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Hi all! Looking for books reviews and recommendations? You’ve come to the right place. Just stumbled across? Well, stay a while and find a book to fall in love with.

Maybe I should introduce myself. My name’s Sifa (Elizabeth’s my middle name, but ‘Sifa Elizabeth Reads’ rolled off the tongue better than ‘Sifa Reads’!). In case my stubborn use of ‘u’ despite google’s squiggly red underlines hasn’t tipped you off, I’m British so there might be a few strange colloquialisms floating around. Sorry in advance!

Anyway, have a browse for book. Otherwise, I’ll let you get back to your current read.

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Book Review: THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET by Becky Chambers

Genre: Sci-Fi
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Series: Yes - first of the Wayfarer series

Summary:

the long way to a small angry planetRosemary joins the crew of the Wayfarer, a tunnelling ship that constructs wormhole-like tunnels through space. All she wants is to get away from her previous life, and a patchwork spaceship seems like the perfect place.

The crew is a diverse mix of species – from the reptilian pilot Sissix to the human, and constantly squabbling, techs to the AI who’s as much part of the crew as the rest. Soon, Rosemary finds herself fitting in to their chaotic lifestyle.

They take a long-haul job, travelling towards the galaxy’s core in order to connect the planet of a new member of the galactic community. But the route is long, and space isn’t exactly a peaceful place. The galaxy is full of fragile alliances that could break at any moment, and they’ll have to navigate to one of the most worn-torn areas without dying or sparking a war.


Thoughts:

The Guardian is quoted, on the front cover, as calling the book “a quietly profound, humane tour-de-force”. I cannot agree more.

This is not an action-packed book – it does have it’s moments of action – but generally it’s a slow, steady book that explores what it is to be ‘human’/’sentient being’. Using the lens of all these alien races, Becky Chambers explores war, conflict, love, family, relationships and more.

By showing these traits and topics in the persona of alien species, the book can dive right into the murky, darker sides of humans (and the nice too – a lot of focus on what constitutes love and relationships). The book doesn’t shy away from pointing out these are human flaws too, but it feels less like a collection of essays this way.

These ‘essays’ are presented as scenes/chapters in the crew’s journey, and the journey simply  feels like a way of stringing together these thought-provoking moments. There’s no much of a plot – not until the last 50-pages when things really start to happen. They wander along to different planets, meet different people (often sparked by a tech-breakdown or a boarding-that-ends-up-not-being-a-boarding) and contemplate the differences in the species and the things that tie them together.

It’s an interesting and though-provoking read, but not the book to pick up if you want an action packed, space adventure with chases and space-battles. It’s a deep, beautifully written examination of what it is to be human – and what it is to love.

Book Review: VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab

Genre: Sci-Fi
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4/5
Series: Yes - first in duology

Summary:

vicious.jpgVictor and Eli were roommates at college – too clever for their own good, arrogant and daredevils. Experimenting with Near Death Experiences turns them into EOs – ExtraOrdinaries – and sets off a chain of devastating events that leaves Victor in jail and Eli hunting down EOs.

Ten years on, and Victor’s broken out from jail. Accompanied by another prisoner and a girl who’s got a worrying ability of her own, Victor vows vengeance on Eli. Fuelled by hate and malice, the old friends – now mortal enemies – chase each other, heedless of the bodies. All that’s certain is that they’ll meet, but who will emerge from the encounter alive?


Thoughts:

This book is dark and twisted in a jagged-black-diamonds sort of way – enthralling and mesmerising but something creeps under your skin so you know something is wrong. This is probably also the best way to describe the characters too.

The characters are interesting, compelling and complex – all with dark centres they’re embraced to one degree or another. This darkness made it a little hard to empathise with them as their morals were pretty shaky at times, but the complexity it gave them made me want to know what they’d do next.

Another reason I kept reading despite not connecting brilliantly with the characters is that the timeline is non-linear. It really helped restrict the flow of information so I wanted to keep going to understand the past events (which came up later in the book).

The first half felt a little one-sided. I thought the book would be dual-POV from Victor and Eli, but it started out as Victor’s POV – with a handful of chapters thrown in from Sydney for good measure. It took a while for Eli’s POV to come in. I kept wanting to know what was Eli’s side of things – how he felt during their research and on becoming an EO.

