Science Fiction

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Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) – Sylvain Neuvel

Published December 11, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

What did I think?:

I was lucky enough to read the second book in The Themis Files with the lovely Janel from Keeper Of Pages as our October buddy read after we thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the trilogy, Sleeping Giants, a couple of months prior to that. A huge big “I’m sorry!” to her for being so slow in finally getting this review up, life has been kind of crazy work wise but I’m hopefully now back on the horse so as to speak, and can catch up with my backlog of reviews. As with all second books in a series, I always approach it with slight trepidation, after all, if I’ve enjoyed the first one so much – could it possibly match my elevated expectations? Hmm, well yes and no. There were things about this novel that I loved, particularly the format (which is one of the most fabulous things about this series) and in general, this is still a trilogy that so far, I would highly recommend. However, there were some minor niggles that were just a bit disappointing and unfortunately, has led to me giving Waking Gods an ever so slightly lower rating in comparison to Sleeping Giants.

Sylvain Neuvel, author of Waking Gods, second novel in The Themis Files.

As with all trilogies/series, the second book and any following novels become really difficult to review especially as you’re wary of releasing spoilers into the world for the readers who haven’t experienced the series yet. But never fear readers, I shall be deliberately vague and shall tell you the absolute bare minimum you need to know so that you can check out whether this trilogy might be for you. In a nutshell, this series follows the discovery of large parts of a strange robot hidden in different places around the Earth. In Sleeping Giants, this robot is assembled and its purpose discovered. Our characters learn how to operate said robot and its devastating, mind-blowing potential becomes realised when it is revealed that it might not have been built by human hands. In Waking Gods, a decade after the events of the first novel, our lead characters return when a host of new robots begin to appear around the globe. What do these robots want? More importantly, what does their arrival mean for the future of our planet?

As with Sleeping Giants, the story is told in the format of journal entries and interview transcripts by an unknown male protagonist who appears to be leading the research and usage of the discovered robot – referred to as Themis. I was delighted once more with this fascinating way of approaching the novel, especially as it makes it so very tempting to read just one more entry before putting the book down. As a result, once more it was a relatively quick and thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. My favourite bad-ass, independent, intelligent and feisty female protagonists are back and there’s multiple surprises and exciting incidents that the author springs upon the reader, meaning that you’re never quite completely sure what’s going to happen next – I adore that in a novel.

I’ve been racking my brains to try and figure out why I didn’t enjoy Waking Gods as much as I did Sleeping Giants and I think there’s a couple of different reasons. Firstly, I believe it might suffer from that “age-old trilogy problem,” as I like to call it. That is, the first book sets the scene and makes you eager to continue whereas the second novel occasionally acts as a bit of a “filler,” basically preparing the reader for the explosive events which will occur in the final novel. That isn’t to say there weren’t exciting events – there certainly were, including the appearance of a robot in London, how the community responded, and the after-effects of the robot’s presence. I have to admit, that was a particularly tense and captivating moment and after this, I had high hopes for the rest of the narrative. Additionally I appreciated Neuvel paving the way rather excellently for the final novel with some shocks and unexpected events that had both Janel and I reeling.

However, apart from the above mentioned moments, things kind of just chugged along with a bit less oomph and pizzazz in Waking Gods and it just didn’t feel as dramatic or unique as what we had already experienced when we were first introduced to our rag-tag bunch of fascinating characters. Perhaps it was because we were already familiar with the set-up, the format, the individuals concerned? I’m not sure. Nevertheless, for the compelling moments, the brilliance of the science-fiction and imaginative quality of the writing, I still had a fantastic reading experience and am very much looking forward to completing the trilogy with Janel as we read Only Human this month.

Thank you so much to Janel @ Keeper Of Pages for another excellent buddy read. Check out her review of Waking Gods HERE.

Also look out for our November buddy read review of The Three by Sarah Lotz coming soon!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Previous buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

The Fireman by Joe Hill – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Girls by Emma Cline – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

 

 

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Friday Black – Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Published October 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In the stories of Adjei-Brenyah’s debut, an amusement park lets players enter augmented reality to hunt terrorists or shoot intruders played by minority actors, a school shooting results in both the victim and gunman stuck in a shared purgatory, and an author sells his soul to a many-tongued god.

Adjei-Brenyah’s writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage, and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day. These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world.

