Young Adult

All posts in the Young Adult category

Daughter Of Smoke And Bone – Laini Taylor

Published June 11, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things.

When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

What did I think?:

Unpopular opinion time! Okay, if you liked Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, you might want to give my review a miss. Just putting it out there. I really wanted to like this book. I mean, REALLY wanted to. It had so much hype when it first came out, I love a great fantasy story with angels and monsters – what was there not to like? Well….I’ll get round to that in more depth a bit later but unfortunately this series is definitely not for me. I should have listened to my sister Chrissi @ Chrissi Reads, (Note to self: I should ALWAYS listen to my sister!). She told me: “I don’t think you’re going to like this book!” and I still put it on one of my Chrissi Cupboard Months determined that the Goodreads average rating of 4.03 meant that of course I would like it. She was right, I was wrong. Obviously I never like to write a more critical review without mentioning the positive aspects but generally, this was a really disappointing read for me. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, the romance made me cross and it all just felt a bit too vague and airy-fairy for me personally. Nope, sorry. Just can’t do it.

Laini Taylor, author of the Daughter Of Smoke And Bone series. Who will become my best friend after this review. Or er…probably not. I’m sorry Laini!

The story follows our seventeen year old female protagonist, Karou, an art student in Prague and errand girl for her demon foster parent called Brimstone. Her main responsibilities consist of collecting teeth for some strange, unknown purpose although Karou is aware of their potential to grant wishes. Meanwhile, in this odd other world called Elsewhere where Karou completes her tasks, scorched hand-prints are appearing on the portals which Karou uses to travel back to Brimstone, effectively closing her means of returning home. Then she meets a strange young man called Akiva and not only do they fall dangerously in love but it unlocks certain secrets about Karou’s own life that will have a staggering impact on the rest of her life.

The Chimera, a creature from Greek mythology that also lends its name to some of the half human/half animal creatures in Daughter Of Smoke And Bone.

Oh, this book should have been right up my street and that’s why I was so desperate to read it in the first place! Angels and demons, creatures taken from Greek mythology….it really should have worked and I’m genuinely surprised that for me, it just didn’t. The weird thing is, it had so much promise in the beginning. I loved the author’s descriptions of Prague, her lyrical writing style, the mystery of Karou’s parentage, the strange lands and the enemies that Karou has to face and what on earth is the teeth thing all about?! I was intrigued, I read it and prepared to get completely invested and then…..well then, it just fell apart a little bit with the introduction of our male lead, Akiva.

I didn’t enjoy the romance in this novel at all. Okay, so one minute, Karou is a brave, fiesty female who goes on dangerous missions just to retrieve some teeth (yes, I know how odd this sounds!) and the minute she meets Akiva she turns to molten lava. I mean, really? I was just starting to get interested in her character and then she has to go and do something like that and thoroughly disappoint me. Insta-love, star-crossed lovers that shouldn’t be together, you get the whole she-bang and I’m sorry, it just didn’t work for me. It reminded me far too much of the typical, cliched YA novel with a sickly-sweet immediate romance that wasn’t believable in the slightest (even for a fantasy novel!) and frankly, doesn’t cut the mustard with me anymore. I’m afraid from that instant I was resolved to dislike this story and unfortunately, it didn’t get much better from there.

Insta-Love, exit right left here if you please!

The sign of a good novel for me is when you can remember specific scenes/events, even quotes if you form a deep connection with the characters or the writing. Well, I’ve been musing about writing this review for a while as I’ve been a bit worried about exactly what I’m going to say but I can barely remember any scene in detail in Daughter Of Smoke And Bone. I have a very vague outline of characters, people flying and half-human and half-animal creatures but as to what happened in the end? I’m a bit ashamed to say I can’t remember. Unfortunately, this novel hasn’t left its mark on me and sadly, I won’t be continuing on with the series.

However, I would love to hear from you if you’ve read this novel and loved it or if you felt the same way as me. I may not have enjoyed this story but I’m sure other people will do. Why else would it have such a strong rating on Goodreads? As a good friend once told me – different strokes for different folks!!  😀

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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Happily – Chauncey Rogers

Published June 10, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

If the shoe fits, wear it.
If it doesn’t, 
make it.

