Monthly catch-up!

We are almost at the end of 2018. Before I started this blog, I would write down short reviews on each book I read (I would do this by hand in a notebook), this became a difficult task to keep up with and so I thought that writing reviews in a blog format would keep me more on track. Though I have read a lot of books this year and I haven’t reviewed them. I have decided that maybe at the end of each month I could write short reviews on all the books that I have read so that I can keep track of my reading and have a record of books that I have read that year.

The following books were read in 2018; I either didn’t review them because I felt that I didn’t have much to offer that hadn’t already been said or I just was too lazy.

throne

I had read a lot about this book and it was recommended to me by the boys at my school. Yes, boys will read books with a strong female protagonist – you just need to make the sure the cover isn’t too girlie.

I enjoyed this book, but I am not itching to read the other books in the series. Most likely I will read the books – eventually. The fact that I am not clambering to read the other books in the series probably speaks volumes about my feelings for the book.

The book has a lot going on – a teenage assassin, a rebel princess, supernatural elements, a glass castle and a brutal and violent competition between criminals and murderers.

I did enjoy the character of Celaena; she is strong, talented, funny and intelligent and I will most likely read the other books to learn more about her. I am particularly curious about her backstory and I would like to read more about her life as an assassin. She intrigues me.

rescue

I bought this book in a secondhand bookshop. I have read a few of Anita Shreve’s novels and have enjoyed her work. Though, this book doesn’t quite hit the mark that Shreve’s other books have. Set in New England, the book doesn’t quite capture the small town uniqueness of New England living that Shreve’s books usually do. I didn’t find that I connected with any of the characters and for a novel like this to work you need to feel for the characters. Shreve writes well, but this book feels forced and cliché.

visitor

The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins is a disconcerting page-turner that will have readers trying to connect all the pieces from the beginning. Right from the first page, Atkins manages to create a sinister feel to this story. It is this ominous feeling that Atkins creates that will capture readers. The book centres around Olivia Sweetman and Vivian Tester. Olivia is a renowned historian whose career has taken off – adored by the academic world and the world of popular culture. Olivia has made history edgy and popular with her charismatic personality and her TV good looks. Vivian Tester is a middle-aged housekeeper who is intelligent though socially awkward. Usually, these two women would have never crossed paths, but Vivian has presented Olivia with a Victorian diary containing a scandalous confession written by one of the first women doctors. Olivia knows that this is the perfect story for her new book and is desperate to have the rights to the diary. The only catch is that Vivian also comes with the diary. Together they forge a tense working relationship and write a book that is guaranteed to be a bestseller. As the book is being researched and written the reader is given clues that all is not right with either of these women and that both have secrets. The text at times becomes too much and it feels like Atkins relies too much on foreshadowing that isn’t entirely necessary because there are enough twists and turns to keep the reader involved and the ending is spine-chilling enough to have you questioning the story for the days after you read the final page.

thunder

Shusterman’s sequel to the provocative Scythe. Thunderhead is an excellent book and I held off from writing a review because I didn’t quite know how to do this book justice or to write anything new or original in a review. Shusterman’s first novel was a challenging premise concerning human mortality. What happens when we are no longer mortal?

The Thunderhead is a supercomputer made of the sum-total of humanity’s knowledge. It is a kindly and compassionate ruler, but it is still bound by rules. In the first novel, we grow to understand the world of scythes and the Thunderhead sits in the background like an overlord. In this novel, the Thunderhead becomes a character in its own right.

Shusterman takes this book up a notch by introducing us to the Thunderhead – the artificial intelligence that manages virtually all aspects of life on Earth.

All I can do is watch unblinkingly as my beloved humankind slowly weaves the rope it will use to hang itself.

The Thunderhead is troubled. The Thunderhead wants to intervene because it can see that this utopia is under threat, but the Thunderhead isn’t allowed to interfere. So what does the Thunderhead do when it can see that its beloved humankind and paradise is under threat? This is a world that defies death, ageing, sickness, poverty and wars but has put its faith in a group of humans who decide who lives and who dies.

The sequel digs deeper into Shusterman’s multifaceted world and complicated characters. No society is perfect, not even a world which appears complete. When humans are involved there will always be political manoeuvrings and conspiracies. There will still be a thirst for power.

Shusterman delivers a book that action-packed but also thought-provoking. An intelligent, entertaining and humorous read with death at its core.

Still, so many books to catch up on, but this will do for today’s post. I will make sure that I write another post before 2019 with all the books that I have read for 2018, so the 2019 blog can begin fresh for the new year!

Scythe – Neal Shusterman

Imagine a world with no hunger, no disease, no terrorism, no crime, no war, no mortality. The digital cloud has transformed into the Thunderhead, whose good and generous totalitarian rule has turned the planet into a utopia. There is no such thing as old age, once you reach a certain age you can ‘turn a corner’ and choose to go back to any age you wish; which means that there can be people who are 140 years old in a body of a 30-year-old. The world’s population lives in harmony, all knowledge has been acquired, and there is nothing left to learn. Depending on how you feel about it, it could either be wonderful or exhausting. I think it would be exhausting, but that’s my opinion. In a perfect world where there isn’t much to achieve, what do we live for? What are our goals in life? What’s our purpose? I would imagine that after a period of time life would become quite monotonous and weary. The book left me with many questions, and I always say that is the sign of a good book – one that makes you question. The book isn’t perfect, and at times I don’t think the author thought through all the elements of such a utopia, but that’s okay because it really is quite cleverly thought out in most ways.

Of course, if we live in a world where people no longer die from accidents, natural causes or diseases, how do we keep the population under control and this is where the title of the book comes into play. In this world, we have Scythes, society-sanctioned killers. The Scythes operate independently from the governing AI (Thunderhead) and rely on their own moral code to control the population. The appointed Scythes must carry out ‘gleanings’ – true deaths which one cannot be rejuvenated back from, death at the hands of a Scythe is permanent.

We are introduced to two sixteen-year-olds, Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova who have both impressed the Honourable Scythe Faraday with their empathy and humanity. He offers them both an apprenticeship, and they reluctantly accept. They leave their families and go and live with Faraday who teaches them all there is to know about the world of Scythedom. Being a Scythe is an honourable position in society and Scythes are meant to be noble characters. Though, even in a perfect world, there is always going to be those who are not moral or decent. We are after all dealing with people, and even though the world may be perfect, humans are not, and Scythes are not machines, they are people. One would hope that people are drawn to the profession of Scythe because they have a strong sense of justice and right and wrong, but of course, some people are drawn to the job because they like killing. In the days of mortality, we would call these people, ‘murderers’.

This is a book that is meant to be thought-provoking. It is a fascinating read, and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys being challenged. It will have you questioning life, death and the meaning of both. Shusterman manages to inject humour into the book which allows the book to not get too dark or depressing.

Scythe2