Book Review : The Growing Season – thought provoking dystopia

The Growing Season – by Helen Sedgwick

4 star read

Why I read:  Science fiction and dystopia with strong feminist themes

Book blurb: “Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent”

 

 

My review

A beautiful, thought provoking book.  Exquisitely layered with hope, sadness, heart-break, love, family, science-fiction and dystopia.  Set in the near future where a  bio-tech baby pouch has been invented and is owned by a private-for profit FullLife Company who have exclusive rights to the pouches. This pouch is marketed to allow anyone to experience pregnancy and as an end to female equality issues.   A journalist discovers that there are problems with some of the babies being born from the pouches which is being covered up by the FullLife Company.   A mix of characters try to figure out what is happening and causing babies to die in the pouches, as there is a lot at stake both financial and society wide.

This book explores many ethical dilemmas around women’s roles, equality,  family, life and death.  This is done in a wonderfully thought out and caring way that forms part of the book and the characters views.    The pros and cons of the science and how this impacts on society are explored which I enjoyed as science ethics really interests me.  Earlier parts of the book run a little slow but the last section makes up for this.  The thriller part of the novel runs slim, a lot of pages are devoted to backstories of the characters and their views, and exploring the ethics around the technology.  To me this added to the book,  giving emotion and making it a really thought-provoking read.  Some themes reminded me of the Handmaiden’s Tale with its look at how conceiving babies is a woman’s role but how the pouch could transform that.  But The Growing Season is a wonderfully original novel that deserves a place amongst the must-reads of dystopian fiction.

Sedgewich writes in a passionate, evocative prose that is very captivating.  The characters are all human, fleshed out with flaws and strengths, errors and achievements that allow you to connect with them.  At times I got a little confused with who’s story I was reading as characters would switch around within chapters so you do need to pay attention.

It is a book I will read again, for the hope contained within the pages for a better future and the beautiful tale of love and heartbreak.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Strong female characters, science fiction, dystopia, feminism, science ethics.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

ebook
Expected publication: September 7th 2017 by Vintage Digital
ISBN 1473548756 (ISBN13: 9781473548756)

Book Review: Nights of Blood wine – Exquisite dark vampire shorts

Nights of Blood Wine – Freda Warrington

5 star read

Why I read: Vampires! Vampire tales written by one of my favourite authors. I knew I was in for a treat.

Book blurb: “”Enter the spellbinding worlds of Freda Warrington. Fifteen tales of horror and darkness, taking the reader deeper into the vampiric and the unknown.

Warrington’s vampires haunt the borderlands of excess, and you can find them here in ten stories set in her popular Blood Wine series of novels. Then there are five further tales of fantasy and horror as Warrington takes you further into the worlds of imagination. Step gently, as you may not leave untouched!”?”

Select passage: “They split women in half, good and bad, virgin and whore, submissive and disobedient, Eve and Lilith, Odette and Odile. But we are all one. Lilith’s crime was her refusal to be dominated. She is rage and freedom and sexuality, all the things women are not meant to be, even today because men fear those things so greatly. Yes, she is dark, but darkness is only the essential complement of light. It is mystery, not evil. How people fear mystery!” My Name is Not Juliette, Freda Warrington

 

My review

Reading this book was pure indulgence for me. I loved the Blood Wine series as a teenager and this took me right back there into the addiction. Beautiful yet dark vampires, complex stories filled with emotion and depth, a touch of eroticism, all wrapped up in lavish prose.

Nights of Blood Wine consists of 15 short stories. These are dark tales of vampires, fantasy and horror that weave mythology into a breathtaking new vision. They can be read as stand alone tales so no previous knowledge is needed of her previous works. All my old favourites are back, Karl and Charlotte, the vampire twins Stefan and Niklas and Violette. 5 other tales not inspired by the Blood Wine novels make up the rest of the shorts including an intriguing story featuring Dracula.

