buddy read

All posts tagged buddy read

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman (buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books)

Published January 16, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival from New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.

The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

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!). So far we’ve read the first two books in the brilliant Arc Of A Scythe series by Neal ShustermanScythe and Thunderhead and we’ve read a little non-fiction too – Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt and our latest read in December was The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review our books – 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 Dry 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: All set for tomorrow if you are 😃

Beth: Sure am! How would you like to divide it up? 😁🤗

Stuart: Bit random but if we go 102, 193, 309 and finish that should work out.

Beth: Great! See you soon! 🤗

———————-

Stuart: It’s so intense already 😂 I’m only on page 22!

Beth: Haha I know I’m on the edge of my seat! p50 here. 😆

Stuart: There are going to awkward and cruel situations in this book isn’t there… 😟

Stuart: I’m ready 😁 What a place to stop!

Beth: On a late shift today but should be at the checkpoint later on this evening? That scene in the supermarket?! 😱

Stuart: Just the beginnings ☹

Beth: Wow you’re right that was such an intense place to stop, especially that last line!! Want to talk about it tomorrow as it’s quite late now?

Stuart: We are off to a good start already I think. Some solid characters, Alyssa is smart and confident, Kelton is a bit weird but hopefully he will transform over the story. I really like the little snapshot pieces, classic Shusterman Snr. How are you finding thw story?

Beth: I’m enjoying it so far! Finding it slightly more difficult to get to grips with all the different characters in the snapshots but do really love how this is done – I think it just brings an extra edge to proceedings when we pan out and focus on other people that aren’t our immediate protagonists. I’m enjoying Alyssa more as a character but Kelton is certainly intriguing, especially how him and his family have prepared!! 🤔

Stuart: Yeah I think Kelton could go either way right now. That imagery at that very last

moment was amazing, it was a serious turn of events. Yeah the snapshots definitely build up the tension and paint a more vivid picture of the situation. How are you feeling about the plausibility of the whole situation?

Beth: I think the scariest part of it is that it could potentially happen, especially with the threat of climate change the way it is at the moment! I thought the dedication at the beginning was interesting- “to all those struggling to undo the disastrous effects of climate change.” 😐

Stuart: I keep going over it in my my head wondering if it coukd actually get that bad but it really could. People, myself included, are complacent about such matters, thinking there is an endless supply of water out there. I am interested to see what the ‘impossible decisions’ are that the characters are going to have to make. Please don’t let the dog die 😔

Beth: I know! The Shusterman’s will have a lot to answer to if they let that happen! 😓🐶 I think with what we’ve seen so far it’s only going to get darker and more desperate as people go to extraordinary lengths to get something to drink, right?

Stuart: Have you read Nod by Adrian Barnes yet?

Beth: Not yet but should I? I’ve just read the synopsis on Goodreads and I think I need to read it ASAP!

Stuart: Definitely. If this turns out to be similar to that then we are in for a rough time. I will never forget Nod, I highly recommend it to everyone. I am intrigued by how much each Shusterman contributed to the overall writing. What do you think?

Beth: It’s really hard to tell isn’t it? I’d love to know their writing process. It can’t be that Shusterman Jnr provided the YA aspect as we know Neal can already do that as he’s proved with Scythe and Thunderhead! 🤔

Stuart: Well I’m sure we will be able differentiate between the two in the later acts. I like the gravity of this book. It is meaningful and relevant which makes it all the more worth reading. Any thoughts on the parents?

Beth: I feel like we’ll have a lot more to come from them? Particularly Kelton’s – I think there might be hidden depths there that we may find out. I could be reading far too much into it though! 😆

Stuart: That means they aren’t predictable at least. Classic Shusterman. Shall we continue?

Beth: What a good idea. See you at p193! 😁

——————————-

Stuart: The beach and the phones, that caught me off guard. Amazing!

Stuart: Well that got very dark very quickly 😬

Stuart: I’m ready when you are!

Beth: I’m ready! Thanks for the info, that was a great article. I’d love to know more about their writing process. 🤔 I can’t believe how much things have developed since we last spoke. 😱 Everything is completely falling apart isn’t it? What do you think of the addition of Jacqui?

Stuart: Jacqui was an interesting development and she is definitely going to be a spanner in the works. Always putting herself first. What about the situation with the front door! That was just cruel! Turning their defence into complete tragedy.

Beth: I know! That was a twist I certainly didn’t see coming. I do love how they mention “water zombies,” did you? 😆 Do you think it’s a realistic depiction of the way people act when they get desperate?

Stuart: I didn’t initially like the reference but your right it does describe those people very well! I could imagine those not so civilised meetings like the one Alyssa dropped the water off at. The imagery at the beach stopped me in my tracks. The ringing of the phones, that poor boy, any predictions on the parents yet?

