Posted in Audiobook Of The Month

Audiobook Of The Month | The Disasters

After reading the many blog posts from an array of wonderful reviewers sharing their anticipated reads for the year, I stumbled across The Disasters by M.K.England which is a Young Adult Sci-Fi novel comprising of a diverse cast from Muslim characters, to Asian characters and British Characters, to gay and bisexuals all wrapped up in the domain of space.

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I’ve mentioned many a time before that Sci-fi is a genre that I often struggle with, but the concept of this group of teens being the only survivors from a terrorist attack on a space academy, and then being framed for the crime, was enough to make me want to dive in.

For the most part, The Disasters is within the realms of what I can handle. The protagonist, Nax, is from Earth and so is the team he acquires, so there are lots of pop culture references such as Harry Potter. While I really appreciated this because it doesn’t make the story too dense, I have found that it’s hard to distinguish where in the universe they are because their current location on this brand new planet feels too much like Earth. In fact, I sometimes forget that they’re not until one of the characters starts to talk about how they miss their family on Earth.

The tagline for this book also got me excited: “Space is hard. Grab a helmet” sounds like the reader is about to endure extreme, nail-biting space battles. Sadly, that is not the case and instead it’s just a lot of the characters sitting around until everything blows over. At a quite short audiobook (8 hours), I can’t imagine that much of what is seemingly promised is going to come to fruition.

At the time of writing this post I am 56% in.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

What audiobooks are you listening to at the moment?

Posted in review, young adult

The Loneliest Girl In The Universe – Lauren James

“It’s hard to focus on the future when the past is so distracting.”

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Blurb: “Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.”

As I’ve said many times before, sci-fi is a genre that I’ve never been able to fully invest in. More often than not, it can get too complicated for me to follow so I tend to avoid it. For some reason, when scanning the shelves at my local library, I came across The Loneliest Girl In The Universe and decided to give it a go as it seemed like something my tiny brain could handle. Quite simply put: I adored this book.

Romy is the only astronaut on her ship and her only correspondence is with a woman called Molly at NASA, and even then she has the time delay of only just receiving messages that had been sent to her a year ago. It’s far too easy to relate to her character, in the sense of feeling alone. Sometimes it can be crippling and feel like it might never end and in the modern age, we’re able to turn to a virtual world where we can communicate with other people at the click of a button. As I pursued the narrative, I felt the rush alongside Romy when she took to her computer and found a new notification waiting for her. When she’s informed that another ship has been launched to meet her and complete the mission, she finds herself messaging this new boy J who is on the same page as her; he’s the only one who really understands what she’s going through. Again, it highlights just how much power technology has and how, in certain situations, it can actually be used for good. I just loved this weighted aspect in a story consisting really of just one character.

I found the actual space elements quite easy to digest which made it easy for me to just fly through this story. Though I couldn’t shake the claustrophobia of being on this one ship for so long. Romy is faced with the monumental task of creating a new civilisation on a new habitable planet and that’s just a lot to bear, especially on your own. Every little layer of her backstory to create this beautiful, well-written character who felt so real that my chest ached whenever she was going through a negative moment. For the most part, she’s just a normal teenager, writing fan fiction about her favourite TV show, doing homework and slowly starting to fall in love with a boy on another ship trying to catch up.

Another awesome thing to note is that there is a period mention because, after all, being in space doesn’t negate the fact that a teenage girl will still have her monthly cycle! Not only does the reader experience Romy going through it, but it’s also mentioned at different intervals as the amendments to her ship are made and so on.

It’s very much a story about characters and Romy is one I’m going to be thinking about for a long time.

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Posted in adult fiction, Dystopian, review, Uncategorized

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

“These three words were always the last thing an Oasis player saw before leaving the real world and entering the virtual one: Ready Player One.”

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Blurb: “In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.”

Ready Player One has been very much an “on the fence” book for quite a while: I knew it was very popular but I just couldn’t quite bring myself to commit to reading it. Whenever I’ve brought up the prospect of delving into this one, I’ve had quite a few people speak very highly of the audiobook – which is narrated by Will Wheaton – so I decided to go for that format.

The world of The OASIS is equal parts fascinating and terrifying: since  its creation, it has grown into essentially its own kind of universe in which people marry other avatars without knowing where they are or what they look like in the real world and many, like the protagonist Wade, actually transferred from school in the real world to an education institution within this virtual existence. Learning how this way of life had become a way of life for so many people was really interesting but the concept of these characters spending hours upon hours motionless in a unit while they explored a different world with their avatars created this sense of vulnerability; which doesn’t work out well for a few of the characters.

