Book Review: We See Everything (William Sutcliffe)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Pages: 304

Release Date: September 21st 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Lex lives on The Strip – the overcrowded, closed-off, bombed-out shell of London. He’s used to the watchful enemy drones that buzz in the air above him.

Alan’s talent as a gamer has landed him the job of his dreams. At a military base in a secret location, he is about to start work as a drone pilot.

These two young men will never meet, but their lives are destined to collide. Because Alan has just been assigned a high-profile target. Alan knows him only as #K622. But Lex calls him Dad.

Review:

This is a short novel that packs a big punch and expertly shows two different sides to the same story.

Lex lives on The Strip, what remains of London after bombs have ruined it. His dad works for a group that rebels against the oppressors who watch over them through drones in the sky. This makes him and his family well respected in The Strip. It also makes him a target.

Alan has just landed a dream job as a drone pilot. He watches over his target day in day out, waiting for the day the order will be given to assassinate #K622 – Lex’s dad.

Lex and Alan are complete opposites in character: Lex is a nice guy who cares for his family, treats the girl he falls for well and wants to do what he can to help his dad and the rebellion. Alan is rude to his mother and treats his job the same as he does a computer game: the targets to him aren’t living breathing people, just something on a screen to be destroyed at the touch of a button.

I didn’t dislike Alan as much as everyone else seems to. I understand that he thinks he’s doing a good job and protecting the world from terrorists. He does behave badly towards a girl but at least shows some remorse for it. And when it comes to crunch time, he falters.

Lex was a little bland for me and I was so annoyed how he disobeyed his Dad’s orders, which were so obviously meant to keep him safe. I know that’s what kids do but it’s annoying when they put themselves in danger just to get laid!

I loved the 1984 feel to the story, with drones watching everything that people do from the sky, the feeling of never being safe, of nothing being private. The picture of this hollow shell of London was beautifully painted, with the references to real places making it easy to picture. I did want to know more about what happened and how they got to that stage as the background is a little lacking.

The ending felt a bit odd to me: it all felt very rushed, then suddenly very slow as it covered a long period of time after the main events of the book. On the one hand, it was kind of cool to see how the characters lives went on afterward, but it just felt a strange way to end things.

This is a quick read, a kind of cautionary tale for where we could be headed and will be sure to delight any fans of 1984, or Malorie Blackman.

4

Book Review: Day 7 (Kerry Drewery)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 448

Release Date: June 15th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Martha Honeydew has been released from the terrifying Cell 7. But despite her new freedom, the corrupt judicial system is still tracking Martha’s every move. And Isaac, her only trusted friend, is now imprisoned in the very same cells she was. Isaac saved Martha’s life, it is only right she now saves his.

But with Martha still a target, her chances of saving Isaac are remote. Martha begins to question whether it is ever possible to escape government scrutiny.

Will Martha and Isaac ever reunite?

Will they ever live in a better world?

Review:

I really enjoyed Cell 7 last year, so when I saw this on NetGalley I had to request it straight away. Even though Cell 7 ended on a big cliffhanger, I hadn’t really thought about it having a sequel, but I’m so glad it did.

Day 7 picks up where Cell 7 left off – Marth has been freed from death row after Isaac admitted to shooting his dad and revealed the corruption and blackmail in their justice session. But instead of a happy ending, Isaac is on death row and Martha is on the run while her friends face the consequences of helping her.

It was great to be back in the world Drewery has created. It seems exaggerated at first glance but the scary thing is how easy you could see us getting to that point. An X-Factor style voting justice system doesn’t seem that far away some days. In this book, we see the Buzz for Justice TV show where three members of the public can vote to send a petty criminal to prison (and pay for the privilege, of course). The bias is clear for the reader to see but I can imagine how the audience gets caught up in the drama of it all.

The book gets off to a bit of a slow start and I did struggle to get into it at first. Martha’s a bit lost on what to do and things felt a little aimless until she got a plan together.

In contrast, the ending is just insane. It’s so tense as day seven arrives for Isaac, Max tries to combat the public’s voting and Martha has to decide how far she’ll go to save Isaac. I didn’t know which way were things going to go and the climax surprised and frustrated me – frustrated because it looks like there’s going to be a third book and I’ll have to wait a year to read it!

This is a tense book about deception, manipulation and the power of the media and draws some scary parallels to our world today and where we could be heading. If you’ve read Cell 7 then this is a must read, if you’ve not then pick it up and hurry on to this one!

