Review: Fellside

Review: FellsideFellside by M. R. Carey
Published by Orbit on April 5th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Horror & Ghost Stories, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher
Goodreads

The unmissable and highly anticipated new literary thriller from the author of the international phenomenon The Girl With All the Gifts.
Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. It's not the kind of place you'd want to end up. But it's where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.
It's a place where even the walls whisper.
And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess.
Will she listen?

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★★
Addictiveness: ★★★

When I read it…

I read this between March 18th and 23rd 2016.

What I’d heard before I read it:

Mostly great things, that people hadn’t wanted to put it down!  I couldn’t resist this one because I really enjoyed The Girl with All The Gifts.

What worked for me:

  • The atmosphere: I was actually expecting Fellside to be a lot scarier than it was, but I enjoyed the way Carey instead made you feel just vaguely uneasy instead.  The book isn’t scary, but it is definitely uncomfortable, and that made it hard to put down, and easy to get sucked back in once you did.
  • The interlinking stories: Fellside has a lot of different characters, and the way these characters gradually interlink, with their plotlines becoming more and more entangled, reminded me in many ways of a Jodi Picoult novel (which I pretty much universally love, so that’s a good thing!).
  • The mystery: Although Jess didn’t particularly care about her trial, and whether she’d burned down the flat, I desperately did want to know the exact details, and that plotline had me hooked from the beginning.

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • The paranormal/horror: A lot of the reviews I’d read before I started said Fellside was really scary, and given that I’m a bit of a wimp, I waited until I’d psyched myself up for something super scary before starting.  When I started though, I didn’t find the whispering walls particularly sinister, and actually an awful lot more of the tension came from the prison-drama, which although not bad, wasn’t at all what I was expecting.  Many, many reviewers are comparing Fellside to “Orange is the New Black meets *paranormal film or book*” and while I agree with the Orange Is the New Black comparison, the supernatural elements were a bit weak to me.  If you’ve seen Inside Out, the scene where they enter abstract thought is about how I felt about the supernatural elements – they were all sort of fuzzy and unclear, and certainly not as spooky as I’d expected.
  • The length/pacing: At virtually 500 pages, Fellside felt a bit longer and a bit slower than it needed to be, and there were times, particularly early on, when the story didn’t really feel like it was going anywhere so it took me a while to get engrossed.
  • The ending: Difficult to comment without spoilers, but I wasn’t a fan of the ending!

I didn’t dislike Fellside, but I just wasn’t wowed by it, and it probably isn’t one that I’d bother re-reading later, so overall, this was just an okay read for me.  I’m a little disappointed, since I went in with high expectations after The Girl With All The Gifts, but even had this book been written by someone else, I think ultimately it still would have been just an okay read.  Predominantly a prison-drama, with a few paranormal elements, and no characters I particularly connected with, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t really my cup of tea.  I definitely seem to be among the minority though, so if you’re curious I would absolutely give it a go!

Other Reviews of Fellside: Girl with her head in a book | For Winter Nights | The Discriminating Fangirl

One StarOne Star

Silverblind (Tina Connolly)

Silverblind (Tina Connolly)Silverblind by Tina Connolly
Published by Macmillan on October 7th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical
Pages: 320
Source: From the publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

The final book in this series will jump forward 18 years and feature Dorie, Jane's young charge from Ironskin.

18 years later . . .
Dorie Rochart has been hiding her fey side for a long time. Now, finished with University, she plans to study magical creatures and plants in the wild, bringing long-forgotten cures to those in need. But when no one will hire a girl to fight basilisks, she releases her shapechanging fey powers--to disguise herself as a boy.

While hunting for wyvern eggs, she saves a young scientist who's about to get steamed by a silvertail-- and finds her childhood friend Tam Grimsby, to whom she hasn't spoken in seven years. Not since she traded him to the fey. She can't bear to tell him who she really is, but every day grows harder as he comes to trust her.