Beth: I know that was so sad…and the way the phone was buried 😣 The question of the parents is interesting. For some reason I don’t think we’ve seen the last of them but for where they are now? Difficult to say. I feel that there’s something maybe a bit more malevolent at work here as they’re not the kind of characters to just disappear. How are you finding the character development so far?

Stuart: Kelton is by far the most developed. He has changed non-stop throughout the story so far and I am intrigued where the Shustermans might be going with that. I don’t think Alyssa and Garrett have developed as much as I would expect but with the wildcard of Jacqui in the mix, challenging everyone, anything could happen. I can’t decide if she is as badass as she thinks she is or if it is all show?

Beth: I’m hoping we get to learn a lot more about her as the story continues, from what we’ve heard already she’s had quite an interesting past and I think the badass part is a total front to hide the more vulnerable side of herself and just to survive?

Stuart: She has been surviving long before the tap-out. She has intelligence, lets just hope she has a heart too. The gang are off to a new setting, should we continue on?

Beth: For sure. See you soon 😁

————————————–

Stuart: Ready again. Had plenty of time to read today!

Beth: I’m ready too! Well – one thing I should always expect from Shusterman (at least, the older Shusterman) is the unexpected. He always manages to surprise me. Now we have ANOTHER loose cannon in the mix! What do you make of the very intriguing Henry? 🤔

Stuart: I like him. He is even more mysterious than Jacqui. Shusterman is great at keeping fluid narrative whilst attaching completely new characters which is something I loved about Scythe. Henry stirring the pot like that at the end, he is trouble! I was glad to see Herb again in that Snapshot 😅. Can we trust this new group?

Beth: I know!! I knew he was going to do that as soon as he got that information 😳 he is DEFINITELY looking out for himself and using the info he picks up to his advantage but I do think he has hidden depths and a big heart too. But Jacqui is becoming a lot more interesting isn’t she? How about the things that were left at Daphne’s bedside?

Stuart: I know, she has a bit of a Robin Hood ethos I think. That scene at the evac centre. I like how Henry sees it as a threat and Kelton acts like it is completely normal. Chilling in reality. I feel like a fight is brewing within the group, do you?

Beth: For sure, there are a lot of tensions and there’s three characters that are kind of trying to take the reins of leadership for themselves. So many things simmering below the surface, I have a feeling things are going to kick off royally!!

Stuart: Any issues with the book so far?

Beth: Not so far…I’m enjoying it but preferred the Scythe series. That however is my only complaint. How about you?

Stuart: I’m the same 😂 I’m glad you said that. My issue is expectation. I have gotten used to soaring epicness that is the Arc Of The Scythe series that Dry just doesn’t meet that momentum. It is a great read but the moments here don’t have that same punch. In my opinion… 😂

Beth: Tell me about it dude 😅😴 there are moments of brilliance but it hasn’t had the same impact like you said when compared to the Scythe series. Shall we see how it finishes? I’m struggling to see how everything can be wrapped up in 100 pages!! 😆

Stuart: Let’s do it!

——————————————-

Stuart: I’m ready when you are! That heated up very quickly! Excuse the pun…

Beth: Haha it sure did! 😅 wow that ending was action on top of action wasn’t it?!

Stuart: That was an ingenious moment right at the last second I have to say. Really summed up the novel really well. Poor Jacqui though. Well Dry was a pretty decent read for me, how about you?

Beth: Yes and even though it was kind of wrapped up with a little bow at the end I was quite pleased about the ending – it certainly could have ended a lot differently! Don’t you think the reappearance and explanation of the parents was just a bit too sudden though? If I had to sum it up I’d say Dry was a really engaging, thrilling read with some fantastic characterisation and a thought provoking message about climate change. What would you say?

Stuart: I tried not to dwell on the explanation of the parents too much as it brought up to many questions like why a municipal building like a police station had running water yet didn’t seem to utilise it, that brings up too many ifs and buts. Dry for me was an interesting localised disaster novel with some intriguing characters and eye-opening themes. To think that this could be one of the many issues we face in the near future, it definitely packed a punch.

Stuart: It was easy to believe that other states would just look on in indifference to others needs until it was too late and the damage was done. We have become rather complacent in these sorts of matters, I just hope we are actually more prepared than they were in the novel!

Beth: I know it was quite frightening wasn’t it? I’m a bit pessimistic in that way, look at how the country reacts to a little bit of snow, we’re not prepared at all! 😆 Henry became quite an interesting character in the end didn’t he?

Stuart: That moment was hilarious, typical wannabe hero 😂. You’re probably right about our preparation… Each character went through an evolution of sorts which was good. I thought Garrett’s arc was the most surprising, unsettling and moving too. Who surprised you?

