Dystopian

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Mini Pin-It Reviews #20 – Four YA Novels

Published May 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four YA novels for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) Gathering Blue (The Giver #2) – Lois Lowry

What’s it all about?:

Lois Lowry’s Gathering Blue continues the quartet beginning with the quintessential dystopian novel, The Giver, followed by Messenger and Son.

Kira, an orphan with a twisted leg, lives in a world where the weak are cast aside. She fears for her future until she is spared by the all-powerful Council of Guardians. Kira is a gifted weaver and is given a task that no other community member can do. While her talent keeps her alive and brings certain privileges, Kira soon realizes she is surrounded by many mysteries and secrets. No one must know of her plans to uncover the truth about her world and see what places exist beyond.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle #1) – Rachel Hawkins

What’s it all about?:

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) Evertrue (Everneath #3) – Brodi Ashton

What’s it all about?:

Now that Nikki has rescued Jack, all she wants is to be with him and graduate high school. But Cole tricked Nikki into feeding off him, and she’s begun the process of turning into an Everliving herself… which means she must feed on a Forfeit soon — or die.

Terrified for her survival, Nikki and Jack begin a desperate attempt to reverse the process using any means possible. Even Cole, who they expected to fight them at every turn, has become an unlikely ally — but how long can it last? Nikki needs to feed on Cole to survive, Cole needs Nikki to gain the throne in the Everneath, Jack needs Nikki because she is everything to him — and together, they must travel back to the Underworld to undo Nikki’s fate and make her mortal once more. But Cole isn’t the only one with plans for Nikki: the Queen has not forgotten Nikki’s treachery, and she wants her destroyed for good. Will Nikki be forced to spend eternity in the Underworld, or does she have what it takes to bring down the Everneath once and for all?

In this stunning conclusion to the Everneath trilogy, Brodi Ashton evokes the resiliency of the human spirit and the indomitable power of true love.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) Into The Still Blue (Under The Never Sky #3) – Veronica Rossi

What’s it all about?:

The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.

Within the confines of a cave they’re using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn’t just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival—he’s also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.

In this final book in her earth-shattering Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi raises the stakes to their absolute limit and brings her epic love story to an unforgettable close.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Random Books.

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The Fireman – Joe Hill

Published May 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

From the award-winning, New York Timesbestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

What did I think?:

I will always look back with happy memories when I think of The Fireman by Joe Hill. My reasons are three-fold! Firstly, it has the accolade of being my first ever buddy read with a fellow blogger, (along with Scythe by Neal Shusterman) secondly I read most of it on a two week holiday in Mexico and thirdly, it was bloody fantastic! I read this novel with the lovely Janel from Keeper Of Pages and we had an absolute ball. I was always super excited to get to a pre-defined checkpoint and find out Janel’s thoughts and I’m delighted that she enjoyed it as much as I did. For her amazing review, please visit her blog HERE. Once again, Joe Hill has smashed it out of the park with another five star read for me (haha, spoiler!) and I truly believe he’s a master of an epic narrative. The Fireman was everything that that word “epic,” means. It very much reminded me of his father Stephen King’s landmark novel, The Stand but obviously, it completely stands on its own as a thrilling, compelling tale that left me with that wonderful feeling of wanting to read just one more page.

The Fireman follows a number of different characters in contemporary times or a time not too far in our future. A horrific virus has plagued the entire world, leaving it’s sufferers speckled with marks almost like tattoos, that they term “Dragonscale.” It leaves the infected at risk of bursting into flame at any moment in their lives and often, without warning. As a result, the population has vastly decreased due to many people just burning to death. Our main character (a woman, hurrah!) is pregnant Harper Grayson who is working at a hospital as a nurse, desperately trying to help the infected. After a while, when everything seems to be falling apart, both in her life and in the world, her hospital burns down and she finds herself also infected and an outsider, seen as a danger from rebel groups who want to rid the world of the infected. She meets up with John, The Fireman who is a member of a strange group of people, also infected who have learned to control the fire within their bodies, keeping them safe. However, the danger is constant and very close and Harper must learn what The Fireman knows if she is to keep both herself and her unborn child safe and well.

Burning – one of the most frightening things I can imagine.