Laure is a teenage street urchin just trying to get away. Where the rest of the world sees an enchanting love story, Laure sees royal incompetence and an opportunity to exploit it. She’ll have wealth and a way out of a life she detests, if she can only manage to hoodwink the royal family and survive to tell the tale.

SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to the author, Chauncey Rogers for getting in touch via email and asking me if I’d like to read a copy of Happily in exchange for an honest review. I’ve been very selective recently about the books I accept, as some of you might know I have an enormous backlog/TBR and I’m trying to only say “yes” to those novels that I’m genuinely excited about. Apologies as well to Chauncey for getting this review out so late, I’m afraid that life kind of got in the way as it tends to do! Anyway, why was I initially so excited about Happily? Well, as a huge fan of fairy-tale retellings, Happily is an alternate version of that classic fairy tale, Cinderella so getting round to reading this was kind of a no brainer – it HAD to happen. The actual experience of reading it was thoroughly enjoyable, I adored the main characters, particularly our female lead, Laure and the plot itself was so compelling that I whizzed through it in merely a couple of hours on an otherwise very dull long haul flight!

Chauncey Rogers, author of the YA novel, Happily.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said in that short but remarkably adequate synopsis above? This is the story of Laure, independent and a little bit wild, who survives on her wits and from stealing what she needs from market stalls. She lives her life day by day, perfectly happy in her own company but haunted by an event in her past which has led her to be isolated and very distrustful of others. This is until one of her jaunts to the market leads to a meeting with a young man called Luc which in turn, leads to her being very much in his debt. Ever the chameleon, Laure ends up convincing Luc to join her in the ultimate heist to fool the royal family which involves, you guessed it, becoming the girl who the glass slipper fits and marrying the prince.

Disney’s Cinderella – the image which some of us may connect to this story.

So as you might have guessed by now, Happily is ever so slightly different from the original fairy-tale of Cinderella! Obviously, it does have something in common – a poor girl in search of a better life and the hunt for a mysterious woman at a ball who left behind a glass slipper as the only means of identifying her. That’s pretty much where the similarity ends however there are a few other themes that run in parallel that I can’t really talk about for fear of spoiling Chauncey’s brilliant story. The massive, glaring difference here is that our heroine, Laure was never at the ball in the first place, she is a street urchin and thief with a sassy, fiery personality and she doesn’t take any nonsense whatsoever! She strikes up an endearing relationship with Luc where they butt heads considerably during their adventures but grow to develop a deep admiration and respect for one another by what they go through together.

I adored both Laure and Luc individually and as a couple, they were both relatable personalities that readers could empathise with and despite each of their own hardships, they both had hearts of gold and would never intentionally hurt anyone else. I was especially enamoured with Laure – what a fantastic, hot-headed and brave girl she was! I was fascinated by her attitude to life and was constantly intrigued to discover what had happened in her life to make her heart so seemingly impenetrable at the beginning of the story. As a piece of young adult fiction, I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys the genre, fairy tale re-tellings with a difference and dynamic, very readable characters.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

June 2018 – Chrissi Cupboard Month #9

Published June 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

It’s June, and that means….drum roll please…it’s Chrissi Cupboard Month!

Hello everyone! Every other month I alternate what I’m reading quite specifically between three things. It’s either Real Book Month (in February and August) where I try and read all the physical books just waiting to be devoured on my bookshelves. (and that’s a lot!) Then there’s Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC Month (April and October) where I try and catch up on all those ARC/review copies sent to me by authors, publishers, NetGalley and Book Bridgr. (also a lot!) Finally, there’s Chrissi Cupboard Month (June and December) where I try my best to get through all the books my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads lends me (you’ve guessed it – there’s lots!). So this is what I’ll be reading for the month of June:

1.) Behind Closed Doors – B.A. Paris

What’s it all about?:

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

2.) Shtum – Jem Lester

What’s it all about?:

Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships.

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.

When Ben and Emma fake a separation – a strategic decision to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal – Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

3.) How Not To Disappear – Clare Furniss

What’s it all about?:

Hattie’s summer isn’t going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to “find himself” and Kat’s in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum’s wedding.

