Review | A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers 2) by Becky Chambers

Brilliant. 4.5/5.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

The blurb: Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

My take:

I enjoyed the first Wayfarers book – A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (ALWTASAP) – last year and was looking forward to picking up the next in the series.

Readers expecting a “straightforward” sequel, featuring all the same characters as book 1, might be disappointed. A Closed and Common Orbit is set in the same universe as book 1 and the two main characters did feature briefly in the first installment, but that’s it. I’d say that this is more an excellent stand-alone follow-up than a sequel.

However, while ALWTASAP drew its strength from a large cast of diverse characters, this book is just as strong while focussing on two. So this time we have more of the same colourful universe as a fascinating backdrop, but get to spend more quality time with a smaller cast.

The book is also quietly philosophical and, like all the best sci-fi, the alien is used to explore what it is to be human.

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Review | The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers 1) by Becky Chambers

Excellent sci-fi for readers looking for characters to love. 4.5/5.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The blurb: Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

My take:

This has been sitting on my TBR for quite a while and I’m delighted I finally managed to get the chance to read it (thank you to my local library). I’ve been experiencing a bit of a reading slump recently, but this book was terrific and I looked forward to every second I had the opportunity to pick it up.

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Review | Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Somewhere in the multiverse, another me is giving this 5 stars. 4.5/5.


The blurb: “Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable–something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

My take:

This review will be spoiler-free and therefore brief.

Dark Matter brought back strong memories of a TV show I loved: Quantum Leap. It’s very possible that readers under the age of 30 will have no idea what I’m talking about but trust me, that show was brilliant TV (particularly for the standards of the late 80s and early 90s). Obviously there are more differences between Dark Matter and Quantum Leap than similarities, but the idea of a man stranded outside his own life, desperately trying to get home, is a powerful one. It worked for Quantum Leap and it works just as well for Dark Matter.

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Review | Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

An excellent second installment in an ambitious, creative series. 4/5.


The short blurb to avoid spoilers for book 1 in the series: Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

My take:

This is a difficult book to review without including spoilers for book 1 of the series, the terrific Illuminae. If you’d like to know about that, please read my review here. The short version is that I only gave five books 5 stars in 2015, and Illuminae was one of them.

Though I can’t say much, I’m delighted to say I enjoyed Gemina almost as much as book 1.

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Review | S.C.A.R.S. by Julia Ibbotson

An enjoyable quest for younger readers. 4/5 stars.

SCARS by Julia Ibbotson book cover

Thank you to Julia Ibbotson for asking me if I’d like to review S.C.A.R.S. and sending me a copy.

The blurb: Gavin is an ordinary boy with problems like everyone else, when he finds himself in an extraordinary situation and facing the fight of his life. People are calling him Gawain and sending him on a medieval quest. How has he found himself on a horse when he has never ridden one before? How come he has a sword in his hand and terrifying creatures bearing down upon him? He seems to have slipped through into another universe. But can he win the battle of Good against Evil, and can he save the land of Unor  ̶  and more importantly, can he save himself?

As ever, clicking on the cover image will take you to the book’s Goodreads page.

My take:

I studied Old English in my first year of university. You may think I mean Chaucer, but he wrote in Middle English, a language which resembles the language we use today. Old English, a.k.a. Anglo Saxon, looks like a cross between German and Norwegian. We had to translate large chunks of OE texts, which wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had. However, while the language itself may have been the bane of my life, the stories were fantastic. Stories like Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Stories full of warriors, kings, treasure, quests, monsters, and grand themes like kinship, virtue and honour. And it’s these brilliant stories which are the inspiration for S.C.A.R.S.
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Review | Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

4/5 stars.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel UK book cover

Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for giving me a e-copy of this book in return for an honest review.

The blurb: 17 years ago, a young girl named Rose fell through the ground in the Black Hills and found herself in an underground chamber filled with gleaming symbols, lying in the palm of a giant metal hand. Now a physicist, Rose leads a research team struggling to determine the hand’s origins. When another giant limb is discovered, she quickly devises a method for unearthing the hidden pieces, convinced there is an entire body out there waiting to be found.

Halfway around the globe, Kara watches helplessly as her helicopter shuts down over a pistachio field in Turkey. That’ll leave a mark, but she’s about to crash her way into what might be the greatest endeavor in human history.

This is a hunt for truth, power, and giant body parts. Written as a series of interview transcripts, journal entries and mission logs, The Themis Files tells the tale of a handful of people whose lives are inexorably linked by the discovery of an alien device and the commotion that follows.

My take:

I enjoyed Sleeping Giants very much. It gets going quickly and grips you from the start. As soon as eleven-year old Rose falls into a hole and is recovered sitting on a giant hand, I knew this was going to be good. Oh, and did I mention that the giant hand is glowing despite not having any obvious power source and is soon determined to be impossibly old and not man-made? If that intrigues you, then read this book!

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Review | Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

A light-hearted story with some serious messages. Ideal for children and adults to share. 4/5 stars.

Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford book cover

The blurb: “My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty nine and again four years later when he was twelve.

The first time had nothing to do with me. The second time definitely did, but I would never even have been there if it hadn’t been for his ‘time machine’…”

When Al Chaudhury discovers his late dad’s time machine, he finds that going back to the 1980s requires daring and imagination. It also requires lies, theft, burglary, and setting his school on fire. All without losing his pet hamster, Alan Shearer…

As ever, clicking on the cover image will take you to the book’s Goodreads page.

My take:

First, to deal with your questions:

  1. No, I didn’t make that title up.
  2. Yes, this is a real book.
  3. And yes, it does indeed feature time travelling with a hamster. That’s not some sort of metaphor.

Many kids movies, particularly animated films, include jokes and references to appeal to parents and carers. These jokes usually sail over the heads of young viewers but keep the adults chuckling. In this way, while the film has a core children’s audience, there’s something in it for adults too.

I thought about this a few times while reading Time Travelling with a Hamster. I have no problem reading books which are written for children. I’ve always thought that a good book is a good book and can be enjoyed by a reader no matter how old they are. That said, in the case of Time Travelling with a Hamster, I’d say the book’s core audience is definitely 8-12 year olds. Al, the main character and first person narrator, is twelve, and overall I felt the book read a little “young” for adults. However, the plot revolves around child-parent and child-grandparent relationships meaning that there is also a great deal for adult readers to appreciate and enjoy. Also, the action in the past takes place in 1984 with lots of little details which made me – a child of the 80s – laugh. I’m not sure many ten year olds would appreciate these period references.

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