Young Adult

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Mini Pin-It Reviews #25 – Four YA Novels

Published September 27, 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.) The Art Of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson

What’s it all about?:

Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton

What’s it all about?:

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

3.) It’s Kind Of A Funny Story – Ned Vizzini

What’s it all about?:

Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) Die For Me (Revenants #1) – Amy Plum

What’s it all about?:

In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier’s parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life–and memories–behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate’s guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he’s a revenant–an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

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

 

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Banned Books 2018 – SEPTEMBER READ – Taming The Star Runner by S.E. Hinton

Published September 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Travis is the epitome of cool, even when he’s in trouble. But when he’s sent to stay with his uncle on a ranch in the country, he finds that his schoolmates don’t like his tough city ways. He does find friendship of a sort with Casey, who runs a riding school at the ranch. She’s the bravest person Travis has ever met, and crazy enough to try to tame the Star Runner, her beautiful, dangerous horse who’s always on edge, about to explode. It’s clear to Travis that he and the Star Runner are two of a kind: creatures not meant to be tamed.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the ninth banned book in our series for 2018! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

OCTOBER: Beloved -Toni Morrison
NOVEMBER: King & King -Linda de Haan
DECEMBER: Flashcards Of My Life– Charise Mericle Harper
For now, back to this month:

Taming The Star Runner by S.E. Hinton

First published: 1988

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2002 (source)

Reasons: offensive language

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  As one of the older releases on our list this year, you might hope that opinions and prejudices about certain things in books diminish as we become more enlightened as a society. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. I think there are always going to be a group of individuals that are easily offended, over-protective of children’s sensitivities or sometimes, they just want something to complain about. There could be valid reasons for monitoring children’s reading, within reason, if they may be reading something a bit too adult for them and this is a decision parents and librarians can make but challenging/banning books for a silly reason? I don’t agree with that at all. Back in 1988, our use of profanity wasn’t that different from what it is right now so I don’t think the reason for challenging this book was the right one either back then or now.

CHRISSI: I really don’t understand the reasons why this book is banned. Offensive language? Hm. Yes, there is some bad language in the story, but nothing worse than children might hear on TV, from peers or even from parents. It wasn’t as if this book was written in a time where bad language wasn’t used as frequently as now. I actually thought it might have been the drug mention that tipped this one into a banned/challenged book, but I was wrong.

How about now?

BETH: The reasons for challenging/banning a book ALWAYS manage to surprise me and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t look at the reason until I’m writing this review so that I can try and guess what might be so offensive myself. In Taming The Star Runner, I thought – “Okay, they might have a problem with underage teenage drinking, the smoking and the incidence of violence in the novel.” Then I went to the website (link above) so certain I was right and saw one reason only – offensive language. I just can’t call this anymore, it’s far too unpredictable! As the book was challenged in 2002, which feels relatively recently in my eyes it’s obvious some people will pick on anything and have issues with the smallest things. I don’t remember any incidents of offensive language in this novel but if there was, I feel like it was very minor? Furthermore, I think this is a book aimed at the young adult market who would probably be hearing a lot worse language in everyday life than what they read in this book!

CHRISSI: I have to agree with Beth, there are far worse incidences of language in everyday life than in this book. It’s actually a bit of a joke for me, to know that this is challenged due to its language. Really?! Children/young adults here much worse than what was in this book. *sigh* I feel like most of the books that we read have ridiculous reasons for banning a book. I feel like we need to be more open minded and accepting that children/young adults are exposed to much worse things than in some of these challenged choices.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I enjoyed it for the most part. I thought it was an engaging story with an interesting male lead who was so broken at the start of the narrative that I was constantly compelled to read on, invested in his journey to become a writer and deal with his personal issues. I have to admit, I didn’t like the “horsey” bits as much but I think this is a personal preference, I’m not really a “horsey” girl. I feel like the story would have been just as good without the inclusion of Star Runner but I do understand why he was there, as the animal representation of Travis.

CHRISSI: I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. It didn’t take me long to read at all and I was interested enough in the story to keep turning the pages. Again, like Beth, I wasn’t keen on the horse elements of this story. I’m not a horse fan.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Coming up on the last Monday of October, we review Beloved by Toni Morrison.