Beth: I think they all went on a kind of journey especially as you say Garrett but I think for me Kelton had the most surprising moments as Jacqui and Henry were always kind of loose cannons. I would have liked to learn more about Jacqui though – her character really intrigued me!

Stuart: I’m glad she had a little mention at the end. What did you think of the writing overall? Well balanced?

Beth: I did! It doesn’t seem like it was written by two different people, it reads smoothly and isn’t disjointed in any way. What did you think?

Stuart: Yeah I agree. Solid writing, I liked how everything connected well. It was satisfying to see the snapshots get intergrated into the narrative such as the water angel. Snr and Jnr make a good team. Stand out moment?

Beth: Yes I really enjoyed the snapshots too. Hmm. Stand out moment for me would be when they reached the bug out. That’s when I really started to believe the hopelessness of the situation – how about you?

Stuart: The beach scene really stuck with me. Also the point after everything after the brothers in the forest was really intense and I was really on edge! Will you be recommending the novel to everyone?

Stuart: My phone is being weird. That was meant to say ‘the point after everything with the brothers in the forest’.

Beth: I will! Maybe we should tweet Trump? 😆 I’d certainly like to see them team up on something else. It was such a smooth, seamless piece of writing.

Stuart: They are currently working together on making Dry into a movie. Maybe thats why The Toll is taking so long… 😒

Beth: Ugh. But we need it NOW. 😬

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

Buddy reading the first two books in the Arc Of A Scythe series with Stuart gave us a real hunger to read something else as we (not so patiently!) wait for the last book to be released and when we heard that Neal Shusterman was teaming up with his son to write something with a dystopian/apocalyptic edge, we were quite determined to check it out. I think the most frightening thing about this novel is that it isn’t really far-fetched or fantastical in the slightest. Unlike the Scythe series, which would be an extreme kind of future, Dry suggests an event i.e. the rationing/disappearance of water due to severe drought that could actually happen, particularly with all the worries that our world now faces regarding climate change.

Neal and Jarrod Shusterman, father and son duo and authors of Dry.

This is why I love reading so much. Sometimes it’s pure escapism into an environment authors create that is so other-worldly you can lose yourself easily, enjoy the make-believe and forget your own issues for a little while. Then there’s the stories that are developed that are so realistic that you almost feel the cold, hard smack of reality. Dry was one of those latter novels that made me uncomfortable in the fact that I could completely believe everything that happened. It’s also thought-provoking in the way that it makes you consider how you might behave if given the same dire circumstances. We all like to think we’d be noble and kind and help our fellow neighbour but luckily, many of us have not been in that situation where we’ve been so desperate that we would do anything just to survive.

As I’ve already referred to in the transcript of our chat and if I had to compare Dry to the Scythe series, I have to be honest and shout from the rooftops about Scythe. There is just something so innately special and fascinating about that world and its characters that has really got under my skin and excited me in a way that I haven’t felt about a young adult series in quite some time. If I hadn’t read Scythe though, I’d still be recommending this book as a great read. I loved the variety of characters it encompasses, the interludes between chapters where we get to see the state of the rest of the world and how action-packed it becomes, particularly at that nail-biting, tense finale.

Personally, I would have loved to see some of the characters developed a bit further. For example, I thought there were many more hidden depths to both Alyssa and Garrett that could have been explored further, yet perhaps that’s the sacrifice you make when you have a stand-alone novel, an agreed page limit and such a large cast of characters? I did think Kelton, Jacqui and Henry were fantastic additions to the narrative and their tendencies to be “loose cannons,” really kept the plot intriguing and compelling. It’s obvious that both Neal and Jarrod work terrifically as a writing duo and I’d be fascinated to see if they team up again and write something else – I’d certainly be interested to read it.

Thank you to Stuart from Always Trust In Books for another amazing buddy read – check out his review on his blog at some point today!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Advertisements

The Three (The Three #1) – Sarah Lotz

Published January 15, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Four simultaneous plane crashes. Three child survivors. A religious fanatic who insists the three are harbingers of the apocalypse. What if he’s right?

The world is stunned when four commuter planes crash within hours of each other on different continents. Facing global panic, officials are under pressure to find the causes. With terrorist attacks and environmental factors ruled out, there doesn’t appear to be a correlation between the crashes, except that in three of the four air disasters a child survivor is found in the wreckage.

Dubbed ‘The Three’ by the international press, the children all exhibit disturbing behavioural problems, presumably caused by the horror they lived through and the unrelenting press attention. This attention becomes more than just intrusive when a rapture cult led by a charismatic evangelical minister insists that the survivors are three of the four harbingers of the apocalypse. The Three are forced to go into hiding, but as the children’s behaviour becomes increasingly disturbing, even their guardians begin to question their miraculous survival…

What did I think?:

I’m finally starting to get on top of my backlog of reviews after I took a much needed break from blogging over the month of December whilst in the middle of an enormous blogging slump. I’m feeling that old motivation to shout about books again and what better book to shout about than one I had the pleasure to read with blogging bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages? The Three was our November buddy read and one we both ended up feeling puzzled about because of its relatively low Goodreads ratings. I first came across Sarah Lotz in her stupendous novel The White Road but had The Three on my shelves gathering dust for quite some time. Thank goodness for my buddy Janel who also had the same problem and we resolved to read it together and decide for ourselves how we both felt.