This book should probably come with a trigger warning for suicide. Victor and Eli create near death experiences, and it’s a little graphic. It doesn’t actually deal with the topic of suicide as they’re not trying to end their lives (at least, only temporarily).

If you like complex, dark books, this is a real gem (a black diamond, so to speak!).

 

Book Blog Tour: WHAT THE WOODS KEEP by Katya de Becerra (Book review)

What The Woods Keep Tour Banner (2)I am super excited to be part of this Book Blog Tour – so thanks to author Katya de Becerra and blog-tour-host Karlita of Tale Out Loud for letting a new book blogger be a part of this!

Genre: Dark contemporary fantasy (genre-bending)
Age Range: YA
Star rating:4/5
Series: Standalone

Summary:

What The Woods Keep Cover.jpgWhat the Woods Keep is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerised right up to the final page.

On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home―on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbours whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible―something that threatens reality itself.


Thoughts:

Katya De Becerra’s debut is an engrossing, atmospheric, and creepy mystery/thriller/paranormal fantasy. And yes – it is an impossible book to classify (I had to ask what the official designations were).

The atmosphere of this book is electrifying. Most reviews I’ve seen mention it – and those of you following the blog tour/this book are probably rolling your eyes at YET another mention of the atmosphere, but it should not be understated.

It’s creepy and uneasy and mystical and slightly off. You read it knowing something’s wrong – very, very, very wrong – but never quite sure what. The location (the fictional town of Promise, Colarado) gets under your skin with its eerie woods, thick mist and severe weather.

This setting plays perfectly into the mystery sucking you in and in. I flicked through the pages rapidly, wanting to know more and hoping no one I loved was going to get badly injured (I was reading on my kindle at an average of a percent a minute).

Hayden is a walking contradiction of being scientific and logical, and yet superstitious all at the same time. She’s quirky, with physics reference coming out her ears (and geek me loved it). The narration pulls you into her mind, which is slightly unsettling as she’s a bit unsettled and doesn’t always feel like the most reliable narrator – not in a I’m-keeping-secrets kinda way, but in a I-can’t-quite-remember-it-all-and-that’s-worrying-me way.

Shannon is not your typical love interest as he a) isn’t physically seen for a while and b) you can never know if you can trust him. Hayden doesn’t know how much he knows (not to mention, there’s a ton of secrets she discovering) or what his part in the whole mystery is.

By far, however, Del was my favourite. She’s bold and confident and an amazing friend. I mean, who decides to go to their flatmate’s abandoned childhood home and stays despite the creepiness? I want a flatmate like that. Hayden and Del’s friendship is THE most important relationship in this book and it’s great to see a positive, empowering female relationship taking centre stage.

The writing was addictive – I read most of the book in one sitting (sprawling). It pulled me through this whirl-wind mystery but a few phrases really stuck out to me that I stopped and noted them down.

‘…we marinate in the cramped waiting space…’

‘…the drizzle envelops my face like a thin veil…’

Katya De Becerra manages to make very ordinary things (waiting at a stuffy airport gate and drizzle) feel slightly mystical and different. Her writing is really what builds the atmosphere and nagging feeling that something is wrong here – even if you can’t quite put your finger on it.

If I have one criticism of this book, it was that the ending went so fast (or was that just me sucked in?) that I had a bit of trouble following it. Even if you really want to just race through, slow down and savour the ending so you can fully appreciate and absorb how all these dangling threads come together and resolve.

I’ve never been to USA, but if (when!) I go, WHAT THE WOODS KEEP has scared me off heading towards any woods in Colorado. I’m sure the woods there are lovely, but I’m not risking it.


Interested to read WHAT THE WOODS KEEP for yourself?

Add it on Goodreads here and then buy yourself a copy from the retailers below or order at your local library. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here.

US retailers: AmazonBarnes and NobleBook Depository (good for international), Books-a-MillionIndieBound

UK retailers (for my fellow Brits): WaterstonesAmazon, Foyles


Katya de Beccera Author Photo (1).JPG

About the Author:

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology. What the Woods Keep is her first novel.