This book is a beast. As in number of pages, physically wise I mean! At nearly 800 pages in paperback, please don’t let the size of it intimidate you. Even though I read this with another blogger and we stopped at various places to discuss, we absolutely flew through this novel in remarkably very little time and it was one wild ride. Janel can probably testify, this book made me feel ALL the emotions. I was terribly angry with some of the characters, which I’m not going to spoil but honestly, they made me furious. Then others, I just felt so touched by. There was Harper, with her no nonsense Mary Poppins manners but who could really hold her own, protect other people and was so incredibly brave that I just felt she was a fantastic role model and female lead.

The inimitable Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins – you WILL do what I say children!!

The plot itself was so brilliant in both the execution and the imagination and preparation that must have gone into it by Joe Hill. This is the kind of book that you have to read on the edge of your seat because relaxing is just not an option, I’m sorry! Both the humour and the journey our characters go through is second to none and although it’s quite rare for a book to make me laugh out loud, I found myself sniggering quite a lot at many points in this story. Personally, I think Joe Hill just gets better and better and does both his father and himself proud with every novel he writes.

Thank you so much to Janel for a brilliant buddy reading experience!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Fireman by Joe Hill was the twenty-ninth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018.

Scythe (Arc Of A Scythe #1) – Neal Shusterman

Published May 3, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

And now for something a bit different…

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special review on my blog. In April, I had the pleasure of doing my first buddy reads. First, with Janel from Keeper Of Pages where we read The Fireman by Joe Hill (review coming soon but make sure to check out Janel’s review HERE) and secondly, with Stuart from Always Trust In Books where we read the above YA novel Scythe, the first in a fantastic new series.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review this book – individually or more of a collaboration and he had the brilliant idea of capturing our Twitter chat and then including it as part of our review. So please find here before our thoughts and feelings about Scythe at the moment of reading it. If you’re worried about spoilers, never fear! Stuart and I deliberately kept the juicier parts of the narrative very vague so if you haven’t read this yet, no big secrets are given away.

What did WE think?:

Stuart: No rush, though I may have to read a little more as it is rather moreish… Even though the central theme is death it is quite bold, interesting and humorous (though it probably shouldn’t be…) 😁

Beth M: Starting it now! Ooh can’t wait. Does it read like YA?

Beth M: Hi Stuart, 100 pages done and ready to chat!

Stuart: I have never done a buddy read so I am not sure how this goes!

Stuart: I am really enjoying Scythe so far. What do you think?

Beth M: Me neither, let’s just wing it and see how it goes! I am so pleasantly surprised by Scythe so far. You know when you read the first line and you think: “I’m going to enjoy this book!” It was completely like that for me. “We must by law, keep a record of the innocents we kill.” Excellent stuff.

Stuart: I think the concept of organised death in an immortal world pretty fascinating. I like the fact that the two characters are essentially fighting for a position that neither of them want but they actually need. Who are you rooting for at this moment in time?

Beth M: Ooh, that’s so tough. I really like Citra’s attitude and the way she isn’t afraid to say what she thinks and stand up to Scythe Faraday but I also admired Rowan and the way he stood by the boy in his school who was being gleaned. How about you? I find it very ironic that they’re taking life from people yet are compared to the best of humanity – almost like avenging angels? Crazy!

Stuart: Yeah I thought Rowan’s moment with Faraday and the gleaning was cool and kind. I think Citra has too much to lose over Rowan but we will see. What do you think is going on with those diamond Scythes on the plane?

Beth M: I think they’re rogues! People that have been trained as Scythes and are supposed to be merciful but have gone to the dark side. 😱 Are you finding this book quite funny? I wasn’t expecting to be tickled at all and it’s surprising how amusing I’m finding it. I love that kids have trading cards with all the different Scythes on them! 😆

Stuart: It is funny, I have laughed quite a lot more than probably necessary but it does come across as quite humorous and witty. That was an interesting addition considering how much people intensely avoid the Scythes in general life. I am definitely getting on with Schusterman’s writing and I am eager to read more. Meet back here at 220pp?

Beth M: Great idea. I’m just intrigued about one more thing, what did you think of the whole regeneration after an accident/no disease/resetting your life back to a particular age? I thought that was a really imaginative touch and I’m really interested to see how they might develop this idea in the series.

