*Received from Netgalley in exchange for review- but all the bright ideas here are my own!*
Entering into the nightmarish world of Luminaries, I was immediately taken by the moody setting and beastly concept. Inventive and intriguing, the narrative was instantly compelling. The opening drew me in, with atmospheric writing and exciting storytelling.
Voicey and with distinct characters, the audiobook was an excellent choice for this story. A balance of romance and friendship and family kept me invested in the cast. Most importantly, the language and voice acting lent itself really well to the medium.
I became very quickly swept up in the saga. With plenty of mystery and monsters lurking in the plot, I was kept on my toes throughout. Admittedly, there were aspects about the ending that were a little lacklustre- yet still enough intrigue to make me want to continue the series.
Overall, an engaging start to a series, with plenty that has piqued my curiosity for more.
Rating: 3½/5 bananas
And that’s all for now! Have you read this book? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!
Badly written and contrived, you may be inclined to consider this a “How Not To Write” guide. I certainly did when I came across a part where the main character says something along the lines of: “I have a great idea, why don’t I ask everyone’s names so we can bond”. Not exactly the best way to introduce a motley crew. It didn’t help that the sarky tone was complete overkill. It’s trying very, very hard to be funny- which of course means it only comes across as childish and insufferable. Add in details like the ship being called (I kid you not) Swiftkick and you will be wondering how such a juvenile manuscript ever made it past an editor (especially when the book’s title gives you a great option).
What makes all this worse is how desperate this book is to prove its geeky credentials. There are more than enough derivative illusions to Star Wars to make you want to join the dark side (complete with a “maybe I should shoot first” line). All of which is no mere accident- I found it amusing that the author’s bio has a weird flex about loving Star Wars more than you. Especially when it doesn’t come close to bringing the magic of Star Wars. Still, more noticeable is that it comes across as an Illuminae ripoff- except without the charm of the characters (or a good conspiracy to drive the plot… but we’ll get to that).
What’s most entertaining about how one note this supposedly diverse crew are (one reviewer described them as straightforward jocks- and I have to say I agree). What’s most frustrating is that in a book about failure, they’re not actually allowed to fail. For instance, the supposed brains of the operation gets herself captured, for no real reason and with nothing to gain, but oh-would-ya-believe it, she gets herself out of it with no harm done. Not only does this suck all the fun out of the concept, it also manages to remove all the tension. Very quickly, the crew that’s (justifiably) not getting on are now all the best of friends. Because this has to be the kind of story where they’re all pretty much useless, but also geniuses. In fact, we’re actually supposed to root for them because *twist alert* all their problems come down to discrimination.
That’s right- this book is woke as hell. And it wants you to know it. This book is on a tick box mission to cover all woke bases. The characters are defined by their immutable characteristics- and that’s it. Naturally none of the characters are allowed to have real flaws or personal development (because we all know diverse characters aren’t allowed personalities- implying they are human would be a travesty 😉). Hilariously, it’s also woke in way that accidentally ties itself in knots- especially when it comes to the so-called villain.
Because this is a woke book in favour of colonisation. I kid you not. As the official “bad guys” the Earth First group don’t make a lot of sense. Look, I get that the author was trying to parallel America First and far right movements- except that their motivations are more like a group of left wing eco warriors? This is a group saying that we shouldn’t colonise other planets when Earth has enough problems of their own- which to the author means they’re on the wrong side of history… yet to anyone else creates a crater sized flaw in the narrative. Here we have a story purporting to stand for left-wing progressivism… that somehow manages to be an argument for pro-establishment capitalism on (a)steroids. Needless to say, I don’t think the messaging is as right on as the author intended. In fairness to the author, this might be the most unintentionally funny story I’ve read in a while.
When it comes to the plot and world building I wouldn’t get excited. There’s not much to say about this supposed intergalactic setting, other than it doesn’t feel remotely like the future or another planet. In its pro-colonisation message, it does tell us that if we do take over other habitable planets, we may manage to set up a utopia for lefty ideals… though once again I’m not convinced this is what the author intended to put across. And in terms of plot, my notes are simply full of how bored I was. It’s just an endless stream of chase scenes and a rush to a stupid ending. Oh, but there is a polyamorous love triangle, because famously everyone that reads YA wants more love triangles. Give the people what they (don’t) want I guess.
Unfortunately, this book was nothing short of a mess. Other than the title and the cover, I can’t say there was anything I liked about it. I wanted to give this book a higher rating, since it’s not the worst book in the world, yet I simply couldn’t find a single thing to give it credit for. I didn’t even enjoy it as an audiobook- it was grating and irritating and could’ve done with more perspectives. So, I’m giving it the rather undistinguished honour of getting one of my rare banana peels:
Phew- that’s over with! I’m curious- have any of you had the displeasure of reading this? Or have you read any books lately you consider a disaster and think I should avoid? Let me know in the comments!
***Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review… needless to say I won’t be keeping any skeletons in my closet***
Gossipy and intriguing, this paranormal YA has the potential to kick up quite the social media storm. With aspects that are hit and miss, it’s one of those books that I reckon will go down like marmite. For me, swept up by the drama and distinct characters in this audiobook, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
Instantly grabbed by the tone and the voice, I definitely found the multiple povs, texts and interviews lent themselves to the format. And while the supernatural elements could have detracted from the intense teen-rivalry plotline, they were integrated enough so as not to feel too out of place.
What was a bit much was the protagonist’s attraction to an older man. Of course this did connect to the wider narrative and I saw the place this dark subplot had in the overarching story- yet it still made me uncomfortable. I get that it’s supposed to be toxic- but I wouldn’t blame anyone for tapping out at that point.
Personally, I was always going to be most invested in the revenge fantasy element- and luckily for me that part worked well. Delightfully dark in the best way, it kept me reaching for the book at every minute of the day!
I also really appreciated the social media aspect (even if the mere mention of Tiktok makes me feel old 😉). This is a novel about fame, authenticity and most importantly of all finding freedom from the constant glare of the camera lens.
Full of WTF moments, twisted charm and an entertaining ending, this story grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let me go until it was done.
Rating: 3½/5 bananas
So, have you read this? Do you plan to? And what are your favourite girl-rivalry stories? Let me know in the comments!
Darkly mysterious, this book simultaneously centres on a rape trial and a historic murder in a small town. Using the true crime podcast trope, this was perfectly suited to the audiobook format, with performances that brought the story to life. It seemed at first to be a smooth-sailing success.
A gruelling book, I felt sucker-punched by a lot of the subject matter. Which is as it should be- I don’t want another precious, artsy book exploring the subject. And this doesn’t do that. Showing not only the horror of rape in raw and unfiltered terms, it also explores the topic of how harsh the justice system is for victims and how too often public sympathy is with the perpetrator.
However, as with a lot of #MeToo books, this falls into the ideological quagmire of opposing jury trials. Rather than suggesting support for victims or another practical solution, it rages against the concept of a jury trial as “archaic” (with the presumed alternative being the far more archaic “guilty until proven guiltier”). I just don’t understand why books like this want to fight injustice with further injustice. Arguing against evidentiary support is paving the way towards kangaroo courts and witch trials- as if those have ever ended well for any society. It’s not, as the book purports, the question of 10 guilty men going free- it’s a question of punishing hundreds of innocent people.
I also didn’t entirely agree with the way the book explores trauma. There is a fine line between recognising the damage done and describing women as irrevocably broken- and I felt this verged into the latter, implying there was no life after. It is a pity that when characters do speak out, only their vulnerability is highlighted, instead of their strength. I just think these tropes are so unhelpful for healing.
Still, I did like how this wove together two women’s stories- although how they converged at the end did raise eyebrows. I mean, aside from the decision to go and confront a killer (with only a phone between them… that they weren’t even using to livestream?!) And I also found the choice of villain realllly depressing- even if it was clearly signposted and made sense. I dunno, as the main character said, I wish it had been *anyone else*.
Now I may have flooded this review with negativity- but I really don’t think it’s a bad book. A lot of the execution was on point- even if some of my criticisms drown that out.
Rating: 3½/5 bananas
So, have you read this book? Am I being overly critical? Let me know in the comments!
Truly, this is one of the best WW2 books I’ve ever read. Saying that this reveals the realities of being a war time spy and pilot fails to do it justice- for what this story really manages to record is the untold depths of real friendship.
The first thing I need to state for the record is that the audiobook was excellent. Both performers were *on point*. I felt they captured the voicey nature of the writing and gave a strong sense of setting through their acting. They brought the vivid characters to life with their delivery- capturing every little piece of their personalities, from Verity’s wry humour to Maddy’s goodness. I also really appreciated their regional accents! (actually, that’s just one example of the authenticity here)
Second on the agenda: this was an exceptionally well written novel. I loved how it was structured- giving us clues and then decoding the narrative. I also really liked the construct of confessions and reports- complete with interjections. It added so many layers to the story, showing that the truth is not always so straightforward. Annnd I have to be careful with my words, because I don’t want to spoil anything.
Plot-wise, this was terrifically thrilling. It flew from intense descriptions and emotional moments, right into action. Employing all kinds of tricks and turns- so you never knew what was going to hit you next. While it was possible to predict the ending, you were only given a glimpse from a bird’s eye view. By the time it was upon me, my heart was already freewheeling towards the ground.
Most of all, however, I wasn’t expecting this book to have quite as much depth as it did. For it didn’t just make me feel, it made me think as well. It dealt with complex issues in a way I rarely see in YA.
This was honestly wonderful. I just can’t keep my feelings for this book a secret; I love everything about it (even the author’s afterword!) And that’s all there is to say about it.
“Kiss me Hardy!”
– O. L.
Rating: 5/5 bananas
So, have you read Code Name Verity? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!
