Categories
Dystopian Literary Fiction Science Fiction

Book Tour & Review: Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books (Caroline, Gemma, and Sam are good eggs!) for having me on the book tour for Composite Creatures, an exciting new book that releases on 04/13/21!  This is a low-key science fiction novel that is also a meditation on the future of healthcare ethics, growing up, growing older, and prioritizing what matters most

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

How close would you hold those you love, when the end comes?

In a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur Ratare learning how to co-exist in their new little world. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly – from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.

But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. And the earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in. Fortunately, Easton Grove is here for that in the form of a perfect little bundle to take home and harvest. You can live for as long as you keep it – or her – close.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Composite Creatures
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Caroline Hardaker
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 04/13/21
  • Length: 400 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨  Yes for the patient readers

The Plot & Story: I honestly believe that the less you know going in about this book, the better.  Health in the UK is going drastically downhill in the future as the air itself causes cancer, the animals are all extinct, healthy life expectancy is pathetic… and the NHS is handing the reins over to a private company.   Enter an elitist group called Easton Grove, that promises health and happiness to those who can afford it, and pass all the tests.  

What exactly is this little bundle that Easton Grove offer?

Hardaker makes us wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait……and wait for it.  Most of the reveal happens towards the end of the book so I definitely recommend this one for the patient readers.  In the meantime we get a lovely meditation on life, losing one’s parents, falling out from our old friends, and co-existing with our chosen company.  This one takes a good hard look at life’s hardships.  The question becomes – is it worth holding out so long for the answers?  It took until the very last page but I think so.

The characters: I also think that the less you know about the characters, the better.   Norah and Arthur seem like a good pair, except it again takes a very long time for the book to reveal how they got together.  I liked Norah a lot and really, really hated Arthur until almost the end.  I think Hardaker did that on purpose though, she waited until page 400 out of 400 to make me forgive him, in that she also showed Norah as a “Composite Creature”

What does that even mean? Well – read it to find out

The World: Think of a slightly futuristic, overly polluted London with toxic soil, a sky with no birds, and a generally gray atmosphere.  The book creates gorgeous reminisces of the past through artwork and Norah’s memories of her mother.  I will give Hardaker endless Kudoes for the imagery in the book.  Hardaker is a published poet and I think that shows in her debut novel quite a bit.

Miscellaneous: One other cool thing I noticed is that RJ Barker (you know I always rave about The Bone Ships) blurbed the book, so that’s awesome.

The only thing that I really didn’t like was that Hardaker made us wait, for EVERYTHING.  She would mention a name, or a conflict, or a story, and give us absolutely no background until much later in the book.  Luke and Aubrey were good examples of this – I spent half of the book feeling like I missed something, but eventually I realized that we would eventually learn what’s going on.  I didn’t feel like these smaller reveals were necessarily worth waiting for though, which is where I docked the 1.5 stars.  I would have liked an occasional “bone” from the author.

Overall: Definitely recommend for fans of twisty, meditative books, mysteries, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and strong character builds.  


Meet the Author:

Author and poet Caroline Hardaker in her workspace. Caroline has published several books, including Bone Ovation.

Instagram: @angryrobotbooks – @caroluna_writes_stuff

Twitter: @angryrobotbooks | @carolinehwrites

More Information can be found about the author on her website:

https://carolinehardakerwrites.com/about-caroline-hardaker/


There is also plenty of book tour left, so make sure to check out the following hosts on Instagram or on their blogs! Thank you again to Angry Robot for letting me participate and feature the book!

graphic: list of book tour, blog hosts
Categories
Dystopian Fiction

Book Review: Minerva by Edith Pawlicki

Thank you so much to the other for my finished copy of Minerva in exchange for an honest review! This is a post-apocalyptic dystopian for new adults, maybe older teens,  that I think a lot of people will enjoy.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Minerva
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Edith Pawlicki
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, December 2020
  • Length: 372 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟sure if it sounds up your alley

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Action is driven by thought, thought is ruled by emotion, and emotion is controlled by Empaths.

