Star Wars: Tarkin (James Luceno)

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Even better than I had hoped!

TL;DR – The story of Grand Moff Tarkin’s rise to power. An awesome tale and a must-read for Star Wars fans.

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RAGDOLL RATING: Exceptional

What I thought…

I’ve never read a Star Wars book before, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d heard people talking about Tarkin on twitter, and since I love the character I thought I’d give it a go. Best. Decision. Ever.

So, Tarkin chronicles the life of one of the most powerful men in the Empire, from his childhood to his rise to the position of Grand Moff, and oh boy is it exciting. James Luceno did a marvellous job of bringing the character to life.

I read the audiobook version of this book, and dang the production quality is superb. Sound effects and occasional music and everything. BEAUTIFUL. But I guess you’d expect that from a Star Wars book – they can afford not to cheap out on that stuff.

Anyway, well worth a read or a listen.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Fringe War (Rachel Aukes)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Interesting, but a little overwhelming.

TL;DR – Freedom fighters kick back against the government that oppresses them, war ensues. Full of plotting, politics and spaceships.

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Ragdoll Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of sci-fi

About the Book…

Fringe War is the fourth book in a series I haven’t read. It follows the story of a group of freedom fighters in their struggle to wrestle control and a better life from the hands of a corrupt – and evil – government. It’s your classic space-based underdog story.

What I thought…

I’ve given this book 4 stars, although if I’m honest I feel I should give it three. I’ll explain that first and then move on to the book itself. I personally felt that there were too many characters and names being thrown about it this book – I really, really struggled to keep track of who was who, and even now I could only name two characters, and I only really know who one of them is. For this reason, I would have rated this book a three – however, I am erring on the side of caution, as this could just be my own issue rather than a genuine problem with the book so I would encourage you to make up your own mind on that front.

The story itself – or at least, the bits I could keep track of – were very interesting. I enjoyed reading about the political landscape of The Collective, and the unpleasant motivations of Heid, who seems to run the parliament. There were a lot of references to things that must have happened earlier in the series that influenced a lot of the decisions made by the characters, and I would definitely consider picking up the rest of the series to learn about them.

I think the story had a good balance of action and political thought, which made for an easy read, aside from the issues addressed above.

Final Thoughts…

This book definitely seems to have the potential to be really enjoyed by someone who can get their head around all the characters. So if that sort of thing isn’t a problem for you, I’d recommend you give it a try.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: We Are Mars (Cheryl Lawson)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

A city on mars! What could possibly go wrong…

TL;DR – A super space thriller, full of excitement and wonderful characters.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I originally bought this book as a sort of weak thank you after Cheryl very kindly offered me some excellent advice on kicking writers block. Though I would have bought it either way, because it sounded exciting and I love a good sci-fi novel!

The Story…

Rubicon was once the pinnacle of human achievement. A city on Mars with with best technology and brightest minds all in one place. But that was years ago. After the expedition failed to discover evidence of life on Mars, funding dried up and Rubicon began to stagnate.

After a biological contagion is discovered in the drinking water, Rubicon descends into chaos – and that’s only the beginning.

We Are Mars is an wonderful science-fiction thriller.

What I liked…

We Are Mars explores a side of space exploration that often gets neglected in the sci-fi genre. Rubicon was once a technological marvel, but it’s systems are now becoming antiquated, and the supply ships that arrive every six years are more inclined to bring branded drinks dispensers than vital mission supplies to the Red planet. Rubicon is thrown into complete disarray when the aging water filtration system fails to prevent an outbreak of an unknown toxin to the drinking water, made worse by the completely unforeseen medical problems in genetically engineered humans.

The numerous tragedies that unfold during the course of the book, provide a wonderful backdrop to the interrelationships of the books main characters. One particularly interesting relationship builds between Jaxon and Dana, who prior to the outbreak constantly butted heads as Jaxon did all he could to rebel against the authority Dana represented, and Dana tried desperately to reign Jaxon in and maintain order. But as the pair find themselves forced into an impossible situation, they find themselves showing qualities that were hidden or ignored, and their working relationship becomes strong, building throughout the book. I enjoyed the way the characters evolved as the book went on, and the gravity of their situation hit them in unique and interesting ways.