Find her at her website, on Goodreads, on Twitter, on Instagram or on Facebook. Or better yet, all five.


What The Woods Keep Tour Banner (1)

WHAT THE WOODS KEEP tour schedule

Want to read more about WHAT THE WOODS KEEP while you wait for your copy to arrive? Go check out these other amazing people’s blog posts, including author interviews, creative posts and more!What the Woods Keep Blog Tour Schedule

Links to these amazing people’s blogs:

SEPTEMBER 10 (MONDAY)

Karlita — Tale Out Loud (Review, Q&A)

Kester — LILbooKlovers (Guest Post)

SEPTEMBER 11 (TUESDAY)

Salwa — Voguish Perusal (Review, Favorite Quotes, Guest Post)

Amanda — MetalPhantasmReads (Review)

Laura — Bucks, Books & Beyond (Review, Favorite Quotes)

SEPTEMBER 12 (WEDNESDAY)

Liv — Liv’s Wonderful Escape (Review, Creative)

Sifa — Sifa Elizabeth Reads (Review)

Katherine — Kat’s Books (Review)

SEPTEMBER 13 (THURSDAY)

Austine — NovelKnight (Review, Q&A)

Imogene — Amidst the Pages (Review, Favorite Quotes)

Mari — Andico Mari (Review)

SEPTEMBER 14 (FRIDAY)

AJ — Diary of an Avid Reader (Review, Novel Aesthetic Board)

Justine — Bookish Wisps (Review, Favorite Quotes)

Nikole — A Court of Coffee and Books (Review, Q&A)

SEPTEMBER 15 (SATURDAY)

Jamie — PrincessofPages (Review)

Preethi — Young Adult Media Consumer (Review, Extract)

Crimson — Crimson Talks Books, Mostly (Review)

Book Review: CITY OF GHOSTS by Victoria Schwab

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 4/5
Series: Yes - first book of a new series

Summary:

city of ghosts.jpgEver since she drowned, Cassidy has seen ghosts. They’re at school, on the streets and in castles. Even her best friend is a ghost. Not only can she see ghost, but she can cross over the Veil – the barrier separating the ghosts from our world.

When her parents take her to Edinburgh to film a TV show about haunted cities, Cassidy quickly discovers there’s much more to the Veil – and ghosts – than she knew. The city teems with ghosts, and not all are friendly.


Thoughts:

I really loved this book. I was slightly apprehensive starting it, thinking it might be too young, but it was a lot of fun and the perfect tonic for a somewhat dull day. It’s not as complicated as Victoria/V.E. Schwab’s other books are, but it was nice to read without having to think too hard about all the subplots.

Cassidy is an engaging MC, with plenty of personality coming across the page. Her voice is strong, brought out by Victoria Schwab’s addictive writing and complimenting the fast-paced story. Cassidy is quite funny – thought ghost-bestie-Jacob takes home the prize for funniest character. She’s bold and gutsy, the sort of friend who’d pull you into adventures that hovered close to breaking your parents rules.

Being an MG book, there’s no romance but rather the relationship focus is platonic, on Cassidy and Jacob. I loved their friendship, their jokes and easy way with each other. Having been reading largely YA recently, it’s like a breath of fresh air to read about a boy-girl friendship that isn’t tinged with romance.

The setting – Edinburgh – is ready-made for the slightly spooky atmosphere of the book with it’s close, crooked streets and historic sites. While there are jokes at the expense of the Scots/Brits (e.g. the weather) it all feels in good humour, unlike some other books by non-Brits set in the UK. There are several jokes made about the difference between American and British English. These largely passed me by at first – particularly the fish and chips one – because ‘chips’ is the word I’d use and it’s a totally normal food here. Once the meaning difference had been highlighted, I found Cass’ assumption quite amusing.

I’m looking forwards to the next book – and I think I might pick up some more MG in the meantime.

Book Review: CATWOMAN: SOULSTEALER by Sarah J. Maas

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 3/5
Series: B3 in DC icons (each a different superhero)

Summary:

catwoman soulstealerSelina Kyle escaped Gotham’s slums, and now she’s back. Batman’s away, and Gotham is ripe for the taking. Reinventing herself as wealthy socialite Holly Vanderhees, she uses galas to scout her targets. With Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn in tow, she robs Gotham blind.