The wyverns are being hunted to extinction for the powerful compounds in their eggs. The fey are dying out as humans grow in power. Now Tam and Dorie will have to decide which side they will fight for. And if they end up on opposite sides, can their returning friendship survive?

Plot: ★★★
Characters:
★★★★
Readability:
★★★★

 

The storyDorie Rochart has always wanted to do field work; to go out searching for basilisks, to study wyverns, to bring back the long-forgotten cures to people who can’t afford the expensive prices everyone seems to charge now.  Unfortunately for Dorie, no one wants to hire a girl for jobs like these, especially not when they see her ringlets and doll-like face, so Dorie unleashes a little of her fey powers for the first time in years in order to become Dorian, in the hopes of gaining a job without being discriminated against for her gender.

The characters

I loved Dorie – she’s not as kickass as someone like Celaena, or as stubborn as Katniss, but she’s determined, she’s fiery, and she’s just very likable.  Her half-fey nature means she’s never quite felt like she fit in anywhere, which makes her very easy to relate to. She’s worked hard all her life to blend in as a human girl, and now she’s frustrated to find out that that makes her apparently unsuitable for the kind of work she wants to do.

Her roommate Jack is interesting, though a little difficult to understand at times, and their friend Stella is a great addition to the two of them, though her role in the story itself is relatively small.

Tam is intriguing, sweet, and a bit of a geek which is always great 😉 I loved learning the little facts about his and Dorie’s childhood and the hints regarding their estrangement. I also liked seeing (however briefly) both Jane and Helen from the previous novels.

final thoughts

Silverblind was a bit of a bittersweet read for me; I enjoyed it, but I was also sad that the series was coming to an end, and I didn’t manage to savour it as much as I had planned to…. Connolly’s writing draws you in very quickly and easily –for me, it’s the sort of writing that leaves you realising you’ve been reading for an hour instead of the ten minutes you thought you had; it’s enticing, it’s easy to get lost in, and most importantly, it doesn’t get in the way of a fantastic story. I loved the plot, and the characters, but Silverblind wasn’t quite a perfect read for me. While I didn’t mind the ending, it didn’t have as strong an impact as I was expecting which was a little disappointing, and prevented it being a five for me. Having said that, I really enjoyed it, and it’s a nice ending to the series. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for whatever Ms Connolly does next.

Buy it? This is one I’d be happy to buy (not hurt by the fact that the cover is gorgeous!)
In a nutshell: The same beautiful world building, great writing, and fascinating characters we’ve come to expect from the rest of the series.

Other Reviews of Silverblind: Proud Book Nerd  | Geek Girl in LoveBook Worm Blues

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Lock In (John Scalzi)

Lock In (John Scalzi)Lock In by John Scalzi
Series: Lock in #1
Published by Macmillan on August 26th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Thrillers
Pages: 336
Length: 10:00
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people “locked in”...including the President's wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse....

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★
Readability: ★★★

 

Chris Shane is one of the most famous Hadens in the world.  Chris has ‘lock in’; unable to move, or speak, Chris interacts with the world through a Personal Transport (also known as a threep, after C3PO).  Chris is a rookie FBI agent whose first week involves a Haden related murder case which needs solving.

I really liked Chris, but I found the other characters mostly just uninteresting.  Chris’ partner, Leslie Vann, had the potential to be interesting, but I also found her unlikable: her sloppiness on the job was frustrating, and I felt the ongoing battle between her and Trinh grew tiresome pretty quickly.

Wil Wheaton’s narration was great, although I did find the number of ‘he said’ and ‘she said’s off-putting, so maybe I would have enjoyed this more in print.  I also didn’t find Lock In as gripping as Ready Player One, which was surprising when the story is all about a mysterious murder case…It’s pretty clear early on who’s involved, so I didn’t find the mystery hugely gripping or surprising; reading Lock In felt a bit like watching one of the more predictable episodes of something like Criminal Minds, just with slightly unusual settings.  The setting itself is really interesting, but for me, that isn’t enough without some great characters I care about, some relationships to invest in, or a mystery that keeps you up until all hours because you just have to know.