Finally, I loved the world building. Rubicon has clearly undergone a considerable level of thought, avoiding the ‘generic space city’ vibe and instead becoming a believable and fascinating location. The rules and regulations imposed upon the inhabitants are infuriating, but completely understandable given the mission parameters. It is, as the book says, more scientific experiment than living city, something that Jaxon and his cohorts find themselves desperate to change.

What I disliked…

Each chapter focuses on one (or more) characters, and it took me some time to wrap my head around who was who. Each time the narrative switched to someone I hadn’t heard of, I got a bit confused, and then when it switched back to someone I did know, I couldn’t remember who they were – although this became easier as the book went on, and I would chalk this up to an issue with my comprehension ability than the book itself.

Final thoughts…

We Are Mars is a really fun and exciting read, that sets itself up nicely for the sequel (which I cannot wait to read). The plot and characters are excellent, and the world building is top-notch.

SUPER SPECIAL BONUS: AUTHOR INTERVIEW!!!

Twitter is an awesome place sometimes. This time it’s awesome because I managed to get We Are Mars author Cheryl Lawson (@WeAreMarsBook) to answer some questions about her work, which I’m super excited to present to you here!

Cheryl Lawson

1) What inspired you to write about disasters on a Martian colony?

I decided on a Mars drama because of two things: 1. The isolation of a Mars colony makes it vulnerable and 2. Mars is such a hostile place, I felt there was already a lot to work with. I’ve realized, while writing both books, that there are dozens of ways to die on Mars and it provides a lot of opportunity for an exciting and dramatic narrative.

2) If you had to pick two parts of We Are Mars you like more than any other, what would they be and why?

Firstly, the characters stories are my favourite part of the book. They are complex and the pressure of they are put under reveals unexpected traits and behaviours. Second, the ending – which is more of an opening to Storm at Dawn – is my next favourite part. It gives a clue for the coming crisis.

3) I see from twitter you have recently completed your first draft of Storm at Dawn, the second book in the Rubicon Saga. Is there anything in it that you a really excited for people to read?

Yes! The characters relationships are severely tested and the threats abound in Storm at Dawn. There’s a significant plot twist towards the end that opens the plot for the next, as yet untitled, third installment of the Rubicon Saga. It’s going to be a cracking read!

4) Finally, is there anything you’d like to tell my readers?

We Are Mars is not all about the science. It’s about the people and the character cast is richly diverse. The science sets the stage for some amazing interpersonal drama and if your readers enjoy complex, layered characters, they will love the Rubicon Saga.

Thank you so much Cheryl, for answering my questions.

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Please note: I know the author on twitter, however I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Supremacy’s Shadow (T. Eric Bakutis)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

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Ragdoll Rating: 4/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of Sci-fi and action

About the Book…

Life sucks for Hayden Cross. His wife is dead, he’s just been fired and now someone is trying to kill him! But Cross soon comes across evidence that his wife faked her own death – solving this mystery will take Cross and his associates into the middle of a war, filled with terrorists, political machinations, espionage and betrayal!

What I thought…

I think probably the best thing I can say about this book is that it is fun. It goes to some serious places, but it doesn’t take itself to seriously, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for.

The plot is a bit complicated in places, the writing style is a little strange at times and some of the names are a bit cheesy (The Terrorist leader is called Xealot, and the biologically advanced ruling class is called ‘The Supremacy’) but that’s about as far as my criticism is gonna go. More importantly the book is action-packed, with likable (and not-so-likable) characters, and a whole load of violent explosive nonsense going on.

The book starts with a terrorist being crushed to death as a car runs through the wall of Hayden’s home, and ends with a full-scale assault on a top-secret military base, it’s that kind of story.

Final Thoughts…

If you like a good space-warfare action read, then this is definitely the book for you. Bring on book 2.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: Binti (Nnedi Okorafor)

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Goodreads Link | Author Website

You can’t go far wrong with a Space Octopus!

TL;DR – Octopus aliens take over a spacecraft and only Binti can prevent a massacre when the spacecraft lands at Oomza Uni.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

What I thought…

My TL;DR above does not adequately or even appropriately describe what this book is about – but frankly that’s why I’m not an award winning author. This book is about space octopuses murdering a ship full of people. But it is also (and more importantly) about a girl who leaves her people, breaks away from all her traditions to pursue an academic career. It is about family, and culture and all sorts of other important topics too.

It took me a little while to get into this book for one reason – Binti keeps talking about mathematical things, like fractals and equations and all sorts. I know nothing about maths, apart from the basics. I’ve heard of fractals, but the rest could be all made up or it could be real and I’m not sure which it is. However, once I decided that it probably didn’t matter what exactly those little bits meant (I mean I don’t know what ‘wingardium leviosa’ actually means, but it didn’t stop me enjoying Harry Potter) I found story really clever and interesting.

I’ll definitely be getting hold of the other two books when I get a chance.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Lock In (John Scalzi)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

“Weapons-grade science fiction. Not to be missed.” 

TL;DR – I was hooked the whole way through. It’s clever and really makes you think. Perfect for the sci-fi fan in your life.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

My primary reason for reading this book was that I wanted to read the sequel “Head On” as part of the reading challenge (A book published this year), but since there was only one book that came before it in the series, I thought I ought to read it first.

I chose this series because I love science fiction and sampling authors I haven’t read before, so this seemed like an ideal candidate for reading.

The Story…

Haden’s Syndrome spread across the globe quickly and unexpectedly. Most people recovered, but an unfortunate percentage experienced lock in – fully conscious and aware, but completely unable to control their bodies.

After a great deal of research, a solution of sorts was found to help. Personal transports (or threeps) where created – robotic bodies that could be controlled through a computer, surgically implanted in the brain of a Haden’s sufferer. This provided Haden’s with a way to interact with the world at large. But tensions are running high as the implementation of a new law threatens to make the lives of Haden’s even more difficult.

New FBI recruit Chris Shane, and his partner Leslie Vann set out to solve a Haden related murder at the Watergate hotel, and soon realise the problem is considerably bigger than they could have possibly imagined.

What I liked…

First of all, you have Haden’s Syndrome. I know (or at least think I know) that getting locked into your body, conscious but unable to move is a real thing that happens – although it’s definitely not a contagious disease. But the way this issue was addressed in this book was fascinating. The idea of personal transports and a virtual world (called the Agora) where an inspired response to the lock-in problem. But you also have people who have set out to cure Haden’s Syndrome and effectively unlock the sufferers bodies – one of the most fascinating parts of this book was the way these two solutions are met by Haden’s sufferers. You can see clearly that the premise has been really well thought out and understood.

The story was fast-paced and interesting. The transition from unusual crime to serious conspiracy was very well written and engaging – I was hooked in to the book very quickly and only once did I stop being completely gripped by every page.

The world building was really the key selling point for me. I’ve already spoken about the interesting aspects of Haden’s syndrome, but the book really goes deep into the descriptions of the condition and the way it has affected the world and sufferers alike. There are times when Scalzi talks about the ethics of the way Haden’s sufferers are treated, by the public, the government and members of the medical profession. Scalzi has also created an alternative world inside the ‘real’ world, in the form of the Agora and it’s incredibly interesting to the see the way this world is accessed.

Finally, it was really clear while reading this book that Scalzi had thought good and hard about disability and how disabled people think about themselves. He notes the differences in opinions between people who contracted Haden’s later in life with those who contracted it as children, and how these differences have affected their lives and interactions with threeps and the Agora.

What I disliked…

At one point, I thought the book was about to fall apart completely. I was almost finished – maybe 50 pages or less to go – and everything was falling in to place nicely. The problem was I couldn’t imagine how the book could possibly end in a satisfactory way in the limited space there was left. As it turns out, this was just my lack of imagination. Scalzi brings this story to an exciting and incredibly satisfying conclusion with great skill and artistry.

Final thoughts…

I was hooked on this book from beginning to end. There was nothing about it that I didn’t like. It was well written and clearly had a considerable amount of thought put into the world-craft, which is something I love to see in a book.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good science fiction novel. I would also recommend this to crime readers who don’t mind the futuristic setting.

I can’t wait to get stuck into the sequel.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: An Argumentation of Historians (Jodi Taylor)

Goodreads Link |  Author Website

“Adventures of the Time Travelling Arsonist” ~Rejected title (probably)

TL;DR – Think ‘Female Indiana Jones’ + Time Travel and you’re pretty close to the premise of this book. A real fun read.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

Did you read my “TL;DR”? How was I not gonna read it! Seriously though, I love historical fiction, I love time travel and sci-fi…it was just an obvious move for me.

Also it was in the “A Book Published This Year” category of my reading challenge. One thing I should mention at this point is that this book is part of a series and I wish I had started at the beginning.

The Story…

An Argumentation of Historians is the 9th book in the series The Chronicles of St. Mary’s. Unfortunately I haven’t actually read the rest of the series, so I can’t give a great deal of overview but I’ll do my best.

Historian Max works at St Mary’s, travelling through time in order to document as much of history as possible. After the unexpected appearance of an illegal time traveller during a visit to Tudor England, Max persuades her coworkers to lay a trap to catch the villainous Clive Ronan (who I have to assume is well established as a nemesis in the previous books).

Unfortunately, the trap fails and Max finds herself stuck with no hope of rescue in the year 1399. Despite being stuck in an unfamiliar time, fortune smiles upon Max by dumping her at St Mary’s…or at least, the St Mary’s of 650 years ago. The story follows Max and her attempts to survive in a harsh new environment, and hope for a rescue that might never come…

What I liked…

The premise is perhaps the part I like the most about this book. As I said above, I love time travel and historical fiction, so the combination of the two was never going to be a hugely difficult sell (although it wouldn’t be the first book I’ve read with this premise that I completely hated).

The story itself is fun, the character of Max is entertaining, and the story is written as if Max was telling it to you in person one evening round a camp fire. I personally am I big fan of informal writing, however this isn’t for everyone so be warned.

There were a lot of references to the previous books in the series during this book. Something about different worlds, or possibly different realities; more time travel; an Arch Nemesis and also a whole host of characters who got little interesting teaser lines which would make sense if you had read the rest but made little sense to me…but I enjoyed those because it still fleshed the world out a bit and it made me want to know more about the St Mary’s setting.

It seems a little odd to say this about the final book in a series I haven’t actually read yet, but it left me wanting more. I want to read both the next book, whenever that comes out, and all the previous ones too. The story references the previous books quite a lot, which is a bit of a pain if you haven’t read them, but not so much that it becomes unreadable. You certainly could read this book as a standalone, but unless it turns out that the other books are terrible I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing so.

What I disliked…

There was nothing about the story I disliked – apart from the fact that I didn’t know who anybody was or what the setting was, but that was entirely my fault for starting at the end of the series.

However, I’ve rated this book 4 buttons out of 5, and the reason for this is presumably more the fault of the publishers than the author, but you never know.

Specifically, this book could have done with another run through by a proof reader (assuming it actually had one) and another look by an editor. The first thing that struck me was that the text was slightly offset on the page – presumably intended to compensate for the binding, but it was too much and it looked really strange. I got used to it, but it really bugged me when I started reading. That in-and-of-itself wouldn’t have lost the book any marks, but then came the spelling and wording errors.

I get it, spelling errors happen. Sometimes you just miss things – I’m sure there are spelling errors on this site! That said, I’m neither a profession author, nor a proof reader, I’m just some mug on the internet with nothing better to do. I can take the odd error here and there, in fact I wasn’t even going to mention it originally, but by the third time I’d seen the word “off” spelt “of” (and this was far from the only problem) it had annoyed me so much I couldn’t not say something.

In addition there was a phrase to the effect of “There is no hard evidence for a sixth sense” which massively irritated me, since I would have thought most people by now where aware the the ‘5 senses’ thing we were taught as children is bunk. There were also a few occasions where it felt like the author had rewritten a sentence, but failed to properly delete the previous attempt and ended up with a garbled mess – a mess which apparently nobody at the publishers caught.

Having said that, I realise these complaints are – despite taking up most of the review space – fairly minor on their own. They just really bugged me. Hence the lost Button in the rating. It’s not something that would stop me reading the series or recommending it to others.

Final thoughts…

When all is said and done, I really enjoyed this book and I intend to read this rest of the series, copy errors be damned.

I would recommend this for historical fiction fans who like a bit of science fiction (because if you hate sci-fi, you probably won’t enjoy reading this much). Just remember to be warned about the writing style – it’s not for everyone!

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!