What did I think?:

This review comes with a huge thank you to Quercus Books whom at a recent “Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening” kindly provided me with a copy of this book in a fun little “blind date,” where the book was wrapped up in standard brown paper with a few teasing pieces of information on the front to suggest what might be inside. If you follow me on Instagram/Twitter you might have already seen what was there but for those of you who don’t I’ll just mention it here briefly because it was what was said on the front that made me desperate to find out exactly what the package contained. Endorsed by both Roxane Gay and George Saunders (if this isn’t accolade enough in itself?) it was described as being “a punchy short story collection examining racial injustice in modern America.” Buzzfeed also called it “Black Mirror-esque.” With these two exhilarating statements I knew I was in for something very unique and noteworthy and once I opened it and was faced with that stunning cover design and a synopsis that knocked my socks off I knew that I was a very lucky girl indeed and this collection was going to be nothing short of monumental.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of the short story collection, Friday Black.

So, I had already suspected that I was in for a wild ride with this collection but even then, I still wasn’t fully prepared for the journey it would take me on both emotionally and intellectually. I don’t want to talk about any individual story too much and ruin the pleasure other readers are going to get from this astounding debut but it’s honestly one of those books where after you read it, you feel a little changed as a person. The collection opens in the most gut-wrenching and shocking manner with a story called The Finkelstein 5 (possibly my favourite story of them all) and to give you an idea of the personal impact on me I’ll give you a taster of the first few lines:

“Fela, the headless girl, walked toward Emmanuel. Her neck jagged with red savagery. She was silent, but he could feel her waiting for him to do something, anything.”

You know when you start reading something and you get this instinct that what you’re about to witness in the form of devouring these words is going to be incredible and unforgettable? That’s what The Finkelstein 5 was for me and it was impossible to resist as soon as I had read that outrageous (but brilliant!) first paragraph. From this first story onwards, each of the other tales stands on their own individually and proudly as a true testament to the sheer strength and beauty of Adjei-Brenyah’s writing style. Many stories verge on the dystopian and fantastical but frighteningly, many of them actually feel realistic. It’s easy to imagine these horrific instances of racism, prejudice and brutality occurring if the technology mentioned in one particular story – “Zimmer Land” is used in a malicious way to justify abhorrent racist attitudes.

One of the stories in this collection, Friday Black imagines the retail event Black Friday in a particularly violent fashion. This particular image I discovered from Black Friday 2017 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I had a sneaky suspicion that I was going to adore Friday Black and I wasn’t wrong. It’s fairly rare that I feel inspired to tweet, especially after a short story but in this case, The Finkelstein 5 had such an enormous impact on me I immediately had to tell the whole world about it. It was so powerful in both its scope and intensity that I couldn’t fail to be affected and was the perfect way to begin a staggeringly good collection. Yes, there’s always the worry that the following stories won’t live up to the brilliance of the first but I was delighted to discover that almost every single tale afterwards left some sort of footprint in my mind.

I was completely prepared to be moved, haunted and dumbfounded but I wasn’t expecting things to get so emotional and there was a particular story – “Lark Street” that absolutely destroyed me and left me a sobbing mess. I really can’t say anymore but if any regular readers are aware of my personal struggles the past eighteen months or so, I’m sure you’ll understand. Amidst this devastation however, I couldn’t help but be in complete awe of this writer’s talent, his ability with words, his imagination and creativity and the way in which he managed to make me feel so much, in very different ways with each of his stories. Thought-provoking and highly original, this is short story collection you really can’t afford to miss!

Published by riverrun publishers, an imprint of Quercus Books, Friday Black is out NOW.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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October 2018 – Netgalley Month

Published October 3, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone! Every other month I alternate what I’m reading quite specifically between three things. It’s either Chrissi Cupboard Month where I try my best to get through all the books my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads lends me (and that’s a lot!).

Then there’s Real Book Month where I try and read all the physical books just waiting to be devoured on my bookshelves (also a LOT!)

Finally, there’s Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC Month where I try and catch up on all those ARC/review copies sent to me by authors, publishers, NetGalley and Book Bridgr. (A LOT!)

At the moment, I’m desperately trying to catch up on my Netgalley reviews to finally achieve that much longed for and ideal 80% ratio. Unfortunately there’s not much chance of me achieving it this year – I went a bit crazy when I was first approved for review copies on Netgalley. Oops. However, I’ve done much better this year at closing the gap and will work on it again next year before I request anything else. Once I’m on top of things, I’m planning to be much more sensible!

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got planned to read this month:

An Act Of Silence by Colette McBeth (with kind thanks to Headline publishers)

What’s it all about?:

MOTHER. WIFE. POLITICIAN. LIAR.

THEN: How far did she go to conceal the truth?

Politician Linda Moscow sacrificed everything to protect her son: her beliefs, her career, her marriage. All she wanted was to keep him safe.

NOW: What will she risk to expose the lies?

When the voices she silenced come back to haunt her, Linda is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line . . .

