Kate’s Reviews: “Here and Gone”

32336395Book: “Here and Gone” by Haylen Beck

Publishing Info: Crown Publishing Group, June 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.

It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… 

Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Review: Though I never saw the movie “Flightplan”, the concept of it caught my interest. A woman and her daughter get on a plane, her daughter disappears, and then when she reports it the flight crew tell her that she never had a daughter with her. I would assume that part of the movie is spent making the viewer question whether Jodie Foster is insane or not (if I am wrong, tell me!). It’s a trope that has been used before, sometimes very effectively and other times…. not. But while I was thinking that “Here and Gone” was going to be this trope all over again, effectiveness to be determined, it’s established pretty early on that this is not one of those stories. And frankly, I was relieved. Instead of wondering whether Audra was going to end up being yet another unstable and messed up protagonist in a “Girl on the Train”-esque mystery, we get corruption in a small town and the dark web. And to that I say ‘hell YES’.

What I really liked about “Here and Gone” is that since right away we know that Audra’s children, Sean and Louise, do exist, we don’t have to worry about trying to solve a mystery on top of another mystery. In fact, I was really just along for the ride of trying to see how Audra was going to escape custody of a corrupt sheriff, and how she was going to save her children from being sold into sex trafficking (yes, it went there). I wasn’t worried about some crazy reveal about Audra’s mental state, and while there were still a couple questions that had to be definitively answered I pretty much was able to sit back, relax, and let it all play out. Because of this, I found myself incredibly engrossed in this book, picking it up one night and then finishing it up the very next night in a marathon reading session. Beck knows how to sustain the tension in this book, even when jumping from character to character, time period to time period.

While none of his characters are super intricate and complex, they all have just enough defining characteristics that I always believed the choices that they made. Audra as a protagonist was especially fun to follow, as she is a scrappy dame who has completely pulled herself from victimization to empowerment, and not in a way that seemed cheesy or laid on too thick. We get the past with her husband and we see how it all happened, but we also saw that she believably has made a new life for herself, and left the despair of abuse and addiction behind her. Not once are we manipulated into thinking that oh, she may slip up in her sobriety, or oh, she may have to be victimized again to get her children back. In her steadfastness she was fun to follow. The secondary protagonist is Danny, a man whose daughter was taken under similar circumstances. When he sees the news reports of a woman who may have murdered her children but insists they were with her when the cops pulled her over, he thinks of his wife, and how their daughter disappeared in similar fashion. His wife committed suicide shortly thereafter. His backstory was a nice juxtaposition to Audra’s showing just how grave this situation really is. Beck also made a point to show cause and effect of the slow death of small town America, built up with promises of an American Dream only to find themselves in poverty when industry has left them. The town filled with a corrupt police force is dying because of a now defunct mining community, and as poverty sets in, greed and entitlement (as well as tragedy) drives our antagonists to do the unthinkable. It was far more interesting than the scenario I thought we were going into, and I think that because it was so straight forward, I was more hooked than I would have been had I been waiting for a twist. I should also note that Haylen Beck is a pen name for Irish writer Stuart Neville, and while he may be based in Northern Ireland I think he did a bang up job of writing about Small Town Americana.

Sure, it’s not a perfect book. There are some things that seem to fit together a little to perfectly, and sometimes I had to suspend some of my disbelief in how some scenarios shook out, or how lucky some things ended up being. But as far as fun thrillers go, this one was very engaging and would be a great pick for a plane or a beach read as summer starts to wind down.

Rating 8: A fast paced and suspenseful thriller that was hard to put down.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Here and Gone” is new and isn’t featured on any Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Child Abduction”. 

Find “Here and Gone” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “Now I Rise”

22817331Book: “Now I Rise” by Kiersten White

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, June 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: She has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself.

After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won…and souls will be lost.

Previously Reviewed: “And I Darken” (some spoilers!)

Review: “And I Darken” was another surprise hit from last year, so much so that it made my “Top Ten” list at the end of the year. So I was anxiously awaiting this sequel. The stakes (…pun intended?? with impaling?? get it???) have never been higher for Lada, Radu, and Mehmed. Impossible dreams are being pursued, but how much will need to be sacrificed in the attempt? And once they get what they want, was it worth the price?

The narrative is again split between Lada and Radu, however, so many of their choices revolve around their conflicting feelings towards Mehmed, their childhood friend, ruler of the nation that has held them hostage from family and country, and lover/wished for lover of both, that he almost feels like a POV character, too.

As I mentioned, this story is mostly about obsessions that have taken the place of love. Lada, Radu, and Mehmed all serve as prime examples of how letting one goal become your purpose in life can begin to rule you and lead to choices you never would have imagined. Each of their goals are impossible in different ways.

For Lada, it turns out that reclaiming her homeland isn’t as easy as she thought. Also, Mehmed’s “support” isn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Lada’s story here is a tragic example of expectations vs. reality and her slow realization that she is truly alone in the world, even from those she loves best. Lada wishes to become Prince of her homeland of Wallachia, a nation that has never had a female ruler and has been willing subservient to the Ottomans for decades. She is routinely dismissed by those around her for simply being a girl, and it takes the entire book for her to realize that even those closest to her see and use her this way. And along her own path, she is forced to make choices, betray those she loves, in pursuit of this seemingly impossible goal. Terrible acts are committed all for the good of Wallachia. And what makes her story, and these books, most compelling is the morally grey area these choices always exist within. Lada does terrible things, but in a certain light, she also does incredibly good things. She betrays those around her and is betrayed herself. Routinely, she chooses Wallachia over those who love her and those who claim to love her. She pushes forward with a single-minded determination, dealing out consequences left and right, that both help and hurt her. So, too, she must deal with the fact that Mehmed and Radu are equally single-minded in their own pursuits, and those don’t always align with her own goals.

Radu’s unrequited love for Mehmed is front and center in this book. He has been shunted to the side in Mehmed’s court to serve as a “sleeper agent,” essentially. But this also results in real isolation and distance between the two. And then he is sent in to Constantinople as a spy and things go from bad to worse. The “enemy” is now humanized for him, and while he despises their strange obsession with “signs” and holy artifacts, he also grows to respect Constantine himself, and especially, the young man, Cypiran, who serves as host to Radu and his wife, Nazira. He is forced to double cross and double cross again his friends on both sides of what he is increasingly convinced is nothing more than a war of egos between Mehmed and Constantine.