Stuart: It is the perfect concept to breed an idea like the need for Scythes. It is kind of weird when you have grandfather/grandmother who wants to return to their twenties and how people choose to look old or have weight etc when everyone could just look perfect. It is an interesting angle on humanity and I look forward to seeing how Shusterman can adapt/mess with it in these novels.

Stuart: Page 162 caught me off guard a little! Blimey 😥

Beth M: Haha me too! That’s going to make things a hell of a lot more interesting now. I’m going to read till p170 and then read to our next checkpoint p220 tomorrow if you’ll be ready for a chat then?

Stuart: Probably by about 5ish tomorrow I should be at 220 if you are about then.

Beth M: Yep no problem talk later! 👋🏻

Stuart: Noooo! This is getting out of hand 😣 so much has changed in just a few pages!

Beth M: Tell me about it! I’m at p220 and things have changed so much in the past 100 pages! Huge shocks, big turn arounds in plot and the intrigue behind these Diamond Scythes keeps growing. How are you enjoying the gleaning journal entries?

Stuart: They are cool and quite thought-provoking I think. I like the references to The Age Of Mortality. Yeah I am worried for Rowan but I am not quite at p220 yet so I will get back to reading.

Stuart: Well that section certainly upped the stakes between our lead characters. I am afraid for Rowan at the hands of Goddard but Curie is a fascinating Scythe so it isn’t all bad. What do you think of the story so far?

Beth M: Oh my goodness Stuart, I’m totally invested. I can’t remember the last time a YA novel had this much of an impact on me! I wasn’t sure if we would find out what Citra’s bad thing she did was in the 100 pages we read, but when we did it was awful. I’m so, so worried for Rowan now, I wasn’t expecting that shocker at all, it came completely out of the blue. What do you make of Goddard and his minions? The scenes on the plane and the shopping centre were ruthless!

Stuart: Goddard for me is a difficult character. I hate the fact that he represents everything that Faraday disapproves of but he is an immensely potent character for the narrative and he is making some pretty impressive waves. I don’t read YA but this has caught me. It is slightly too nonchalant about mass, and brutal, murder but that just puts emphasis on how complacent humanity has become towards death. I have so many theories about the outcome of this novel. Who are you rooting for at this moment in time?

Beth M: I definitely agree about Goddard, it’s interesting how he seems to have to many people, especially those in charge in his back pocket. You’re right it is quite nonchalant but maybe that makes it MORE horrifying? The way in which the saleswoman was dealt with in the Conclave was particularly brutal as well I thought. I think at the moment I’m edging towards Team Rowan, although I do want to shake him a tiny bit…he seems quite impressed with Goddard’s material acquisitions. 😕

Stuart: Yeah but what he is considering due to that huge development that we probably shouldn’t talk about (woah!) is pretty noble in a weird way. Could he really do it? Or let it be done to him? Citra is obsessively competitive so I guess she could do it and worry about it later. Do you have any predictions?

Stuart: What do you think about the plausibility of our world being led by something akin to the Thunderhead. An all-powerful cloud of information?

Beth M: I feel like both of them might work together in the end? I’m not sure, they’re both huge characters it will be interesting to see where Shusterman takes it. 🤔 I really admire his nobility whatever happens and you’re right it does seem like Citra might deal with it differently. The Thunderhead is SO very strange to get my head round. The amount of things it controls is mind boggling. I love when The author goes into more details about the biological differences in humans. Like the nanites/added opiates that prevent a person from feeling prolonged pain. Wow!

Stuart: Shusterman has definitely crafted an exceptional vision of humanity. I think it is time we head to the finish. I will see you there 😁

Beth M: 👍🏻

Beth M: Do you want to have one more stop off at p326 or just go straight to the end?

Stuart: The final act starts at p339. Is that okay with you? Have you already continued reading?

Beth M: That’s fine! Reading until p339 or reading till the end? Haven’t started yet, going to continue tomorrow. 😁

Stuart: Yeah read till p339 and then chat 😁 I have reaf about 20 pages more and there is a hilarious quote that I wanted to share with you. Let’s see if you can guess what I am talking about after you continue reading 😂

Beth M: Challenge accepted!!