An Act of Silence is about the abuse of power, the devastating effects of keeping the truth buried, and the lengths a mother will go to save her child.

The Book Of Mirrors by E.O. Chirovici (with kind thanks to Random House, UK)

What’s it all about?:

One Man’s Truth Is Another Man’s Lie.

When big-shot literary agent Peter Katz receives an unfinished manuscript entitled The Book of Mirrors, he is intrigued.

The author, Richard Flynn is writing a memoir about his time at Princeton in the late 80s, documenting his relationship with the famous Professor Joseph Wieder. One night in 1987, Wieder was brutally murdered in his home and the case was never solved.

Peter Katz is hell-bent on getting to the bottom of what happened that night twenty-five years ago and is convinced the full manuscript will reveal who committed the violent crime. But other people’s recollections are dangerous weapons to play with, and this might be one memory that is best kept buried.

The Boy That Never Was by Karen Perry (with kind thanks to Penguin UK)

What’s it all about?:

You were loved and lost – then you came back . . .

Five years ago, three-year-old Dillon disappeared. For his father Harry – who left him alone for ten crucial minutes – it was an unforgivable lapse. Yet Dillon’s mother Robyn has never blamed her husband: her own secret guilt is burden enough.

Now they’re trying to move on, returning home to Dublin to make a fresh start.

But their lives are turned upside down the day Harry sees an eight-year-old boy in the crowd. A boy Harry is convinced is Dillon. But the boy vanishes before he can do anything about it.

What Harry thought he saw quickly plunges their marriage into a spiral of crazed obsession and broken trust, uncovering deceits and shameful secrets. Everything Robyn and Harry ever believed in one another is cast into doubt.

And at the centre of it all is the boy that never was . . .

The Sex Lives Of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh (with kind thanks to Random House UK)

What’s it all about?:

When Lucy Brennan, a Miami Beach personal-fitness trainer, disarms a gunman chasing two frightened homeless men, the police and the breaking-news cameras are not far behind and, within hours, Lucy is a media hero. The solitary eye-witness is the depressed and overweight Lena Sorensen, who becomes obsessed with Lucy and signs up as her client – though she seems more interested in the trainer’s body than her own. When the two women find themselves more closely aligned, and can’t stop thinking about the sex lives of Siamese twins, the real problems start…

In the aggressive, foul-mouthed trainer, Lucy Brennan, and the needy, manipulative Lena Sorensen, Irvine Welsh has created two of his most memorable female protagonists, and one of the most bizarre, sado-masochistic folies à deux in contemporary fiction. Featuring murder, depravity and revenge – and enormous amounts of food and sex – The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins taps into two great obsessions of our time – how we look and where we live – and tells a story so subversive and dark it blacks out the Florida sun.

Sisters Of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle (with kind thanks to Penguin UK)

What’s it all about?:

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness — and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante.

But when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

BUDDY READS/COLLABORATIONS FOR THE REST OF THE MONTH

I’ve got myself quite a good mixture of contemporary fiction, thrillers and a historical fiction but I’ve also got some fantastic buddy reads planned for this month. Firstly, my monthly read with the wonderful Janel from Keeper Of Pages is the second book in The Themis Files – Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel. If you’re intrigued for my review from the first book in the trilogy, Sleeping Giants which was also read with Janel, please check out my review HERE.

Then we’ve got another buddy read with the fantastic Stuart from Always Trust In Books. This time around we’ll be reading The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. It’s a book I’ve heard so much hype about and I was delighted when Stuart hauled it recently as it seems like every blogger I know has read and absolutely adored it. I need to get on this bandwagon.

I’ll also be buddy reading for the very first time with the lovely Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader. We’ll be reading Elmet by Fiona Mozley, again another book that I’ve been very excited to get to!

Finally, I’ll be reading the “usual suspects” with my fabulous sister, Chrissi Reads. Our Kid-Lit book for the month of October is Nightbirds On Nantucket, the third book in The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken and our Banned Book for the month is Beloved by Toni Morrison.

A busy, busy reading month but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these titles and what you thought of them? Hope everyone else has a brilliant reading month!

Lots Of Love

Beth xxx

 

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) – Sylvain Neuvel

Published September 19, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Themis Files is a deeply human story about a world-changing alien discovery.

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.

What did I think?:

The books I buddy read with Janel who blogs over at Keeper Of Pages will always be a bit special to me as not only do we always have a wonderful experience reading them but we have a great chat about them too, always managing to be on exactly the same wavelength (sister from another mister, Janel?) and so far, we’ve given every single one we’ve read together five stars which I believe proves we really know how to pick some good ones! I’ve been stupidly excited about every book we’ve read together as usually they’ve been ones that have been languishing on my TBR for the longest time but I was particularly excited about Sleeping Giants. I managed to get my hands on a Goldsboro signed first edition with sprayed black edges and it’s one of the most gorgeous books I think I’ve got in my whole collection. Luckily, the story inside lived up to the beauty of the cover and although Janel and I had some teeny tiny issues with it, I still count it as one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Sylvain Neuvel, author of Sleeping Giants, the first book in The Themis Files trilogy.

