Bookish Review: The Dazzling Heights

The Dazzling Heights by Katherine McGee

Published: 7 September 2017 by Harper Collins

Series: The Thousandth Floor

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: New York City, 2118. Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a breathtaking marvel that touches the sky. But amid high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, five teenagers are keeping dangerous secrets…  

Leda is haunted by memories of what happened on the worst night of her life. She‚Äôll do anything to make sure the truth stays hidden‚ÄĒeven if it means trusting her enemy.¬†Watt just wants to put everything behind him‚Ķuntil Leda forces him to start hacking again. Will he do what it takes to be free of her for good?¬†When Rylin wins a scholarship to an upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being there also means seeing the boy whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.¬†Avery is tormented by her love for the one person in the world she can never have. She‚Äôs desperate to be with him‚Ķno matter the cost. And then there‚Äôs Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who arrives in New York determined to cause a stir. And she knows exactly where to begin.

But unbeknownst to them all, someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, just one wrong step can mean a devastating fall.

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Review:¬†After reading¬†The Muse of Nightmares,¬†and to keep up my reading streak,¬†I was in the mood for something light and uncomplicated – Katherine McGee’s second book in The Thousandth Tower¬†seemed to fit the bill quite nicely. Having read the first book, I knew not to expect anything too complex or intricate and going into this book with my expectations well and truly managed helped. (Some spoilers below!)

I found Leda to be one of the more compelling characters even though I didn’t actually *like* her. She felt more layered than the other characters. Her obsession with control and how that manifested in her relationships with others at least made for some interesting dynamics and drama. Her relationship with Watt was also one of the more interesting love lines in the book – it was the only one where we didn’t have the female moping after the guy. Instead, Leda and Watt’s relationship developed out of something more akin to hate and that made their story that much more intriguing, and you really felt the nuanced change as it turned into something more.

Maybe the important thing wasn’t finding someone without flaws, but just someone whose flaws complemented your own.

I also found Leda and Watt were the characters that underwent the most development. Leda can be your classic bitch but she was way more fun as the badass friend that would back you to her last breath. Seeing her use her doggedness to protect others rather than keep them at bay was way more fun. And seeing her open up to someone, and expose her vulnerability felt like the character had come quite far from the Leda we met in the first book. Watt was similarly interesting Рseeing him forced to confront his over-reliance on AI when faced with messy human emotions was sobering. 

On the other hand, Avery and Rylin were pretty tiresome, replaying the same drama over and over with their love interests like a broken record. I had to keep reminding myself that these are teenagers and so you have to take the angst as it comes, but when the characters act like adults in so many other situations, it’s difficult to let them off because of their age. I do have to give it to Avery – in the last few chapters, I actually warmed to her because we saw something there beyond the vanilla character we encounter throughout most of the books. Can we have some more pissed-off warpath Avery please?¬†

It all struck Avery as futile, and purposeless… everyone was stuck in their little loops – engaging in the old tired flirtations, doomed to the same disappointment.

Rylin and Cord just did nothing for me. The whole student-teacher subplot was yawn and I thought we’d at least confront the issue that had broken them up in the first book. However, the two characters essentially skirted around their feelings even though it was pretty obvious their feelings for each other remained. Calliope was a fair distraction but she felt like an unnecessary complication when the original problem, bridging the trilogy, was still unresolved. By the end of the book it seemed Calliope was set up as the antagonist of the final book but I frankly just want to see how the Eris ‘thing’ plays out and am not here for the Atlas-Avery-Calliope love triangle.

Despite trying my best, the first 75% of this book felt rather pointless. The pacing is way off – nothing of note really happens in the first 3/4 of the book and I found I had to really push myself to keep reading. The last quarter though made me glad I did. It upped the ante and drew the strands of the story together. I’ve also realised I much prefer these characters when they’re interacting with one another –¬† when they’re forced to confront their differences, put aside these distinctions, and ultimately find common ground is when the book really shines. It’s difficult to do that when writing a multi-POV novel but this is one of McGee’s strengths and I hope there’s more similar interaction in the final installment.¬†

In some ways it felt like he was reliving that terrible night on the roof, nothing had changed… but of course that wasn’t true. Everything had changed.