The story gets straight into the crux of the plot, opening with the death of Halliday, the OASIS creator, and the video footage in which he reveals that he is leaving his fortune to whoever finds the hidden easter egg. The protagonist, Wade, goes on to explain how he went about solving the mystery and for me, the storytelling really fell apart. I appreciate the fact that this story takes place over a vast number of years (it takes five years from the Halliday video to the first clue being found) but the narrative went through consistent lull periods throughout and often, for that reason, ended up getting a bit sidetracked with other things. A lot of the plot points were just told in a “then I did this and then I did this” sort of way and I’m not sure how I found such issue with this as that’s basically how stories are told. But it felt like I wasn’t really being shown things. Along with that, I’m not sure if Wade comes across really obnoxious because of the writing style or if it was the way that Will Wheaton acted the part, but it didn’t sit right with me.

A big thing that made me apprehensive about picking up Ready Player One is that I knew it is packed full of eighties references so I felt that I wouldn’t gain full enjoyment given that I was born the decade after and have only see the odd eighties film. Naturally, there are a lot of jokes and sly comparisons that readers more familiar with the era will pick up on but it doesn’t majorly detract from the enjoyment if you’re not as aware of them.

The standout character for me was Artemis. Her frustration really seeps through the story as she always seemed to be just a few steps behind Wade throughout the book’s events.

For me, Ready Player One is a book with a fascinating concept but doesn’t quite hit the mark.

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Posted in Dystopian, review, young adult

Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill

“You may have been perfectly designed but there is always room for improvement.”

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Blurb: “In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful. For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim. Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.”

Having read Louise O’Neill’s more recent book Asking For It, I sort of knew what to expect when going into her debut. O’Neill has become well known for her activism regarding women’s issues from her weekly columns at the Irish Examiner, to her outspoken manner online, and of course her books; where she tackles topics most would rather avoid.

Only Ever Yours tells the story of a world in which the use of birth control to maintain the “perfect body” has led to women being created rather than born naturally. The girls are put into schools where they are trained to believe that their looks and rankings will dictate their futures. There are three roles available after graduation: companion, concubines and chastities. Of course, everyone wants to be a companion to one of the rich, attractive men – known as Inheritants – who will make their choice at the ceremony.

This is not a pleasant read. To describe it as a “brilliant book that everyone should read” (which it is) almost feels like missing the point of the narrative. From the outset that is something unsettling and if you are struggling with weight issues or an eating disorder it is best to wait until you are in a very good place before reading it – which is what I did. There is overwhelming sense that something bad is going to happen if any of the characters step out of line and there were many occasions where I was holding my breath as if that would help the story in some way. I don’t normally pay attention to quotes from other authors on books as those opinions never tend to sway me towards buying a book, but Jeanette Winterson says that “O’Neill writes with a scalpel” and honestly, that could not be more true.

I did find the world confusing at first as you’re thrown in the deep end to follow Freida who is in her final year, preparing for the ceremony. The characters around her are the embodiment of everything we would deem wrong from society and their views are amplified throughout, creating a sense of disorientation when you see the extreme lengths some girls will go to in order to keep their rankings up. While pitched as a strong relationship between Freida and Isabel, their friendship is fraught for most of the book as Isabel appears to let herself go and doesn’t get punished for her actions; instead she is simply removed from the rankings. The reason for which sets your mind into the worst possible outcomes for her. The chastities in charge refer to the girls by numbers, but the girls themselves call each other by names which made it difficult to understand the intended purpose: they are stripped of their names but seem to retain them at the same time.

An obvious comparison to make is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood because they both deal with government control of women’s bodies, but it’s important to note the very big differences. In Only Ever Yours birth control is seen as a good thing, to stop pregnancy ruining your bodies (meanwhile Handmaid’s sees birth control as a bad thing) and in Handmaid’s there is a sense of hope that things could really change. There is none of that in Only Ever Yours. It is a dark, terrifying insight into what our world could be like if we don’t start tackling important issues.

I can only salute Louise O’Neill for her fantastic efforts… even if she does scare me a bit.

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Posted in fantasy, review

Unseemly Science – Rod Duncan

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Blurb: “In the divided land of England, Elizabeth Barnabus has been living a double life – as both herself – and as her brother, the private detective. Witnessing the brutal hanging of someone very close to her, Elizabeth resolves to throw the Bullet Catcher’s Handbook into the fire, and forget her past. If only it were that easy! There is a new charitable organisation in town, run by some highly respectable women. But something doesn’t feel right to Elizabeth. Perhaps it is time for her fictional brother to come out of retirement for one last case? Her unstoppable curiosity leads her to a dark world of body-snatching, unseemly experimentation, politics and scandal. Never was it harder or a woman in a man’s world.”