As a work of science fiction, Sleeping Giants focuses mainly on two female lead characters, both strong, determined and intelligent. Rose is a physicist who when she was a young girl, happened to fall down a hole in the ground and land in the palm of a giant metal hand. Now she is part of the team under the instruction of an incredibly mysterious man who start to find other pieces of this alien-esque body dotted all around the world. With the assistance of Kara, a trained pilot who becomes vitally important to their mission, the team attempt to assemble the body parts into a whole, robotic creature whose purpose in the beginning is suspected but not quite fully known. As they start to try and move the robot, they discover further functions and capabilities of the strange object that have the potential to change the world for ever. All individuals involved in the mission become dangerously obsessed, almost to the point of madness as piece by piece, the possibilities in front of them are slowly revealed.

I have to admit, when I first received this book in the post, back when I used to be a member of Goldsboro Book Of The Month Club, I wasn’t very sure. I’m not a huge fan of science fiction as a genre BUT have found myself swayed in the past couple of years or so with fantastic books like The Sparrow and The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet. I think I can speak for both Janel and myself when I say that we were absolutely delighted by the story we found within, particularly the way it was set out – in the form of journal entries, files, telephone conversations etc. (Note to myself: “That may be why it’s called The Themis FILES, Beth!”). It was so very easy and compelling to read in this format and incredibly tempting to just read one more entry rather than putting the book down.

However, I think I was most bowled over by the availability of fiesty, sassy and clever female leads that we received in the form of Rose and Kara. They were so magnificent to read about in their own way – one quieter and methodical but with a steely confidence and no nonsense attitude and the other with well…..just an attitude. Only joking, I adored Kara’s fight, intolerance for stupidity and refreshing way of saying exactly what she was thinking disregarding any consequences to herself. Of course, we do start to see both women’s vulnerabilities and get some idea of what make them the women they are in the present time but when it comes to that explosive cliffhanger of an ending, it’s perfectly obvious that a whole lot more is going to be revealed in the next book in the series.

I think our only quibble with this novel (and it is a small one) is that because of the format, you don’t really get a linear narrative. That is, we might get a journal entry about a certain event that happens and we won’t get another file until a couple of years down the line in the future. This unfortunately had the effect of making us feel like we had skipped over really important parts of our characters lives and as a result, this made it slightly disjointed and jumpy, where we had to adjust quite quickly to the rapid movements ahead in time. It wasn’t difficult to adjust, not by any stretch of the imagination and we both still thoroughly enjoyed it but sadly, there were those occasional parts where I believe the reader could potentially think: “Wait, what have I missed?!”

Saying that and I really do want to end this review on a positive note because I still highly, HIGHLY recommend this book, this was honestly such a minor issue that I don’t think it would affect anyone’s enjoyment at all. I would still give a definite five stars for the story within this novel, I just have to be honest and if I have a slight doubt about jumps in the plot, I can’t give it the full five unfortunately. However, it was so, so close and I’m really excited to announce that Janel and I will be one hundred percent continuing with the series and reading the second novel, Waking Gods for our buddy read in October!

Thank you once again to Janel for an amazing buddy reading experience. Check out her amazing review HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

Past buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

The Fireman by Joe Hill – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

 

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel was the forty-fifth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Drawing Of The Three ( The Dark Tower #2) – Stephen King

Published August 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In 1978, Stephen King introduced the world to the last gunslinger, Roland of Gilead.  Nothing has been the same since. More than twenty years later, the quest for the Dark Tower continues to take readers on a wildly epic ride. Through parallel worlds and across time, Roland must brave desolate wastelands and endless deserts, drifting into the unimaginable and the familiar. A classic tale of colossal scope—crossing over terrain from The StandThe Eyes of the DragonInsomniaThe TalismanBlack HouseHearts in Atlantis’Salem’s Lot, and other familiar King haunts—the adventure takes hold with the turn of each page.

And the tower awaits….

The Second Volume in the Epic Dark Tower Series…

The Drawing of the Three

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland is drawn through a mysterious door that brings him into contemporary America.

Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean, and with the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies.

Once again, Stephen King has masterfully interwoven dark, evocative fantasy and icy realism.