Janel and I have quite similar tastes in books which of course, makes our reading experiences all the more special and every conversation I have with her is always exciting, thought-provoking (and as with all good friends) really makes me cackle with laughter. However, we ended up finishing The Three kind of dumb-founded and at times, lost for words as to why this novel hasn’t received higher ratings from readers. This was such an immersive read that both fascinated and frightened me from the very first page and whilst perhaps reading it whilst on a plane to Budapest wasn’t the best idea (!!) it certainly made for a more visceral and nail-biting adventure that will be hard to forget.

Sarah Lotz, author of The Three.

Janel and I have recently finished The Themis Files trilogy by Sylvain Neuvel and I’m not sure if we chose this latest read sub-consciously but on our first conversation for The Three, I could hardly wait to blurt out how similar I found the structure of the novel. Of course, the writing style of Lotz and Neuvel are very different, she tends to edge more towards horror/dystopian and he is much more science fiction but I’m referring to the way both novels are set out. They both feature short, snappy chapters that are told in the form of interviews, newspaper/book excerpts, diary entries etc and not only do I adore this way of telling the story but I find it brings a whole new and unique flavour to the narrative overall. We initially hear from a woman writing a book about the strange events regarding the multiple, mysterious plane crashes but, more specifically, this turns into a story about the strange sole survivors of the mentioned crashes. They all happen to be children and chillingly, all three appear to be a bit “odd” after the event. Is it the trauma of the crash? Or is something a lot more sinister going on here?

Do I recommend reading The Three whilst on a flight? Depends how vivid your imagination is!

I have to admit, it took me a little while to get to grips with the vast array of characters we are presented with in The Three and for a while, I wondered if it was for this reason that some readers had an issue with it. After a period of settling in however, I realised this is absolutely part of the beauty of this novel – you never know whom you’re going to hear from next, what they’re going to say and how this will impact on the narrative. Lotz is a whizz at creating a silent build-up of tension and those quieter moments of the story are clear evidence of her brilliance. I got genuine chills down my spine from reading the initial few pages and at points, had to close the book and take a couple of deep breaths before I could continue reading.

As I’ve already mentioned, there’s such a grand variety and diversity of characters to enjoy in this novel and they’re all individual and beautifully readable in their own ways. No, they may not all be likeable but is this really necessary in a story? For me, I don’t have to like a character to be invested in their story and to be honest, I find the thought processes of characters I don’t particularly gel with MORE interesting than the cookie-cutter, run of the mill “nice” person. In The Three, we’re got some wonderful personalities including a religious fanatic Len, that makes his own prophesies about the plane crashes, the child survivors and what that means for the future of the world. Then we’ve got Paul Craddock, the uncle of one of the survivors whose journey from the beginning just prior to the plane crash versus where he ends up I found to be particularly intriguing.

Best of all, The Three is set in a range of different places from the USA and the UK to Japan and South Africa and as we move across these different continents, you get a real sense of how each individual country is coping with how the world has changed in the aftermath of these disasters. I’m not hundred percent certain but the political state of the world at the moment in addition with some of the topics covered in this novel may have affected how certain readers felt about it. Perhaps things are a little too sensitive and close to the bone if they might actually be happening (or threaten to be happening) right now? Happily, I feel I can divorce myself from that sort of thing and just enjoy the novel for what it is – a damn good, intensely gripping yarn that I found more insightful and more horrifying purely because the events that take place could really happen in the world at this moment in time. What’s more scary than that?

Thank you so much to Janel @ Keeper Of Pages for another excellent buddy read. We’re very much looking forward to completing this duology with Day Four by Sarah Lotz as our January read. Check out Janel’s fantastic review of The Three HERE.

Also look out for our December buddy read review of Only Human (The Themis Files #3) by Sylvain Neuvel coming soon!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Previous buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) by Sylvain Neuvel – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

 

Aw…bibliobeth turns 6!

Published January 5, 2019 by bibliobeth

download (8)

What? Six years? I’ve been blogging SIX YEARS? It’s hard to believe but there you go. As always, a huge thank you to everyone who has left me a comment, like whether you’ve followed me from the very beginning or are a more recent follower, I appreciate you all and love the little interactions we have.