Balancing out the pacing issues was McGee’s world-building. I genuinely adored reading a book that had sci-fi elements without it being the crux of the book. McGee’s world is not post-apocalyptic or dystopian but just an imagining of life on technological steroids. McGee weaves in the tech as enablers of these characters rather than crutches, and it really fits the message of the trilogy – that no matter how much we advance in science and tech and make life easier in the superficial sense, human emotions are messy, complicated, and uncontrollable things not open to decryption by an algorithm.

I will read the last book in the trilogy, if only to see how the overarching plot line is resolved. I’m not really invested in the romances so much as the dynamics between all the characters – the highliers, and the downtowers, the seemingly have-it-alls and the down-and-outs, the perfect and the destructive. And of course more of the glamour and tech please!

Have you read The Glittering Heights? What are your go to ‘trashy’ books? Drop me a comment below ūüôā

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Bookish Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Published: 7 September 2017 by Walker Books

Genre: Sci-fi, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Can you fall in love with someone you‚Äôve never met, never even spoken to ‚Äď someone who is light years away? Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth ‚Äď with a single passenger on board. A boy called J. Their only communication with each other is via email ‚Äď and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love. But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean? Sometimes, there‚Äôs something worse than being alone…¬†untitled

Review:¬†I managed to grab a copy of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe at YALC back in July. Honestly, it was no mean feat – every time the Waterstones got new stock of the book in (and we’re talking like a hundred copies!) they’d be sold out within minutes. Anyway, back on topic, this book was a superbly unexpected wild ride! I confess I did glance over some of the Goodreads reviews of The Loneliest Girl before I read it and lots of them said something along the lines of “the less you know going into this book, the better”. I have to say I wholeheartedly agree! This is one of those books that just cannot be pigeonholed into any one label, be it YA, sci-fi etc. So keeping the above advice in mind, this review will be unusually brief and will be spoiler free ūüôā¬†

If I get ill, there will be no one to help me. No one to fix me if I break.

The setting of The Loneliest Girl is one of the most unique selling points – we’ve got a young girl captaining a ship, completely alone, in the far reaches of space. For one thing, titles do not get much more literal than that, and secondly, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a premise like that in any YA sci-fi so major points already going in to The Loneliest Girl¬†and it just gets better from there on out.¬†James has taken a common setting of a spaceship and made it into something feels totally original. I loved how creative James was with the tech on board the Infinity – all of the attention to detail to explain how the spaceship could feasibly keep going made the whole book all the more realistic and immersive. I have to admit though that the light-speed transmission lags were totally lost on me…

Staring through the porthole, I watch the spiralling stars until I make myself dizzy.

The way Lauren James writes really does drive home just how alone Romy is. The casual references to things Romy has not experienced forced me to really consider just how isolated she is. It’s also told in first person and there are mundane “slice of life” details alongside the plot that you just become immersed in Romy’s life, as uneventful as it can be at points I still felt engrossed and totally invested. Films with a similar premise like Gravity and The Martian use all sorts of things like visual effects, body language and amazing scores to make the audience feel unsettled so I’m totally in awe of how James managed to put across the lonely and slightly creepy factor using just words!¬†

I’d like to have wild stories about my university days to tell my kids, someday. I’d like to have any anecdotes at all, actually.

I also enjoyed how James managed to weave in some really interesting ideas like the ethics around such a mission as well as mental health issues. Romy was a realistic character, struggling to cope, given the magnitude of her responsibilities and the trauma she has experienced. Heroism does not come naturally to her – she often rebels against her predicament, especially as she had no choice in it. Her naivet√© is also totally realistic, there are points where she casually drops that she hasn’t been in physical contact with another human being in years, and so anything else would’ve felt unconvincing. Beyond that though, Romy is a really relatable character with her love of fictional characters and fanfic and I really found myself rooting for her throughout the book!