Oh, and she’s also just discovered that she’s pregnant with Reuben’s baby…

Then Gloria, Hattie’s great-aunt who no one previously knew even existed comes crashing into her life. Gloria’s fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia.

Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery – Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are wiped from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.

4.) The Last Time We Say Goodbye – Cynthia Hand

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.

5.) My Lady Jane: The Not Entirely True Story by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

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.

 

As always, I’m really excited for all these books. My sister knows what I will like (and what I will avoid like the plague!) so I’m confident in her choices and I can’t wait to get to all of these. I have been especially looking forward to How Not To Disappear for years now, I’ve heard great things about My Lady Jane and Chrissi told me I absolutely HAD to put the B.A. Paris book on my list for this month. 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What should I read first? Let me know in the comments!

Banned Books 2018 – MAY READ – Blood And Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Published May 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Vivian Gandillon relishes the change, the sweet, fierce ache that carries her from girl to wolf. At sixteen, she is beautiful and strong, and all the young wolves are on her tail. But Vivian still grieves for her dead father; her pack remains leaderless and in disarray, and she feels lost in the suburbs of Maryland. She longs for a normal life. But what is normal for a werewolf?

Then Vivian falls in love with a human, a meat-boy. Aiden is kind and gentle, a welcome relief from the squabbling pack. He’s fascinated by magic, and Vivian longs to reveal herself to him. Surely he would understand her and delight in the wonder of her dual nature, not fear her as an ordinary human would.

Vivian’s divided loyalties are strained further when a brutal murder threatens to expose the pack. Moving between two worlds, she does not seem to belong in either. What is she really—human or beast? Which tastes sweeter—blood or chocolate?

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the fifth 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:

JUNE: Brave New World-Aldous Huxley
JULY: Julie Of The Wolves -Jean Craighead George
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:

Blood And Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

First published: 1997

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2001 (source)

Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited for age group.

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

BETH:  With most Banned Books we discuss on this feature I normally get quite cross about a reason for challenging/banning it as I don’t agree with banning books generally. Monitoring them for certain age groups sure but an outright ban? No. Or if they did, they should come up with MUCH better reasons than the ones above. When this book was originally published in 1997, I was a teenager and things weren’t that much different than nowadays (apart from the lack of social media/full use of the internet). As a result, I think the reasons that this book was challenged are ludicrous. I wouldn’t say it was sexually explicit at all. There’s no lurid sex scenes or even sexual descriptions. It’s far more suggestive than that. The characters talk about sex and want to have sex but then again, what teenager isn’t curious about that with hormones going wild? I cringed quite a bit when reading this book, I’m afraid to say, especially when certain kisses were described and there were a lot of “throaty chuckles,” and “head tilts,” which did make me feel slightly ill. However I wouldn’t say any of these incidents were explicit in the slightest.

CHRISSI: I had to chuckle a little bit when I read Beth’s answer to this question. Ha! It certainly wasn’t a “throaty chuckle” though. As for whether I agree with the reason for this being banned/challenged? No. I don’t. I think there’s much worse out there and this book is quite tame compared to some teenagers can come across. Do I think it should be read by teenagers? Not really… and that’s because I believe there’s much stronger literature out there for them to read now. I don’t mean stronger/more intense content. I mean stronger storylines…

How about now?

BETH: As I mentioned, I don’t think attitudes have changed that much in the last twenty years, to be honest with the internet and explosion of social media, if anything these days I’m seeing an increase in teenage sexuality. They have access to much more detailed information than kids in the eighties/early nineties and have learned to channel their attractiveness to the opposite/same sex through “selfies.” Is this novel inappropriate for the age group concerned? No, I don’t think so. It appears to be marketed as a young adult story and that’s exactly what it is. There’s a bit of swearing, some violence and issues with relationships but nothing I would denounce as inappropriate.