While Lada, too, makes choices that are hard to read about, she’s also fighting for respect and acknowledgement for her accomplishments, a goal that I can very much understand. She’s also simply a badass character, and has some fun moments between herself and her soldiers that were even comedic. Radu…I struggled with more. His obsession with Mehmed is the epitome of unhealthy, something that Nazira (probably the most likeable and objectively “good” character there is in this book!) is quick to point out in the most strong language. His choices, while understandable for his character, routinely made me want to smack him up the backside of the head. But, all of this said, he is an intriguingly conflicted character. It’s a sign of incredible strength as an author to make a character whom I often very much disliked at the same time read as incredibly interesting and whose story I am still fully invested in.

And Mehmed. As I said, we don’t get a POV for him, but he’s so instrumental to the other two, that we are painted a fairly clear picture. And that picture is: nothing and no one matters except for Constantinople. His obsession is arguably the worst of them all. He uses Lada and Radu in truly unacceptable ways. He claims to love them both, and I believe he probably does, but by the end of this story, to me, he reads as the true villain.

The themes of this book are dark and heart-breaking. Again and again, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed choose impossible dreams over the love of family and friends. Radu abandons Lada in pursuit of Mehmed. Mehmed uses Radu’s feelings for him against him and abandons Lada in the wilderness in pursuit of Constantinople. And Lada sacrifices the goodness and softness in herself to become whom she must to be Prince of Wallachia. Poetic tragedy, conflicted characters, and a stark historic landscape that proves that no one wins when obsessions rule over love and kindness.

This isn’t an easy read, but the writing is incredibly strong, the characters are full fleshed out, and the story is like watching a slow-motion car crash that you can’t look away from. Definitely check this book out if you enjoy books that look at the darker side of history.

Rating 10: Poignant and beautiful, terrible and tragic, a must-read for historical fiction fans.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Now I Rise” is on these Goodreads lists: “Historical Children’s and YA with LGBT characters” and “Diverse YA Retellings.”

Find “Now I Rise” at your library using WorldCat!

 

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Secret Bedroom”

176577Book: “The Secret Bedroom” (Fear Street #13) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, September 1991

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!

Book Description: Lea Carson can’t believe it when her family moves into the creepy, old house on Fear Street. Most creepy of all is the secret room up in the attic.

The room has been locked and boarded up for at least a hundred years. A murder was committed in that room, the story goes, and it has been closed up ever since.

Lea knows she should stay away. But she thinks she hears footsteps inside the secret room. And voices.

Someone—or something—is waiting for Lea in there.

Should she open the door?

Can she resist?

Had I Read It Before: Yes

The Plot: Once again, we are introduced to a new student at Shadyside High. This time it’s a girl named Lea, and I have to wonder about enrollment policy at this school. Are kids just joining willy nilly at any time, or are all these things supposed to be happening on the same timeline? Regardless, Lea makes a splash at her new school in week two where she spills chili on the white sweater of class megabitch Marci Hendryx. After getting a severe tongue lashing from Marci, who goes to clean up, Lea gets in help cleaning up her tray from a cute boy. He says his name is Don, and she says that she’s Lea and she just moved to Fear Street. When Don is, of course, shocked, she explains her parents are the predecessors to “Flip This House” and are going to focus on Fear Street. After some more chit chat, Don asks her out, and Lea is excited and says yes! But when she returns to her seat, her new friend Deena (from “The Wrong Number”!) tells her that Don is Marci’s boyfriend and Lea will catch hell if she goes out with him. Don, you’re a creep.

Lea walks home and thinks about the first time she and her parents entered the house. Their realtor, Mrs. Thomas (Suki’s Mom! I love Suki, so this bitch is tops in my book), told them about a boarded up room in the attic after Lea stumbled upon the locked door. Apparently it was a bedroom, but someone was murdered in their and it’s been shuttered ever since. Um, that should probably have been disclosed before they closed on the house, Mrs. Thomas, but perhaps when selling homes of Fear Street you’re encouraged to leave stuff out. Lea’s parents say they’ll just leave it alone. I bet not.

So now it’s Saturday night and Lea is on the phone with Deena, waiting for Don to pick her up. While giving Lea advice, Deena then has to hang up because her friend Jade has arrived (no word on whether or not she’s still dating her rotten half brother). So Lea waits, and waits, and waits… And Don doesn’t show. She calls his house, and Don’s mom says that he’s out with Marci. Ouch, girl. But instead of accepting that she’s been stood up, Lea decides that the thing to do is… CALL MARCI?????

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(source)

Predictably, it doesn’t go well. Marci tells Lea she dared Don to ask her out, and that Don would NEVER go out with her, and that Lea deserves it for hitting on her boyfriend. Yikes. Lea goes to sleep that night convincing herself that Don really DID ask her out, but then chickened out because Marci found out and that he does really like her. As she falls asleep she thinks she hears footsteps in the secret bedroom in the attic.

Monday at school Don approaches her and says he’s really sorry about the date thing and that Marci is jealous. While trying to explain himself, Marci shows up, and he runs off to her like the spineless jellyfish that he is. After lunch, Marci approaches Lea at her locker and tells her that she’s sorry. It was a joke that went too far, and to make it up to her she wants Lea to join the school sorority! How nice! She tells Lea that the next meeting is the next day in room 409. But Lea isn’t a dummy, and tells her that the school only has three floors so there ISN’T a room 409!! Boy, she sure was spared some kind of douchey prank a golf pro might pull off.

That next Saturday after a night of watching movies by herself (as even her parents have a social life), Lea decides to go to bed. But again, she hears footsteps above her in the attic. She goes up to investigate, but finds nothing up there. Yet as soon as she turns out the light, the footsteps start again… in the secret bedroom! She presses her ear against the door and calls inside, but then hears a new sound… the sound of blood flowing from the doorway!!! She freaks out and calls Deena (instead of her parents? I know this is before cell phones but did they not leave an emergency number?) and asks her to come over. Then she calls the police. When Deena arrives they go up to investigate, but they find nothing. So have fun explaining THAT to the cops who show up a few moments later. Lea apologizes, saying she thought she heard something, and after both cop and Deena leave, she tries to go back to sleep… But the sounds start again, louder this time.

