Neal Shusterman

All posts tagged Neal Shusterman

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

 

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

Published August 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

And now for something a bit different…

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

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

What did WE think?:

Start/1st Break

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

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

Beth: Perfect! See you soon! 👍🏻

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

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

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

Stuart: ‘A scythe in black’

Stuart: 😁

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

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

Beth: 👍🏻

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beth: Perfect. See you there. 👌🏻

2nd Break

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

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

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

book but now? 🙄

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beth: 👍🏻🤗

3rd Break

Stuart: P312! What the hell!

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

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

Beth: Ready whenever you are! 🤗👍🏻

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beth: Okay see you then! 😁

Finished

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Mid Year Freak Out Tag 2018

Published July 3, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to a tag that’s really doing the rounds at the moment – the Mid Year Freak Out Tag which I loved doing last year. Here we go!

1.) The Best Book You’ve Read So Far This Year

This book has now made it onto my all time favourites shelf and I’m already dying to re-read it which usually doesn’t happen for a few years at least! It broke my heart and made me laugh in equal measure and if I’m ever asked for a recommendation, this is the latest book that I push into the hands of everyone who asks. 

2.) Your Favourite Sequel This Year?

I’ve got a feeling that one of the Marnie Rome books appeared in this spot last year, I’m so predictable haha! For me, this series keeps getting better and better and this book for “favourite sequel” spot was a no-brainer.

3.) A New Release That You Haven’t Read Yet But Really Want To?

Okay, so I was initially put off this book because I heard it was about ice hockey. I’m not a huge fan of reading about sports so thought it wasn’t for me. Then I started to see all the amazing reviews, then I realised it wasn’t just about ice hockey, NOW my fellow bloggers are starting to virtually bash me on the head for not having read it so far. This will happen soon, I promise. Er, this month or next month I mean!! For my interview with Fredrik Backman – please see my post HERE. (shameless plug).

4.) Most Anticipated Release For The Second Half Of The Year?

I think I might have already mentioned Melmoth by Sarah Perry in a previous tag but Bridge Of Clay by Markus Zusak is another one I’ve got on pre-order and am really excited for it to be released!

5.) Your Biggest Disappointment?

I was going to choose one of our Banned Books, Blood And Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause for this answer but in the end, I’m going to choose this. Lee Child has so many fans around the world, I really, REALLY wanted to like this book. I don’t know what it was, maybe I came to the series too late but I didn’t get on with it at all. Huge disappointment! Read my review HERE (but please LC fans, don’t come after me with pointy sticks!)

6.) Biggest Surprise Of The Year?

I read this as a buddy read with the lovely Stuart from Always Trust In Books. It was our first buddy read together so I will always have fond memories of it because of that but I honestly wasn’t prepared for how much I enjoyed this. I was completely gripped the whole way through and this is the first YA series that has got right under my skin for a long time now. Check out my review and our Twitter chat HERE.

We recently read a non fiction together, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt so look out for our review on that coming in the next couple of weeks. We are also just about to start on the follow up to Scythe, called Thunderhead and I think I can say for both of us that we are VERY excited!

7.) Favourite New To You Or Debut Author?

This was an easy pick for me. I read Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine with my blogger BFF Janel at Keeper Of Pages as our second buddy read and it was also our second five star! Gail Honeyman is new to me and she is also a debut author so that ticks both boxes and I can safely say, whatever she writes next I will be pre-ordering and incredibly excited for.

8.) Your New Fictional Crush?

I have to be honest, I don’t really get fictional crushes but if I had to choose, I’d choose Henry from one of my all time favourite books, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger which I re-read again this year. He’s a little bit mysterious, a little bit dangerous and I love the way he loves Clare. I’m not big on romance but their relationship just captured my heart.

9.) New Favourite Character?

I read the Nightingale with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages for our third buddy read and although my review isn’t up until tomorrow (spoiler alert, I ADORED it!) I had to include it on this tag because I completely fell in love with the character of Isabelle. I’ll talk more about her tomorrow but wow, I don’t think I’ll ever forget her!

10.) A Book That Made You Cry?

It takes a lot for a book to make me cry, I’m not sure why! But when a book does, I will never forget it. I came close to crying with The Heart’s Invisible Furies and The Nightingale, books I’ve already mentioned in this tag but I really teared up during a particular moment of H Is For Hawk, by Helen Macdonald, a non fiction book about grief and falconry where Helen is feeling sad and then plays with her hawk for the first time. It’s really heart-warming and was a passage I read over and over again.

11.) A Book That Made You Happy?

Matilda by Roald Dahl, an old childhood favourite and one Chrissi Reads and I picked for our Kid-Lit challenge this year. I absolutely adore it and it’s always a delight to re-read. 

12.) Your Favourite Book To Movie Adaptation That You’ve Seen This Year?

Has to be The Handmaid’s Tale, adapted from the novel by Margaret Atwood. I love the book (it’s another of my all-time favourites) and I loved the TV series too, I’m currently watching the second one on Channel 4 and it’s so chilling!

13.) Favourite Book Post You’ve Published This Year?

I hate this question as I’m always really insecure about how my blog posts are received. I guess there’s two I’m quite pleased with for very different reasons, Another Day In The Death Of America where I really enjoyed ranting about guns in America and The Time Traveler’s Wife which I’ve already mentioned above where I got into some quite personal details about my own life. 

14.) The Most Beautiful Book You Have Bought/Received This Year?

I’m actually on a book buying ban this year (this excludes pre-orders and any books I might receive for my birthday of course!) so I’ve been really good about not buying many. I did get this beautiful Penguin clothbound classic of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott from my boyfriend for my birthday while we were on holiday in Mexico which was a lovely surprise!

15.) What Are Some Books That You Need To Read By The End Of The Year?

These are the main two books that my fellow bloggers have been begging me to read soon. And I will, I promise!

So that’s my answers, thank you so much for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed my choices. Let me know in the comments if you agree with me or tell me what you might choose yourself. Anyone who wants to do this and hasn’t done it yet, consider yourself tagged!

 

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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