on the world may not be the only way to view it. That is all I am willing to share, to do the story justice you have to read it!

Mindwalker was a stunning read. It packed as much of a punch to read as Sil does when she is angry! I could not put it down, and stayed up far later than is acceptable when you have work the next day to finish it. There is skillful character building, realistic world development, gripping storyline, and never ending action. The book is so well written. The story in a wasteland of a dystopian world is fresh and exciting, in what can be a tired and worn genre. Every aspect pulls you in, has you wanting to join the resistance. Where can I sign up? Where can I get some of the mods? (I am looking at you rainbow hair!). I say run, don’t walk to read this one. You won’t regret it.

*I received this book from NetGalley for review, but all opinions are my own.

Book Review: Mindwalker by Kate Dylan

This is the third instalment of the DS Max Craigie series, and Max and his team are back in flying form!

A lawyer is found dead at a clifftop in a remote part of Scotland while on honeymoon. The same day a renowned gang enforcer walks free from court following a not proven verdict. His body is also soon found, his murder brutal and gruesome. The connection? It was his lawyer. But is there more of a connection than just a sleazy criminal defence lawyer and a lifetime criminal?

It soon becomes apparent to DS Max and his team that something much more sinister is going on. They are not the only ones to notice. A shrewd local reporter has made some connections between criminals escaping justice, only to be found dead a few days later. They start to investigate and quickly realise where the evidence points. The killer knows how to stay hidden. They know how to remove evidence, or how to leave none in the first place. They know how to evade the police, and what the police will be looking for. They know how to use police restraints, have access to police weapons, and police techniques….

Max Craige and his team have to work fast in order to unmask the vigilante, revenge obsessed serial killer, who is located dangerously close to home.

As with the previous two books in this series, this one was fast paced, full of twists, and kept you on the edge of your seat. The relationship has really developed between the team, and the process of the investigation had a wonderful natural flow, with everyone really falling into their roles. The character development is really progressing superbly. While it can be read as a stand alone book, you will definitely enjoy it more if you have read it as part of the series. Overall, a very enjoyable read, that I did not want to put down until I had finished, I was engrossed until the very last page!

*I received this book from NetGalley for review, but all opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Night Watch by Neil Lancaster

Finn Mallory has his life turned upside down when he and his parents are in a horrific car accident. His parents die but he survives, with some cuts and scrapes, a minor broken bone, but a tonne of guilt upon him, as he feels that the accident was his own fault. One of the last things his parents did for him before the accident was enter him for a scholarship at an elite boarding school, wanting to give him the best possible life. When he gets offered the place, he takes it to honour their memory, despite not wanting to go.

When he gets there he soon realises he is seen as an ‘unfortunate’. He is the odd one out among a never ending crowd of super rich kids. These kids immediately begin to pick on him, mocking him for where he is from, his choice in clothing and his lack of social standing. He is saved by an invitation to join the history club. It sounds boring, but the head of the school makes it sound less than mandatory to join. Once Finn gets there he realises the most popular and beautiful girl in the school is a member, so he thinks he can tolerate it.

However, once the professor who runs the club explains what exactly the club really does, Finn soon realises he is in for much more than he expected.

This was a super fun, fast and easy read. I enjoyed the concept, as far fetched as it was. We will put aside how the logistics of keeping such equipment and training secret on a school campus works, as we are taking into account that we are reading about a time travel club. The story was engaging, the characters had some good diversity, and the challenges were interesting. There could have been some more depth in the trials themselves, with a bit more of the history in the locations and more detail around the trial and the team completing it to flesh the story out and give it a bit more of a sense of completion, rather than the focus on the relationships. But overall a good read and am looking forward to the second book.

*I received this book from NetGalley for review, but all opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Time Trials by Jon and Dayna McConnell

Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution

Where do I start? Firstly, this book has nothing but five star reviews on NetGalley at the time of my writing. It has over 91% four and five star reviews on Goodreads (leaning more towards five star). I know numbers are not everything, but I think it says a lot for a book that is so hefty a read, it makes one heck of an impact.

Now, what are we reading? It is 1828. Robin Swift is orphaned by cholera in Canton, China. He is brought to London by Professor Lovell and trained in Latin, Ancient Greek and Chinese to prepare him for enrollment in Oxford University’s prestigious Babel programme. Babel is the world’s translation hub, and most importantly the epicentre of silver working. This is the magic and technique of using language to imbue silver bars with power. Silver working has given the British empire their power to sweep across the world, and is supporting its efforts to colonise every country it comes across. 