Beth M: OH MY GOD. p299! p299! 😱

Stuart: I haven’t started reading yet! I am still on p239. Did you laugh at the ‘The Primordial Ooze!’ bit? I did… a lot!

Beth M: Yes! Haha! 😂

Stuart: Wow! What a place to pause 😅 the development of Scythe is superb. There is so much going on but it is fascinating. How is it for you?

Beth M: I’m really enjoying it. I love how everything is so unexpected and the author keeps pulling the rug from under our feet. That part when Citra and Rowan were sparring…I think I did a little gasp out loud! 😂

Stuart: It was a smart move and shows that both of them are still in the game… well… we will see. We are in a major spoiler zone but it is getting so good! I was glad to see what that Esme business was all about. I can’t envision the ending to this novel at all!

Beth M: I was totally shocked at first re: Rowan and then when we saw what was inside his head it made a weird sort of sense. Brutal though! Yes I wasn’t sure what was going on with Esme but I think she’s going to be very important later on. 🤔 I reckon it’s going to end on a major cliffhanger- it’s a series isn’t it?

Stuart: Yeah Thunderhead is already out in the US but in the UK it is released in August. I hope something doesn’t happen that shreds Rowan of what he is desperate to remain. Volta is going to tell him, I am sure of it. Citra is too important! I hope it isn’t cheesy like self-glean and then redemption for nobility etc. But we will see!

Beth M: Yes it would be good if he could surprise us again. I hate it when things are too predictable. 😕 I’m a bit worried about Citra now considering the situation she’s found herself in!

Stuart: Let us continue and see what happens in the finale!

Beth M: 👍🏻

Stuart: I wont be free for a finale for a finale chat until tomorrow evening. Is that okay?

Beth M: That’s perfect. I’ll read the last of it on my commute to and from work and I’ll be all sorted by the time I get home.

Stuart: Tell me when you finished the book! I have so much to talk about!

Beth M: Finished! Oh dear Lord!! 😱 that was the most perfect ending don’t you think?

Stuart: Oh yeah! I was literally cheering after what happened at the monastery. And yes that ending 😁😁😁 what a ride.

Stuart: I am going to have a serious book hangover in the morning 😅

Beth M: Me too! What about that last journal entry as well? That’s really set up an intriguing second book! 🤔 Also a surprise visit from someone I didn’t expect to see? 🤗

Stuart: Yeah I thought that was a good choice. That journal entry was the best! An urban legend for evil Scythes to fear? Epic 😁

Beth M: It was the best ending. I’m a bit scared now for our terrible twosome! What were your favourite parts overall?

Stuart: Definitely the fantastic plot developments, the distinct difference in paths for the two heroes. I enjoyed the character led narrative populated with memorable individuals (both good and bad). I also loved Shusterman’s vision of our ‘perfect’ existence despite the fact it is fundamentally chilling to think we could become that disassociated with death. How about you?

Beth M: 👍🏻 I loved the whole world building. It was so imaginative and well thought out. I rooted for both characters throughout the narrative at different times and there was so many twists that there was never a dull moment. It played out like a film in my head and I constantly wanted to know what was going on!

Stuart: It was incredibly vivid. With so many harsh themes like violence, death, weapons, mass killings etc I was worried about Scythe being too dark. I found it had unsettling moments but mostly it was bold, audacious and really funny at times which was a nice idea. Shusterman does trivialise death in this novel but in doing so highlights the desperate need to hold on to life and the fear of dying. Do you agree?

Beth M: Definitely. I think it also makes Citra and Rowan respect death a bit more through their training. It was shocking how it was relatively easy to come back from though with a few days in a revival centre! 😱 Who do you think changed the most/had the biggest journey through the novel?

Stuart: Well they both changed in massive ways. Rowan going from a lettuce to an urban legend and Citra dropping her small town competitive streak in favour of something bigger to believe in. Yeah the total lack of consequences of death (some even doing on a regular basis) was unsettling. I would have to say Rowan at the moment as I was literally cheering towards the end of his narrative 😅. Who was your favourite mentor Scythe out of the three?

