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.

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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

Race to Death By Leigh Russel

Title: Race to Death

Author: Leigh Russell

Publisher: No Exit Press

First Published: September 2014

Blurb:

When a man plummets to his death from a balcony at York races, his wife and brother become suspects in a murder enquiry. Meanwhile Richard is being stalked by a killer issuing death threats. Richard is reluctant to go to the police, for fear his own dark secret will be exposed. Newly promoted Detective Inspector Ian Peterson is investigating the death at the races when a woman’s body is discovered. Shortly after that, Richard is killed. With three murders and no suspect, the investigation seems to be going backwards. Ian is determined to discover who is responsible. (From Goodreads, July 2014).
 

Review:

I received ‘Race to Death’ from Real Readers and asked to provide an honest review. This is the third Leigh Russel novel I have read, and the first DI Ian Peterson novel. I have to admit it was nice to get away from Geraldine Steel, Leigh Russel’s original series, however, the writing style is too similar across all the novels and I am beginning to lose interest in this authors novels.

I enjoy psychological thrillers, and now and again a good murder mystery. However, I like a novel where you are continually guessing who is involved in the deaths, yet this novel I felt you did not get this aspect. There was not enough clues given throughout this book and I felt that I was given information that could not and did not lead me to any answers.

Leigh Russel has fantastic ideas but the writing style is not my ‘cup of tea’. There is just something ‘missing’ and this being the third novel I have read by this author I have to say those who enjoy interesting ideas over more in depth characters and story lines, this may be an author you enjoy. If character development is important then not so much.

This is a personal view, and I am not an avid murder mystery fan. Therefore, I do not have a wide range of authors to compare with in this genre.

For me this is a 2.5 out of 5.

Human Remains By Elizabeth Haynes

Title: Human Remains

Author: Elizabeth Haynes

First Published: 1st January 2013

Publisher: Text Publishing

Blurb:

When Annabel, a police analyst, discovers her neighbour’s decomposing body in the house next door, she’s appalled to think that no one, including herself, noticed that anything was wrong.

Back at work, she feels compelled to investigate, despite her colleagues’ lack of interest, and finds data showing that such cases are common – too common – in her home town. As she’s drawn deeper into the mystery and becomes convinced she’s on the trail of a killer, she also must face her own demons and her own mortality. Would anyone notice if she just disappeared? (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014).

Review:

‘Human Remains’ was a book I really wanted to enjoy, but unfortunately Elizabeth Haynes just didn’t manage to capture the suspense, the creepiness and the terror I felt she managed to capture in ‘Into the Darkest Corner’.

Any readers who fell in love with ‘Into the Darkest Corner’, and I know there are many of us, I cannot suggest you read ‘Human Remains’. ‘Human Remains’ is a very unique idea which is why I kept reading, and why I cannot be too harsh. I must credit Elizabeth Haynes for her ideas as they are fantastic, however, the spark of her first book has faded for me. These sparks emerged near the end of the novel but I really had to push myself to get there, but the ending was worth it. The drama I know Elizabeth Haynes is able to produce reemerged. But it was too little too late for me.

I feel like I am being harsh, but I am being truthful. We find a decomposing body near the beginning of the novel, but more and more begin to be found. But why is this happening? Why does no one notice their neighbors disappearance. Have we reached that point in society where we will not be missed. The theme and the questions posed by this novel are intriguing and are fascinating to think about, and I can imagine that they would be good talking points for book clubs.

So in summary, this is an interesting novel, with fantastic ideas just not pulled off in the most gripping of fashions.

2.5 out of 5

The Reflections of Queen Snow White By David C. Meredith

Title: The Reflections of Queen Snow White

Author: David Meredith

Publisher: Self Published

Publication Date: 2nd October 2013

Blurb:

What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:

The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White. (From Goodreads, 7th February 2014)

Review:

Okay so I am not going to give an overview as the blub is long enough! So straight into my review!

I was surprised to be contacted by the author asking me to read this book for review, and therefore happily accepted! I had not expected this novel to be as beautifully written and aimed more towards older young adults and adults. For me this was refreshing, having read multiple young adult fairy tales lately it was nice to read one which was written with description rather than simply action. With lyrical prose. Simple wonderful to lay your eyes on. I cannot express what a talented wordsmith David Meredith is. A man I will watch with interest, as it was such a breath of fresh air reading ‘The Reflections of Queen Snow White’.

An interesting novel set long after the typical Snow White novels. However, we learn about Snow White’s younger life along with her older life. Queen Snow White is lost, but by reflecting on her past she begins to view herself with a new perspective. This is a novel of a journey and is a nice book to read in between two larger books because it is short and relaxing.

A book I recommend to everyone, especially if you are looking for a less action packed, more traditional style of fairy tale.

4 out of 5

Kiss Me First By Lottie Moggach

Title: Kiss Me First

Author: Lottie Moggach

Publisher: Picador

First Published: 2013

Blurb:

A chilling and intense first novel, this is the story of a solitary young woman drawn into an online world run by a charismatic web guru who entices her into impersonating a glamorous but desperate woman.