The audiobook also includes the novella Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome, at the end, so Lock In itself is somewhere around 8 hours if I remember correctly.  I really enjoyed the novella, learning more about the spread of Haden’s, and indeed about Margaret Haden and her husband, who I found myself caring about more than the characters in Lock In itself!

 Buy it? This is one that I’d probably borrow personally.
In a nutshell: It was interesting, it made me think, and I loved the concept, but the pacing was too slow for me, and I found the characters disappointing. 

Other Reviews of Lock In: Not Yet Read | The Infinite Reach | Reading Diva

One StarOne StarOne Star

Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)

Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishers on 05-04-2012
Genres: Fiction, General, Hard Science Fiction, Science Fiction
Length: 15 hours, 40 minutes
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune -- and remarkable power -- to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved -- that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt -- among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life -- and love -- in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★★

Strange but true: for some reason I was convinced Ready Player One was an old book, a sci-fi classic like Ender’s Game or Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Reality: Ready Player One was published in 2011.  Don’t ask me why I was convinced it was published in the 80s (especially since that doesn’t even really make sense given the 80s references in the book).

Also true: I was convinced I would dislike Ready Player One.  The concept interested me, but as a 90s child with no 80s knowledge, I expected it to be like listening to a relative go on about people they loved as a kid but that you’ve never heard of.

So by now, you’re almost certainly wondering why I bothered picking up Ready Player One, but I was looking for audiobooks for my commute and I heard so many great things about Wil Wheaton’s narration I decided it was worth a go!

The story

19 year old Wade Watts is our primary character.  Like pretty much everyone else, Wade spends almost all his time in the OASIS (The Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation). The OASIS is a virtual world, through which people go to school, hang out with friends, meet new people and even work.   When James Halliday, the creator of The OASIS dies, he reveals that he has hidden an easter egg within The OASIS.  The person who finds this easter egg will inherit a ridiculous amount of money and Halliday’s share in the company that created The OASIS.

Like everyone else, Wade dreams of finding the Egg, but so far, the contest has been going on for years, and no one has even managed to find the first of the three keys, yet alone the Egg itself.  But Wade’s life outside The OASIS is miserable – he lives in a trailer park with family he doesn’t like, stacked high up in a pile of trailers constantly at risk of toppling, in a neighbourhood where mugging is a daily occurence.  So he goes to school in The OASIS, and he spends the rest of his time learning about the 80s, because everyone knows how obsessed Halliday was with the 80s, and the journal that Halliday has left makes no sense without an intense knowledge of 80s pop culture.  So he reads, and he watches, and he listens to music, and he racks his brain for what the first clue means and where the first key could be hidden.

When the first key is finally found though, things get very intense, very fast. From the clans that team up to try and find the keys to the professionals who are paid to try and find the keys so that the rival company can take over The OASIS, Wade’s life – and many others – will be permanently changed by the experience of hunting for the egg.

 

final thoughtsAll in all, despite my skepticism before starting, I really enjoyed Ready Player One.  I really loved the plot, the twists and turns and the constant guessing.  I definitely didn’t get all the references, but because they tie in so clearly to the plot, I didn’t really mind, and I loved that jolt when something unexpected pops up that you are familiar with.  My biggest limitation with Ready Player One was the characters – I liked them, but I didn’t adore them, which, as someone who is hugely character driven, I found a little disappointing.

Wil Wheaton’s narration is truly fantastic, and I can honestly say this was probably the perfect introduction to audiobooks for me.  I’ve listened to a few more audiobooks but none of them have been addictive in the way Ready Player One was!

Buy it? This is one that’s definitely worth buying for me.
In a nutshell: This book is like all those quotes that say ‘being a geek is cool’, rolled up into one and then filled with geeky references.  It’s fun, it’s gripping and it’ll make you feel like a rockstar whenever you get a reference.

