Scythe By Neal Shusterman

Title: Scythe

Author: Neal Shusterman

Publisher: Walker Books

First Published: 22nd November 2016

Blurb:

A dark, gripping and witty thriller in which the only thing humanity has control over is death.

In a world where disease, war and crime have been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional scythes. Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythes’ apprentices, and despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation, they must learn the art of killing and understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice and as Citra and Rowan come up against a terrifyingly corrupt Scythedom, it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019)

Review:

Scythe is a novel that is an uncomfortable look at a possibly utopian future, where life is now infinite and the resolution for stopping overpopulation is Scythes. Scythes are professional killers. More disturbingly Scythes are only ruled by themselves. Years of being ruled by themselves has lead to corruption and a lack of humanity in some Scythes. So in some ways this novel is dystopian.

We follow two teenagers who have been selected as Scythe apprentices. So we follow the the pair as they learn about killing and why it must be done. But soon they learn that only one will be chosen and they are pitted against one another, to the death.

This is a fast paced novel and in some ways time passes too quickly for relationships to feel as fully formed as they could be. This is a thrilling novel with mystery and high stakes. We read from the journals of various Scythes and learn the different schools of thoughts regarding Scythdom. Those that get a thrill from the kill vs those who understand the full gravity of what they are doing.

This is a chilling novel that takes turns that you don’t expect. The themes of corruption, morality and power play throughout this novel.

Scythe is the first in a series and sets the scene for change. Change that could go either way. It makes you question if utopia is ever possible and the importance of mortality.

A thrilling young adult novel with a unique premise and a great start to what I imagine is going to be a very impactful and lasting series. This series will be great for discussing and debating the topics and themes that it tackles. A great book for young adults to enjoy and discuss.

4 out of 5 stars.

Advertisements

My Name is Venus Black By Heather Lloyd

Title: My Name is Venus Black

Author: Heather Lloyd

Publisher: The Dial Press

First Published: 27th February 2018

Blurb:

Venus Black is a straitlaced A student fascinated by the study of astronomy—until the night she commits a shocking crime that tears her family apart and ignites a media firestorm. Venus refuses to talk about what happened or why, except to blame her mother. Adding to the mystery, Venus’s developmentally challenged younger brother, Leo, goes missing.

More than five years later, Venus is released from prison with a suitcase of used clothes, a fake identity, and a determination to escape her painful past. Estranged from her mother, and with her beloved brother still missing, she sets out to make a fresh start in Seattle, skittish and alone. But as new people enter her orbit—including a romantic interest and a young girl who seems like a mirror image of her former lost self—old wounds resurface, and Venus realizes that she can’t find a future while she’s running from her past. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019).

Review:

“My Name is Venus Black” is a novel of mystery. What happened to to cause Venus to murder? What happened to Venus’s brother? Why is her relationship with her mother so fraught?

It is also a story of readjustment, leaning how to cope in a world that you have been so removed from. Learning to look after yourself and finding a place in a world where everyone knows what you have done. But this is a story of so many different stories. So many different relationships. It tackles so many topics that are important and show the blurry lines of right and wrong.

Structurally we mainly follow Venus, and the second narrative of Venus’s brother Leo’s story. We also see things from Venus’s mothers point of view as well, and the view of the individuals who look after Leo. There is a lot of mystery and I do not want to divulge too much. This is a novel that I went into blind and I think that is possibly the best way to read this book.

“My Name is Venus Black” is fantastically constructed, with multiple stories that keep you wanting to read more. You desperately want everything to work out, but with such a complicated past is that ever possible?

If you are looking for a novel with light mystery, complex relationships, and complex moral conundrums I would recommend “My Name is Venus Black”. Go into it not knowing much and you will be glad that you did.

I really love this novel, it is fantastically constructed and extremely well written.