When Leila discovers the website Red Pill, she feels she has finally found people who understand her. A sheltered young woman raised by her mother, Leila has often struggled to connect with the girls at school; but on Red Pill, a chat forum for ethical debate, Leila comes into her own, impressing the website’s founder, a brilliant and elusive man named Adrian. Leila is thrilled when Adrian asks to meet her, and is flattered when he invites her to be part of “Project Tess.”

Tess is a woman Leila might never have met in real life. She is beautiful, urbane, witty, and damaged. As they email, chat, and Skype, Leila becomes enveloped in the world of Tess, learning every single thing she can about this other woman–because soon, Leila will have to become her. (From Goodreads, 17th January 2014)

Review:

Reading the blurb of ‘Kiss Me First’ I knew I had to read this book! This is a brave first novel, but it is very well done. We are reading about suicide, but rather than stopping someone from killing themselves we are giving them the chance to go without the guilt of leaving their family aware of their death.

Leila begins posting on the forums of Red Pill, a website discussing philosophy and debating ethical issues. Leila feels that she has finally found like minded people, and begins to build a good reputation on the site. Soon she is contacted by the sites founder, Adrian, asking Leila to meet. And so begins ‘Project Tess’. Leila is learning all about Tess. Leila is going to pretend to be Tess after Tess commits suicide.

This hard hitting, very controversial topic just drew me in. At first I was surprised when I realised that this book was written retrospectively in Leila’s voice. But this works well. You begin to build up to understanding why she did what she did, and why she has reached where she currently is. This is a novel that you know has taken a lot of planning, and is skillfully put together.

This was an excellent thought provoking book that I would recommend to those who like psychological thrillers, and for those who want to have a good debate with other readers. Yes, I would say this is a book group novel. Or could lead to good debates in the classroom/lecture.

I can imagine some people will find this novel difficult due to the focus on suicide, but this is such a risky book that would always be the case. If you want a book that will make you think, pick this up.

However, this is all positive, yet I can only give ‘Kiss Me First’ a 4 out of 5. Why is this? Well I expected slightly more for some reason, I felt at points the novel stood still, and didn’t have as much speed as I expect. But despite this I still loved this novel, would read it again, and recommend to people.

4 out of 5.

Hold Still By Nina LaCour

Title: Hold Still

Author: Nina LaCour

First Published: 25th September 2009

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Blurb:

Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful . . . in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and new-found friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid—and Caitlin herself. (From Goodreads, 21st November 2013)

Review:

‘Hold Still’ is a hard hitting novel dealing with the topic of suicide. Caitlin is dealing with the aftermath of her best friend, Ingrid’s, suicide. Caitlin has withdrawn from life and is dreading the return to school after the summer holidays. Her parents do not know how to help there grieving daughter and Caitlin does not know how to deal with her loss.

Upon finding Ingrid’s journal Caitlin begins to learn what went through her friends mind during those last months before she ended her life.

‘Hold Still’ was Nina LaCour’s debut novel and a brave novel at that. I was taken in by the rawness of this novel and the fact that this novel dealt with teen suicide – a topic that you do not find often. Nina captures the loneliness, the confusion, the loss and the grief Caitlin is battling whilst also expressing the depression that plagued Ingrid to eventually take her life. Understanding the differences between these two states is hard but Nina captures these different states very well.

This is a novel that although the main topic is morbid, and depressing, we have a novel of hope. Caitlin begins to deal with her loss by gaining friendship in unlikely places. By finding a task that helps remind her that there is a point, that she can keep going. That she is not the only person who has lost someone close to her.

This is a novel on a tricky subject and it is hard to know who would appreciate this subject. As a psychology student who’s main interest is in mental health, novels like this are very interesting to me. I find it enlightening that such novels are written for young adults and that it can open up the lines of communication so discussion about suicide can come about, and no longer brushed under the carpet. However, the subject matter is hard and I would advise caution to readers who are fragile, have recently had a loss, or are dealing with issues such as suicide and depression. But, on the other hand, this novel may help some gain insight and strength to help in dealing with the issues they are experiencing.

A brave novel which I highly recommend and I commend Nina LaCour in creating such a thought provoking read for young adults.

4 out of 5

Witch Light By Susan Fletcher

Title: Witch Light

Author: Susan Fletcher

Publisher: Fourth Estate

First Published: 1st January 2010

Blurb:

The Massacre of Glencoe happened at 5am on 13th February 1692 when thirty-eight members of the Macdonald clan were killed by soldiers who had enjoyed the clan’s hospitality for the previous ten days. Many more died from exposure in the mountains. Fifty miles to the south Corrag is condemned for her involvement in the Massacre. She is imprisoned, accused of witchcraft and murder, and awaits her death. The era of witch-hunts is coming to an end – but Charles Leslie, an Irish propagandist and Jacobite, hears of the Massacre and, keen to publicise it, comes to the tollbooth to question her on the events of that night, and the weeks preceding it. Leslie seeks any information that will condemn the Protestant King William, rumoured to be involved in the massacre, and reinstate the Catholic James. Corrag agrees to talk to him so that the truth may be known about her involvement, and so that she may be less alone, in her final days. As she tells her story, Leslie questions his own beliefs and purpose – and a friendship develops between them that alters both their lives. In Corrag, Susan Fletcher tells us the story of an epic historic event, of the difference a single heart can make – and how deep and lasting relationships that can come from the most unlikely places. (From Goodreads, 16th August 2013)

Review:

As you can gather from the above blurb this is a historical novel based in Scotland. ‘Witch Light’ is a fictional novel based on possible factual occurrences.

Corrag is a free-spirit, but in the 17th century a free-spirit means ‘witch’. Sentenced to death for witchcraft, Corrag is held in the tollbooth until the snow thaws to allow for her burning. During this time Charles Leslie began to question Corrag to find out exactly what went on at Glencoe in an effort to remove King William from the throne, whom apparently ordered the Massacre.

The novel is written from Corrags point of view, but to tell Charles Leslie about the Massacre she first talks about her life. Susan Fletcher writes Corrag’s story with a lyrical prose, which initially can be difficult to follow but soon becomes beautifully descriptive and entrancing. We also hear from Charles Leslie through the letters he writes to his wife, his take on what Corrag has told him, and his desperation to learn about the Glencoe Massacre to aid his cause.

Although I knew little of the Glencoe Massacre I feel I have learnt a substantial amount about this period of time through this novel, and from reading some of the notes at the end of the novel, it appears that Susan Fletcher highly researched the Massacre before writing this book.

‘Witch Light’ is not a novel with lots of action, but is a journey through a woman’s life and why she is now sentenced to death. This is a novel for those who like language, beauty and the wish to understand those whom differ from the norm.

4 out of 5.


Thin Space By Jody Casella

Title: Thin Space

Author: Jody Casella

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: 10th September 2013

Blurb:

Ever since the car accident that killed his twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by secrets of that fateful night. He has only one chance to make amends, to right his wrongs and set things right. He must find a Thin Space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side.

But, when a new girl moves into the house next door, the same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.

As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—Marsh must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead. (From Goodreads, 7th July 2013)

Review:

I was really looking forward to this book, but it was disappointed. I worked out what was going on very close to the beginning, basically I kept reading to make sure I was correct. The writing was a bit repetitive and just wasn’t my type of book.

We meet Marsh, dealing with his twin brothers death by frantically looking for ‘thin space’ in which he can slip into to talk to him. He is tortured by the loss of his brother and we see into his mind as he narrates the novel.

Maddie moves into the house next door, she has her own issues to deal with but befriends Marsh despite the perception of their fellow school students that he is ‘crazy’. The relationship builds but do they find their answers? Can they make peace with their pasts? That is what this novel is about, two teens struggling with loss, finding friendship and trust when they both needed it.

I just couldn’t connect to this book, I found it quite bland. I am afraid to say. I don’t like giving negative reviews but I felt like I have read too many books like this before. Maybe not the ‘thin space’ aspect, but just the general formula.

Maybe a good book for 13 to 15 year old’s in understanding death and some other issues, but it wasn’t deep or gritty enough in my opinion, and didn’t deal with such issues in the way that felt that relevant in helping teens fully understand such situations….

I don’t know. I feel conflicted writing this, but I am being honest. It was a short book, and honestly if it had been a bit longer I probably would not have managed to complete it…

2 out of 5

The Fault in Our Stars By John Green

Title: The Fault in Our Stars

Author: John Green

Publisher: Penguin

First Published: 2012

Blurb:

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind. (From Goodreads.com, 20th May 2013)

Review:

This is a book that I have heard so many good things about and eventually bought it and read it as soon as my exams were over. This was also my first John Green book to read and wanted to know what the fuss was about. I was scared that the hype, the numerous awards and all the gushing over his books would put my expectations up too high. Luckily I was not disappointed. In fact I was very impressed!

John Green has taken the topic of childhood/teenage cancer and made it a book that is witty, surprising, funny and heart-wrenching.

Hazel is a intelligent young adult with wisdom far beyond her years, partially because she is terminally ill, partially because she is a young collage student. She still shows her immaturity throughout this book which makes this more real, makes the character more true.

Coerced into attending a support group by her mother Hazel meets Augustus Waters, a cheeky guy whom takes life as it comes. Soon the two enter an adventure of life, an adventure of death, an adventure to understanding endings.

There is not much I can say about this novel without giving anything away. But of any fictional books I have read about cancer, this is the best. This takes an issues and brings the real problem of the wanting of ‘normalcy’ to the forefront. When you meet someone who helps you get that, who sees you and not your illness you are yourself again. This is expressed wonderfully through the ‘witty banter’ of Augustus and Hazel.

A book you must add to your collection if you have not done so already. Listen to the masses of positive reviews. Take the time to read about Hazel and Augustus and join them on their journey.

5 out of 5!