This voyage was never meant to be easy. It was meant to be important.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is a solid standalone (whoop!) book that you will not want to put down! It is totally unique and was a fresh take on YA romance/space/sci-fi novels. The plot has a hint of mystery and James did a great job of feeding the reader enough to keep you intrigued whilst also keeping you just enough in the dark that you feel this weird uneasiness as you read on. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to fans of all genres! The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is out tomorrow so be sure to grab a copy ASAP!

Have you read any books that surprised or blindsided you? Are you planning to read¬†The Loneliest Girl in the Universe? Drop me a comment below ūüôā

Bookish Review: The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

9780008179977The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

Published: August 2016 by Harper Collins

Genre: Sci-Fi, YA

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

This book was one of those impulse reads based on the cover. I was in a bit of a book slump over the summer (hence the tumbleweed on this blog…) so when¬†I came across this gold, gleaming and very unsubtle cover I¬†thought this would be the perfect easy read.

Manhattan, 2118. The Tower dominates the skylines, a thousand floor building which represents the incomprehensible wealth of those on the upper floors and the desires of those on the lower floors. New York City is almost unrecognisable with¬†the vast leaps in technology, but often¬†people don’t change and it doesn’t matter how much money or tech you have. Enter five people whose lives are shaken by family drama,¬†dangerous liaisons¬†and secrets that must remain hidden. But what happens when those secrets risk being outed, and what lengths will they go to to avoid the dreaded fall from grace?

In this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall…

The Thousandth Floor¬†has been likened to two well-known YA series: Cecily von Ziegesar’s¬†Gossip Girl and Sara Shepard’s¬†Pretty Little Liars. Now I’ve not read either of these series (travesty, I know) but I am fans of both TV series so I thought this would be right up my street and it didn’t disappoint. The characters basically read like a Gossip Girl roll call: we have Avery Fuller, the Serena van der Woodsen high society it-girl, Eris Dodd-Radson, the Blair Waldorf best friend, Cord Anderton, the Chuck Bass old money playboy, Watt Bakradi, the Dan Humphrey geeky wannabe, Leda Cole, the Georgina Sparks, the slightly off the rails chick, and Rilyn Myers, the firmly working class Vanessa Abrams well you get the drift. The characters ¬†range from the ¬†super-rich like Avery Fuller who lives on the Thousandth Floor right down to Rilyn Myers who is barely scraping by and lives on the 32nd floor.

And beneath her bare feet lay the biggest structure on earth, a whole world unto itself.

The setting of¬†The Thousandth Floor is one of the things that really set it apart from your usual sci-fi and I was a little reluctant to use that genre tag. It’s futuristic but the tech advances are frighteningly feasible and not too much of a leap for the imagination (electric-shock instant hair straightening anyone?). The Tower itself is a brilliant metaphor as it¬†literally resembles a social pyramid with the teeming masses at the bottom where the floors house thousands of units, compared to the top where 10 mansion units will make up all the floors space. I have to say though, it did take me a while to get to grips with the architecture of the Tower itself – the sheer scale of it wasn’t immediately obvious and I would’ve liked to understand how it came about a bit more. It seems to have replicas of real NYC monuments but it doesn’t go into why the parks have been recreated or why buildings have been seemingly lifted from ground level into the Tower.

The chapters are written from five different POV with lots more secondary characters part of the story so it was a bit overwhelming at first trying to keep track of who’s who and their respective stories. But it wasn’t as much of a problem as you go along because¬†the stories begin to intertwine quite ingeniously. As with any multiple POV storytelling, I had my favourites and not-so-favourites, and I did find myself skimming through a few of them towards the end. I have to admit this was mostly¬†because in the last quarter of the book we are literally racing towards the climax and I just really wanted to¬†know how it ended dammit!

He didn’t know whether she’d fallen, or been pushed, or whether – crushed by the weight of unspoken secrets – she’d decided to jump.