At breakfast the next day her parents brush off her concerns. That night Lea is thinking about Don, for some reason that I can’t fathom… Yes I can, I was a teenage girl once. But the noises start up again. This continues for the next few nights, and then it even evolves into a voice! Lea dreams that she goes into the attic, and into the bedroom… and finds Marci in there, right before waking up. Marci is truly a jerk so the stress dreams are understandable.

The next weekend Lea, having been blown off by Deena, is all by her lonesome at home again, and when she hears the sounds this time she’s going to investigate. She hears a voice on the other side of the door, but this time she decides she wants to open the damn thing up. Of course, when she tries, a bunch of iron spikes slam through the wood and almost gore her. I just….. WHAT. They pull back into the secret bedroom, and Lea is left dazed. When the phone rings she almost misses it, but she answers, and it’s DON!! Who wants her to meet him at the mall right away!!! Lea, foolishly, thinks that her time has come, and she rushes in the rain to her car and drives over to meet him. I have no idea where her parents are. When she gets to the mall and to good ol’ Pete’s Pizza, she sees Don… and that he’s sitting across from Marci. Lea, the definition of insanity is to repeat an action expecting a different result. This is you to a t. Don says she should sit with them, but Marci shuts that shit down. Lea, after accidentally knocking into a waitress and making  a scene, returns home.

Given that the house is still empty but the sounds are still happening, Lea storms up the steps to settle this once and for all. This time when she calls through the door, she hear’s a girl’s voice asking her to open it up. Lea complies, prying the boards off with a hammer, and finds a key in the lock. When she walks in, she finds an ornate bedroom with an old fashioned looking girl sitting on the bed. The girl says that she ‘lives’ there, so that means she’s haunting the place because she’s clearly a ghost. A ghost who wants to touch Lea’s hair. Which is a bit too much, and Lea runs out of the room, slamming and locking the door behind her.

The next day Lea convinces herself that it was all a dream, and goes to play tennis with Deena. Deena agrees that it must have been a dream and then tells her that Marci is spreading rumors about her being a floozy. Fun. That night, while her parents are engrossed in a nature show, Lea tries to go to bed early. But the noises start again, and Lea goes upstairs to investigate. She finds the room and the girl again, and realizes that it wasn’t a dream. The ghost says that her name is Catherine, and that while she knows she’s dead it took her awhile to believe and understand it. She says that she was locked in this room because her parents didn’t want the world to know about her, as she was born out of wedlock. When she tried to escape one day, they killed her, and kept her body up there to rot. Lea isn’t convinced, and Catherine gets angry with her AND wants to touch her hair again. Lea runs out and slams her bedroom door, but doesn’t remember if she closed the door to the secret bedroom. She goes back to look, and all seems locked up and okay… But then in her own room Lea’s stuffed tiger’s eyes start to glow red.

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This bodes well. (source)

At school the next week, Lea overhears Marci spreading more lies about her, and wonders just why Marci keeps doing this even though she clearly has her beaten into submission. Well, Lea, it’s because girls like Marci are like a dog with a bone and can’t get enough of torturing you because you have been seen as weak, and weakness is easy to exploit and fun too, if you’re a total sociopath. No, I don’t have personal experience. Lea, however, gets the bright idea to use her new ghost friend (?) to teach Marci a lesson (and I am convinced that Ryan Murphy lifted this for “AHS: Murder House”). When she gets home she goes up the secret bedroom and formally introduces herself. Catherine tells her how much she loves her hair, and that she wishes her blonde tresses were dark like hers. Lea, undaunted, asks Catherine if she will help her scare Marci. Catherine agrees, but starts to press her ghostly essence into Lea, explaining that she’d use all her energy if she traveled on her own, and that she should really just hitch a ride in Lea’s body. Lea is a little weirded out, but convinces herself that it’s a legit request.

Lea goes to Marci’s house to confront her, and Marci tries to slam the door in her face but Catherine (who did leave Lea’s body) prevents that from happening. Lea gets into the house and starts to read Marci the riot act, but then Catherine lifts Marci up in the air and drops her. Marci, now freaked out, runs up the stairs in a panic… and runs right through the railing and plunges to the floor. Oops. Lea calls 911 as Marci’s Mom is screaming and sobbing (this was actually way upsetting, thanks Stine), and when the cops arrive Marci is pronounced dead. An officer drives Lea home, and she feels Catherine re-enter her body. When they get home Catherine returns to her attic room and Lea tries to eat dinner, but just has to confront Catherine about how things went down at Marci’s house. She asks Catherine if she pushed Marci, and Catherine just smiles at her, saying that she did Lea a favor and now Lea has to do one for her. Catherine wants to be inside Lea’s body PERMANENTLY. She tries to possess Lea, but Lea fights her off and runs out of the room screaming for her parents. When she tells them everything, they think that she’s suffering from PTSD because she saw Marci fall. Lea tries to show them the attic door she broke into, but it looks all boarded up, as if never touched. Huh?

A doctor recommends bedrest to Lea. As she’s trying to rest up, suddenly Catherine appears and REALLY flips things on its’ head: she says that she’s been messing with Lea the whole time! Lea never actually went into the secret bedroom, that Catherine was ALWAYS in THIS room and that she just planted those memories. When asked why, Catherine says that that secret bedroom is evil and Catherine boarded it up herself one hundred years prior, and the blood and the spikes were to keep Lea out before she just started planting memories. And now they’re going to share this room AND LEA’S BODY!!! Catherine succeeds in possessing her this time. Holy shit, this is getting real.