Beth M: Haha he was such a lettuce! 😂 The way he changed was massive, going from not wanting his school friend to be gleaned to….er what he ended up doing in the final test. It was extraordinary. I’m torn between Faraday and Curie, I loved them both and felt a bit sad at their story too. 😉 don’t tell me you like Goddard?? 😆

Stuart: No not at all. I did think he was an excellent presence in the novel to shake it all up but I would go with Faraday as he is old-school and meaningful. Curie was impressive though. Okay let’s change it up! What didn’t you like about this novel?

Beth M: Bloody good question. I would have liked to know more about The Thunderhead as an entity, how it developed, its history and what exactly it controlled. I felt it was all quite vague and was so intrigued about it, especially when it connected with Citra. Although we might get more information in the second book? Hope so! How about you?

Stuart: I hope we find out more as the sequel is actually called Thunderhead 😅. I agree, they show us this hive/cloud/presence that controls the world and Citra gets a chance to utilise its resources (illegally) but what governs the Thunderhead, how does truly keep people in line etc. What I found the most cool yet the most disconcerting is the Killcraft element. How much thought/effort/enjoyment some Scythes get from the vast array of gleaning tools. What I am trying to say is that for the most part I was impressed by how Shusterman portrayed the Scythes but there is a few moments that were a step to far a.k.a Volta and the classroom. Other than that and the fact that, like you say, some aspects are quite shallow right now, this was an impressive read 😁

Beth M: Yes, he manages the shock factor perfectly. At some points it was almost too much. For me, it was Rowan’s friend willing to “splat” himself over and over again. That gave me the chills! Wish we didn’t have to wait until the summer to read the sequel though!

Stuart: Well I have thoroughly enjoyed this co-read so thank you for taking the time to read Scythe alongside me.

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

Hope you all enjoyed that, it was something a bit different for both Stuart and myself I think, and reading through the chat right now reminds me of how excited we both got over this novel – we certainly had a lot to say about it! I just want to finish up by urging everyone (whether you’re a lover of YA or not) to read this book. It was such a pleasant surprise for me and as I mentioned in the chat, I became completely enamoured with the world-building, the characters, the twists and turns and the constant shocks that Neal Shusterman throws at the reader. It’s not predictable in any sense of the world, the plot is intense and exciting and I haven’t mentioned this to Stuart yet (sorry for springing it on you right now Stu!) but can we PLEASE do this again for the second book in the series?!

The combination of terrific characterisation in our two leads, Citra and Rowan and the development of this strange, imaginative and occasionally cruel world makes this series unmissable in my opinion. I can’t wait to carry on with the next book and I just want to thank Stuart so much for this buddy reading experience, it was fantastic.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Gracekeepers – Kirsty Logan

Published February 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

For readers of The Night Circus and Station Eleven, a lyrical and absorbing debut set in a world covered by water.

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives – offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.

What did I think?:

Every fibre of my being has been wanting to pick this book up ever since I saw the gorgeous cover art on the hardback copy and read the synopsis that mentions Scottish myths/fairytales – er, yes please! This book couldn’t be more “me,” and I was delighted when the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium recommended it to me when Chrissi Reads and I had one of their fantastic reading spas. Yet still I put off reading this book and waited AND waited. Sometimes I worry too much that I’m not going to enjoy a novel as much as I think I should and as a result, delay reading it just in case it doesn’t live up to my very lofty expectations. Well, that’s just silly because once I eventually forced myself to pick it up, I adored it. This whimsical, fantastical tale is perfect for any fans of magical realism but above all, the language is so beautifully perfect that it just flows smoothly over you as you read it, making it a very special reading experience.

Primarily, we are following two main characters – North who works as part of a travelling circus on the seas as the mysterious “bear-girl” and Callenish, an ethereal young woman who carries out burials at sea, helping the dead find rest. The story is set in an almost dystopian universe where the seas have taken over the majority of the planet with only small spots of land remaining. The people who live in this world either live on the sea and are referred to as “damplings” or live on the land as “landlockers,” with the two types rarely mixing together except for business purposes.