Robin and his friends on the Babel programme soon come to realise what their true roles are in Oxford and the Babel programme. They have to decide if they want to keep living in the comfort they have become accustomed to, or if they want to change the world. I am not saying any more than the author’s blurb because you absolutely have to read the book to really and truly understand it.

The description does the story no justice. Babel is one of the most thoroughly researched, developed, creative and engrossing books I have read in a very long time. I felt like I was reading an academic paper, a biography, a history book, and a coming of age story all in one. The character development in this book is incredible. The time taken to set the scene is long, slow and in depth – and I loved it. Chapter after chapter was merely bringing you through the life of the main characters, yet it was done so skillfully that you were happy to simply grow with them, explore with them, and learn with them. When things finally started to get gritty and the pace increased there was no sacrifice in detail. 

This is not a happy read. This is a book that lays dark academia and magic over history, the dark nature of British colonisation and the impact it had on many different countries at the time. It explores racism, delves deep into linguistics, and requires you to very much pay attention as you read. It is filled with footnotes, and imparts knowledge as well as emotion. I loved every moment of it. I am not ashamed to say I wept at the end. I was mentally exhausted when I finished. I did not regret reading this book however. It is a masterpiece. The author has said it is the most ambitious thing she has ever written. In my eyes, she absolutely nailed it, and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here!

*I received this book from NetGalley for review, but all opinions are my own.

Book Review: Babel by R.F. Kuang

Book Eaters are non-humans living hidden across England. They subsist on a diet of books, consuming literature and knowledge. There are six remaining families, with ever decreasing numbers. Children are rare, because women are rarely born. As a result they have some barbaric practices around marriage and child rearing. These methods have kept them safe, hidden and the families genetically viable through the years. The women don’t argue it, and so it continues to work. But Devon Fairweather thinks differently. Or rather, she dares to think. When her second child is born a mind eater – a dreaded distortion of their species – she finds it in herself to do the unthinkable. She runs away, with her son. Into the world of humans. But how can she survive in a world she knows nothing about, and how can her son survive with his ever growing deadly hunger?

I absolutely loved this unique take on a ‘creatures’ story. The Book Eaters are such a unique species, and I loved the take on their diet and means of gathering knowledge. Their society covers so many societal issues, forced marriage and rape, toxic masculinity, women as a lesser class, enforced child/mother separation/removal of the mothers rights, violence as a tool for enforcement of power and much more. The Book Eaters society is ruled by men, dominated in a very hierarchical manner. Women show as only there to serve as bearers of children, and not to be seen or heard.

The story told in this book is one of hope, of growth, of escap against the odds. It is a love story, and of finding who you really are. I loved Devon, and how we saw her grow through the book. How her spirit rose and fell but ultimately grew and rose to the challenges before her. The story hooked from the very beginning and I could not put it down. I wanted to know more about the Book Eaters world. Who are they really? Where did they come from, why books, how are they so different. What is causing the decline in their species? So many questions, and I hope these will all be answered in future stories. My only gripe is as someone who dislikes even folding down the corner of a book page, it is a bit painful to think of all those books ruined!!

*I received this book from NetGalley for review, but all opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

When Sophie and her mother Amelia-Rose move from America to London for a new start it all seems to begin well. Amelia-Rose quickly meets Matty, a charismatic man, who not only sweeps her off her feet, but is just as caring and welcoming to her child. Sophie adores Matty. He quickly becomes part of their lives, and everything seems perfect. But their relationship is not all it seems. Then the killings begin. 

A serial killer begins to strike in their neighbourhood, targeting young women out alone at night. The women are completely unconnected to one another, all different ages and from different walks of life. However a trend does emerge – all the women have striking physical similarities. These physical traits coincidentally happen to match those of Sophie’s mother. 

Matty and Amelia-Rose’s relationship begins to rapidly decline, and suspicions begin to rise. Sophie and her mother both begin to have doubts about Matty for varying reasons. Matty is eventually arrested and jailed for murder. He continually denies his guilt, and this denial eats away at Sophie. Twenty years later, her life still in pieces, Sophie receives a letter from the prison, informing her that Matty is dying and wants to see her before he does. When she does, the secrets he reveals are more than she bargained for.