This past year I’ve watched my little blog grow a bit more and have had my best year ever in terms of views, comments and likes. It’s not all about the stats, of course but I always get a bit surprised and overwhelmed when anyone says they like what I’m doing – it means the world to me.

I’m loving the friendships that I’ve made since starting bibliobeth and some of those have got incredibly strong over this past year. I know I can rely on these people for a good chat, support and advice even if it isn’t blog or book related and I’m so very grateful for that and for them being part of my lives.

This past year was also the year I started buddy reading in earnest. I’ve always buddy read with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. We have a regular “Talking About” feature and of course, there’s our Kid-Lit and Banned Books challenges which we complete on a monthly basis. However, I also started buddy reading with Janel from Keeper Of Pages, Stuart from Always Trust In Books and Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader and I’m just loving my reading experiences with them. Also, they are all brilliant and amazing people so if you don’t follow them, you really, really should!

Today I feel like a very lucky blogger indeed and to say thank you (and because it is tradition for my blogiversary) I’d like to host a giveaway. I’ll be giving one person a chance to win FOUR BOOKS of their choice from either Amazon or The Book Depository. The only stipulations are that they can’t be textbooks or ridiculously priced books but of course, this will be discussed with the winner.

I will keep it open until the end of January so you have lots of time to enter and once I’ve chosen a winner at random, I’ll contact you and you can let me know your address for receiving your lovely goodies! Please make sure if you are under 18 you have permission to email me your address which will only be used for the purpose of this giveaway and not stored.

Please note: this giveaway IS international as long as Amazon/Book Depository delivers to you!

Please enter below and good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Elmet – Fiona Mozley

Published January 2, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Fresh and distinctive writing from an exciting new voice in fiction, Elmet is an unforgettable novel about family, as well as a beautiful meditation on landscape. 

Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.

Atmospheric and unsettling, Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.

What did I think?:

So, I finally got round to reading Elmet! After being short-listed for a number of prizes including the Man Booker and The Women’s Prize For Fiction here in the UK I had heard so much about this work of literary fiction and knew it was something I just had to experience. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to do it alone. The wonderful Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader, blogger extraordinare, beautiful bookstagrammer, all round good egg and one of my blogger besties read this with me as our very first buddy read and that’s just one of the many reasons why this book will now always have a special place in my heart. Elmet is not only a literary masterpiece and one of the very best examples of the genre for those wishing to dip their toes into literary fiction but is a debut novel for crying out loud! It’s almost impossible to believe, the author writes with such beauty and conviction that you’d assume she’d been mistress of her art for decades.

Fiona Mozley, author of the debut novel, Elmet.

Jennifer and I had such a wonderful discussion about Elmet and it really was a pleasure to share this quiet but powerful read with her and feed off each others insights. The story of Daniel, Cathy and their Daddy who live quite a simple, meagre existence out in the wilderness moves along at the beginning at a relatively slow pace but the emotional punch it ends up packing is truly a mighty one. There are so many questions and reasons for wanting to carry on reading and each moment we stopped to discuss what we had read, I found myself eagerly anticipating not only how the narrative would continue but how interesting our chat was going to end up being! Why have the family isolated themselves in the woods? What has happened to Daniel and Cathy’s mother? Furthermore, when their way of living is threatened, how will each character individually respond and what will be the ramifications of their actions?

Imagine our contemporary world right now and a dwelling built right here in these woods where our characters live, surviving on what the forest gives them for food and comfort. Enter the world of Elmet.

It was fairly obvious to me from the very start that Mozley is a spectacularly gifted writer. Her words drip from the pages like honey and she talks about the landscape in particular so vividly and in so much glorious detail that you could almost smell the mud under your feet. Elmet is a celebration of nature and how we can harness it to live a far less complicated existence but more importantly, this is a story of the bond between a father and his children. Daniel, Cathy and Daddy are such outstanding and impressively drawn characters, all with their own unique personalities that it was exciting to follow their journey, celebrate their eccentricities and worry about their futures.

If you like your fiction to have a clear and distinct resolution, I have to say this might not be the novel for you. Elmet can be kind of vague, nothing is wrapped up neatly with a little bow, occasionally the reader makes up their own mind about what a specific individual might be thinking or indeed, by the end, how their story may continue. However, the subtle little clues the author expertly drops along the way left me in no doubt about my particular interpretation of events. Even now, weeks after finishing this novel, I’m still thinking about where our characters might be and how they might be coping after a dramatic finale that left both Jennifer and I reeling.

Elmet is a book that works even better when the finer points of the narrative are chewed over with a friend and I’m so grateful to Jennifer for being that person that I was fortunate enough to experience it with. If you like your literary fiction descriptive, full of heart and thought-provoking, I would definitely suggest this novel and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

For Jennifer’s fabulous review please see her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) – Sylvain Neuvel

Published December 11, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

What did I think?:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Previous buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books)

Published December 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.

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!). So far we’ve read the first two books in the brilliant Arc Of A Scythe series by Neal ShustermanScythe and Thunderhead and we’ve even read a little non-fiction too – Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review our books – 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 The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle 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: Hey Beth. I hope your week hasn’t been to hectic! Are you good to start reading today?

Beth: I sure am!! 😁 very excited, how would you like to divide it up?

Stuart: Let’s go with pages 100, 231, 350 and the end. Is that okay for you?

Stuart: Just to let you know, I am going to need some time before I actually post this buddy read. I am planning on doing a huge shake-up on my blog, name change and all.

Beth: That’s perfect. No worries at all dude. Ooh I’m kind of intrigued about your shake up! 🤔 don’t worry we can post whenever you’re ready.

Stuart: I just need to jumble everything up and refocus. I’ve been a tad slack recently. Cool! Well I’ll get started now 😁

Beth: I’m crossing everything that we’ll love this as much as everyone else seems to! 🤗

Stuart: Me too. Don’t want to be that reader 🙄. Liking what I am reading so far.

Stuart: I’m ready 😀. So many questions!

Beth: Me too!! First of all, let’s talk about that opening chapter? 😳 Wow, wow, WOW!

Stuart: It was a pretty explosive entry into the narrative. That line ‘How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home’ gave me chills. It is a great fusion of spiky adrenaline and dreamy confusion.

Beth: Fantastic description and exactly how I felt. I love a narrative like this that keeps you guessing. By about 30 pages in I already knew I was going to love it and I’m so intrigued to see how it continues. I’m intrigued about our narrator being trapped in different characters each morning but to have a puzzle to solve as well? Who knows what’s going to happen?!

Stuart: I was fascinated by the mystery but I was also slightly uneasy with the initial journey into Blackheath. When he truly discovers what is going on, that really did it for me and now I am completely fixated 😅

Beth: I think it might be one of the few books that I could give five stars in such a short time of

reading it! What do you think about the strange figure that appears telling our main lead what’s going on?

Stuart: The plague mask is an interesting point. I hope it has meaning instead of just being a cool feature. I don’t know what to think really. What could they possibly achieve with such a scenario. I wonder if the others are going to be competitive or helpful.

Beth: I definitely wasn’t expecting the whole costume thing. I definitely think they’re going to be competitive. I’m quite concerned it could turn quite nastier than we’re anticipating? 😕

Stuart: Well if that whole servant assault scene was anything to go by then it is going to be brutal. I’m hoping it might turn out to be an impossible love story, that would be perfect. Shall we continue reading?

Stuart: Should have probably finished on the next chapter 😅

Beth: Yes I’ll see you at the next checkpoint! 🤗

Stuart: I really like the way that the traits of each person come through. It would have been a shame if each individual was overly similar.

Stuart: ‘It’s like I’ve been asked to dig a whole with a shovel made of sparrows’. Turton’s imagination is excellent!

Stuart: Ready when you are! We always get the oddest of places to stop for our chats 😅

Beth: We certainly do! Still SO many questions! Who is the plague doctor? Who is this mysterious footman? I loved that quote you put above, the imagery is just fantastic and I really feel present in this world, like an onlooker at the party. I am glad like you say that each “host” is so very different. There’s a lot of characters to get to grips with and it makes it much easier when they have their own personalities!

Stuart: Having Aiden grapple with his hosts personalities and use their qualities (or lack of) to his advantage was really good. The plague doctor guess is still a work in progress. It is quite immersive and I am finding myself trying to keep track of who was where and when. My speculation generator is working overtime. What do you think of Turton’s writing?

Beth: I’m really enjoying it. It’s highly imaginative and the way he must have had to get all these

different pieces of the plot to come together is staggering! I’m not getting confused between the characters which is a relief but I am having to remind myself what certain individuals have done! 😂 How about you?

Stuart: It is an ambitious tale for sure! I am enjoying his multi-layered narrative and you’re definitely right about it not getting muddle up. Turton traps you with this impossible situation and I knew I had to finish this novel no matter what from the very beginning. I like the fluidity of the story, anything can change and Aiden’s hosts are beginning to overlap in new and interesting ways. Can’t wait to delve in deeper!

Beth: Me neither. Do you think Anna can be trusted? 🤔

Stuart: I’m not sure! There are so many versions of each character at various points in the story. I do know that the footman will stop at nothing to bring the others to their end. Ready to carry on?

Beth: Absolutely! I might be a bit slow for the next couple of days as work is a bit mad but looking forward to it. P350 right?

Stuart: Yeah no problem. Hope work goes okay!

Stuart: He has done this loop thousands of times!

Stuart: Ready 😁. Another perfectly timed break!

Beth: Oh my God I’ve just started reading. P245 – “brave rabbit.” 😱 Then the next chapter when he’s warned about the carriage…🤔

Stuart: Oh yeah. It has gotten so much darker!

Beth: It sure has. P316 “Every man is in a cage of his own making.” (The Plague Doctor) and the suggestion Aiden is being lost in the personalities of his hosts? 😳

Stuart: I think he might have done this to himself as some sort of penance. He has choosen to be there but why?

Beth: Oooh that’s interesting! You’ve made me think now. P331-332 oh my god!! 😳

Stuart: Oh yeah, the clock is ticking…

Beth: Hooray! I’m at p350, you’re right that was the perfect place to stop. Wow. I have such a mixture of feelings right now. I’m really confused, excited, intrigued, bewildered?? 😂

Stuart: It is very paradoxical and nuanced at the same time. One moment Aiden is chatting and the next second he is gunning for his life. I can’t stop trying to guess who it was. My head hurts 🤕

Stuart: I feel like making a wall chart with all the players criss-crossing and events displayed. I feel close to a solution then I forget another important part 🤣

Beth: Ahh mine too 🤕 😂 I don’t think you can call it at all. I have no clue what’s going to happen! And because it jumps backward and forward in time sometimes it’s so easy to lose the thread! This footman is really creeping me out though, how about you? 😕

Stuart: I just don’t know how he fits into the scheme. Is he there for sport? Does he have a bigger goal? How does he know more than everyone else? I’m getting dizzy again!

Beth: We really don’t know much about him. He’s so mysterious. All we know is that he wants to kill off all the hosts. It’s like they’ve both got the same goal – to stop the loop and it’s first one to the finish line?

Stuart: There are so many little lines of text that throw us off course. Turton is a pro at getting us to trust no one!

Beth: Haha that’s very true! We don’t even know who our main character really is, that could come as a surprise if we find out later? 🤔

Stuart: Possibly! Time to continue?

Beth: Let’s go to the end!! 👊🏻💪🏻👍🏻👌🏻🤘🏻

Beth: What is going ON?! P429 😅🤷🏼♀️😂

Stuart: I know. Many different hands at play. I love seeing all the earlier moments explained.

Very satisfying!

Beth: Finished!! 😅😳

Stuart: 😬🤕😅

Beth: Oh my goodness what did you THINK? Were you expecting that?!

Stuart: I was amazed by the Anna situation/ending. What a scenario! The Evelyn Hardcastle side of things… I am on the fence. How about you?

Beth: It took me a little while to get my head round it if I’m perfectly honest. It was so unexpected that I found myself re-reading entire passages twice or three times just to make sure I understood exactly what Turton had done. 🤔

Stuart: The connection between Anna and Aiden was superb. The best kind of backstory! I couldn’t get enough. I know what you mean though. Evelyn’s was a bit of a tougher conclusion. I still have questions… But what a book overall! Turton deserves the praise. Maintaining all those threads in a meaningful and whole narrative without totally losing his own mind is a success in itself!

Beth: Absolutely. So beautifully intricate I can’t even imagine how he pulled it all together. I feel like it’s the kind of book you need to read again just to appreciate all the threads that he wove and the incredibly convoluted plot?

Stuart: I think that is what makes this book so appealing is its superbly weaved mystery and the fact that Turton’s delivery is both controlled yet explosive at the same time. I would read it again just for those ‘ahhhhhh!’ moments 😅

Beth: I’ll certainly be reading anything Turton puts out in the future! Who do you think was the most interesting host? 🤔

Stuart: I’m going to say Derby but only because, not only was he the turning point for the whole story, he was a nasty piece of work that Aiden had to keep under control. You?

Beth: I think Rashton, the policeman? I really enjoyed his detective work and thought things really started coming together when Aiden was in his body.

Stuart: That is true, plus he was an unknown player right up until the last act. I did love those moments where actions from the earlier chapters get explained or come into play. It was very satisfying!

Beth: Yes! It’s why I wonder if a second reading would be even more valuable to cement the timeline of events even more? 🤔

Stuart: I am enjoying going back through it in my mind and trying to make new connections. Seven Deaths was a book that really tested my intuition. I have a bit of a book hangover now…

Beth: Me too haha 😂

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

I think you might be able to see from our Twitter chat that Stuart Turton sent us into complete emoji-overload! This book had such a convoluted plot but what I couldn’t get over at any point in the narrative was how amazingly clever it was and how all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle slotted together right at the end. I can’t imagine the amount of preparation and thought that had to go into a novel like this and I salute the author whole-heartedly for pulling it off in an incredible fashion where I’m still thinking about the book quite a while after finishing it.