What did I think?:

The Drawing Of The Three, the second book in King’s epic Dark Tower series has to have been my biggest surprises out of all the author’s books. If you’ve read my review on the first, The Gunslinger, you might realise why. When I first read The Gunslinger, I wasn’t a big fan of this series at all. In fact, I may have even thought – “Stephen King, what ARE you doing?” Sacrilege I know, but it was only when a good friend persuaded me to give the second in the series a shot that I forced myself to continue and by gum, am I glad I did? This is actually my re-read of the entire series and it hasn’t lost its magic or power, not by a long shot. By the second book, things are really kicking off and we meet a host of characters that will prove so crucial for the entire series. I felt so much more comfortable with this world and the people within it and from the very first call of the lobstrosities in the opening pages – “Dad a chum? Dum a chum?” I was officially obsessed.

Stephen King, author of The Drawing Of The Three, book two in the Dark Tower series.

As this is a second book in the series, I won’t be telling you too much about the plot in any great detail but as the first book was a bit of an unholy mess (in my opinion), I won’t be spoiling anything to tell you that THIS is where the story really begins. Obviously I would advocate reading The Gunslinger before The Drawing Of The Three to get an idea about the world and our main character, gunslinger Roland Deschain but, and I feel treacherous for saying this, it wouldn’t be the worse thing in the world if you accidentally skimmed tiny portions of it. I feel like with The Gunslinger, there are certain points of the narrative that are pretty important, others are kind of negligible and I’m not really sure of their purpose in the story. However, I must mention again that it did improve on a second reading experience recently, probably because I was completely familiar with the world at that point in time.

One of the terrifying lobstrosities, as imagined in the graphic novels of the Dark Tower.

So, in The Drawing Of The Three, our hero Roland finds himself alone on the beach, dazed and confused. The last thing he remembers is chasing after the elusive Man In Black and now he finds himself in a deserted area by the sea. Well, not completely deserted as he soon discovers to his horror when some curious, dangerous lobstrosities come to visit him. His purpose for being on the beach? There are three doors that he must enter, all three go to different points in time in a different world and he must draw from this world three very important people that become part of his ka-tet (or clan) as he continues his quest to find The Dark Tower. These people will all help in some way on his journey and become as close to him as family, but this is merely the start of a long, hazardous trip for all of them where they will encounter things from their worst nightmares and change forever as the individuals they once were.

I adore The Dark Tower series with every fibre of my being and I was so delighted and relieved to have pushed myself to continue after the initial disappointment of The Gunslinger. In fact, if I had to choose a favourite book of the series, this one would be tied with the fourth book but also has a special place in my heart for restoring my faith in Stephen King as a writer of fantasy. He pulled it off AMAZINGLY well and I can’t urge everyone enough who has a love of the genre to please, please give this series a try. What makes it so special? Of course, King has an innate talent for creating wonderful characters that live on in your memory long after closing the book but the group he has drawn in this series is nothing short of magnificent. I love them all dearly, all for very different reasons and because you follow them over the space of seven books (some of them a sizeable page length!) you really get to know and love them as individuals.

Secondly, the intricate and complex world he creates is imaginative, unique and brilliant and although it may seem confusing at the beginning, stick with it, the rewards are well worth the effort. As a genre, I’m getting into reading fantasy a lot more recently but trust me when I say, The Dark Tower is going to be a tough one to beat. I can’t think of any other series that has captured my heart and endlessly fascinated me as we journey with Roland and his ka-tet to reach the end of his mysterious quest.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP SOON: The Wastelands (The Dark Tower #3).

 

Thunderhead (Arc Of A Scythe #2) – Neal Shusterman

Published August 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

And now for something a bit different…

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special review on my blog. A little while ago, I participated in my first ever buddy read with Stuart who blogs over at Always Trust in Books (and is an awesome blogger so you should all go follow him if you don’t already!). We read the first book in a new YA fantasy series, Scythe and both instantly fell in love with it. There was no doubt in our minds that we wanted to carry on with the series and continue to buddy read them together so about a month ago, we read the second in the series, Thunderhead.

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 Thunderhead 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?:

Start/1st Break

Beth: Don’t you worry, just whenever you’re ready. I have in my sticky paws a copy of Thunderhead!! When do you want to start and how do you want to divide it up? 🤔

Stuart: We did 100 pages, halfway, 3/4 and the end last time didn’t we? plus little comments here and there 😀 same again?

Beth: Perfect! See you soon! 👍🏻

Beth: Hey Stuart, shall we read until the end of Chapter 9? p100 falls right in the middle of a chapter. 😀

Stuart: Sounds good. I still need to finish my current read so J might be a bit behind you but I will read furiously to catch up.