A few days later Catherine tells Lea that they have some stuff to take care of. I have a feeling it isn’t running to get paper towels from the store. CLea (as I will be referring to them) pulls a long rope out of the closet, and Catherine tells Lea that they’re going to go make Don Jacobs pay. They end up at Don’s house, and right before CLea can strangle him in cold blood, his friends arrive. Lea is able to fend off the control for a bit, and they make a hasty exit. But Catherine tells her that soon Don will be dead and so will his stupid friends. WHAT DID CORY AND GARY DO? The next day Lea realizes that Catherine has left her body for a bit, and thinks that perhaps the key to her salvation is opening up the secret bedroom. She grabs a hammer and gets to work on the boards, but then Catherine shows up to try and stop her. Lea tells her that she won’t be stopped, and she manages to get into the bedroom…. AND FINDS THE LONG DRIED OUT CORPSES OF CATHERINE’S PARENTS ON THE BED!!!! Catherine manages to possess Lea just then, and then the BODIES GET UP AND START SHUFFLING TOWARDS CLEA! ZombieDad wraps his hands around CLea’s neck, and Catherine leaves her body saying they killed her once and now they want to do it again…. But ZombieMom says that it was CATHERINE who was the murderer, who killed THEM and locked them in the bedroom. Suffice to say, the corpse parents start to circle Catherine faster and faster, and when Catherine reaches to Lea for help (ha, yeah right), one of the corpses LITERALLY rips her hand off and tosses it away. I AM LIVING!!! They ghostly family spins and disappears into nothingness, and Lea, presumably, passes out.

She wakes in the hospital some time later and is told she’s been battling a fever that’s left her in and out of consciousness. But Don has been calling to check on her and Deena has been bringing her school work for her to work on when she gets better. So maybe it was all a dream? When she gets home, she does find the attic door all boarded up, and is thinking that yes, it was all a dream. But the she sees one of Catherine’s hair ribbons on her dresser, and she thinks of Marci and the ghost in the secret bedroom. The end.

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(source)

 

Body Count: 2. Well, technically one with Marci falling to her doom. But I think that I may count Catherine too, since she was kind of taken out again.

Romance Rating: 3. Don is a total wimp when it comes to his girlfriend, but he and Lea could have some potential now that she’s out of the way (sorry, Marci).

Bonkers Rating: 10. This one has a secret bedroom, a ghost, possession, mind alterations, murder, AND skeletons just drying out in an attic. Seriously, it’s crazy.

Fear Street Relevance: 9! Lea living on Fear Street and the ghosts living in an attic in a Fear Street house are exactly the kind of setting these books need to be as good as they can be.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Lea was the first to break the silence. “I don’t believe it,” she said, her hands pressed tightly against her face.”

… and then there’s literally nothing there. Though I have to say, this book had some really SOLID cliffhangers.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Lea is watching “Ghost” on her parents VCR. Also, many descriptions of Lea’s bangs. Also, see below….

Best Quote:

“Patrick Swayze is a real babe, she thought, stretching sleepily. He can come haunt me any time.”

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Ditto, Lea. Ditto. (source)

YEP, this one was a really fun and great read. It’s right up there with “Missing” in terms of “Fear Street” faves. The next one up is “The Knife”, and the cover alone makes me think it’s going to be a journey.

The North Read-members: A “Game of Thrones” Book List

Like many people, we are HUGE fans of “Game of Thrones” here at The Library Ladies. The drama, the action, the intrigue, the DRAGONS, we are here for it. With the seventh season a little past its midway point, we thought that it would be fun to throw out some recommendations inspired by the show. But instead of focusing on plot points, we’re focusing on characters, and what books they might like. The night is dark, and full of readers, so let’s see what books we would recommend to some of the best loved (and most hated) characters on the show.

 

Jon Snow: “The Zombie Survival Guide” by Max Brooks

Jon Snow, who is presently the King of the North, is less interested in the fight over the Iron Throne, and more interested in the fact that a horde of ice zombies known as White Walkers are gathering an army that is threatening to invade all of Westeros. Even though his strategizing has been mostly solid up until this point (the whole Rickon thing notwithstanding), we think that he should read up on Max Brooks’s book “The Zombie Survival Guide”. This book talks about how to defend against an uprising of the undead in your day to day life, and while it has it’s tongue planted firmly in cheek, it still gives realistic and helpful tips on how to plan for multiple kinds of disasters. Dragon Glass and Valyrian Steel may be key, but having escape routes and plans for any terrain and climate from the get go couldn’t hurt, right?

 

Daenerys Targaryen: “Dragon’s Milk” by Susan Fletcher

It’s been quite a while now since Dany’s dragons were adorable little draclings, but there was a time when they were only adorable little babies, helpless and needing her care. “Dragon’s Milk” was one of my favorite fantasy stories when I was a teenager, and the three adorable draclings that our teenage protagonists “adopts” was definitely part of the appeal. I believe we even named one of our pet birds “Pyrro” after one of the draglings in this story. Here, Kaedra, like Dany, finds herself raising three tiny dragons who are truly babies, temper tantrums and all. What’s more, this book, like “Game of Thrones” doesn’t play it safe with the stakes. There is danger, tragedy, and real consequences involved for all of the character’s actions.

 

Arya Stark: “Skullsworn” by Brian Staveley

For our most deadly Stark, what could be better than a book that is ALSO about a female assassin who has been trained by an organization that essentially worships death? While Staveley’s Skullsworn do not give up their names (or get super cool face-changing-abilities) they do have a similarly pragmatic approach to death and killing and are equally proficient at it. Our would-be-assasin, Pyrre, even has a list of marks she must kill before the end of the book in order to pass her final test. Arya would fit right in with this group! And I’m sure they would have looked on with pride at her mass elimination of no-one’s favorite sleazy patriarch and family.

 

Tyrion Lannister: “And I Darken” by Kiersten White

Going in, this book seems to be about Lada and her rise/fall to power. But this is also Radu’s story, and his is one that in many ways closely mirrors Tyrion’s. They are both born into the world with traits that set them apart and clearly mark them as “other.” This failure to be the sons their fathers want leads to neglect, scorn, and ultimately, exile. Both have complicated relationships with their siblings, specifically their sisters, and both find themselves more welcome and at home in the court of a foreign ruler whom they go on to support and become the right hand man of. Like Tyrion, Radu thrives at political maneuvering and brings these skills to the forefront in his support of Mehmed. And in many ways, Lada can be seen as the combination of Cersei and Jaime into one sibling; she both loves and hates Radu at different points throughout the story, and his feelings are similarly flexible towards her.