This is the second book in the “Fall of The Gas-Lit Empire” series and a hanging is taking place in the Kingdom.  It is hugely anticipated due to newspaper coverage and speculation. Elizabeth plans to sneak in to watch. However, she is wanted by the law. So a disguise is required.  Placing herself among the crowd she watches as the woman who gave her the Bullet Catcher’s Handbook is hanged. Elizabeth returns home and goes to burn the wretched book only to save it from the fire moments later as it is her last connection to the deceased woman.

The reader sees the return of Julia – personally my favourite character – who is caught up in a fight with her mother as usual. Julia wants to move to the Kingdom and study law, her mother wants Julia to get a husband.

A stranger – a royalist called Yan Romero – offers Elizabeth legal advice for a price. This immediately appears sketchy to Elizabeth who knows that passage in and out of the kingdom boarder is pricey. When he leaves, she follows and watches him enter the home of a farm labourer who is not the kind of person a royalist would hang out with. Elizabeth speaks to the farmer a few days later and quickly assesses that he once lived in the kingdom like she did, but fled too. She gets information from him, learning that an extradition treaty is to be made and if it goes ahead “they’ll get us all. Drag us home in chains.”

Julia becomes increasingly interested by a woman called Mrs Raike who runs a charitable organisation which runs soup kitchens, Sunday schools and other works that benefit the poor and needy. As per usual, Elizabeth doesn’t trust this mysterious Mrs Raike and begins investigating.

A register is brought in and both Elizabeth and her brother had to return every two weeks to re-sign the register. A feat which will quickly prove difficult as Elizabeth is both herself and her brother so the two cannot appear and sign the register together.
In my years of reading, I often find that sequels are sub-par compared to their debut counterparts. Unseemly Science is an exception to that idea. This book is fantastically written to the point where it sucks you in and you forget that you are in fact, not a part of the world but actually reading a book. Julia proves yet again to be a strong side character and some form of support for Elizabeth. And of course, Elizabeth’s adventures only leave you hungry for more.

 

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Posted in Dystopian, review, young adult

Created – Peiri Ann

Blurb: “After a devastating world war, our government has manufactured genetically altered humans. These “creations” are designed to manage and enforce law and order among the citizens. Creations don’t know fear or pain. Their sole function is to fight the enemy and live to battle again. Orphans Kylie and her twin brother, Lukahn were born for this purpose. Dedicating their lives to sharpening their deadly skills and forfeiting the chance of love and freedom. They ready themselves for Separation, the deadly rite of passage where the oldest teens are drafted into the final preparation for war. Humans and creations alike have become lethal foes when a plague of the living dead becomes the number one hazard. Strategies change as the twins discover they may not be the saviours of humankind after all. They may be the real enemy of the people.”

*I was sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I’m not really a big sci-fi fan. I’m just going to put that out there. But every so often a book catches my attention and draws me in. Created is one of them. Just look at the utterly breathtaking cover!

The story follows twin orphans Kylie and Luke (narrated by Kylie) who live in a world made up of “normals” (humans as we know them) and creations. Kylie and Luke are the latter. They train hard, knowing they need to be prepared for a war and eventually they are taken by force in the night to a training camp: “our government holds a training camp every year for us. It’s practically three months of death. They try to kill us and we fight to stay alive.” The duo find themselves among other creations and are placed into groups. Naturally, Kylie and Luke are made leaders of different groups. As the story develops, Luke and Kylie are told in secret what it is they’re going to be fighting.

It’s really hard to review this book without giving away all the twists and turns that make it interesting. Overall, I came out of this reading experience feeling very mixed.

I like reading books about siblings that have a strong bond and there’s an emphasis on that: “You were each born in twos. You each will die in twos. This is not every man for himself. You live for your twin and them for you.” It made a nice change from some sibling relationships I’ve read before. It was refreshing seeing them work together as a team. However, this relationship they had became quite unhealthy and kind of creepy the further you delved into their characters.

The training sequences felt very similar to the way Dauntless train in Divergent so nothing felt particularly exciting or new. I could deal with this though, because there isn’t any really way you can make hands-on fighting original.

What really lost all hope in this book for me was the love triangle. You read that right. Love.Triangle. I hate them with a passion. They just made the arc of the story really tedious and I’m surprised I actually finished reading this book after this development occurred. I understand that the prospect of having affections for another being was new to Kylie but I eye-rolled so many times. I don’t mind if they add something to the story but it felt like this plot device was used to fill up the pages to when the real action happened.

When I finished the book I found a chapter entitled “the beginning” which basically explains how everything came to be. This would have been more useful to have at the start of the book to provide some context into what actually makes the creations different to normals before going into the story.

I just feel a bit let down by this one.

Let me know your thoughts!
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