We follow North and her bear as she nurses a tremendous secret and carries out her duties as a performer (although taking care of her beloved bear is key). The ring-master Jarrow, has plans for North and she must struggle to convince him that she shouldn’t marry his son whilst trying to avoid enraging Jarrow’s pregnant wife, Avalon who has her own axe to grind. Then we see the supreme loneliness of Callenish, banished to an island by herself for a terrible mistake in her past to carry out the role of Gracekeeper with only her own thoughts and the Graces, birds that she uses in the burying ritual, for company. Both young women have more in common than they think and after a freak storm one night, their destinies are brought together with surprising consequences for all.

I don’t want to give anything else away, I just want to assure you of the beauty of this book. If like me, you love your fairy-tale elements and a quirky, one of a kind narrative, you should really seek out this book. I loved the mixture of dystopia with fantasy and thought each character, even the minor players in the tale were developed so particularly that each one could have had a whole story to themselves. Of course, it was the two main ladies who took the biggest piece of my heart but characters like Avalon, the pregnant wife on a mission to get whatever she wants (never mind anyone else!) and the clowns also made for fascinating reading. Furthermore, the author goes into so much detail about certain events, especially in Callenish’s past that I didn’t expect and made me incredibly emotional. Basically, The Gracekeepers isn’t just a re-run of The Night Circus/Station Eleven, it is a wonderful tale that stands on its own, rightly on its own merits and there are delightful surprises around every corner.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan is the fourteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Mini Pin-It Reviews #18 – Four Random Books

Published February 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four random books for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales Of Madness, Love and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements – Sam Kean

What’s it all about?:

The Periodic Table is one of man’s crowning scientific achievements. But it’s also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The infectious tales and astounding details in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON follow carbon, neon, silicon, and gold as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, poison, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.
We learn that Marie Curie used to provoke jealousy in colleagues’ wives when she’d invite them into closets to see her glow-in-the-dark experiments. And that Lewis and Clark swallowed mercury capsules across the country and their campsites are still detectable by the poison in the ground. Why did Gandhi hate iodine? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium? And why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

From the Big Bang to the end of time, it’s all in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

What’s it all about?:

protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

3.) The Moth – Catherine Burns (editor)

What’s it all about?:

With an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

Before television and radio, before penny paperbacks and mass literacy, people would gather on porches, on the steps outside their homes, and tell stories. The storytellers knew their craft and bewitched listeners would sit and listen long into the night as moths flitted around overhead. The Moth is a non-profit group that is trying to recapture this lost art, helping storytellers – old hands and novices alike – hone their stories before playing to packed crowds at sold-out live events.

The very best of these stories are collected here: whether it’s Bill Clinton’s hell-raising press secretary or a leading geneticist with a family secret; a doctor whisked away by nuns to Mother Teresa’s bedside or a film director saving her father’s Chinatown store from money-grabbing developers; the Sultan of Brunei’s concubine or a friend of Hemingway’s who accidentally talks himself into a role as a substitute bullfighter, these eccentric, pitch-perfect stories – all, amazingly, true – range from the poignant to the downright hilarious.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) The Chimes – Anna Smaill

What’s it all about?:

The Chimes is set in a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed.

In the absence of both memory and writing is music.

In a world where the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphemy, all appears lost. But Simon Wythern, a young man who arrives in London seeking the truth about what really happened to his parents, discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever.

A stunning literary debut by poet and violinist Anna Smaill, The Chimes is a startlingly original work that combines beautiful, inventive prose with incredible imagination.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN IT REVIEWS: Four Author Requests.

Year One (Chronicles Of The One #1) – Nora Roberts

Published December 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It began on New Year’s Eve.

The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.

As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Clara Diaz and Little Brown publishers who approached me to read a copy of Year One, the first book in The Chronicles of The One series in exchange for an honest review. I’ve now read a couple of things by this author – the first I came to very late and that’s the forty-fourth (!!) book in the In Death series called Echoes In Death which she writes under the pseudonym J.D. Robb. The second was under her own name called Come Sundown and was a romantic yet very surprising read for me. When I read the synopsis of Year One, I accepted a digital copy very willingly, I’ve recently had a bit of a hankering for apocalyptic type fiction and with the added fantastical elements I was intrigued to see what Nora Roberts would do with the narrative. By and large, this is definitely a series I want to continue with. The vast myriad of characters, a fast paced plot and of course, the magical components held my attention throughout and I can’t wait to see how the story develops in future books.