5 out of 5

On a Scale of One to Ten By Ceylan Scott

Title: On a Scale of One to Ten

Author: Ceylan Scott

Publisher: Chicken House Ltd

First Published: 3rd May 2018

Blurb:

Tamar is admitted to Lime Grove, a psychiatric hospital for teenagers. 

Lime Grove is home to a number of teenagers with a variety of problems: anorexia, bipolar disorder, behaviour issues. Tamar will come to know them all very well. But there’s one question she can’t… won’t answer: What happened to her friend Iris? As Tamar’s emotional angst becomes more and more clear to her, she’ll have to figure out a path to forgiveness. A shocking, moving, and darkly funny depiction of life in a psychiatric world. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019).

Review:

This was a novel that I enjoyed but it was very typical of the many mental health books that I have read in the past. Tamara is admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to a suicide attempt and her self harm. Tamara is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a very underwritten about disorder, and really the reason I was drawn to this book.

This novel focuses on the relationships Tamara creates whilst at Lime Grove. But the relationships aren’t that well developed. But when you are admitted to a psychiatric ward you are placed with individuals and don’t have long to get used to their company. You are in a world where people’s most personal thoughts are shared, so relationships do become quite deep quite quickly, or what appears to be deep. So the setting itself may be part of the issue with the lack of development of relationships and is actually quite accurate of psychiatric hospital relationships for some.

I would say that some of this novel is very on point, whilst other parts aren’t that believable. There was a lack of focus on treatment and looking at ways to change thinking and working on a better set of coping strategies, which I feel is an important aspect to novels like these. However, it is based in a hospital ward and many people do not realise that the main point of an acute psychiatric ward is to get someone stable enough so they can work on their issues outside of hospital. The hospital is to keep an individual or others safe and reach a stage that they can engage in therapy once discharged. So I feel that this was an accurate description but I feel that recovery work should be looked at in novels like these. The ending felt rushed but did focus on the concept of hope, which is possibly the most valuable part of recovery when it comes to mental health issues.

This is an own-voices novel, and therefore the author has personal experience of mental health issues and this may be accurate to how she herself felt. I felt the thoughts and feelings of Tamara really did show a real insight into the mind of an individual diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. The Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) setting was a reliable account, although I feel that some of the staff were not at all realistic, whilst others seemed pretty on point. I understand that you are going to get good and bad members of staff but I feel you are more likely to get good, some bad and some okay, and this balance was not made for me personally. But everyone has a different experience and different hospital experiences depending on the ward that an individual is admitted to so this is likely a really good representation of some wards. I think because it contrasted with my experience a bit that is why I found it difficult to relate to completely. Some parts rung true whilst others didn’t, and my own bias has probably resulted in my opinion on this.

There is also a bit of a mystery going on. What happened to Iris? And this is an intriguing plot point for the novel. And one of the reasons I liked this novel. It provides a story to follow rather than the novel being solely focused on mental health symptoms.

Overall I feel this is a book that was mixed for me, but is an account worth reading, and does depict the mind of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder well. It is in some ways very accurate, but as I have said I feel books about mental health difficulties have a responsibility to address recovery and look at things that can help. But the importance of hope, at least, was focused on.

3.5 out of 5

Sadie By Courtney Summers

Title: Sadie

Author: Courtney Summers

Publisher: Wednesday Books

First Published: 4th September 2018

Audiobook Narrator: Full Cast

Blurb:

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page. (From Goodreads, 11th March 2019)

Review:

First things first – GET the audiobook of this novel! It is fantastic! One of the best audiobooks I have listened to – this is due to the full cast and the novel being told through podcasts, the audiobook just brings this novel to life!

Sadie is a story told in multiple perspectives. We have Sadie herself who has left her home to find the man who killed her sister. We see her work through clues to find the man responsible for her sisters death. In doing so Sadie comes across multiple situations blocking her from achieving her goal.