Luke Fox is struggling to readjust to life after the Marines, but being Batwing helps. With Batman on a mission, protecting Gotham is his responsibility. As Catwoman’s thefts unsettle the city, he must track her down before it’s too late.

But Selina’s running on borrowed time – as is Gotham.


Thoughts:

Overall, this is a nice, fun, easy read. It’s generally well paced (though a few flash-back scenes interrupt the flow for information I didn’t feel added much), and the characters are engaging.

Luke Fox was my favourite character, closely followed by Poison Ivy. He wasn’t morally ambiguous, with clear goals and methods throughout. His emotions felt very realistic – he wasn’t simply cool and clear-headed. He gets angry and disappointed when he’s thwarted. I liked the representation of him as a veteran. I have no experience to compare it to, but the scenes where he was dealing with what he’d experienced seemed realistic and added a depth to why he was Batwing. If I have a critique of Luke, it’s that he didn’t seem to have a character arc.

The science geek in me adores Poison Ivy, and her plants and goals to save the planet. The only reason she’s not my favourite is that there wasn’t as much time with her. Her character arc was clear and so well done, not to mention her relationship with Harley Quinn.

If you’ve read any other of Sarah J. Maas’ other work – particularly the Throne of Glass series – you’ll immediately feel like this is a book in another series. Selina’s character is very similar to Celeana’s (attractive baddie with secrets, unbelievable fighting skills, no small degree of arrogance, and a conscience that only shows up when convenient). It’s an interesting character, but did make it hard to judge this book by itself and not compare to ToG. Luke gave me a few Chaol vibes, but he felt much more separate than Selina/Celeana (even their names are similar!). Also, Selina didn’t have an arc either.

That’s not the only similarity. Selina’s grand plan is unveiled in a very Celeana-esque way at the end. Sure, there are hints all along, but it’s very sudden and not as satisfying as the unfolding mystery/plan in Marie Lu’s Batman: Nightwalker. You couldn’t put the plan together yourself based off the information (how I think a true mystery/grand reveal should be) as there’s too much information concealed.

I was expecting a more realistic/Sci-Fi world. At first, it felt like that would be the case but the ending brings in a whole supernatural element, which felt out of place next to Selina and Luke’s high-tech suits.

Luke and Selina’s relationship is nice (and totally 12A/PG-13 unlike some of her other books!). It’s predictable, but they’re cute together and nicely matched.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. reading back, this review feels really negative, but I did have fun reading this. Sarah J. Maas writes fun and addictive books, but this one felt a little too similar to ToG. It feels a bit like she could have taken this as a chance to experiment with different story and character types, but played it safe.

Book Review: BATMAN: NIGHTWALKER by Marie Lu

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4/5 stars
Series: yes - 2nd DC icon (each book different superhero)

Summary:

batman-nightwalker.jpgBruce Wayne is a billionaire – and billionaire who can now access his trust fund. On his eighteenth birthday, he uses a new car to chase down a Nightwalker – a vicious gang draining the bank accounts of the rich and powerful before brutally murdering them.

For his recklessness and interference, Bruce is given community service at Arkham Asylum. There he meets Madeleine, a Nightwalker and tech-genius – and murderer. She’s calculating and cool, but Bruce is drawn to her. Can he trust her? And who’s next on the Nightwalker’s list?


Thoughts:

This is a wonderfully tense physiological thriller. It’s superbly written to keep you on the edge of your seat at all time, not knowing who to trust or believe. The writing is very addictive, fast-paced and driven by the mystery of Madeleine, the Nightwalkers and what happens next.

I tore through this in a matter of hours, unable to put it down. I loved that it was, at its heart, a mystery. Marie Lu peppers clues about the ‘solution’ and finale throughout in such a way that I didn’t quite spot them all, but are obvious in retrospect. Those that I noted made me more excited for the finale.

Bruce is a compelling character, not yet started his Batman days. This book is the start of journey to becoming Batman, but he doesn’t end up as Batman – he’s simply a step further down the road. He’s starts out confident because of his money, but Madeleine and the Nightwalkers really make him doubt, exposing his confidence for the falsity that it is. And then he starts to build real confidence. It was a great arc, and one I haven’t seen a lot of.