So, as with many other stories in this vein, the substance that wipes out almost an entire population of humans is a virus, at first thought to come from birds after the first victim is traced back to a farm in Scotland. However, doubts are rising about where exactly this virus has come from and why it seems to enhance magical abilities in a chosen few. Trying to survive in the world becomes a dangerous prospect with raiders hell-bent on looting and violence, mindless of the hurt they cause to others in their efforts. There is also one strain of the magical folk (elves, fairies, shapeshifters, telekenetics etc) that have embraced the dark side and cause murder and mayhem when they attack both regular humans and the “good” magical people. Especially when one of the individuals that they are hunting becomes very special to them for something she carries with her.

As I mentioned there are a multitude of characters to get to grips with in this novel and on one hand, I loved this and embraced all the different personalities but there were occasions when I had to think to myself: “Okay, who’s this again?.” My favourites were probably the ones we hear most from – Lana, Max, Eddie and his dog Joe, Arlys, Fred, Rachel and Jonah and I enjoyed how they all had definitive roles in the story, from a paramedic and a doctor to a journalist, witches and a fairy – there was a real mishmash and variety of individuals that kept me intrigued throughout the novel. The world-building is pretty fantastic, I especially loved the scenes when our characters were on the run and when they had to face difficult situations (physical or emotional) as I felt I could really see their personalities come across more vividly during their struggles.

I may have had to suspend my disbelief occasionally as at points, some wonderful things like land, animals, gas, food etc just almost fell into their laps and in a real apocalyptic situation I doubt it would be that easy to be honest. There’s also a situation near the end of the book that I can’t really talk about for fear of spoilers but it took me a little while to come round to the idea, I felt it all happened a little too quickly considering what the character involved had been through. Apart from these very slight things, I hugely enjoyed this novel. I’m still so curious to discover more about the virus, about the magical qualities of the chosen few and what’s going to happen to the characters I’ve become quite attached to in the next book in the series. Looking forward to it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

American War – Omar El Akkad

Published September 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war – part of the Miraculous Generation – now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past, his family’s role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.

What did I think?:

First of all, happy publication day to Omar El Akkad and a huge thank you to the lovely people at Pan Macmillan publishers who were kind enough to send me a copy of this stunning and powerful novel in exchange for an honest review. American War is set in the future yet feels ever so timely, especially with the things happening in the world at the moment and I was completely bowled over by how wonderful both the writing and the plot of the novel is. It’s a gritty, no holds barred account of everything that may occur when a country is at war and at times, it was quite an emotional reading experience.

Our narrator for the story is Benjamin Chestnut who is telling the story of his aunt, Sarat Chestnut and her life after war broke out between the South and North factions of America in 2074, initially over the usage of oil which becomes an illegal commodity. Sarat, her mother, twin sister Dana and older brother Simon are forced to leave their home and become refugees at Camp Patience with hundreds of others. From there, Sarat comes of age, survives a horrific incident that decimates part of her family and comes into contact with a gentleman that becomes quite excited about her potential to exact revenge on the perpetrators that ruined her life. This is the story of how war affects one particular family, how a series of traumatic events can change a person for good and how violence and mistrust can have such devastating consequences for an entire population.

This story is almost epic in its outlook. It looks at the characters from a family over a number of decades who have all been subjected to unbelievable suffering. The prospects of this actually happening are not entirely within the realm of fairy tales – I think this is what makes it all the more frightening and poignant to read. Climate change has obliterated many parts of the country, leaving them underwater and America a shadow of her previous mighty self. With the recent floods from Hurricane Harvey still affecting so many lives it is a terrifying thought that the events of this novel may not be as inconceivable as perhaps once thought. The author also provides us with a fascinating character in his main protagonist, Sarat who is ultimately flawed and commits some heinous acts but still managed to elicit my sympathy due to the hardships and the suffering that she had to face. I’m crossing all my fingers for this novel to do really well, personally I think it’s a phenomenal piece of writing and such an important read and I can’t wait for more people to experience it so I can gush about it even more.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0