4

Book Review: The Sign of One (Eugene Lambert)

Publisher: Egmont UK

Pages: 400

Release Date: April 7th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

ONE FOR SORROW, TWO MEANS DEATH.

In the Barrenlands of Wrath, no one dies of old age. Kyle is used to its harsh laws, but the cold-blooded separation of identical twins and execution of the ‘evil twists’ at the Annual Peace Fair shocks him.

When Kyle himself is betrayed, he flees for his life with the reluctant help of Sky, a rebel pilot with a hidden agenda. As the hunt intensifies, Kyle soon realises that he is no ordinary runaway, although he has no idea why. Fighting to learn the hideous truth, their reluctant, conflicted partnership will either save them – or kill them.

Review:

I saw this book tipped as The Maze Runner meets The Fire Sermon and that didn’t really make me want to read it as I didn’t particularly enjoy either of those books. However, I was sent the sequel to review and thought I’d get the first book (via a birthday present from Nathan) and give it a go.

I’m really glad I did. I see where the comparisons come from with those two books, but this was so much better to me. It was like everything I wanted from those two books but didn’t get with them.

In Kyle’s world, twins – or ‘idents’ – are seen as a curse and kept away from the rest of the world until they prove which is normal – a ‘scab’ – and which is a ‘twist’ – an evil imitation of a human. After an attack on the way home from the Annual Peace Fair, Kyle’s world is turned upside down as he’s forced to become a fugitive, pursued by the Saviour’s Slayers for reasons unknown to him.

Kyle was a great character. I really liked the first few chapters at the Peace Fair, where we were introduced to a lot of the ideas of the world without it being too info-dumpy. Kyle’s reaction when he first sees a twist and how he’s pressured by his friends was just a really good scene.

Sky’s character was really interesting too: she didn’t feel like the stereotypical ‘bad ass’ girl that you often get in YA these days. She had her motivations and I was pleased that she didn’t let the romance between her and Kyle get in the way of her goal. The romance didn’t feature too heavily, which suited me, and it was nice to see two characters not lose their heads just because they like each other.

To criticise, I guess this did feel a little paint-by-numbers dystopian at times: evil tyrant oppressing everyone, special main character who can change things, group of rebels fighting for a better world. It’s been done before but there’s enough original material in this to make it interesting and make me want to read the sequel.

If you’re into your dystopian then this one is for you. I’m really excited to see where Kyle and Sky go next in Into the No-Zone.

4

Book Review: The Call (Peadar Ó Guilín)

Publisher: David Fickling Books

Pages: 336

Release Date: September 1st 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

What if you only had 3 minutes to save your own life and the clock is already counting down…

Three minutes.
Nessa, Megan and Anto know that any day now they wake up alone in a horrible land and realise they’ve been Called.

Two minutes.
Like all teenagers they know that they’ll be hunted down and despite all their training only 1 in 10 will survive.

One minute.
And Nessa can’t run, her polio twisted legs mean she’ll never survive her Call will she?

Time’s up.

Review:

Oh my god, where to start with this one.

I heard a bit about this around Twitter last year, thought it sounded interesting and stuck it on my wishlist. When the in laws bought it for me for Christmas I decided it was going to be the first of my new books that I read. On reading the blurb, I thought it sounded kind of Hunger Games-esque, which is great as I loved that series.

I adored this book. I read it in two days, balancing the book when breastfeeding, taking extended lunch breaks at work so I could squeeze in another chapter. I moaned to Nathan when we got home that I didn’t want to make dinner or do adult things: I just wanted to finish it.

Ireland has been cut off from the rest of the world and are being punished for something their ancestors did years ago: banishing the Sidhe to the Grey Land. Now, all teenagers in Ireland will get the Call: they’ll vanish for 3 minutes and 4 seconds, and they’ll probably come back dead. Only 1 in 10 survive. Irish children are trained in special schools from the age of 10 to survive their call, but the Irish are still dying out. With odds like that, what chance does Nessa, with her polio twisted legs, have?

There’s been a lot of books that pit teenagers against certain death in the last few years, but this is easily one of the best in my opinion. I think that Ó Guilín really captured one of the most important elements in horror stories to me: inevitability. The chances of survival are so small. The Call can happen at any time and you’ll never be prepared for it, no matter how hard you train. So many times when characters were Called I just felt this sense of hoplessness because I was pretty sure they were about to die.