This was a completely engrossing read, which I consumed in one sitting. It was clever, creepy, dark and thought provoking. Just what does happen to the lives of the families of serial killers. Do they really not know? When do they start to have suspicions? How many lives could have been saved really? Once the killer is convicted, life effectively ends for the family, too. The way in which this story was told, the jumping from the timeline, Sophie talking to her mother, telling stories from point of view, then realising what really happened, really built the tension and pulled you along. You were urging Sophie to reveal what she knew, what she was repressing. You were taking her by the hand to get her to the prison to find out more. You were just as shocked by the bombshell revelation at the end. Overall, an excellent read, something quite different, and one you won’t want to put down until finished – so make sure you don’t need an early night!

*I received this book from NetGalley for review, but all opinions are my own.

Book Review: Truly, Darkly, Deeply by Victoria Selman

Witches are real. Not only are they real, but they protect the crown and country from all creatures and evil doings. Her Majesty’s Royal Coven is the top coven to belong to. Other covens exist, and our key protagonists, five best childhood friends, have fractured through these covens. Helena is the leader of the HMRC, Niamh has thrown herself into her life as a country vet, Elle has left all coven work behind and is a stay at home mum. Leonie has formed her own coven called Diaspora, a BIPOC, inclusive safe place.

There has long been talk of a prophecy that will destroy the world. The whispers grow that this threat is looming ever closer. As the whispers get louder, a young male warlock, Theo, is captured by the HMRC, with immense destructive power. Helena asks Niamh to help with Theo and things go from wild to off the wall. Theo’s power is out of control and Niamh doesn’t know how to help him manage it. HMRC wants him dead if he can’t be controlled, and Niamh absolutely won’t let this happen. But Theo is hiding a secret, and once Niamh figures it out, it changes everything.

In theory I enjoyed this book. The story is great fun on paper – witches hiding in plain sight, having so much influence on the world around us, running like a bureaucracy. The story and the characters started out well, and had me quite engaged. The diverse cast, and LGBT issue at the core of the story was refreshing to see, and the modern approach to witches and covens is excellent. 

I did find myself really disliking some characters, and I know this was intended. What didn’t make sense was quite why a particular character felt this way, when they accepted a LGBT friend, but had such opposing views on other aspects on LGBT areas. Their distorted views progressively got more and more twisted, and there didn’t seem to be much reason for this. It did strongly address key issues in society today through this aspect, and I felt at times the character was being used as a totem for the ‘wrong’ in the world, so that the other characters could all be the beacons of  right and positivity. While I am all for inclusivity, and welcome and relish books being more diverse, this one felt a little forced upon you at times.

But overall, a good read, a little slow in pace at points, but the ending certainly went out with a bang!

*I received this book from NetGalley for review, but all opinions are my own.

Book Review: Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson

Detective Erika Foster has just moved into her new house in Blackheath. It is a mess, a bit like her personal life, but she knew it was a fixer upper when she bought it. She has no furniture, no food, nothing set up. So she takes a late night walk to grab a bite to eat, when she hears a desperate scream coming from a nearby flat. She rushes in to find a gruesome crime scene. Vicky Clarke, a true crime podcaster, has been found murdered by her sister. The sister is the one who screamed when she found Vicky’s mangled body.

Erika is charged with finding the killer. Erika and her team quickly realise that all of Vicky’s materials are missing from her flat. The killer seems to have taken all evidence and killed Vicky as the final piece. Erika soon finds that Vicky had been working on an investigation into a sexual predator who had been preying on female students in London, breaking into halls of residence at night to assault them. 

When the results of DNA testing comes back the case suddenly gets very confusing. Then another body is found and it becomes a race against time to find a missing person before the killer finds them.

This is book seven in the Detective Erika Foster series, and it is just as good, if not better than the previous ones. Erika Foster is a wonderfully real character, a tough but fair boss, compassionate but hard as nails, and knows how to do her job, and do it well. Consumed by her work, and still engulfed in the loss of her husband, her personal life is a disaster, but her work never suffers for it. She will do anything to catch the murderer on the loose, even if it means potentially loosing her badge in the process. You feel her emotions in this story, and are really cheering her on, with every clue unearthed, with every discovery, you are turning the pages, not wanting to put the book down, because you want to see her succeed. Another fantastic read, and a top class detective in the field of detective novels. Highly recommend!! 

*I received this book from NetGalley for review but all opinions are my own.

Book Review: Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza