The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal

Reviewed by Lotte:

In this sequel to The Calculating Stars earth is still failing and the time until it becomes inhabitable is advancing quickly so the colonisation of Mars becomes the main focus. Once again, Elma discovers that being a female pilot puts her at a disadvantage for the Mars expedition. So she embarks on a fight for her right to be on it and to prove herself through the training program and the expedition itself.

This book was just as good as its predecessor if not better. It was fun, heartbreaking, clever and incredibly moving at times. It showed the very real trials of being a woman in a man’s world, with the added complications of the inherent racism of that time. I felt like the characters and storyline were easy to buy into and relatable because Kowal wove in appropriate references to that era that had me feeling frustrated and rooting for righteousness to prevail. There was also the complications of a long-distance relationship, involving sacrifices made for Elma’s career again showing the intricacies of that time and the dynamics of the relationship. I felt the heartache and anger when Elma told Nathaniel about ‘the bag’. Kowal’s words were so strong and poignant in places, whilst remaining fun and exciting overall.

As in the first book, the science fiction element of this book was easy to follow, interesting and enough to make the story work without being too heavy and intricate. There was also a lot more suspension in this book so I found myself willing the science to work somehow too! This was a great instalment in this Lady Astronaut series.

Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Solaris
Release date: 28 July 2019

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal

Reviewed by Lotte:

This is a fun, intelligent book involving a national crisis which shatters lives and forces earth into speeding up its mission to colonise other planets, firstly the moon and then Mars. This book has an apocalyptic feel, set in the 1950’s.

Kowal pitches this book in a time when sexism and racism are rife, with women and those of differing ethnicity from the 1950s privileged white, had to fight to be heard and get a seat at the table. Ironically, it is actually those women that make the colonisation possible with the “Lady Astronaut” being an integral part of the whole operation. In fact, it is her calculating skills that assist most with the operation. She is a strong, independent and intelligent woman who learns of her own privilege and attempts to strive for what is right. However, along the way she realises that this isn’t always possible and that fighting for what she deserves isn’t always straight forward.

The science fiction element of this book was easy to digest, giving the reader enough to understand what was happening and to make the story work without being overloading. This was a good balance for me as I can become bored with protracted explanations of made up technology and scientific logic. This certainly isn’t a hardcore Sci-Fi novel but that worked for me.

All this is based in a fast paced, well thought out novel that captured my attention instantly. The way in which Kowal writes instantly draws you in to both the characters and storyline. I definitely want to read the sequel to this book!

Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Solaris
Release date: 10 April 2019

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

Reviewed by Lotte:

This is the life story of Hope Arden who is forgot by everyone just moments after they’ve seen her. This means she has had to work out a way to survive, stealing money to live as holding down a job is as impossible as living in a home that thinks you are a stranger.

I thought I was going to really enjoy this book because the premise sounded really good. I can’t say I really disliked it either. It was just a bit meh! There were some parts to the narrative that piqued my interest, but they mainly felt quite disconnected, even towards the end as the story was supposed to be coming together. Instead it felt like a series of anecdotes and not much more which was a shame because I felt the character and the complexities of not being remembered – the sheer scope of that – could have been utilised in a much better, more cohesive way. There was also the interesting Perfection app which featured on and off, but again I didn’t feel like this potential was played out enough.

I don’t think the monotony was helped by the first-person narration throughout making me feel like the whole thing was fairly bland. I would only recommend this if you’re looking for a filler book that doesn’t have much to it.

Author: Claire North
Publisher: Orbit
Release date: 17 May 2016

The Vexed Generation (Magic 2.0 #6) by Scott Meyer

Reviewed by Lotte:

In the final instalment of the Magic 2.0 series we jump forward in time and meet Mattie and Brewster – Gwen and Martin’s children. They seem to be living a normal, non-magical, life until Phillip turns up and Gwen and Martin freeze for no apparent reason. Mattie and Brewster are left alone to discover a world of magic, in the same chaotic way as previous books, learning many secrets, meeting strange people and fighting magic battles in an attempt to save their parents life.

I wondered where this story could possibly go next without repeating the same overdone things, but it seems Meyer has found an interesting new path and I was excited to explore it. I enjoyed the focus on the next generation of budding magicians finding their way, whilst still maintaining enough of the same ingredients to make it funny, likeable and easy to read. Meyer built on the already well-established world, updating it in a way that was still detailed but fresh and new. Some of the calamities that occurred were predictable based on the previous chaos that ensued, but I guess they wouldn’t have been Martin’s children if there wasn’t that same mess-making, nerdiness!

It was a great way to take this series further, with Luke Daniels bringing to life these additional characters in his now very much-loved Magic 2.0 style.

Author: Scott Meyer
Publisher: Rocket Hat Industries
Release date: 6 December 2019

Out of Spite, Out of Mind (Magic 2.0 # 5) by Scott Meyer

Reviewed by Lotte:

Remember back in book two when we were introduced to the two Britts – Britt the younger and Britt the elder – and I wondered if things might get even more complicated than they already where. Well yep, that is exactly what happened in book 5 of the Magic 2.0 series! The Britts realise there are discrepancies in their memory, which should be identical. Cue Phillip wanting to save the day and help Britt the Elder, except he has to keep it secret, using his magical time-travelling powers to cover up or else upset Britt the Younger, his girlfriend, who just happens to despise her Elder self. If this wasn’t complicated enough, another character enters that takes the whole time-travelling paradox to a new level of confusion.

This book was good, but my word, it hurt my head trying to work out the Britts and how they fit into a timeline. It was incredibly easy to get lost down a very confusion stream of thought and distracted slightly from the story. However, it was good to have a different approach to the same clumsy antics and I particularly enjoyed the other more human elements that were interwoven into this book. Now that we know the characters well, it was good to see more of the details of their loves and that even magicians are prone to the same human difficulties, even if they do handle them differently.

This was another fun instalment to this easy reading, fantasy sci-fi hybrid. Once again, I listened to the audio version because Luke Daniels is just a genius!

Author: Scott Meyer
Publisher: Rocket Hat Industries
Release date: 19 December 2018

Fight and Flight (Magic 2.0 #4) by Scott Meyer

Reviewed by Lotte:

Book number 4 in the Magic 2.0 series sees our now well loved and rather disastrous characters decide that since everything keeps going wrong for them, they should create some dragons and practice fighting and defending themselves against each other. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Again, this book contained wit and light-hearted entertainment, being easy to read like its predecessors. However, it was my least favourite so far. It was all a bit ‘done already’, we knew they were probably going to goof it all up and then must make it better in the same haphazard way that has become their modus operandum. Unfortunately, they also broke some of their magical rules/logic which was a little disappointing. This book is largely based on fantasy but does have elements of sci-fi that usually make sense within the context of the story. Not so much in this one, but once again, it was easy to overlook those things and still enjoy the book due to the narrative talents of Luke Daniels.

Author: Scott Meyer
Publisher: Rocket Hat Industries
Release date: 3 October 2017

An Unwelcome Quest (Magic 2.0 #3) by Scott Meyer

Reviewed by Lotte:

This third book in the Magic 2.0 series takes an entirely different approach. The main characters find themselves within a computer game, stripped of their magical abilities, with a series of quests they must undertake in order to find their way out of the game. The big question being: will they conquer and survive to tell the tale or will they succumb to the perils of the game.

This book was great! I really enjoyed the change in approach and was caught up in the varying tasks of the game. I think having it set within a magical world, with people that know ‘magic’ but cannot use it was as interesting dynamic. It gave the familiar feeling of human frustration! The quests themselves, along with the glitches and character reactions made it hilarious in places. Again, this was only enhanced by Luke Daniels narration, who once again took this story to the next level!

My only drag on this was that I found the repetition a little annoying when the second group arrived at the same task. I know it was supposed to show that the creator hadn’t planned for two groups, but I felt there was a missed opportunity there. Still it was a fun, light-hearted, easy read that I would recommend for those that enjoy fantasy with a touch of sci-fi.

Author: Scott Meyer
Publisher: 47North 
Release date: 10 February 2015

Spell or High Water (Magic 2.0 #2) by Scott Meyer

Reviewed by Lotte:

This is the second book in the Magic 2.0 series where we see two branches of the storyline. The First being Jimmy’s liaisons with Treasury Agents Miller & Murphy. Then there is Martin and Phillips trip to Atlantis for a magical grand summit. We are introduced to the Britts and very quickly a murder plot arises which Martin and Phillip attempt to solve.

I enjoyed this instalment of the series, but I have to admit, not as much as the first book (perhaps that is because I had such high expectations after the first one). Nonetheless it was interesting to add the dynamic of the two Britts and the time-travel paradox – although this was confusing enough now, I fear future books may become more so! The murder mystery had a few little plot twists and things to keep you reading and Jimmy’s side story was fairly clever. However, it felt a bit like a filler story, paving the way for future plots.

Once again, Luke Daniels narrates this perfectly. Honestly, I think his interpretation and delivery just make the book so much better.

Author: Scott Meyer
Publisher: 47North 
Release date: 17 June 2014

Off to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0 #1) by Scott Meyer

Reviewed by Lotte:

This is the story of Martin Banks who chances upon a file that shows the world is just a series of computer code. He ultimately takes too many risks and as the FBI come knocking, he decides to teleport back to medieval England where he thinks he can become a renowned, real-life magician. One problem: he isn’t the only person to do this.

This is a fun and light-hearted read that combines a little science fiction with a lot of fantasy. I found it to be a fairly simple story but nonetheless I was drawn in as Martin faced the challenge of becoming a wizard and we got to know the other characters. Meyer has fleshed these other characters out well and has created a world and scientific logic that fit the storyline without being overly complicated.

I think for me the narrator, Luke Daniels, was the icing on the cake. The way in which he interpreted and delivered the story made for entertaining listening!

Author: Scott Meyer
Publisher: 47North 
Release date: 18 March 2014