Freda Warrington’s vampires are far away from sparkly “Twilight” teen romance vampires. Her “romance” is a sprinkling of adult eroticism, dark and disturbing visions of blood and cravings. Her vampires are complex, multi-layed beings some capable of both pure evil and others spellbinding empathy towards humans. She writes women beautifully, mixing good and bad, strength and vulnerability into complex, realistic and compelling characters. This work has an element of feminism but its there in the background and the richness of all her characters, male and female rather than pushed at you. Each story gives an exquisite glimpse into the characters lives and takes you into a wonderful fantasy world of vampires. I only wish some of the vampire stories were longer as I loved re-visiting that world.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Strong female characters, vampires, horror, fantasy, dark tales

*****

Paperback, 228 pages
Published March 31st 2017 by Telos
About the author:   Freda Warrington is an award-winning British author, known for her epic fantasy, vampire and supernatural novels.

 More about Freda Warrington and her other books can be found on her website: http://www.fredawarrington.com/

Book Review – They all Fall Down – Mental Health Psychological Thriller

They All Fall Down  by Tammy Cohen

Why I read: Psychological thriller set in a psychiatric clinic.

Book blurb: “She knows there’s a killer on the loose.
But no-one believes her.
Will she be next?

Hannah had a normal life – a loving husband, a good job. Until she did something shocking. Now she’s in a psychiatric clinic. It should be a safe place. But patients keep dying.

The doctors say it’s suicide. Hannah knows they’re lying. Can she make anyone believe her before the killer strikes again? .”

My review

A psychological  thriller set inside a psychiatric clinic.  Hannah is admitted into a clinic and is convinced that someone is killing off the other patients.  She believes her life is in danger and is trying to convince others that everything is not right.  Throughout the novel she discovers why she is here and about the clinic she resides in.   The book has 2 other main narrators, Hannah’s mother and a woman who works in the clinic, who add their own views and twists to the story.

This book has all the ticks for a good thriller, a few different suspects, an unreliable narrator and plenty of plot twists to keep things interesting.   The main story is told through a number of different narrators who all have their own voices and put a different spin on what is happening throughout the story.   It was  gripping with some brilliant twists and very cleverly written.  I loved hearing about Hannah’s story, how she ended up where she is and seeing that despite this she still had the strength within her to go on challenging what was around her and walking her path to recovery.

Tammy Cohan handles mental health really well.  She portrays various mental health disorders in a largely realistic but also sympathetic manner.  Its a difficult subject handled well in the context of a thriller.   I suffer from depression myself and could relate to some elements.  The grey areas between being unwell and in recovery.  How the illness impacts on your life and can cloud the way you see things.

Overall its a very good book, well written with interesting characters and plenty of clever plot twists to keep you reading.

I’d recommend to people who enjoy: psychological thrillers, mental health, well-written female characters.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Paperback, 384 pages (I read an ARC pdf)
Published July 13th 2017 by Doubleday
ISBN 0857524623

 

Book Review – Tomorrow’s Kin – Hard sci-fi

Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kres, Book 1 of the Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy

Why I read:  Aliens and intriguing biology based sci-fi in the blurb.

Book blurb: “Tomorrow’s Kin is the first volume in and all new hard SF trilogy by Nancy Kress based on the Nebula Award-winning Yesterday’s Kin.

The aliens have arrived… they’ve landed their Embassy ship on a platform in New York Harbor, and will only speak with the United Nations. They say that their world is so different from Earth, in terms of gravity and atmosphere, that they cannot leave their ship. The population of Earth has erupted in fear and speculation.

One day Dr. Marianne Jenner, an obscure scientist working with the human genome, receives an invitation that she cannot refuse. The Secret Service arrives at her college to escort her to New York, for she has been invited, along with the Secretary General of the UN and a few other ambassadors, to visit the alien Embassy.

The truth is about to be revealed. Earth s most elite scientists have ten months to prevent a disaster and not everyone is willing to wait.”