The Sidhe themselves are formidable villains. They’re beautiful creatures who take pleasure in the pain and fear they cause, and even when it’s caused to them: when the teenagers fight back they’re often applauded for good tactics or killing a Sidhe, which is just creepy. And then there’s what they do to the children. They all know not to let the Sidhe touch them, because the Sidhe take pleasure into morphing the children into what they call ‘beautiful’ creations. I won’t spoil any here but it’s really twisted and grim. Even those that survive don’t get a happily ever after: often they’ve been twisted by the Sidhe, or scarred by what they’ve seen in the Grey Land.

While we’re really following Nessa’s story, the book switches view point a lot, which is great as it means you get to see each characters Call and their time in the Grey Land. I loved Nessa as a protagonist: she has even worse odds than the rest of them, but she’s so determined to survive. I admired her spirit and I believed she could do it, not just because she was the main character and would probably survive, but because she was smart and wanted to live so much. I also liked the image she’d created for herself: cold and a bit aloof, because she didn’t want to get close to anyone who she knew would probably die. Despite this, she has a close friend in Megan, who breaks all the rules that Nessa keeps, and Anto, who worms his way into her thoughts even when she tries to keep him at bay.

I also loved the human villain of the book, Connor and his Knights. It was interesting to see him try and keep control of his group of elites when they started being Called and realised they were not the group of survivors they thought they were.

I can’t sing this books praises enough. It was everything I wanted it to be and even though I’ve just finished it, I want to read it again. I’m lending it to my sister and have a list of people to pass it on to next. If you’re looking for something twisted and grim, with unforgettable characters, then this is your book.

Copy of an art exhibit

Book Review: Cell 7 (Kerry Drewery)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 400

Release Date: September 22nd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Should she live or die? You decide

An adored celebrity has been killed. Sixteen-year-old Martha Honeydew was found holding a gun, standing over the body.

Now Justice must prevail.

The general public will decide whether Martha is innocent or guilty by viewing daily episodes of the hugely popular TV show Death is Justice, the only TV show that gives the power of life and death decisions – all for the price of a phone call.

Martha has admitted to the crime. But is she guilty? Or is reality sometimes more complicated than the images we are shown on TV?

Review:

Cell 7 starts as Martha is arrested at the scene of a crime, holding a gun and confessing to killing a celebrity. She’s taken to prison, deathrow, where she will spend a week, during which time the public will vote for her: innocent and she is released, guilty and she will die.

As a reader you know Martha is innocent, but you don’t know why she is insisting she is guilty and who she’s covering up for. The mystery carries on throughout the book and keeps you guessing until the end.

I loved the format of this book. It’s not just Martha’s story: we see her in prison, but we also get Eve’s story and other bits told through a TV show called Death is Justice which discusses the criminals currently on death row (while sneakily swaying the audience vote). It really showcased the way the justice system worked (or didn’t work) much better than it would have with just Martha’s POV story. Martha’s bits were probably my least favourite to be honest: while interesting, I think it’s hard to maintain interest when someone is stuck in a cell and monologuing.

I know that dystopian needs a certain amount of suspending disbelief but I have to admit I didn’t see how this kind of justice system could get approved. It’s so obviously weighted in rich people’s favour (I know, isn’t everything?!) But hey, I guess that’s part of the message of the book. Corruption is rife in politics and people don’t always see what can seem obvious to others. The media plays a huge part in influencing our views and decisions, as is seen in the book. I cringed every time they called it a fair system and promoted its awesomeness on the TV show. I could perfectly imagine the plastic smiles and subtle manipulating.

This is a dark book with a mystery that unfolds little by little and a shock ending which makes you want to read on: I couldn’t believe it ended like that! This is the first book I’ve read by Kerry Drewery and I thoroughly enjoyed it: I’ll be checking out more of her books in future.

4

Book Review: Red Queen (Victoria Aveyard)

Publisher: Orion

Pages: 383

Release Date: February 10th 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart…

Review:

I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about this book but a close friend said it was awesome so I had to give it a go.

I did have my problems with it but I think overall I really enjoyed the read. I like the complicated relationships of the court and the backstabbing and double crossing.

In Red Queen the world is split into two types of people: the ordinary ones with red blood and the ones with silver blood and special powers. Except for Mare, who somehow has red blood and special powers. The idea made me think of a kind of reverse X-Men: in X-Men the people with special powers are feared and shunned, while in Red Queen they rule the world.