 

Cersei Lannister/Jaime Lannister: “Flowers in the Attic” by V.C. Andrews

Well, the obvious comparison is there. Cersei and Jaime, the Golden Twins of House Lannister, are a bit too close for comfort. They are in love with/obsessed with each other, and all of her children with King Robert Baratheon are actually her children with her twin brother. So yes, the Twincest factor matches up with the brother/sister couple of Cathy and Chris Dollanganger. But there are other parallels between the Lannister family and the Dollangers of V.C. Andrews’s book “Flowers in the Attic.” The Dollangangers also have a massive fortune that they sit upon, and with that money comes the dysfunction, cruelty, and haughtiness that has come to define the Lannisters. So does a penchant for poisoning those who may be getting in their way. And much like Corrine Dollanganger, it can be argued that Tywin Lannister doesn’t really care for any of his children, so parent issues are present as well.

 

Sansa Stark: “The Witness Wore Red” by Rebecca Musser

There is no question that Sansa Stark has been through hell. She was raised to be a queen, but then betrothed to a sociopath, held political hostage by his family, only to escape to then be married off to ANOTHER sociopath who tortured and raped her daily. But she escaped from him as well, reclaimed her family home, got her brutal revenge on her husband (in one of the most satisfying sequences the show has ever done), and became the rightful Lady of the North once again. Because of all this, she should read “The Witness Wore Red,” a memoir by a woman who was a member of the FLDS Church, until she escaped and testified against her abusers in court. It follows her life as a child growing up in the FLDS, being married off to the elderly ‘prophet’ of the sect, Rulon Jeffs, and her eventual escape and activism. This book is harrowing and hard to read, but ultimately triumphant, as Musser not only has her life and her freedom now, she is also an advocate for stopping sex trafficking and abuse.

 

Brienne of Tarth: “The Woman Who Rides Like a Man” by Tamora Pierce

Technically, “The Woman Who Rides Like a Man” is the 3rd book in a 4 book series, but the title and plot of this one book in the series most closely aligns with Brienne’s experience of life as a lady knight in a world that doesn’t know what to make of that. I mean, this is the tag line of this book: “Let her prove herself worthy as a man.” Alanna faces the same challenges as Brienne now that she has graduated as a full knight while at the same time being exposed as a woman, a fact she has hidden for years as she trained. Both Brienne and Alanna are constantly defending their right to be what they are: excellent warrior women. And both Brienne and Alanna find the people and causes for which they are willing to devote their considerable abilities to fully.

There are so many other characters that we haven’t touched upon. What books would you recommend to those characters, or the ones that we covered? Tell us in the comments!!

The Great Animorphs Re-Read #13: “The Change”

bk13Animorphs #13: “The Change” by K.A. Applegate

Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, December 1997

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: Tobias has pretty much gotten used to his life. He’s a red-tailed hawk with the mind of a kid. It was weird when he first got trapped in morph. But now it’s almost okay. After all, how many kids actually get the chance to fly?

Now Tobias is about to make a very special choice. A choice that the other Animorphs and Ax know nothing about. And it could mean the difference between being a hawk…and being human…

Narrator: Tobias

Plot: Yay! Another Tobias book! It’s been forrreeevvveerrr since we’ve had one from him; all the way back to book 3! Though with “The Andalite Chronicles,” we now have a lot more information on him. I can’t remember how Tobias learns of this history, but alas, it isn’t in this book.

I always love the Tobias books. He’s such a unique narrator, with very different challenges and points of view on the Yeerk war from his fellow Animorphs. He also has the “angst” side of the series nailed down pretty good. Starting off this book, we learn that Tobias has been using all of his extra time (just regular ole bird time and, we learn, guilt-driven extra work he has given himself due to his inability to participate in many of the missions) to follow known Controllers around and scout out as many of the entrances to the Yeerk pool as possible. Cuz doing something about that nightmare place is still, as ever, on the long list of Animorphs “to-dos.”

Along with Rachel (of course) in eagle morph, he tries to show her his most recent find, an entrance that is located in a car wash, only to repeatedly find himself on the edge of the forest, no where near his intended destination. Strange that Tobias could get lost! But before they can worry about it too much, they notice something even more bizarre: two Hork Bajir fleeing through the forest being chased by human Controllers on motorbikes. Very quickly they realize that these must be Yeerk-free Hork Bajir and decide to help them escape, leading them (well actually, only the one, as one trips and falls and must be left behind) as birds using thought-speak to a nearby cave.

They meet up with the others in Cassie’s barn to decide what to do . They have no idea, so they end up going back to the cave to see if the Hork Bajir himself has some thoughts on the matter. Let me just insert this note here: the Hork Bajir were hilarious in this book. It is clear that, as a species, they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed, but this played for great comedic bits while also being balanced by a level of sincerity and honesty that just makes them completely adorable, killer blades and all (which we find out are actually for harvesting bark off trees, which is what they eat, never for battle).

While learning more from the Hork Bajir, named Jara Hamee, they realize that the Yeerks are once again closing in on them. Rachel morphs Jara Hamee to serve as a distraction as the others lead him away. Tobias, cuz he’s still (always) all angsty about his lack of participation, rides along on her shoulder. Suddenly, however, he somehow finds himself up in the sky again, miles away from Rachel and the others. There he spots the other Hork Bajir who has been trapped by the Controllers and Visser Three himself. Tobias is able to dive bomb Visser Three and lead the second Hork Bajir (we learn her name is Ket Halpack) back to safety with the others. Things continue to get strange when while they discuss what to do with Ket and Jara, Tobias suddenly has an image pop into his mind of a hidden valley in the mountains where they could be safe. Problem is, he’s never been there or heard of this place before.

The rest of the Animorphs head home, and poor Tobias ends up having to continue to trek through the dark with Jara and Ket, trying to keep out of the grasp of the Controllers who are still searching for them. At a certain point, he discovers that Jara and Ket only escaped because they “heard a voice in their head.” At this point, Tobias throws his hands in the air, figuratively of course, and calls a halt until someone explains what the heck is going on. Of course, it’s the Ellimist, our all-powerful friend who “never meddles” (read: always meddles) once again trying to save a species from extinction. In exchange for his continuing help, the Ellimist agrees to grant Tobias “what he most wants.”