What a devilishly delightful series! Amazingly atmospheric and pos-i-tutely petrifying at times, this 1920s New York ghost story will give you a run for your money. I listened to the audiobooks for this series and every step of the way was a real showstopper. January Lavoy did an unbelievable job bringing the world, characters and writing to life! It’s the best performance I’ve heard in a while!
While this does carry a lot of the hallmarks of YA- which we’ll get to later- this certainly stands out from the crowd. Taking countless twists and turns, these books are jam packed with plots and subplots. Admittedly that’s because these are hefty tomes, so if you pick them up, you’ll be in it for the long haul (especially if you go with the audiobook version- which I’ll push forever 😉).
However, given this is such a character driven story, a lot of the time is spent getting to know the stars of the show inside and out. For me, what makes these books special is how much each of the personalities shine in turn. I especially loved book 2, Lair of Dreams, with its focus shifting to my favourites, the adorably debonair Henry and the lovely Ling! Even my least favourite heroine, the rather sanctimonious Mabel, had a real crisis of personality, realising she couldn’t just believe in her own goodness to win out. And that’s just one example of the brilliant multi-faceted complexity!
I also loved that these books were brimming with romantic subplots. And, I can’t believe I’m saying this, it even had a love triangle that really works! Not only was it done in a believable way, it also doesn’t contain cheating! (it doesn’t hurt that my ship sailed!) And if that trope doesn’t tempt you (which I get) then have no fear- this also has forbidden love, hate to love, fake dating, slow burn and more!
Now, for me, there were a few downsides. As much as I appreciated the general idea that history rises from the grave and that we have to learn to hear the ghosts of our past, I did think the messaging took over from time to time. Once again, this was a case of me not enjoying the insertion (of what was ostensibly modern) politics into fiction. Granted, I believe there was an attempt at rousing people into being better… but when there are passages on the tragedy of massacred buffalo, I had to come to the conclusion that this was not about taking the good with the bad. This was the story of a nation that has fallen out of love with itself. Perhaps it is witnessing the fires burning from across the pond, but I personally find that rather depressing.
Then there was the ending. Though I divined bits and pieces, I didn’t entirely see where it was heading. There was betrayal, heartbreak and horror. I thought victory would come at a high cost indeed… until a last second change that robbed me of that emotional impact. Now, entering *spoiler territory*, so highlight to read on… I personally felt like it made sense to have Isaiah defeat the King of Crows. When he realised that there was no story in the coat, it was reminiscent of the boy in Emperor’s New Clothes. But to have Isaiah come back from the dead just felt cheap. Yes, it was in the spirit of the story, yet it would have been better for the story to have him defeat the villain purely for the good of his family and move on. Dark as that might have been, the story would have been more beautiful for it.
Still, even if it wasn’t perfect, I enjoyed the hell out of this series! It delivered every emotion, from genuine *chills* to romantic *feels*. The perfect YA series for Spooktober that’s for sure. And I really can recommend the audiobook version- it was ab-so-lutely the cats pyjamas!
Rating: 4/5 bananas
So, have you read the Diviners series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!
I’m not much for audiobooks- I’ve rarely given them a chance and mostly only used them to squeeze in some non fic I wouldn’t otherwise read… until now.
Sometimes a book comes along and it completely changes your perception of things. It makes you open your eyes and your ears and wake up. Sadie did that for me in more ways than one.
The story itself is hard to listen to. There is no way around that fact. It’s the story of missing girls- a disappearance layered on top of a murder mystery. Of course, I was aware while listening that this was not a true story, but what struck me was that it all too easily could have been. And that, to me, is why this is such an important book. It strikes at the reality for too many girls; it brings such an important topic to light (and to life).
Often, when I’m listening to a book, I’ll want to speed up the book, so I cram in as much as possible, as fast as I can- but I didn’t do that here. I wanted to savour every moment of this agonising, engrossing, devastating story. To engage with this is like witnessing a train crash- you know it will have a horrible outcome, but you can’t tear yourself away.
The tension is made even greater thanks to the inclusion of Sadie’s story. Flashing back in time, before the podcast takes place, we hear Sadie talking in her authentically teen voice. In stark contrast to the radio show host, her words are stuttered and frayed and sharp around the edges. We don’t get a clear or concise narrative from her. It’s not an account polished up for the media. It’s every bit as raw and emotional as you’d expect.
Thanks to the author’s brilliance, we get to the heart of this complex character and vivid images of the people she meets along the way. The different styles blend perfectly and this is what makes the audiobook so mind-blowingly good. Rather cleverly, this even included ads like a real podcast! For the first time on this blog (and probably not the last) I’d say it’s 100% worth trying the audiobook version. It’s an experience.
An experience that admittedly just about broke me. Because naturally I was sobbing by the end and I’ve been struggling to write the review because I tear up every time I think about it. It is worth every bit of the hype- and then some. Sadie is beautiful and sad and simply amazing. Read, or better still, listen to it.
Rating: 5/5 bananas
So have you read this? Did it make you an emotional wreck like it did me? Let’s cry about it some more in the comments!