Mare was an interesting protagonist. Although she had that typical ‘special girl’ thing going on, which can be annoying, she also had flaws that made her more interesting. I love a character that isn’t always easy to like. Mare lied and used people to her advantage, and then seemed surprised when they were annoyed at her or that had repercussions. But I understood her motivations and I still found myself rooting for her.

There were a lot of plot twists, and I did guess a major one (that’s my book-psychicness coming through again) but there were plenty of surprises too. Although it’s obviously the start of a series, there’s a clear plot for this first book with a really dramatic conclusion that I loved.

I think my main problem with the book is it just seems to tick all the boxes of current YA trends:

  • Ordinary girl finds out she is special – check
  • Love triangle – check
  • Poor girl becomes a princess – check
  • Girl becomes face of a revolution – check

This post kind of summed things up well:

http://snarktheater.com/post/95555236954/ya-book-white-young-girl1-ya-book-she-is

It also felt like the book was just written to be quoted. So many lines came across as over dramatic and too self aware: the kind of statements that I can imagine being better placed in a review than said by the first person narrator. It was probably done to be dramatic but it just made those statements sound silly to me.

Despite my issues, I did really enjoy the book and am moving straight on to the sequel.

4

Book Review: Blame (Simon Mayo)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pages: 472

Release Date: July 7th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

What happens when society wants you banged up in prison for a crime your parents committed?

That’s the situation in which Ant finds herself – together with her little brother Mattie and their foster-parents, she’s locked up in a new kind of family prison. None of the inmates are themselves criminals, but wider society wants them to do time for the unpunished ‘heritage’ crimes of their parents.

Tensions are bubbling inside the London prison network Ant and Mattie call home – and when things finally erupt, they realize they’ve got one chance to break out. Everyone wants to see them punished for the sins of their mum and dad, but it’s time for Ant to show the world that they’re not to blame.

Review:

I love a good bit of dystopian fiction, and this one was a gem.

Blame is set in a world not too different from our own, where you can be imprisoned for crimes your parents committed – heritage crime. Being a child doesn’t save you from imprisonment either, as is the case with our protagonist Ant and her brother Mattie.

The idea of this book really grabbed me and the writing didn’t fail to keep me engaged. It’s fast paced and tense and sometimes I genuinely couldn’t put it down because I needed to know what was going to happen – pretty tricky when you have a baby to be looking after but I made it work 😉 Although it may sound a little far fetched initially I could see the almost logical thinking that could lead to this kind of law system. If your parents brought you up on stolen money, if you benefited from ill-gotten gains, are you complicit in their crime?

The idea of a blame culture is not new to us, although this is more extreme than anything we have today (yet!). In this book we see how easily the media can create and enforce a blame culture which targets and punishes innocent people. I think what makes this book so frightening is that it could so easily happen to us, especially with the power the media has today. Also the mention of the EU falling apart made me smirk as I was reading it just after the referendum results.

I really loved Ant and Mattie: sibling relationships are so much more interesting to me than romantic ones and it was great to see a YA mostly forgo the love interest in favour of a brother and sister relationship. The protection goes both ways between them: although Ant is older and protects him in a more physical sense, Mattie also protects her by calming her down and making her think things through a little more. I also liked how Mayo showed their Haitian background: rather than just telling us about them being biracial, he showed it through the language they used together.

There was an element of mystery in the book which was only resolved right at the very end, and had me on my toes wondering how they were going to survive everything. It was incredibly action packed and didn’t leave much time to catch a breather but that’s one of the things I loved about it. This is a really thought provoking book that will leave you musing on it for ages after.

Copy of an art exhibit

Book Review: The Fire Sermon (Francesca Haig)

Publisher: HarperVoyager

Pages: 432

Release Date: July 30th 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

What would you do if you had to leave everything you knew behind?

If what made you perfect also made you an outcast?

If your twin, once your only friend, was now your worst enemy?
Since the blast that reshaped the earth, only twins are born. The imperfect one of each pair is branded at birth and sent away. Twins share nothing but the moment of their death: when one dies, so does the other. But Cass and her twin Zach cannot be separated.

In this scorched and broken world, Cass’s bond with her brother may be the most dangerous thing of all.

Review:

Despite this taking forever to read (think I had a little bit of a reading slump) I really enjoyed this book.

The idea of everyone being born with a twin, one Alpha and one Omega, destined to die at the same time, was really fascinating. I liked the idea of twins being used against each other politically: it’s such a powerful bargaining chip.