The others join him the next day and their flight from the Controllers becomes even more desperate. Throughout all of this, Tobias still has to deal with realities of being a bird who needs to hunt and eat. Not only does he barely avoid being eaten by a bobcat, but when he spots helicopters chasing after his friends (who are all out in the open in their human form, trekking up a mountainside), he gets buffeted out of the air, breaking a wing on his way down. Things only get worse when a racoon spots him and decides to drag him off as a lunchtime snack. The Ellimist then decides to pop up and grant his wish, but instead of turning him back to a human boy, as he expected, the Ellimist simply gives him back his morphing ability. He’s able to morph the racoon, escape, morph back to a bird and warn his friends.

In the last action sequence of the book, Tobias hatches a desperate plot to trick the Controllers into thinking the Hork Bajir are dead. He and Rachel more the Hork Bajir, lead the Controllers on a merry chase to a ravine, and then, one at a time, jump off, only to be caught by gorilla!Marco in a cave on their way down. Below, the real Jara and Ket pose as dead and being eaten by wolf!Cassie and wolf!Jake.

In the final chapters, Tobias is bumming about not being a boy again. But when sleeping in his meadow, the Ellimist brings him back to the night before he walked through the construction site with his friends. Bird!Tobias tells past!Tobias to make sure to go with the others on his way home, and to let him perch on his arm for a bit, thus acquiring his own DNA. In the end, he is still a bird, but now able to morph himself, which he does to attend an awards ceremony for Rachel, which results in a very adorable “meet cute.”

A Hawk’s Life: Much of Tobias’s internal monologuing has to do with the fact that he’s been unable to participate in almost all of the missions lately. In his first book, he had to deal with the fact that hawk, but here, we see the real cost is his lack of morphing ability. As is evidenced by my last several reviews where this section got maybe one sentence of something like “Tobias was asleep” or “Tobias had to fly off” or “Tobias scouted from above,” it was becoming pretty obvious that something was going to need to be done about this situation. In this book we hear about how much this has been tearing Tobias up inside, especially when he comes up with plans that require putting his friends in danger, like the plan that involves Rachel morphing the Hork Bajir and leading the Controllers away. Giving him back his morphing ability, but still keeping him trapped as a bird is just excellent writing. I mean, now he will have even more drama, because technically he could be human again if he wanted, but he’d have to stay in his human “morph” and become “trapped” that way, thus losing his morphing ability once again.

Our Fearless Leader: There was some fun stuff towards the final act of the book where Tobias and Jake switch roles, essentially. Tobias comes up with the entire plan to fake the deaths of the Hork Bajir, and then, new morphing ability in hand, takes on a lead role in the plan itself. Jake ends up scouting from above as a bird and pulling off Tobias’s signature “swoop and save” to get Tobias and Rachel out of a tight spot at one point. It is worth noting that this sequence with the planning and direction-giving from Tobias highlights something new: of them all, if Jake wasn’t around, I think Tobias might have been the next natural choice as leader. Rachel’s too reckless. Marco’s too prone to sarcasm to be taken seriously when it counts. Ax is an alien. And Cassie’s….Cassie. Tobias shows his strengths as a strategist, and it’s telling that everyone easily follows his directions and agrees with his plans from the start.

Xena, Warriar Princess: Immediately, it’s nice to see Tobias’s evaluation of Rachel. In the first few pages when he’s introducing all of the characters, he mentions that Rachel is brave to the point of being reckless. And that’s part of the reason he likes her. For the others, Rachel’s reckless bravery is often seen as something to be mildly concerned about (perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly), but it’s nice to see that Tobias, at least, likes her just as she is, recklessness and all. Rachel gets a lot of action in this book. When they first discover the fleeing Hork Bajir, she’s the one to decide that they need to help, reasoning that “an enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and thus setting the whole thing into motion. She also is the first to morph Hork Bajir, and Marco notes that this morph reflects Rachel as she is inside, a powerful killing machine. And, obviously, in the end of the book she’s part of the bait-and-switch with Tobias.

Peace, Love, and Animals: Cassie doesn’t get a whole lot to do in this book. She participates in the plans, but doesn’t have many stand out moments. Though when they first meet up as a group early in the book, she’s the one Animorph other than Tobias who really catches on to the strangeness of him and Rachel getting “lost” while flying.

When Tobias is first introducing the team to the reader, he describes Cassie thusly:

More like she’s part of something bigger than herself. Like she’s some
living extension of the earth… Like some gentle soldier in the service of nature itself. Corny, isn’t it?

Yes, Tobias, it is corny. And accurate, which is part of what makes Cassie so insufferable much of the time. Though, to be fair, she was fine in this book, and even had a cute scene where she was lecturing Marco about “having fun in nature” as they hiked through the mountains with Jara and Ket, leading them to the valley.

The Comic Relief: Marco, too, doesn’t have too much in this book. Even his quipping felt a little less than what I’ve come to expect (though not surprisingly, his best moments came in banter bits with Rachel). However, he does play a crucial role in the final plan by catching Rachel and Tobias as a gorilla when they jump on the cliff. Talk about performing under pressure. His friends’ lives were literally in his hands.

E.T./Ax Phone Home: Ax helps Tobias guard the Hork Bajir overnight in the woods while the others go home. There are some bits of history we gather from conversations between the two of them about the Andalites and the Hork Bajir. Mostly it’s more Andalite arrogance about their superiority to the dumb Hork Bajir. But, as always, said in the most endearing Ax-ish way.

Best (?) Body Horror Moment: It’s not so much body horror, but the bit where Tobias is getting dragged away by the racoon who has hold of his broken wing, and then is getting washed in the creek in preparation for being eaten alive…pretty horrific. The whole little scene really highlights how terrible Tobias’s life as a hawk is. His broken wing would be the death of him without the Ellimist. We’ve gotten used to the fact that the others can morph away injuries, but here, Tobias is not only crippled, but he’s completely defenseless, out of reach of his friends, and would have been racoon chow if not for all powerful beings showing up.

Off topic, but there’s some fun stuff when he does get his morphing ability back and we remember what it was like for the others to just learn how morphing works for the first time. Tobias had only morphed a cat and the hawk before he became trapped and that was all the way back in book one. Here, he even runs along as a racoon for quite a while before realizing that he can morph back to the bird and his wing would be healed. I really liked this kind of attention to character detail.