CHRISSI: I definitely don’t think this book should be challenged. It totally wasn’t for me, so I don’t feel as passionately about it as I have done other books in this feature. It was a total cringefest for me as a reader. However, if this book floats teenagers/young adults boat then they should totally be given the chance to read it. There’s nothing ‘shocking’ in there, in my opinion…so why not?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  Oh dear. I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy this book at all. I was actually glad it was a relatively quick read as by the time I realised I didn’t like it, I was just wishing for it to be over. I don’t think it helps when you despise a main character as much as I did our female lead, Vivian. Now I like unlikeable characters, of course. But I think you have to dislike them for the right reasons. When there’s a female character that’s supposed to be our heroine and you can’t stand her, well…..me and the book just aren’t going to get on I’m afraid. I couldn’t relate to her either as my adult self or my teenage self, her arrogance knew no bounds and sometimes, the way she treated other characters in the novel was despicable. As for other characters, we really didn’t have much to choose from, they all felt flat and one-dimensional and intensely unbelievable in my opinion. As for the plot, it was predictable, I didn’t see the point of some decisions the author made and that ending…..just WHY?

CHRISSI: I went into this book with low expectations after reading some of Beth’s texts and tweets. I really did try to give this book a decent go, but I was infuriated by Vivian and her mother quite early on in the book. Vivian was such an unlikeable character, but it was no surprise really considering what her mother was like. I’m not one to be put off by an unlikeable character, but Vivian really grated on me. She was arrogant from the very beginning and I didn’t see any character development. Arrogant until the end of the story. Meh. I did not enjoy this book.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me! I was infuriated by the main character and couldn’t get past that.

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Coming up in the last Monday of June on Banned Books: we review Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

 

Mini Pin-It Reviews #20 – Four YA Novels

Published May 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

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

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

What’s it all about?:

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

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

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

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

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

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

One – Sarah Crossan

Published May 20, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

From Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this moving and beautifully crafted novel about identity, sisterhood and love ultimately asks one question: what does it mean to want and have a soulmate?

What did I think?:

I’ve been a little bit worried about writing this review. I’ve written a couple of more critical reviews recently and to be honest, I find those a bit easier to write as I find you can really focus on the aspects you found more difficult in a novel and discuss them more extensively. Sometimes I feel there’s only so many times you can say the words: great, amazing, touching, beautiful etc, etc before they become meaningless and don’t adequately convey the depth of emotion that you felt about a book. One is a book just like this. Told entirely in free verse, this story made my heart swell, burst rather painfully and moved me beyond the point that I ever thought I could be moved. I wasn’t sure I was going to connect with it at all considering I haven’t had that much experience (if any!) with novels told in this style but boy, was I wrong!

Irish author, Sarah Crossan, author of One.

One is the story of conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi, both very much individuals mentally speaking, but physically, from birth they are forced to share vital organs in their body, keeping each other alive in the process. Life isn’t easy for Grace and Tippi. All they want is just to be like any other teenager, going to school, hanging out with friends and having relationships with boys. However, as their bodies are permanently entwined, there are obvious difficulties of them doing these things alone which makes life highly stressful. Coupled with this is the stares they get just from walking down the street and the hungry media at their door, particularly when the girls decide they’ve had enough and they want to be separated. This is the tale of their daily struggles with their rare condition, of two very different girls with such a special sisterly bond it will not fail to break your heart.

American conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel.

Wow, this book. It made me feel so many emotions that I never ever thought I could experience from this particular style of writing. For it is the free verse that makes this book so incredibly unique. Sarah Crossan manages to say so many things with so little words and each word appears to have been chosen so methodically that it reads like a dream., smooth, unfaltering and utterly gut wrenching. I fell completely in love with the characters of Grace and Tippi, especially in the way they faced their struggles head-on independently and bravely. Obviously they don’t have any idea of what it’s like to be apart, they’ve been joined together their whole lives so have got pretty used to their situation. However, you can see their frustration and upset when they realise how their condition may prevent them from having a “normal” life like other girls of their age. I don’t want to say too much more for fear of giving something away but if you like YA fiction, you’re interested in trying something a bit different and you’re in the mood to be emotionally torn apart, you simply have to give One a try. I’d love to know what you think!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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

Published May 3, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Thou shalt kill.

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

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

And now for something a bit different…

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

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

What did WE think?:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beth M: Yep no problem talk later! 👋🏻

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beth M: 👍🏻

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

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

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

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

Beth M: Challenge accepted!!

Beth M: OH MY GOD. p299! p299! 😱

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

Beth M: Yes! Haha! 😂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beth M: 👍🏻

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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