Other Reviews of Ready Player One: Snuggly Oranges | Let’s Get Galactic | Read Breathe Relax

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

The Queen of The Tearling (Erika Johansen)

The Queen of The Tearling (Erika Johansen)The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Published by Harper Collins on 17-07-2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Fantasy, Fiction, General
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon
Goodreads

Her throne awaits . . . if she can live long enough to take it.

It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. They’d come to escort her back to the place of her birth – and to ensure she survives long enough to be able to take possession of what is rightfully hers.

But like many nineteen-year-olds, Kelsea is unruly, has high principles and believes she knows better than her elders. Unlike many nineteen-year-olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees – corrupt, debauched and dangerous.

Kelsea will either become the most fearsome ruler the kingdom has ever known . . . or be dead within the week.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★

 

The storyThe Queen of the Tearling is a book I heard absolutely loads about before I actually read it, and I think that did the book a disservice.  The problem is that so many of the reviews I was reading kept calling The Queen of the Tearling a YA Game of Thrones. Which, frankly, it’s not.  That’s absolutely not to say I disliked the book, just that it’s not at all what I was expecting.

For one thing, I wouldn’t call The Queen of The Tearling necessarily a YA read – it has a YA feel to it, but it also has some dark elements that would definitely put me off giving it to my teenage sister.  I actually really enjoyed the darker tone, because it’s refreshing and unusual, and stopped the story feeling too young, which would have been a definite possibility otherwise from my point of view.

For another, A Game of Thrones is a straight up fantasy series, while The Queen of The Tearling doesn’t fit so nicely into genre boxes!  The Queen of The Tearling is a complex blend of multiple genres, which is probably the most unusual and intriguing element of the plot and I’m really interested to see where it leads.

The characters

Kelsea, our 19 year old somewhat sheltered protaganist is a great heroine.  She’s definitely not perfect; she can be naive, she’s very concerned with appearance and she’s occasionally annoying, but that makes her all the more relatable.  She’s fiery and feisty and determined, which are all traits I absolutely loved about her.  Above all, Kelsea wants to do what’s best for her kingdom and her people, and although she doesn’t always know the best way to do that, she’s razor sharp, logical and prepared to do whatever she must.  She’s definitely got the potential to be a fantastic ruler.

There’s not a lot in the way of romance which is refreshing, but there’s some thick foundations laid for a love triangle, which isn’t.  I didn’t find either of the love interests for that triangle of particular interest, but I felt Kelsea’s thoughts/feelings/slight mental obsession for one grew too fast, so obviously I’m leaning towards the other interest!

I thought the royal guard needed some serious work; as a group they’re largely incompetent and that’s something that didn’t really work for me.  Having said that, I really liked some of the individual members of the guard, so maybe they can redeem themselves later on in the series.

final thoughtsThe Queen of The Tearling is an interesting genre-bending story of a young girl fighting for her kingdom and ruling as best she can.  There’s a lot of questions left unanswered, and from my point of view I’d have liked to see more of the world building.  Perhaps I’m just a bit of a fantasy snob, but the world building was too vague for me, unable to compare with the rich, complex worlds I associate with fantasy, like those of George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb or Sarah J. Maas. Although I can understand why the first book hasn’t just dumped all of the info on us, I feel largely unattached to the world because I don’t have a clear enough vision of it. An interesting start to the series nonetheless and I’m really intrigued to find out more about the formation of the lands and cultures in the world.

Buy it? This probably isn’t one I’d buy unless I could grab it on a deal.
In a nutshell: An intriguing blend of genres, a feisty heroine and a refreshingly darker tone, but I’d have liked more answers.

Other Reviews of The Queen of The Tearling: Uncorked Thoughts | Bibliodaze | Not Yet Read

One StarOne StarOne Star