Couples Watch!: This is more like it! Unlike Rachel’s last book, we got all the cute middle grade crush feels. Tobias out-and-out tells Rachel that it’s really important how she thinks of him. And there’s this entire side plot where Rachel has been awarded a prize as an outstanding student at school, which Tobias only discovers after seeing her carrying around a piece of paper announcing a ceremony that is coming up. Of course, he can’t go as a bird, and there’s lots of feels about it, cuz clearly Rachel would value his being there over everyone except maybe Cassie. And then, of course, there’s the adorable moment in the end when he surprises her by showing up in his brand new human morph. It’s all quite cute.

If Only Visser Three had  Mustache to Twirl: Visser Three only shows up for a bit, and shockingly, doesn’t pull some strange alien morph out of his hat. When Tobias first describes Visser Three, he says this:

[He looks like a regular Andalite] but there is some dark, evil glow that shines from within him.

That’s our Visser, emanating evilness like a glow lamp.

Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: This one isn’t quite as tragic as Tobias’s first outing as a narrator. But nothing can really beat attempted teen suicide by mall skylight, right? But we do get quite a bit about how hard it’s been on him watching his friends go into danger and the self-loathing this has brought about. Also, in the end, when he thinks that he’s only been given his morphing ability back sans human boy, it’s quite sad. He ends up avoiding both Rachel and Ax, his two closest friends, because he’s too busy feeling sorry for himself. And you can’t even blame him for it.

What  a Terrible Plan, Guys!: They actually had really great plans this entire time! That last plan to fake the deaths was brilliant. So much attention to detail with even having the morphed wolves pretend to eat the “bodies” to prevent the Controllers from feeling that they needed to dispose of the bodies. Maybe Tobias should plan all of their missions. Or him and Marco combined; I’m pretty sure the two of them paired up are the dream planning team.

Favorite Quote:

First, the obligatory cuteness quote, after the Rachel book’s disappointing lack of couple-times:

<Good. Because, you know, how you think about me is sort of important.>
I winced. I’d sounded way too sincere. I mean, what was I thinking? Rachel’s a human. A real human. I’m a hawk. You think Romeo and Juliet were doomed, just from being from families that didn’t like each other? Well, you can’t get any more doomed than caring for someone who isn’t even the same species.

And, obviously, Rachel/Marco banter, after Cassie throws a snake at Marco and scares him after he had been wondering how to tell a Hork Bajir female from a male and theorizing that the girls were afraid of snakes:

Even Marco had to laugh. “Oh, that was so not fair. Funny, yes. Fair,
no. Can we please act more mature here?”
“Sure, Marco,” Rachel said. “Why don’t you leave and we’ll automatically
be a more mature group?”

Scorecard: Yeerks 3, Animorphs 6

A point for the Animorphs! Saving the Hork Bajir is a definite win, and if I remember correctly, these two and their hidden valley show up several times throughout the rest of the series, so it’s a win that continues to count.

Rating: I always love the Tobias books, and I was waiting expectantly for this one, not only because I love the adventure of this story, but because I knew it was the game changer for getting Tobias back into the action of the rest of the books going forward.

Note: I’m not going to rate these books since I can’t be objective at all! But I’ll give a one sentence conclusion and you can take from that what you will!

Kate’s Reviews: “Everything Is Teeth”

26109143Book: “Everything Is Teeth” by Evie Wyle and Joe Sumner (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Johnathan Cape, August 2015

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: From the award-winning author of All The Birds, Singing, a deeply moving graphic memoir about family, love, loss, and the irresistible forces that, like sharks, course through life unseen, ready to emerge at any moment.

Ever since she was a little girl, passing her summers in the brutal heat of coastal New South Wales, Evie Wyld has been captivated by sharks—by their innate ruthlessness, stealth, and immeasurable power. Young Evie would listen intently as farmers and fishermen told stories about being alone on the water at dusk; she would lose herself in books about legendary shark attacks, mesmerized by the photos of the victims. And even though she returned to London at the end of each summer, Australia’s sharks never released their hold on her imagination. Now, in this quietly penetrating narrative of personal memories, beautifully rendered by illustrator Joe Sumner, Evie Wyld lends her exceptional voice to the telling of a story all her own.

Review: When I was four years old, I discovered sharks. We were on a family trip out to California to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousin. They lived in San Jose, but we would take many family trips to the ocean up and down the coastline between San Francisco and Monterey. This meant that there was a lot of driving to be had, and ya gotta find ways to spend the time. My parents bought my cousin, who is a few years older than me, a cassette tape and accompanying book about sharks. It was short and informational, but it did have some kind of creepy music to go with it. Because “Jaws”, probably. Turns out, it was too much for my cousin, who thought that it was way too scary to listen to. My parents, not wanting to waste the thing, gave it to me, four year old Kate, thinking that maybe I’d be able to handle it. And I guess I pulled a full Raffi on them, insisting they play it over, and over, and OVER again the entire trip… And then more when we got back home to Minnesota. And thus, my lifelong love of sharks was born.

giphy11
Actual image of my Dad having to listen to that tape for the 63rd time. (source)

So the graphic memoir “Everything is Teeth” by Evie Wyld is so incredibly relatable for me that it was kind of uncanny. Evie Wyld grew up in England and spent family trips in Australia, and she first found her love for sharks when her older brother was given a set of shark jaws for the holidays. She then started reading books about sharks, and shark attacks, her first celebrity crush being Rodney Fox, famed shark attack survivor and conservationist (another thing I can relate to, because I TOO loved Rodney Fox during my most fevered obsession time). But this memoir is a bit different from other graphic memoirs that I’ve read in the past, as instead of having a full linear narrative it’s more a collection of snapshots into her childhood, framed through the shark obsession. But the shark obsession and the anxieties that go with it, of course, speak to deeper childhood fears and worries, from isolation to familial loss. The irrational fear of sharks served as a tangible fear to stand in for the ones that Wyld couldn’t quite articulate at the time, and as a child who was also riddled with anxieties about just about everything, this, too, was a familiar thing to me as I read it.

