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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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

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 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

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.

A Novel Death By Judi Culbertson

Title: A Novel Death

Author: Judi Culbertson

First Published: 1st June 2011

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Blurb:

Like many other used booksellers, Delhi Laine, proprieter of Secondhand Prose, dreams of making the Great Find–if not a Shakespearean Folio, then at least a fragment of an Emily Dickinson or Edgar Allen Poe manuscript. But after receiving a very rare and valuable children’s book into her collection, she finds out such treasures can come at a terrible cost–the suspicious death of one colleague and another left for dead days later. (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014).

Review:

‘A Novel Death’ is one of those novels that has sat on my Kindle for ages due to being overlooked and put off due to more popular and raved about books. However, I am glad that I put this novel on my 2014 TBR and eventually started reading it! For all book lovers, I’m sure you will agree reading a book that is about books and set in a book shop is always good!

In ‘A Novel Death’ we have a collection of second hand book dealers who competitively attempt to uncover that ‘Great Find’ which will first provide them with riches and also respect from others in the business. However, such finds bring about a whole other side, a murderous side. And so we are pulled into a confusing, page turning thriller with a strange sight into what one would imagine to be a safe business. This is a thriller that goes away from the typical formula, and therefore is a breath of fresh air.

I would recommend this novel to those that are new to reading thrillers, for book lovers and for those who like a more gentle thriller that isn’t from the view point of a detective or police officer. ‘A Novel Death’ may not be the most suspenseful or complicated murder mystery out there however, it was still an excellent book and a very fast and enjoyable story line that kept me from putting the book down!

4 out of 5

The Medea Complex By Rachel Florence Roberts

Title: The Medea Complex

Author: Rachel Florence Roberts

First Published: 31st October 2013

Publisher: CreateSpace

Blurb:

1885. Anne Stanbury – Committed to a lunatic asylum, having been deemed insane and therefore unfit to stand trial for the crime of which she is indicted. But is all as it seems?

Edgar Stanbury – the grieving husband and father who is torn between helping his confined wife recover her sanity, and seeking revenge on the woman who ruined his life.

Dr George Savage – the well respected psychiatrist, and chief medical officer of Bethlem Royal Hospital. Ultimately, he holds Anne’s future wholly in his hands.

The Medea Complex tells the story of a misunderstood woman suffering from insanity in an era when mental illnesses’ were all too often misdiagnosed and mistreated. A deep and riveting psychological thriller set within an historical context, packed full of twists and turns, The Medea Complex explores the nature of the human psyche: what possesses us, drives us, and how love, passion, and hope for the future can drive us to insanity. (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014)

Review:

A novel based on true events within Bethlem Royal Hospital in the 17th century, sounds really interesting in my opinion and therefore I was really happy to see this book on the Amazon Prime Kindle Lending Library. And for that I am grateful, because I would have been disappointed if I had paid to read this  novel. Harsh? Maybe. Maybe not.

We are flung in right at the beginning with Anne waking up unaware of where she is and quickly we are taken into her world within the psychiatric ward, or solitary confinement in which she begins her stay at Bethlem Royal Hospital. Anne is confined because she killed her own son, however she cannot remember this or the fact that she had a son. The narrator switches to include Anne’s husband, father, her psychiatrist and others. I personally enjoy novels with changing narrators however I felt this novel would have benefited from only two or three maximum narrators, this is a personal opinion. Further, the novel started off intriguing to me then quickly just fell apart, with the story losing focus and flow.

There is very little I can say without giving away the story line, but there is so much more that could have been done with this novel in my opinion and it feel short of my expectations.

This is not a novel that I recommend unfortunately. I say unfortunately because I saw so much potential, especially near the beginning, the beginning was excellent, but as I said above it just lost focus and drive for me by the second half.

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

Fatal Act By Leigh Russell

Title: Fatal Act (A Geraldine Steel Mystery)

Author: Leigh Russell

Publication Date: 19th November 2013

Publisher: No Exit Press

Blurb:

A glamorous young TV soap star dies in a car crash. Returning for her sixth case, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is baffled as the driver of the second vehicle miraculously survives – and vanishes. Another young actress is murdered and, once again, the killer mysteriously disappears. Geraldine unwittingly risks her sergeant’s life in their struggle to track down a serial killer who leaves no clues. (From amazon.co.uk, 12th May 2014)

Review:

This is the second Leigh Russell book I have read, and the second Geraldine Steel Mystery I have read. Fatal Act is the 6th Geraldine Steel Mystery that has been released, with Stop Dead being the 5th Geraldine Steel Mystery, and to see my review of Stop Dead click here!

I enjoyed Fatal Act, however, it is not the most suspense driven mystery I have read. I have the same criticism as I did with Stop Dead is that it is slightly too methodical for me, Geraldine, the main protagonist does not feel truly human for me. However, this criticism is what makes Leigh Russell’s writing for me average rather than astounding. The plots and twists and turns are excellent and kept me pondering what will happen, who-did-it, and therefore, keep you reading.

Personally, for me these are nice reads in between more serious or heavy going novels. Also I can imagine them being good for holidays, for those of us who are not so fond of the romantic chick-lit holiday reads.

Fatal Act uses the complexities of the acting industry, the competitiveness, the complicit nature, and the truly murderess nature that jealousy can cause. An interesting theme, which keeps you guessing at all turns.

3.5 out of 5.

 

The Hangmans Daughter By Oliver Potzsch

Title: The Hangman’s Daughter

Author: Oliver Potzsch

Translated: Lee Chadeayne

Publisher: Amazon Crossing

First Published: 1st April 2008

Blurb:

Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play. So begins The Hangman’s Daughter–the chillingly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller from German television screenwriter, Oliver Pötzsch–a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan. (From Goodreads, 23rd December 2013)

Review:

It is not often that I read historical fiction, but when I do I really do enjoy it. This year, I have read two books set in the 1600’s and I think I will read more fiction books set in this time period. I feel that dipping into historical fiction, now and again, gives me a nice change in scenery, shall we say, compared to my typical reads.

‘The Hangman’s Daughter’ was another book that I came about by chance – whilst trying to remember the name of another book! I am glad I did. ‘The Hangman’s Daughter’ is a novel that is fast paced and perplexing. The death of a young boy is being blamed on witchcraft, however, the hangman, an intelligent man whom is interested in the way the body works, does not believe in witchcraft. Therefore, when the midwife of the village is incarcerated, the hangman begins to look into finding the true murderer, before it is too late.

This is a crime novel, just set in a different time period to most crime fiction that I have read. The story jumps right in, and keeps getting more and more intense right to the end. A simple death blamed on witchcraft quickly becomes complex and perplexing. The hangman joins forces with the doctors son, who is ironically in love with the hangman’s daughter, in an attempt to find out what is really going on in their town. Soon the two men become entangled in a mystery that may take their lives.

This is a gripping, edge of the seat read, and one I would recommend to those who enjoy crime novels but are needing something different, and a crime novel set in the 16oo’s is different to most crime novels out there that I know about!

4 out of 5