The next perspective comes from West McCray, who develops a podcast about disappearances and unsolved crimes. West undertakes interviews with MayBeth, Sadie’s for all intents and purposes, foster grandmother. We hear about Sadie as a child and her relationships with her mother and sister. West tried to get clues to where Sadie might have gone, and soon begins to follow the trail Sadie has left behind. It is interesting because we hear the story through interviews and also see what Sadie leaves behind from her encounters.

This is a novel that draws you into the mystery, it is not a complex mystery but it would be a good novel for those wanting to try a young adult crime novel for the first time. It takes a look at human relationships and the need to find justice in the world. This is a novel that deals with some hard topics and therefore I will highlight the triggers of abuse, drug abuse and violence here. It is not graphic but it could be a trigger for some. Sadie also has a stutter, but the author does a fantastic job of making this just one attribute of Sadie and not a focus. Sadie is definitely a multi-dimensional character and has dealt with a lot in her young life. Sadie may not always do the right things but you are rooting for her throughout this novel.

I think what I most enjoyed about this novel is the unique way it was told, and this was, as I have already said, brought to life by the audiobook. Sadie is a flawed character, she does things that are not always right but they are done for the right reasons. Trouble seems to always come her way but she keeps going despite this.

Sadie is a novel that will keep you wanting more and is a fast read, but if you take anything from this review it is that you should give the audiobook a try. It is worth it, I promise.

4 out of 5 stars.

The Bear and the Nightingale By Katherine Arden

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden

Publisher: Del Rey Books

First Published: 12th January 2017

Audiobook Narrator: Katherine Arden

Blurb:

“‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’ 

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…” (From Goodreads, 15th February 2019)

Review:

This is the first novel in the Winternight Trilogy By Katherine Arden. I listened to this novel as an audiobook and enjoyed the narrators take of this book. However, not having read many books set in Russia I struggled with following the characters due to the unfamiliar names. I think that possibly reading this book physically would have made this initial issue less problematic.

The Bear and the Nightingale is an enchanting tale about a strong-willed young girl name Vasilisa who soaks up stories her old nurse-maid tells her and her siblings next to the firelight during the long winter in Russia. These fairytales tell of demons who live in the forest are both enchanting and chilling. However, when Vasilisa’s father brings home a new wife who is a devout follower of the church the talk of demons and house spirits is no longer allowed. This is a bone of contention between Vasilisa and her step-mother. The family are no longer allowed to pay tribute to the house spirits, and this scares Vasilisa as she alone can see the house spirits. Soon crops begin to fail, the fire needs more fuel and, more worryingly, evil in the forest begins to creep towards the house. Soon the stories Vasilisa was once told no longer seem to be stories and she must use her gifts to try and keep her family safe regardless of the consequences.

This is a beautiful story of one girl’s struggle with being different and dealing with forces that others cannot see. This is a novel of folklore and is magical and dark. Books set in Russia are very new to me and so I do not know if the tales in this story are based on Russian folklore, but it feels like it is. I am excited to read the next novel in the trilogy as I feel it will up the ante even more and will bring more magical tales that are deliciously dark and enthralling.

The writing style was beautiful with the right balance of description and action once we got to the main part of the novel. The novel certainly picks up the pace throughout, leading to a dramatic conclusion.

My only drawback is that it took me a while to get into this book, as there were so many characters introduced and I struggled to keep track of their names and character relationships. I felt that maybe there was a bit too much of an information dump at the beginning but this may be important to the following novels, but as it stands after reading the first novel I felt this information was too much too soon.

4 out of 5

The Archived By Victoria Schwab

Title: The Archived

Author: Victoria Schwab

Publisher: Hyperion

First Published: January 22nd 2013

Blurb:

“The dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead, called ‘Histories’, rest in the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper is dangerous and a constant reminder of those she lost, Da and her little brother. Mac wonders about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. Yet someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.” (From Goodreads, 20th January 2015)

Review:

One of the things any book lover enjoys is a book about books, libraries, and drama. The archive however, is a different type of library, the books contain the histories of the dead individuals. However, violent histories break free and Mackenzie must stop them. Moving house, she has found her new home has many more histories waking up, needing to be returned to the Archive. Soon she is pulled in to a deeper mystery within the Archive as not all is as it seems.