My Lady Jane: The Not Entirely True Story (The Lady Janies #1) – Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

Published August 20, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A comical, fantastical and witty re-imagining of the Tudor world, perfect for fans of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Lady Jane Grey, sixteen, is about to be married to a total stranger – and caught up in an insidious plot to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But that’s the least of Jane’s problems. She’s about to become Queen of England. Like that could go wrong.

What did I think?:

I chose this book as one of my recent Chrissi Cupboard Month picks because of the rave reviews I had heard about it, particularly from one of my favourite bloggers, Stephanie over at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction and of course, my sister whose opinion on books I trust implicitly. I’ve got to admit, I did keep putting it off, for two reasons which are both as silly as the other. The first is that I wasn’t completely sold on the cover (of the edition I have, please see image above) and I should know by now that judging a book by its cover is a very dangerous thing to do – who knows what you could be missing? Indeed, I’ve almost missed out on some amazing stories i.e. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes just because I mis-judged the cover and thought it would be something it wasn’t.

From top to bottom: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows, authors of My Lady Jane.

The second reason (and probably the silliest) is that I’m a huge fan of the Tudor period of history and adore fiction re-telling lives of the real people in this moment of history, particularly in the style of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir. As a result, I’m very familiar and fond of the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey and the thought of it being re-written to be completely different from the actual history with a humorous edge didn’t sit well with me and made me feel slightly uncomfortable, goodness knows why? Now I’ve experienced all the joy, brilliance and wit that Hand, Ashton and Meadows have brought to this tale I am a fully fledged convert to these new imaginings of history and am thoroughly berating myself for leaving it so long before reading in the first place.

My Lady Jane is the story of the Tudor dynasty, particularly the point where Lady Jane Grey ascends to the throne of England, like you’ve never heard about it before. It’s a land where there’s two classes of people, those that can turn into animals, otherwise known as Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated) and then there’s those who can’t. There’s a reason why Henry VIII was compared to a lion, you know! There’s quite a bit of bigotry and prejudice against people who assume their animal forms and huge factions of the country are at war with the young King Edward struggling to maintain control of his kingdom. It also doesn’t help that he’s dying and the succession for the throne is becoming very hazy indeed, particularly as Edward is certain if he chooses his sister Mary, she will be all too delighted to extinguish every last Eðian in England. Edward is also attempting to marry his cousin, Lady Jane Grey off so her future will be secured but the groom in question, Gifford is unable to control his urge to turn into a stallion every evening as soon as the sun goes down. Then all three become embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy for the throne that threatens not only their own lives but the whole future of England.

A portrait of the “real” Lady Jane Grey, also known as the Nine Day Queen.

This book was so much fun! I immediately texted my sister about twenty pages in and told her just how much I was enjoying it and could almost hear her sigh of relief from over fifty miles away. No, it’s not in any way a true account of the life of Lady Jane Grey but that’s one of the reasons why this book is so exciting. It feels fresh, unique, incredibly different and was so light-hearted and hilarious, it was a pleasure to settle down with it whenever I had a minute. It felt like re-visiting characters you know and love, like Jane herself, Edward and his sisters Mary and Elizabeth but also it painted them in such a distinct, new manner that it felt like you were getting to know them all over again. Gifford was a very welcome addition to the pack (or should that be herd?!), I loved his excursions as a horse, the way he opens up ever so gradually and ultimately, the growth of his relationship with Jane which was nothing short of adorable.

I really wasn’t sure whether the fantastical edge was going to work for a story about the Tudors but the authors have pulled it off magnificently. As a huge animal lover myself, I always enjoy animals within narratives but to have characters that can turn into animals? My heart was so happy. This novel was both a huge surprise and an absolute delight to read and I was completely won over by the wonderful ridiculousness of the narrative and how easy it was to devour.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton and Meadows was the forty-second book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Mini Pin-It Reviews #23 – Four Graphic Novels

Published August 7, 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 graphic novels for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) Coraline – Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

What’s it all about?:

When Coraline steps through a door in her family’s new house, she finds another house, strangely similar to her own (only better). At first, things seem marvelous. The food is better than at home, and the toy box is filled with fluttering wind-up angels and dinosaur skulls that crawl and rattle their teeth.