The book started off a bit slow for me: it felt like there was a lot of back story and info-dumping and I just wanted to skip ahead a bit and get to the real action. But once it got going it was great. I loved Cass’ view on the twins situation, and it didn’t feel too unbelievable either. Her’s and Zach’s upbringing together, rather than separated, gave that strong bond between them which influenced her feelings towards twins, instead of her just being ‘special’ etc. And until she pointed out that when fighting Alphas, Omegas were dying somewhere too, I hadn’t even thought of that.

I called the plot twist a little before it happened, but it kept me guessing for most of the book so I can’t complain. The climax was still surprising, although I felt it was a little bit dragged out and could have ended with a bit more of a bang.

The pacing of the book felt a bit off – everything was just a bit slow, and there was so much travelling it sometimes all blurred together. It made it a struggle to read sometimes: once I did it was great, but the idea of going back to it wasn’t always appealing, which was a shame. It’s made me struggle with what rating to give it: I started off on 4 as it was really interesting, but I’ve knocked a star off for not gripping me enough. Still, I’m looking forward to the sequel and hope that captures me more.

3

Book Review: The Crown (Kiera Cass)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Pages: 288

Release Date: May 3rd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twenty years have passed since the events of The One, and America and Maxon’s daughter is the first princess to hold a Selection of her own. Princess Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you… and now Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected.

Review:

I requested this on NetGalley despite not having read all of the previous book, The Heir – I had a sample of the first few chapters but never got round to getting the whole book. Still I was interested in seeing how the series ended, so after a quick catch up on the events of The Heir I was ready to go.

It didn’t feel that Eadlyn had changed much from the last book: she was still very self-obsessed and selfish and I didn’t particularly like her. Unfortunately, my opinion of her didn’t change much throughout the book. While I could see she was genuinely interested in helping her people, so much of her inner monologue was still about herself and people’s perceptions of her and it got a bit tiresome.

My main problem with this was that it didn’t seem to have much point to it. With the previous Selection books, while there was a big focus on the love story and the competition, there were more serious plot lines throughout with the danger of the rebels. This book lacked that threat. While there was something that threatened Eadlyn a little, it was nowhere near as dramatic and it came over half way through the book. It just felt like the real conflict was lacking.

I liked the final outcome of the Selection, which was not completely unexpected but fitted well with the story and characters. I was a little disappointed with Hale’s storyline. It’s difficult to say without spoilers, but it just felt like stereotyping and I kind of wanted more than that. Hopefully you’ll understand what I mean when you read it!

This series has been a bit like a guilty pleasure: although I don’t think the stories are really gripping or amazing, I do enjoy them and I can’t help but race through them. It was an interesting end to the series, and I will make sure I catch up with The Heir properly soon.

3

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

Publisher: Vintage Books

Pages: 324

Release Date: July 5th 2007 (first published 1985)

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Review:

This was a Christmas present from Nathan that I’ve been meaning to get round to for a while. I’ve wanted to read this since it was cited as an influence for Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours, which I adored. I’d heard of this book but didn’t really know anything about it.

It took me a little while to get into this, a combination of a bit of a slow beginning and the fact that I was only able to snatch a few pages here and there between looking after the wee baby. Once I got going though, I found it intriguing. I felt that the backstory was expertly leaked, just drip fed to you little by little, so you never had to read a big info-dumpy passage about this history that led to this situation. It also kept you guessing right the way through as to what really had happened to lead up to this, and how people had let it happen. I enjoyed piecing bits of it together from the early hints.

I liked the fact that the ending was ambiguous: it might be frustrating but it fitted the story well. I did struggle to read the lecture transcript at the end – I actually nearly skipped it, not realising it was part of the story! –  but it was worth it just to discover more about the society from a historical viewpoint (the lecture is set years in the future) and for more hints on what happened to Offred.

The way this book really grips you is how it could actually happen. Though it may seem far-fetched, it isn’t hard to imagine this happening. It’s probably scarier reading it as a woman than as a man, as you see women in the story stripped of all power and treated as objects rather than as people. There are elements of this in our society today: this story just takes that to the extreme.

My favourite thing about this is the scale of Offred’s story. She’s not trying to overthrow the awful regime she’s trapped in: just to find a way to cope. While this might not seem very heroic, not everyone is a Katniss or a Tris who needs to save the world, and it’s good to see the story of just a regular person living in these horrifying times. I liked that she focussed more on her loneliness, missing her husband and child, and just wanting to be held and loved.

This is such a powerful read, I can’t recommend it enough, and the fact that it has inspired one of my favourite books (Only Ever Yours) makes it all the more special to me.

 4