The blurb really hooked me as well as the first chapter and my interest in finding out who falls from the Tower held until the last page. Whilst a lot of the drama can be described as very #firstworldproblems like falls from grace and wealth, illicit romances, downward spirals etc., I didn’t go into The Thousandth Floor expecting serious and heavy stuff so it delivered on what it promises. I was interested enough in the dilemmas of each character to overlook their obvious pettiness and privilege.¬†

This is a good book if you’re after something a little light-hearted, with enough drama and an interesting twist to the Gossip Girl¬†set up¬†to keep you turning the pages.¬†The¬†Thousandth¬†Floor¬†is apparently a trilogy and although I’m keen to read about the aftermath of the first book, I don’t think it was absolutely necessary.

Have you read The Thousandth Floor? Yay or nay?

Bookish Review: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

A Thousand Pieces of YouA Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Published: November 2014 by Harper Teen

Genre: Sci-fi, Romance

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♡

Goodreads  |  Buy on Amazon

Claudia Gray’s new sci-fi series has captured the imagination of many¬†readers. This is a book I definitely judged by the cover (guilty!) and like a lot of people, I think it¬†is undeniably gorgeous. I like that it hinted at the protagonist’s talent as well as the dimension-travelling theme of the book rather than just a generic pretty cover which can be common these days.

A quick summary: Marguerite Caine is the daughter of world-famous physicists who have managed to invent a device, the Firebird, which enables inter-dimensional travel. But knowledge like that puts the entire¬†family into danger and soon Marguerite’s¬†parents are betrayed by their assistant Paul. Marguerite, joined by Theo, another of her parents’ assistants, is soon jumping dimensions chasing after Paul in a bid to avenge her murdered father. However, she quickly realises people and things are not as they seem and some would kill to get their hands on the secrets of the Firebird…

The story was set up using flashbacks showing¬†how the Firebird came about and the dynamics between the characters. Marguerite has grown up having her parent’s assistants around and often living with them in the family home. Paul and Theo have been around longer than usual and have become fixtures in the Caine home and so Paul’s betrayal stings Marguerite badly. It was inspiring to see her fight through her raw grief for her father and¬†pursue Paul despite the dangers.

I loved the intricacy of the world building which is crucial to any fantasy or sci-fi book and Claudia Gray has done a fabulous job. Each dimension that Marguerite travelled to was really creative in its inception and (sometimes radically) different so it kept me on my toes trying to anticipate how similar or different each new dimension would be. I particularly enjoyed reading the science behind the Firebird (I know!) and it made the whole premise more believable.

[BEWARE HERE BE SPOILERS:¬†A couple of thoughts on why the book lost a star in rating. There were points where I would’ve liked to see¬†a bit more independence from Marguerite. She was accompanied at most points throughout the book by either Paul or Theo who were on hand to help her out of tight spots. Also the fact that both her father was alive and Theo absolved of guilt in the end felt a little too convenient to¬†me. It would’ve been interesting to see Marguerite grow from her experience of these negative aspects of the¬†Firebird. That said though, I did like how there were clues in the flashbacks as to¬†what was really going on – it made me go back to chapters as I read the book to find hints and that kept it fresh and intriguing!]

To finish, one of my absolute favourite bits was the Russian dimension (not a spoiler I hasten to add! Get a closer look at that gorgeous cover because it’s on there clear as day). Yes, it was a little clich√©d and there were some plot holes that went against¬†the laws of dimension travel that Gray had outlined BUT I’m a huge historical fiction fan¬†so I¬†fell totally in love with this world. Gray’s description was lovely and vivid. ¬†Also,¬†the¬†question of fate and whether love can transcend time and place was something I enjoyed and I’m looking forward to seeing it explored in the next books.

The next book is due out in November later this year and I’m already salivating after the sure-to-be beautiful cover! There will be three books in total in the Firebird series. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in sci-fi especially for fans of David Levithan’s Every Day and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.

Have you read A Thousand Pieces of You? Did the cover draw you to it? What did you think of it? Sound off in the comments below ūüôā