But there’s another mother there and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go. Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and all the tools she can find if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

This beloved tale has now become a visual feast. Acclaimed artist P. Craig Russell brings Neil Gaiman’s enchanting nationally bestselling children’s book Coraline to new life in this gorgeously illustrated graphic novel adaptation.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

2.) Full Metal Alchemist Vol 1 – Hiromu Arakawa, Akira Watanabe (Translator)

What’s it all about?:

Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg…and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders…even to kill. Except his powers aren’t unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher’s Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are…

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) Manga Classics: Pride And Prejudice – Jane Austen, Stacy King, Po Tse (Illustrator) Morpheus Studios (Illustrator)

What’s it all about?:

Beloved by millions the world over, Pride & Prejudice is delightfully transformed in this bold, new manga adaptation. All of the joy, heartache, and romance of Jane Austen’s original, perfectly illuminated by the sumptuous art of manga-ka Po Tse, and faithfully adapted by Stacy E. King.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) Lighter Than My Shadow – Katie Green

What’s it all about?:

Like most kids, Katie was a picky eater. She’d sit at the table in silent protest, hide uneaten toast in her bedroom, listen to parental threats that she’d have to eat it for breakfast.

But in any life a set of circumstance can collide, and normal behavior might soon shade into something sinister, something deadly.

Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the vulnerable, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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

Banned Books 2018 – JULY READ – Julie Of The Wolves by Jean Craighead George

Published August 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Miyax, like many adolescents, is torn. But unlike most, her choices may determine whether she lives or dies. At 13, an orphan, and unhappily married, Miyax runs away from her husband’s parents’ home, hoping to reach San Francisco and her pen pal. But she becomes lost in the vast Alaskan tundra, with no food, no shelter, and no idea which is the way to safety. Now, more than ever, she must look hard at who she really is. Is she Miyax, Eskimo girl of the old ways? Or is she Julie (her “gussak”-white people-name), the modernized teenager who must mock the traditional customs? And when a pack of wolves begins to accept her into their community, Miyax must learn to think like a wolf as well. If she trusts her Eskimo instincts, will she stand a chance of surviving?

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the seventh banned book in our series for 2018! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

AUGUST: I Am Jazz– Jessica Herthel
SEPTEMBER: Taming The Star Runner– S.E. Hinton
OCTOBER: Beloved -Toni Morrison
NOVEMBER: King & King -Linda de Haan
DECEMBER: Flashcards Of My Life– Charise Mericle Harper
For now, back to this month:

Julie Of The Wolves by Jean Craighead George

First published: 1972

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2002 (source)

Reasons: unsuited to age group, violence.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  Sigh. As I’ve mentioned in past Banned Books posts, sometimes I can see why people have issues with some of the books we review for this feature. Not that I think they SHOULD be challenged/banned but I can see why they might be offensive or problematic. Then there’s other books that we read and throughout the book, I’m struggling to see how anybody could have a problem at all, especially when I look at the reasons behind the challenge. Julie Of The Wolves was one of these latter books for me, I read through it thinking: “Aha! NOW I’m going to find out why there are issues!” And nope, I didn’t. Not even once. Even when I think about back in the early seventies when this was first published – could there have been reasons then? You’ve guessed it – no. I normally like to try and guess the potential reasons and I’m always, always wrong. With Julie Of The Wolves, I couldn’t find a single one!

CHRISSI: I am genuinely confused as to why this book is challenged. I didn’t find it at all offensive. I really am stumped with this one. As for one of the reasons being violence? Really? Children see more violent things on the news which is actually happening in day to day life sometimes so close to them. Video games are a hell of a lot more violent too. I really didn’t see this book as particularly violent. Hunting and death do occur within the story, but it makes sense to the story and most people could rationalise that…

How about now?

