buddy read

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The Fireman – Joe Hill

Published May 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

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

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

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

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

What did I think?:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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

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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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