Beth: Don’t you worry. Take your time, I’ve got plenty to read whilst I wait for you. It’s started off very strong!

Stuart: ‘A scythe in black’

Stuart: 😁

Beth: Yesssssss. Did you see the front cover too? One Scythe in turquoise, one Scythe in black…🤔🤗

Stuart: This cover art is just as superb as the first. I am onyl about 20 pages in due to a busy work schedule but I should be up to speed by tonight!

Beth: 👍🏻

Stuart: Woah! You were right about a strong start. I am glad Lucifer is in it from the beginning, I would have missed him too much if he was a ghost. We are getting some decent insights into The Thunderhead now as well (should have guessed due to the title). That was a bit of an epic moment to stop reading 🤣. Are you as happy with the narrative this time around as you were with Scythe?

Beth: I am, it feels familiar and comfortable to read, like being with an old friend if that doesn’t sound too odd? I am loving how both Lucifer and Anastasia go about their tasks. That scene when Lucifer is confronting Brahms at the beginning – holy hell that was tense! And did you feel as creeped out as I did about the way that Brahms gleans? I used to have a doll that played that lullaby so know it well and the thought of it is plain eerie! 😱

Stuart: I sing Brahms Lullaby to my children! Ruined that forever 😂. I think Thunderhead is actually a lot cooler than Scythe. Looking into more interesting Scythes. What is Scythe Rand going to do with Rowan’s friend? Who is after Citra and Curie? Why is the Thunderhead protecting Lucifer? I need answers! You’re absolutely right about fitting right back in with the story. It is good to be back!

Beth: Haha oh no!! 😳🤣 You’re right, it’s just thrown up so many questions and I’m so intrigued to find out what’s going to happen. We’re getting little snippets from the Thunderhead- are you as surprised as I am about it’s attitude/feelings? I wasn’t expecting THAT! 🤔

Stuart: Very unexpected. It has kind of evolved and moved on from just pure calculations. It has consideration and semi opinions. I loved the image of The Thunderhead nurturing the neglected young man. I am enjoying the insights into its mentality and how it invests time into progressing humanity whole reminding where we came from.

Beth: It’s quite canny as well isn’t it? If it’s limited in its own capabilities it’s quite astute at using other people to get the result it wants! Shall we read on? Where do you want to read to this time?

Stuart: Chapter 26 is central..ish p268. Is that good for you?

Beth: Perfect. See you there. 👌🏻

2nd Break

Stuart: Ooooooh Brahms is going to pay!!!!

Stuart: I’m ready when you are! Lots to talk about 😁

Beth: Ok I’m there! WELL, where do I start? Brahms? The Emerald Scythe? How frustrating I’m finding Tyger? I thought it was bad enough when he was obsessed with splatting in the first

book but now? 🙄

Stuart: He does seem to be Rowan’s weakness though. His oldest friend who stuck with him always. I want to talk about Greyson! What a change of tone for the series. When they were in the prison I laughed to myself and wondered if I was still reading the same book 😅. I do like his addition to the narrative though as it keeps it fresh, I think anyway. I wondering what he is going to do now he is alone? Rand is going to be interesting. Rowan should have seen that coming from a mile off. I am enjoying Scythe Constantine’s unpredictability. So much has happened! Shusterman knows how to keep driving a story forward!

Beth: For sure. Yes the whole Greyson “unsavoury” thing is really interesting! This world just keeps on developing- now we have bars where people can be rude and beat each other up and the staff are employed to take that? To keep the unsavoury contingent happy? Crazy! It’s like they can live out their bad side in a controlled environment? The Thunderhead is also really surprising me in that it has a very deep conscience and can mourn just like everyone else. 🤔

Stuart: Yes indeed. I wonder if it will actually cross a line in the future to save someone or something. I am fascinated by the way it operates and experiments with guidelines and trusting people with their secrecy. It has taken all the necessary steps to allow humanity to flourish and itself to stay fair. I can see it may be becoming corrupted in the future? Manipulated. The rain bit made me sad 🤧. I would say my only problem so far is that Rowan is falling into a trap he should have seen coming due to the fact he has been living in hiding, observing and only striking when needed. Foolish mistakes don’t make sense to me, do you agree or am I wrong?

Beth: Totally agree. I mean, he’s been trained by one of the best, Scythe Faraday and he KNEW he was being hunted so you would have thought he wouldn’t have walked himself straight into that situation, it was naive and didn’t make sense with the character he had become. I guess you could maybe say he was allowing his emotion about his father to cloud his judgement?

Stuart: But he wasn’t that emotional about his father… I guess he is more hurt by the betrayal of a scoundrel Scythe. What do you think Purity has planned? Are you enjoying Thunderhead as much as Scythe?