My review

A first encounter sci-fi story.  Dr Marianne Jenner discovers something unusual in the human genome and receives an invite to visit an alien Embassy ship which is floating over New York Harbour.  Here she discovers how her work relates to the aliens and an imminent disaster that is threatening the planet.

There was plenty of science in this book to keep me entertained, from genetics, physics, ecology etc. and aliens with possibly shady motives to give me the conspiracy theory thrill.  I loved that this book didn’t just focus on the action of the first encounter, it explores the after-effects and unexpected changes to the eco-system and the planet afterwards and humans reactions to this. Its a bit of a slow-burn but very well thought out. There are some large time leaps which can be a bit dis-orientating but they are needed to cover the timescale and show the impact within the book. An enjoyable read with some interesting ideas about the effects of aliens coming to earth and  reactions towards it.

I enjoyed that the star of this book is not a “hero”. Dr Marianne Jenner is a scientist, a mother, an “average” person with no spectacular super-hero traits to set her apart. She makes mistakes, loves, works hard and is a believable character. Not all the characters are as well thought out and some of the lesser characters feel a little stereo-typical.  The main story is told through Marianne’s perspective but there are sections seen through other people such as her children and others involved in the story.  This adds some variety and a depth of views to the story.

Even though there was plenty of science I still found it an easy read and read it over two days.  I’m intrigued to see what the next book in the trilogy brings.

Recommended to: fans of stories based on science, hard sci-fi, ecological, aliens and alternative futures.

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

****

Hardcover, 288 pages  (I read an ARC PDF)
Expected publication: July 11th 2017 by Tor Books
ISBN0765390299

I used my furry friend as a book rest to read most of this out in the sunshine:

Book Review – Lagoon – Nigerian alien tale

Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor

Why I read:  Book club pick for June

Book Quote “A star falls from the sky.  A woman rises from the sea.  The world will never be the same.”

Book blurb: “When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’

Lagoon book review. #book #booknerd #tattoo #scifi #bookblogger #reading #fantasy #ilovebooks #bookstagram

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My review

This was an unusual book which played with the normal first encounter tropes.  Shapeshifting water-loving aliens land in the waters of Lagos. The main alien  is able to switch into varying shapes and gets named Ayodele.   The book is filled with vivid and evocative imagery such as tentacled sea monsters.  ” ..a three-tentacled sea beast leaped over them, spiralling wildly through the air.  It splayed all its think purple fifty-foot tentacles wide for full effect, splashing loudly into the water.

The story is told from a wide range of different viewpoints.  With more of a folk tale/history vibe than that of a story.  Unfortunately all these viewpoints come across as a mishmash of confusing views some of which seem to have no relevance to the plot and there was a lot crammed into the book that did not help the story along.  Some parts were written in dialect and I did not discover the glossary at the end until I reached it (this would have made sections more coherent).  That said I particularly enjoyed the perspectives of the creatures that gave short almost morality tales woven through the book.

I wanted to like this more than I did.  Aliens are coming out of the ocean in contemporary Lagos, feminist women, the blend of folk law, sci-fi, eco-science, and speculative fiction are all right up my street.  But unfortunately the entire story did not gel together for me.  I’d have loved to have more featuring the main alien as she was a fascinating character.

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys the combination of African fiction and sci-fi.

***

 

 

Book Review: A Man of Shadows – Noir sci-fi mystery

A Man of Shadows – Jeff Noon

Why I read:   I was intrigued by the mix of sci-fi and detective story with a serial killer thrown into the mix.

Book blurb: “”The brilliant, mind-bending return to science fiction by one of its most acclaimed visionaries.

Below the neon skies of Dayzone – where the lights never go out, and night has been banished – lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.

As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.”