Stuart Turton, author of The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Personally speaking, I find there is a fine line with complexity in novels. That is to say, I want something innovative, deep and slightly confusing that might fox me a little and have me scratching my head BUT I don’t want it to frustrate me and lead to me putting down the book because it isn’t exciting enough to hold my interest. Turton walks this line perfectly with Evelyn Hardcastle. Yes, it is intricate and makes your head spin a little bit however the glorious nature of the plot, the characters and the way the author structures it made me desperate to figure out the puzzle. So where it might have been maddening at points, it was maddening in a terrific way and I was constantly invested and involved in the story, curious to discover what exactly was going on.

And the characters? Wow. Just wow. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel before where the characters were so completely diverse and individual from each other! I have to admit when I saw the extensive list of players in the beginning, I was slightly nervous – would I be able to keep up? The answer is – quite easily. Each character is very distinguishable and incredibly fascinating. In fact, there wasn’t a single person that I didn’t want to know more about which is an enviable task for an author I’m sure.

The mystery in this novel is second to none. From the very beginning, I was enveloped in Aiden’s journey through his various hosts in order to figure out exactly who killed Evelyn Hardcastle and what their potential motive is. Nothing is wrapped up nicely in a little bow (which I appreciated) and it’s a long, elaborate story to get there but boy, is it worth it! I came away from this book immediately wanting to go right back to the first page and start again to pick up on the things that I had missed and it’s a rare book that makes me want to do that. If you haven’t read this novel yet, I encourage you with every breath in my body to DO IT – it’s a reading experience that cannot be missed and I’m so delighted to have finally realised why everyone is talking about it.

Thank you to Stuart from Always Trust In Books for another amazing buddy read – check out his review on his blog today!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

The Girls – Emma Cline

Published October 21, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.

Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.

And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.

Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

What did I think?:

One of my favourite parts of the month is when I buddy read with my fellow bloggers. I read books with my sister, Chrissi Reads very regularly – we have a Banned Books, a Kid-Lit series and a “Talking About” feature and more recently, I’ve started a monthly buddy read with my good friend, Janel from the wonderful blog Keeper Of Pages. I had the pleasure of meeting her in person a couple of weeks ago at a Quercus Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening that she kindly invited me to and I’m delighted to announce that she’s just as fabulous in person as she is on her blog. Our buddy read for last month was The Girls by Emma Cline and although it wasn’t a five star read for us (like the majority of our co-reads have been) we both still thoroughly enjoyed it and there were parts of the narrative that DEFINITELY made a lasting impact that I’m still continuing to think about today.

Emma Cline, author of The Girls.

I don’t want to go too deeply into the topics this book covers, the synopsis above from Goodreads does that more than adequately and is just teasing enough not to give anything further away. I think what I would like to talk about is how this book seems to have divided readers, especially in the strength of reviews/difference in star ratings it has received. The average rating for this novel on Goodreads is 3.47, kind of a middle-of-the-road rating which I’m both surprised by and not surprised by at all, if that makes any sense? First of all, I don’t think this novel is for everyone and I believe that explains the difference in opinions that people clearly seem to have. It seems like for The Girls, you either really like this book or you don’t get on with it at all. As I scanned my eyes down the page for star ratings the vast majority seemed to be either 4/5 star reviews or 2 stars. Why is this? Perhaps, in part it’s down to the pacing of the narrative which is quite slow, methodical and written at times almost like a stream of consciousness which I realise isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

1960’s America, the time period in which The Girls is set.

Image from video: The Top 10 Defining Moments of 1960’s America @ https://www.watchmojo.com/video/id/11930

Personally, I really enjoyed this novel. I have to admit, it took me a little while to get used to the writing style and the hazy, almost other-worldly feeling that I think perfectly embodied both the mind of the cult and the drugs that fourteen year old Evie Boyd was exposed to once indoctrinated within Russell’s unique little group. We see Evie as both an adult (where she has a startlingly similar mindset to her adolescent self) and the time period of the late 1960’s where she meets, becomes infatuated with Suzanne and enters the dangerous world of the cult for the very first time. It’s true to say that Evie completely frustrated me at points and I found myself wanting to shake her for certain things that she becomes involved with but whenever I felt this way, I reminded myself how intensely vulnerable I was too as a teenager.

It’s amazing how much influence certain people can have over you when you are a more naive, trusting individual and by the end of the novel, I was genuinely shocked by how much I had in common with Evie after all. It was quite a sobering and illuminating reflection but also had the effect of making me connect with her character on a deeper level so as a result I enjoyed this novel even more that I might have done without this frightening similarity in parts of our personalities!

As a piece of literary fiction, I feel like The Girls is almost like a work of art. Not everybody is going to enjoy it but there are going to be others that see something in it so fascinating that the story will linger in their memories for some time to come.

Thank you to Janel @ Keeper Of Pages for another brilliant buddy read! Check out her amazing review of The Girls HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Previous buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Girls by Emma Cline was the forty-ninth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!