Beth: Ooh I think she’s been taken in by a rogue Scythe! I have my suspicions who but don’t want to voice it in case I spoil things. I am enjoying it very much, it does feel slightly different though, I can’t explain why? What do you think?

Stuart: It is different but not at all in a bad way. I am impressed by Shusterman’s momentum

and how he manages to make even the slightest development feel pivotal to the overall plot. Everything is changing continuously and I really like it that way. The halfway point means it can go any which way, I suggest we crack on to find out more 😀 Meet back at p409?

Beth: 👍🏻🤗

3rd Break

Stuart: P312! What the hell!

Beth: Aaaaaargh!! I wasn’t expecting THAT!! 😱

Beth: p345 name of one of the Scythes. It’s killing me!! 🤣🤣🤣

Beth: Ready whenever you are! 🤗👍🏻

Stuart: That was pretty funny! I have never known in all my time as a reader an author who can drive a narrative forward with such precision and fascination than Neil Shusterman. The mythology, chaos, calm and considered moves and plenty of raw emotion. What about that twist! Everything is up in the air!

Beth: I know I was so surprised 😳 how on earth are we going to talk about it without giving away major spoilers?! Did you see it coming? Also, I had a feeling that the Tonist cult was going to play a larger part in the narrative, I don’t think we are done with them yet!

Stuart: That seen with Greyson was quite sad. I should have seen it coming but I would have never imagined it would go from that to that in such a short window of time. Crazy! I do think he is going to win though as it would be rock bottom for everyone. I thought Scythe was twisty and riddled with turns but Thunderhead has way surpassed that. I don’t know about this excursion by Faraday. It is the only part of this novel I feel doesn’t fit.

Beth: I feel exactly the same. I’m not sure why they’re going, I think Shusterman is being deliberately vague but he suddenly talks about what all the other scythes in the world are doing and we just haven’t heard anything about that so I’m wondering how it’s all going to fit together? 🤔 I am intrigued though by Scythe Curie’s past gleanings which keep getting alluded to. Have we heard anything about that in the first book or have I missed something? 😅

Stuart: I know what you mean. I must have missed that too. The global view is intriguing but we both know Shusterman always has another great reveal up his sleeve. I have no idea what happens next. With anyone. Especially Greyson, he has been one hell of a journey! Do you have any spoiler free predictions?

Beth: Haha so tricky to find something to say that isn’t a spoiler! 😂🤔 I think that the High Blade will be appointed and it won’t be the best decision 😉 then things will kick off royally across the world and the “incredible journey,” will prove even more important. I am worried for Rowan though especially with the percentage odds The Thunderhead gave him! 😳

Stuart: I like those odds 😀 This post is going to be infuriating because no one has a clue what we are chatting about 😂 only those who have read it will get it. I am looking forward to Endura, let’s continue and meet back at the finish.

Beth: Okay see you then! 😁

Finished

Stuart: What an ending! Neil Shusterman is pure genius! I can’t believe it 😂😭🤯. Good stuff.

Beth: OH. MY. GOD. Just finished. I don’t know what to say! Just when I think I can predict what’s going to happen, he blows it out of the water once more. I thought things might go down in the worst way possible but I still never anticipated that! Haven’t read an ending that good in I don’t know how long?! 🤗😰😭😱😳

Stuart: Totally blew me out of the water (excuse the pun). I don’t know what to say either… Bloody hell 😂. He made me believe right until the last second that there might be salvation and then boom, gone. I can’t imagine what book three is going to look like…

Beth: 😂 I know and Citra and Rowan and Scythe Curie and…the sea life?! It was just brutal and so incredibly tense. I seriously don’t have any nails left, they’re bitten down to the end!!

Stuart: It was a real edge of your seat, hands in the air, talking out loud to nobody pure mayhem finale. I need the next book now!

Beth: I knowwwwwww. When’s it out again?! 😅

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

As you can probably tell, like with the first in the series Scythe, both Stuart and myself absolutely loved this book. It’s always difficult with the second book in a series, particularly if the first one has been so good to live up to the same expectations and I think I can say without any reservations at all that this one is one hundred percent a worthy successor and sequel. From that stunning cover art to the fast-paced story within, Neal Shusterman doesn’t hold back and constantly manages to surprise his reader on every turn of the page.

Neal Shusterman, author of Thunderhead, the second book in the Arc Of A Scythe series.