My review

Five star read:

A wonderful blend of sci-fi and mystery with a noir feel. Jeff Noon is a master of descriptive prose. Intricate writing and vivid depictions bring the complex world to life. Its dark, disturbing with plenty of bizareness thrown into the mix. Amazing world building in a city where time is a commodity and citizens move from one time to another adjusting their wristwatches to match one of the different timelines on offer. The city is split into 3 zones: Dayzone where darkness has been banished by billions of light sources and it is always bright. Nocturna where darkness lives. And the area in between which people refer to as Dusk where it is rumoured ghosts, shadows and dark shapes live within the mist.

Nyquist’s latest job is to track down a runaway girl Eleanor. But the case turns out much more complex as it appears Eleanor may hold the key to the city’s future. Whilst a vicious serial killer known as Quicksilver stalks the streets of Dayzone adding another dimension of horror to the tale. The writing is deeply layered as we follow Nyquist on his quest more and more complexity is revealed. There were plot twists I didn’t see coming which I love in a good mystery. Because it was a complex book this one took me a while to read but I still really enjoyed it.

John Nyquist is an interesting many-layered protagonist, a noir detective, a tough looking man with raw edges and a sharp mind. Eleanor Bale is another complex character an 18 year old girl, combining beauty and fragility with amazing strength. There are a multitude of other interesting and varied characters all well fleshed out.

I loved the book so much its going in my must read again pile. I can’t wait for a sequel. Its certainly changed the way I think of time.

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys, sci-fi, urban fantasy, mystery, detective noir, wierd fiction and likes complex and layered stories.

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery and Angry Robot in return for an honest review.

*****

Expected publication: August 1st 2017 by Angry Robot

Paperback: 384 pages   (I read an advanced copy on pdf)

ISBN: 9780857666703

Book Review – Wylding Hall – Spooky Acid-Folk Tale

Wylding Hall – by Elizabeth Hand

Why I read:  Book club pick

Select Quote “ But there was a feeling we all had that we were in a magic place, and we wanted to make the most of it. And we were young, so our powers of recovery were remarkable. We could drink all night, smoke till the house was spinning, do the odd bit of windowpane or blotter, busk at the pub if we needed a bit of ready cash for groceries, and still pop up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and hop down to the living room, strap on our mighty axes, and get to work. ”

Book blurb: “When the young members of a British acid-folk band are compelled by their manager to record their unique music, they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with dark secrets. There they create the album that will make their reputation, but at a terrifying cost: Julian Blake, the group’s lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen or heard from again.

Now, years later, the surviving musicians, along with their friends and lovers—including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager—meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened that summer. But whose story is true? And what really happened to Julian Blake??”

My review

A haunting story about the disappearance of Julian Blake, lead singer of an Acid-folk band.   “When he was young, Julian was almost unearthly; he was so handsome, it was difficult for me at first to keep my eyes from him. Spooky beautiful.”  Jon.  The band are sent by their manager to Wylding Hall, an old gothic house which is remote and in disrepair in order to create their album without distractions but strange events unfold.  Some years later the people involved meet with a film maker to tell what happened at Wylding Hall.

The story has an interesting structure and is set out in the form of interviews with the various people who were present at the time including the musicians, manager a psychic and a photographer.  This tells the tale from many different points of view with each person giving their own thoughts and opinions of what happened in Wylding Hall.  However sometimes you couldn’t distinguish which character you were reading as some were similar.

It beautifully entwines music, spookiness and  subcultures as the main tale is set in the 70s folk scene.  I loved the British feel and references that speckled the book.   There is a sprinkle of folktales that add to the creepiness.  The atmosphere of the book is more of a mild subtle spookiness, than horror. Personally I would have preferred more creepiness and some more explanation and horror at the end as it is quite ambiguous.  Although I found the end a bit disappointing it was still a wonderfully written tale.

I really wanted to listen to this bands music – especially their haunting folk sounds played out in the garden. So I wish there was an audio-file to accompany the book to further set the atmosphere.

Its a nice quick easy read at under 200 pages, giving a  70s twist on the traditional gothic ghost story.

Id recommend to fans of band bibliographies, gothic ghost stories and mystery.

****

 ebook, 176 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Open Road Integrated