You don’t get the events in her childhood spoon-fed to you, you have to surmise what is going on. During a viewing of “Jaws”, she recounts how her loving yet somewhat detached father drank glass after glass of wine. After being unable to sleep one Australian night, she and her mother go for a night swim in the pool, as her mother was dealing with one of her regular bouts of insomnia. When her older brother would come home from school bloodied and beaten up, he would come to Evie and ask her to tell him shark stories. We learn about Evie’s family and their pretty common issues, but always with the context of the love of, and fear of, sharks. It’s a quiet story that ultimately unwinds to show how these intangible fears ultimately become tangible as time goes on, and that a fear of sharks disguises a fear of loss that eventually most everyone will experience in their life. It is ultimately a sweet, and sad, story about a girl who comes of age like many do, and her childhood interest in sharks that shapes her along the way, and I found it just as powerful as some of the graphic memoirs I’ve read that deal with childhood trauma or tragedy. There is no specific trauma or tragedy here; it’s just bits of her life, some parts sad, some parts not, all parts incredibly real.

I also liked that even the bits that were sad or upsetting were still muted, letting the reader figure out why. There is a scene where Evie’s Dad takes her to a shark attack museum, thinking that she will enjoy it. What they find is a spectacle, with graphic photos of shark attack victims with no context (just showing Rodney Fox’s wounds, not his calm demeanor or how he persevered), broad brush strokes painting sharks as mindless man eaters, and a stuffed and shabby white pointer, which is Australian terminology for great white, that is decaying on it’s platform. Child Evie is awash with nausea and discomfort, and while it’s never explained why, the reader is as well. Wyld never has to tell you it’s wrong; you just know that it is.

Joe Sumner did the illustrations for this graphic novel, and I really loved his style. He has a huge range from the flat out cartoonish (Evie and her family members), to the more realistic (stills from “Jaws” and pictures of shark attack survivors in the aftermath), to the hyperrealistic that I could have sworn were photographs (almost all the sharks in this book).

eit20interior201-thumb-500x632-457444
(source)

I was completely struck by this art style and how effective it was.

“Everything Is Teeth” is a very subdued read, but it’s one that struck a chord with me. If you are looking for a graphic memoir that isn’t necessarily steeped in tragedy and trauma, but still packs an emotional punch, it may be the one for you.

Rating 9: A quiet, resonant, and somewhat haunting graphic memoir about growing up, loss, and sharks. The illustrations are great and the story is compelling and relatable.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Everything Is Teeth” is included on the Goodreads lists “Women Creators in Comics”, and “Comics for Teen Girls (That Are Not Japanese Manga)”.  Side note: I’m hoping that this list isn’t intended to diss manga, because there’s nothing wrong with it.

Find “Everything is Teeth” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “Scythe”

28954189Book: “Scythe” by Neil Shusterman

Publishing Info: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, November 2016

Where Did I Get this Book: Giveaway from ALA 2017!

Book Description: Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Review: Confession: I had never really heard of Neal Shusterman before attending the YA Coffee Klatch at ALA with Kate and hearing her get excited cuz apparently he’s a big deal. So big miss for me! What’s worse is the day before I had walked by a line where he was signing this book and passed it up, not knowing who he was! But after hearing from Kate that he was quite good and hearing his own synopsis for “Scythe” when he came around our table, I tool the time to seek out a copy of his book later that day. Alas, no signature, but these are the trials.

Shusterman described his book as growing from the question “What would happen if the world solved all of its problems? What would people do in a true Utopia?” “Scythe” is his answer to that question. There are so many interesting concepts presented in this book that I don’t even know where to start!

First off, the basic premise of the story is incredibly original and ripe for exploration. Immortality has been reached, but for reasons only briefly touched upon in this book, space exploration was a failure, so humanity is stuck with the world it has. This being the case, overpopulation is a real concern. To solve this problem, the Scythe organization came into existence. Their task is to randomly (emphasis on random) cull the population by killing a certain number of people per year. The family of this person is then granted immunity from culling for the next year. There are so many interesting ideas packed into this seemingly straightforward concept that I can’t begin to cover them all: the methods by which Scythes choose their victims, the methods by which they kill them, the combination of hero worship and fear they inspire in the population, the punishment for defying being chosen to die, and the fact that the odds are incredibly low that you will be chosen, though Scythes are a visible presence in the world. So much great stuff!

As mentioned in the synopsis, the central conflict of the story revolves around our two protagonists, Citra and Rowan who have both been chosen to be apprentices to a Scythe. The story alternates between these two and each character was well-drawn and presented a unique reason for why they were selected and how they approach the challenges of killing people for a living. Essentially, neither wanted the job, and that’s why they have it. Through their eyes, the layers of the Scythedom are peeled away and we begin to see that for all of its advancement, when left to their own devices for long enough, even the most well-intentioned organization begins to grow rot. There are deviations and factions of the Scythedom, all fighting for control and to shape the direction of the future. Should Scythes remain on the periphery of society, chosen for their distaste of their work but equipped with a strong sense of moral obligation? Or should a “new guard” take over, one that relishes in its task and in the glory that is allowed to all Scythes?

All of this and I still haven’t touched on half of the creative and unique world-building aspects of this book. There is the Thunderhead, a rare example of a benign A.I., that essentially runs society. There’s Rowan’s friend who loves “splatting,” jumping off high places only to inevitably be brought back to life each time. There’s Citra’s and Rowan’s training, and there are the well-drawn Scythe elders who alternatively take them under their wing, or force them forward down paths they wish not to tread. Throughout it all, Citra and Rowan form a tenuous alliance, each experiencing very different paths through their year of apprenticeship. The final act was tension filled, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the many conflicts laid out throughout the story would be wrapped up. The end was satisfying, but did its job and left me all too eager for the next!

I honestly can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a story that was so totally engrossing, perfectly balancing an action-packed plot, complicated characters with clear story arcs, and fully realized world-building. Definitely check this one out of you are interested in sci-fi or dystopian fiction!

Rating 9: One of the most unique and creative reads of the year so far!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Scythe” is on these Goodreads lists: “Fiction Books About Grief, Death and Loss” and “Grim Reaper Books.”

Find “Scythe” at your library using WorldCat