BETH: This book is now over forty years old and as it was only challenged/banned in 2002, I don’t believe attitudes have changed much either in the years post publication or since 2002 to the present day. Particularly with these reasons they are giving – I mean, come on! Unsuited to age group?! Where were the unsuitable parts, please someone tell me because I feel like I’m going mad. Seriously. It’s marketed as young adult (possibly even middle grade fiction) and at no point did I feel like this was either too traumatic or indeed too violent for the younger audience. There is hunting and death, sure but it’s necessary for our character to survive out in the Arctic conditions for goodness sake. I honestly think there are many more children’s books (hello Watership Down!) that are more emotionally affecting than this one. *rolls eyes.*

CHRISSI: Definitely not. Again… I’m baffled why this book is challenged. I don’t mean to repeat myself too much but I think the hunting and death in the story is relative to the plot. Children aren’t precious snowflakes. I’d say that from middle grade up they can handle a story like this when worse things are happening in the world that they constantly see, read and hear about.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I thought it was an okay read! I enjoyed Julie’s relationship with the wolves (as a big fan of White Fang when I was younger) and the description of the harsh environment she had to survive in was beautifully done. It was a quick and easy book to get lost in and I thought the illustrations were particularly lovely but I felt Julie’s time spent with her people wasn’t as engrossing or as well written as the parts when she has to get by on her own.

CHRISSI: I wasn’t captivated like I wanted to be. I really liked the illustrations and thought that was a nice touch to the story. I actually wish there were a few more illustrations because I didn’t think the writing of the setting was as evocative as it could have been, especially if we are thinking that children are the target audience for this book. I’m glad that I read this book but it’s not one that will particularly stick with me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Maybe!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- I wasn’t captivated but I could appreciate the story!

3 Star Rating Clip Art
Coming up in the last Monday of August on Banned Books: we review I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye – Cynthia Hand

Published August 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

There’s death all around us.
We just don’t pay attention.
Until we do.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn’t look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she’s just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that’s all she’ll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex’s brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn’t have to be real to keep you from moving on.

What did I think?:

The title of this book might give some clues as to the themes within but even still, I wasn’t prepared for the immense sadness and depth of emotions that would continue to surprise me as I read through it. I first came across Cynthia Hand’s writing in her Unearthly series (which I highly recommend to lovers of YA fiction) but I haven’t read anything else by her for a while so I was intrigued as always, to read something else by an author that I’ve previously enjoyed. Hand is a master of beautiful, lyrical prose for young adults and with her writing, you always feel that you’re tapping into something a little bit special and I definitely found this was the case with The Last Time We Say Goodbye.

Cynthia Hand, author of The Last Time We Say Goodbye.

Based around the traumatic topic of suicide, it’s always going to be an unsettling read and I did find myself moved considerably by the whole narrative but I also want to press the fact that I think it’s an important read for teenagers that find themselves in that horrendous situation where they’re dealing with the loss of a family member and they need to have that reassurance that they’re not in it alone, no matter how isolated and devastated they may feel. Sadly, Cynthia herself has personal experience with the loss of a close family member and this really came across in her writing. Essentially, (and the synopsis above really says it all) it’s about a teenage girl, Lex who is struggling to deal with the suicide of her younger brother, Tyler and discover the reasons behind why he wanted to end his own life. As well as this, she’s just trying to live her normal life – keep up her relationships with friends, support her mother who becomes increasingly fractured in the days after Tyler’s suicide and try to come to terms with the fractured love she has with her father who has separated from her mother and built his own, new life away from the family.

I found The Last Time We Say Goodbye to be an incredibly haunting, thoughtful read about such a crucial subject that I really think people need to be more open and honest about. If we have the opportunity to help even one more person and prevent them from taking their own lives, that can only be a good thing. Depression and anxiety is such an isolating, terrifying condition that has the power to overwhelm a normally rational mind and unfortunately, I speak from personal experience. In the novel, Tyler feels that he’s not able to talk to anybody else about what he’s going through, especially not his own family for reasons that become clear as the novel continues.

Obviously, this is clearly a case of his poor mental health over-riding the more reasonable parts of the brain and the fact that his family is having their own issues prevents him from speaking up, and as a result, they are so completely unaware of his dangerous misery in the first place. The sadness about this whole story is that if he had spoken up, especially to his sister Lex, whom he had a previously close relationship with, his death may have been preventable. Afterwards though, there’s that horrible guilt that Lex feels regarding the fact that if he WAS trying to reach out, she may not have realised how crucial it was that she should have talked to him at that particular time.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye is another powerful and emotive read from Cynthia Hand that cements her place as an insightful, talented young adult fiction author that is definitely one to watch in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of five):

four-stars_0

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand was the forty-first book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in The Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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):

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