Madeleine is my favourite character. She felt so dangerous, so cunning, that I knew I shouldn’t trust her. But, as she was so brilliant, I wanted her win. I was analysing everything Madeleine said, like Bruce, frustrated that I couldn’t understand her and desperate to know more. Marie Lu did a great job writing her, and making her so nuanced – not relying on the ‘dangerous bond girl’ type (which really wouldn’t have worked or been appropriate for this book/YA).

Like with Wonder Woman: Warbringer, I hope there’s another book. This can’t be the end of Bruce and Madeleine’s story. I know this and Wonder Woman were designed to be open ended so that more books could be written if they proved profitable enough, but standalone enough that they could be all if not. These books are brilliant, and the characters deserve more outings.

Book Review: WONDER WOMAN: WARBRINGER by Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4/5
Series: Yes - 1st DC icon (each book is a different superhero)

Summary:

wonder woman warbringerDiana is Princess of the Amazons. Unlike the other Amazons on Themyscira, she’s isn’t battle-tested – she didn’t die in battle, selected by a goddesses for her bravery and skill to have a second-life, a second chance to save the world. All she’s known is the safety and tranquillity of Themyscira. And though she’s trained all her life, it isn’t the same as war.

When she saves mortal Alia, Diana must choose between letting Alia die or sending her back to the mortal realm. But Alia is a Warbringer – a descendant of Helen of Troy who heralds major conflict. Together, Diana and Alia must seek an end to the Warbringer curse but forces, both mortal and divine, seek Alia. Some want to kill her, but others want to capture the Warbringer and control the tides of war.


Thoughts:

Before WARBRINGER, my only exposure to Wonder Woman had been the DC movie – which I enjoyed. I largely picked this up because I love the Grishaverse, and wanted more of Leigh Bardugo’s writing in the wait for KING OF SCARS.

I was not disappointed.

The book is fast-paced and adrenaline-filled, even though the action scenes are spaced out. This is only on reflection that I realise how few ‘set-pieces’ there are. The relative lack of action like you’d see in a typical superhero movie is great – the book really dives into the characters. Their journeys are well-crafted and explored.

Diana is charmingly naive in our world – which is often very funny. She starts off very unsure about her place and whether she should be an Amazon, and her uncertainty is heightened initially in the mortal realm. Her journey doesn’t feel forced.

However, Alia was my favourite – closely followed by Nim. I was laughing a lot during Alia’s chapters – particularly her reactions/opinions about Diana initially. She’s also more relateable as she isn’t a super-fighter/supermodel. She’s afraid and geeky and unsure.

Jason is an interesting character. I really liked him, and the way he was portrayed. I kept thinking I had him worked out, but he was so much more complex than I initially thought. Nim is the sort of best friend we all wish for, and very nuanced for a secondary character. Theo’s the techie, who’s great moral support.

I was so glad when Nim and Theo came along for the ride. When they were initially introduced, I thought it was simply to show Alia’s life and show that she couldn’t just die and solve all the problems. But when they joined the ‘quest’, in a very natural way, I was so pleased. the dynamic between the five (Diana, Alia, Jason, Nim and Theo) was brilliant

The love focus in the book is very much platonic. There are a few romantic scenes, but they are very few and far between. Instead Diana and Alia’s relationship takes centre stage, followed by Alia and Nim’s. It is so wonderful to see healthy and well-rounded female relationships take centre-stage. The boys and any romance take back seat (the two seats crammed in the boot of a seven-seater).

I love the final twist. I knew something was going to happened but my guess for what was so very wrong.

Biggest criticism? It’s very small. Both this book and the movie start of Themyscira with Diana saving a mortal and then going to the mortal world, so the beginning felt a little same-y but this book is set in our time – and New York and Greece. Once they get off Themyscira any resemblance to the movie is gone. I certainly enjoyed the mortal world bit more because I wasn’t comparing it to the movie.

This is a wonderful start to the DC icons books. I’m really hoping they’re sucessfull enough that they make more books because I would love more books about Diana as her journey isn’t over.