This novel is fast paced and a very quick read. It is a book to grab the attention of reluctant readers, young adults, teens and adults alike will enjoy this novel. This book is the first in a series and I am yet to read any further, however, I definitely will be.

5 out of 5

The Madness Underneath By Maureen Johnson

Title: The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2)

Author: Maureen Johnson

First Published: 26th February 2013

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Blurb:

When madness stalks the streets of London, no one is safe…

There’s a creepy new terror haunting modern-day London.
Fresh from defeating a Jack the Ripper killer, Rory must put her new-found hunting skills to the test before all hell breaks loose…

But enemies are not always who you expect them to be and crazy times call for crazy solutions. (From Goodreads, 25th May 2014)

Review:

After enjoying ‘The Name of the Star’ as much as I did I was excited to jump into ‘The Madness Underneath’. I was excited as I thought this second novel was going to be even more enjoyable because it concerned mental health patients…unfortunately such characters did not appear often or really play any central role. The excitement of the chase that was so strong in ‘The Name of the Star’ was lost and we are left reading a teen romance. I was disappointed. I was expecting ‘The Madness Underneath’ to be even more action packed than ‘The Name of the Star’ since it was the second in the series and we know the characters, their gifts, and I expected a fast paced sequel.

However, once I neared the end of the novel we returned to the gripping, thrilling writing by Maureen Johnson that we see in ‘The Name of the Star’. Soon I was at the end, mouth wide, eyes wide and breathless. Frantically I put my computer on and searched for the release date of the third novel in this series…then comes tears. So long to wait. Another book whose release date keeps getting pushed back. My advice – wait until the third book is released and marathon all three novels.

Okay, so by itself ‘The Madness Underneath’ gets 2 out of 5. However, as a series I place this as a 4 out of 5…but that may change once ‘The Shadow Cabinet’ is released and I can see if it rectifies the failings in this second Shades of London book.

The Name of the Star By Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star

Author: Maureen Johnson

First Published: 29th September 2011

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Blurb:

The day that Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school is also the day a series of brutal murders breaks out over the city, killings mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper spree of more than a century ago. Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him–the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target. In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities. (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014).

Review:

I absolutely loved this book! First it is set in London. Second it combines history with supernatural elements! And for me this just was wonderful!

Rory is in a new country, at a new school, away from her family and there is murders happening on her schools door step. Soon Rory becomes entangled in the murders after seeing the murderer, and becoming the next target. Life becomes more than high school for Rory as she is thrust into a world she never knew about. Ghost, murders, secret police, and some romance in there as well.

The premise of this novel was fantastic and I was gripped as soon as I started. The novel was fast paced and kept you wanting more. A ‘one more chapter…’ type off book.

‘The Name of the Star’ is a novel I would recommend to individuals who enjoy murder mysteries, combined with some teen angst and supernatural elements. A novel for those who enjoy something a bit different. Although I really enjoyed this novel, I can’t imagine many adults taking to it, however, young adults and teens should love this series. One that I will be recommending to my younger sister.

4.5 out of 5

Pushing the Limits By Katie McGarry

Title: Pushing the Limits

Author: Katie McGarry

First Published: 1st July 2012

Publisher: Mira Ink

Blurb:

“I won’t tell anyone, Echo. I promise.” Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. “You didn’t do that-did you? It was done to you?” No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other…and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again. (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014).

Review:

Firstly, before I begin this review I have a confession to make…it has been quite a few months since I read this book and although I remember most of what happens I am a little hazy on the details. For that I appologise.

However, I am still going to review this book as I really did enjoy it and know I will be getting the companion novels at some point in the future (maybe when my TBR pile is slightly smaller!) ‘Pushing The Limits’ presents us with two protagonists who are dealing with a lot for their ages, however, sometimes finding another who is going through a rough time is what you need to get through it. Echo is dealing with forgotten memories. Noah is dealing with the death of his parents. Both are dealing with high school…and a persistent school councilor.

This is a novel that deals with difficult issues whilst also being very readable and not too ‘dark’ making it fantastic for teens and young adults…and adults too. We have a little bit of everything in this novel that makes it very real and raw. Katie McGarry captures human emotions impeccably and gives readers an adventure through the eyes of two teenagers lives. A realistic and gripping novel. Highly recommended.

4.5 out of 5

Willow By Julia Hoban

Title: Willow

Author: Julia Hoban

First Published: 2009

Publisher: Speak

Blurb:

Seven months ago on a rainy March night, Willow’s parents drank too much wine at dinner and asked her to drive them home. But they never made it–Willow lost control of the car, and both of her parents were killed.

Now seventeen, Willow is living with her older brother, who can barely speak to her. She has left behind her old home, friends, and school. But Willow has found a way to survive, to numb the new reality of her life: She is secretly cutting herself.

And then she meets Guy, a boy as sensitive and complicated as she is. When Guy discovers Willow’s secret, he pulls her out of the solitary world she’s created for herself, and into a difficult, intense, and potentially life-changing relationship. (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014).

Review:

‘Willow’ was one of those novels that helped get me out of a reading slump, however, ‘Willow’ is not the greatest book I have read focusing on self-injury. On the other hand, for a novel aimed at teenagers this deals well with a topic many individuals do not understand whilst also dealing with love, death, loss, stress, friendships and much more ‘life stuff’.

Willow is a girl who blames herself for the death of her parents, whilst also feeling like a burden to her older brother and his wife and baby cousin. Both Willow and her brother have not yet come to terms with the sudden death of their parents or the sudden changes in their living arrangements. Willow cuts herself to help escape the true pain she is feeling inside, it is the only way she manages to cope with life. However, soon her life begins to spiral out of her control when Guy, a boy from school who quickly enters her life, finds out that Willow cuts herself. We soon follow this relationship, through ups-and-downs and watch how life begins to change for both individuals who each carry the knowledge of Willows cutting.

As I said above, I have read other novels regarding the topic of self-injury that I preferred, but this may be due to two things. Firstly, I read a lot of books on this topic when I was in my teenage years, and therefore know the formula. Second, I have also read many books about self-injury aimed at adult audiences, and also researched a lot about self-injury, which includes case examples and memoirs. Therefore, having such a knowledge, and having exhausted (at the time) many of the books focusing on self-injury aimed at teenagers during my teenage years I may be slightly harsh compared to other readers. For that I appologise.

I did enjoy ‘Willow’ as it was fast paced and Julia Hoban successfully incorporated Willows life into the novel with self-injury not being the main focus, which is nice. It reminds you that individuals who self-injure have a life with stresses and why these stresses result in self-injury. We have a teenager who is going through many ‘normal’ teenage stresses, such as a new school, exams, making friends, whilst also dealing with more extreme difficulties, such as her parents death.

‘Willow’ is a novel that tactfully addresses many hard hitting issues and some more run of the mill teenage issues without belittling them or over exaggerating them. It is because of this that makes ‘Willow’ a believable and human novel. It also means I feel able to recommend ‘Willow’ to individuals who self-injure, friends  and family of individuals who self-injure, and also those who are interested in mental health related fiction. This is a novel that as a teenager I would have loved to have found in the school or local library, just simply because it reminds you that you are not alone. Novels that deal with difficult issues specifically aimed at teenagers are so important and valuable, no matter what the topic, just to give someone even a small amount of strength to find the help and advice so many of us need.

However, for me this novel is only a 3.5 out of 5 stars, but I would imagine if I read this novel when I was in my teenage years (and mot my mid twenties) I would have given it 4 to 4.5 stars.