You might already know that I try to be clever and to anticipate an author’s *moves* before they’ve made them in the narrative. It must be years of reading crime fiction/thrillers and becoming aware of potential twists and turns of a plot? Well, with this series Shusterman has me completely foxed. I NEVER know what to expect and especially what journey he’s going to send his characters on next despite how cunning I try to be with my predictions! However, I think the beauty of this series and the reason I’ve rated both books as high as I have is that it genuinely seems to have it all. I’ve already mentioned the element of surprise but then there is his world-building which is so extraordinarily imaginative and intricate, I feel like he must have spent years dreaming it up. Then there are the characters, particularly Citra and Rowan who are incredibly relatable but I felt strangely connected emotionally to both in addition to this. I really care about each one as an individual, including urging them on, hoping for them to achieve great things and of course, shouting at them when they do something stupid.

I can’t even talk about the ending to this second book in the series. Seriously. Not just because of spoilers but because I’m honestly flabbergasted at the way the author has chosen to take the story, leaving the reader on a precipice, not knowing what on earth to expect when we eventually open the final book in the series. My heart was pounding, my heart was breaking and I was completely astounded by the way events twisted and lurched, leaving the world we have grown to know so well in a very precarious situation. Now I think we have to wait until 2019 to read the final book in the trilogy and I already know it’s going to be one of the most difficult waits I’ve ever had to do for the next novel in a series.

Thank you once again to Stuart for an amazing buddy read experience. I look forward to reading the final book and finishing this series with you! Check out his site today for his thoughts on Thunderhead.

For our non-fiction buddy read: Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt, please see our post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) – Stephen King

Published July 27, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

This new edition of The Gunslinger has been revised and expanded throughout by King, with new story material, in addition to a new introduction and foreword.

What did I think?:

Those of you who are long-time followers of my blog may not be surprised to see this book right here being reviewed but you might also think: “Hey Beth, as one of Stephen King’s biggest fans, how come you’re JUST getting round to reviewing this series?” It’s true, I am a massive King junkie but this isn’t my first experience with the world of The Dark Tower. In fact this series is a re-read for me, the first time I read it was in my pre-blogging days and at the moment, I’m going through my favourites shelves and reading one favourite book alongside a main “new” read and a work of non fiction. So this was a perfect opportunity to re-visit Roland Deschain and his chums one more time and remember all the things I loved most about this series and of course, review it as I go along!

Stephen King, author of The Gunslinger, the first novel in his epic Dark Tower series.

Now I’m not sure what you’ve heard about The Gunslinger previously but I’m just going to give you my opinion and my experience with it – I would truly love to hear your own and get a discussion going about it. This is a book that seems to divide people and put people off and I have to admit, I was one of those people. I read The Gunslinger originally many moons ago, didn’t enjoy it at all, turned my nose up and vowed never to continue with the series. Until a good friend begged me to try again, swearing that it got a hell of a lot better with the second book, The Drawing Of The Three. Man oh man, am I glad I listened? So what I’m trying to say, (very inarticulately!) is that if you’re like me, read this book and thought: “Nope!” PLEASE just try the second book. If you don’t like the second book, fair enough, this fantasy series might not be for you but if I hadn’t continued, I would have missed out on so much. The world-building is second to none, the characters up there with the best King has ever created and the ending of the seventh book? Well, the less said about that right now the better!

Idris Elba in the recent Dark Tower movie adaptation. Which has been panned by the critics but again, don’t let it put you off! (Am I selling this series at all do you think?!)

The Gunslinger is a very short little book weighing in at 231 pages in paperback format so it’s really not going to take you too long to read. It’s the story of Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger and in this book, he’s chasing the mysterious Man In Black across the desert for some unknown purpose. We know Roland has suffered severe hardships in his life and we know he’s on a quest to reach The Dark Tower but we don’t really know WHY. Is it necessary to read this story or can you just skip on to the second in the series? To be honest, I think it is an important read – it sets up the main players in the story, focuses on an important event that becomes very important for two of the main characters in the series and ends on the same beach where The Drawing Of The Three begins.

How did I find reading it a second time? I have to be fair and say I enjoyed it more. I think when you read it the first time you don’t have a clue what’s going on, what this strange world is and things are just incredibly confusing. Have no fear, this series is one major jigsaw puzzle and the pieces do start to slot into place, one by one, eventually. Patience is a big ask for this series, it can get frustrating and you wonder at the vague references and tenuous connections BUT if you’re a fan of the slow reveal and anticipation, by the end it all becomes worth it, I promise. On my second reading, I was so familiar with the world, I could just settle in and enjoy the writing and events for what they were without getting annoyed by not understanding anything. Is it the best novel in the series? Not by a long shot and even Stephen King says himself, if he could go back and re-write it, he would. Personally, I’m so glad I persevered with the series, the rewards for doing so are fantastic and will hopefully make you glad you did too.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP SOON: The Drawing Of The Three (The Dark Tower #2)