Eighteen-year-old Minerva lives in a city of repurposed shipping containers, dependent on a hydroelectric plant for light and heat, while a nuclear winter blankets the world in snow. Hemp powder meals and patchwork clothes are a fact of life – as is human evolution. An unparalleled Empath, not only can Minerva sense emotions, she can read minds and influence thoughts.

Power has a price.

Starting with her mother’s postpartum depression, suffering has surrounded Minerva. But she has a core of steel, and to prove it, she joins the Guard like her dad. At first, Minerva loves the camaraderie she finds among the brash, strong Vitals, and she learns to use her Empathy defensively. Then two discoveries shock Minerva, and she starts asking hard questions.

The answers may cost her life.

This sounded amazing, so I readily agreed to read and review the book!

The Plot & Story:  the synopsis does a pretty good job summarizing the story. Minerva is graduating from the equivalent of high school, and despite what the society recommends for her as am Empath, she is going into the Guard.  I personally like stories where Underdog characters are training and beating the odds, so I enjoyed the parts that take place at the cadet academy.

There is plenty of action throughout the novel as well as a deep discussion of various ethical issues.  Almost immediately Minerva learns that one of the cadet officers is using his Empathy to Compel women, which opens up the story to a meditation on the slippery slope from well intentioned to evil, PTSD, trauma, consent, and sexual coercion.  

The Characters: Minerva is a great main character, she is learning to use her Empathy while dealing with a brutish training leader at the Academy.  I liked her cousin, Rex is like a big Labrador but also has a serious side.  There is a great group element among the group of cadets, and all of the characters contribute something meaningful to the story.

The villain…let’s just say the villain is multifaceted, and like an onion – Minerva just keeps peeling layers back to reveal who he truly is, and it’s a terrible but excellent story

There is also an enemies to friends to lovers element.. So… Yeah.  I shipped it.

The World: we are set in a post nuclear winter, somewhere in what used to be Canada.  We learned enough about the man made disaster to be content.  I envision a city of shipping containers and repurposed materials, strict rules and strict government, and man is it always cold.  The whole thing is surrounded by a defensive wall of snow that has been made over the years by the city.  Great imagery.  I liked that the setting directly contributed to the story and wasn’t just a backdrop for another story.  

Others:  I LOVE that the author created her own slang for the book, its pretty easy to follow but there’s also a glossary, which was awesome.  I also liked that the society chucked labels and just calls everyone Inda – short for individual.  It’s ridiculous how everyone today is so hyper fixated on labelling themselves – just be a good Inda.  I mostly docked a star for editing mishaps and 

I 100% recommend this book for anyone who likes post-apocalyptic settings, enemies to lovers, groups of found friends, strong family elements, ethics, or just a good story.


The author can be found at :

https://edithpawlicki.com/

Inatagram: @edithPawlicki

And the book can be purchased through Amazon at:

Categories
Dystopian Fantasy Science Fiction

Book Review: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

Thank you to Bookish First and the publisher for providing a finished copy of Skyhunter in exchange for an honest review!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Skyhunter
  • Series: Skyhunter, #1
  • Author: Marie Lu
  • Publisher & Release: Roaring Brook Press 9/29/20 
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for the target age range, sure

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

A broken world.
An overwhelming evil.
A team of warriors ready to strike back.

Talin is a Striker, a member of an elite fighting force that stands as the last defense for the only free nation in the world: Mara.

A refugee, Talin knows firsthand the horrors of the Federation, a world-dominating war machine responsible for destroying nation after nation with its terrifying army of mutant beasts known only as Ghosts.

But when a mysterious prisoner is brought from the front to Mara’s capital, Talin senses there’s more to him than meets the eye. Is he a spy from the Federation? What secrets is he hiding?

Only one thing is clear: Talin is ready to fight to the death alongside her fellow Strikers for the only homeland she has left… with or without the boy who might just be the weapon to save—or destroy—them all.

To put my rating into perspective, I look at the target age range of the book and how appropriate it is for that group too, not necessarily for my own adult enjoyment. In this case 12-17 is advertised and I am not necessarily rating these in comparison to adult novels.

Skyhunter is a pretty exciting YA scifi/dystopia where a conquering nation is taking over it’s continent and one free nation, Mara, is left to fight back. Mara presents an elite force of fighters, mainly teens because death forces a high turnover rate, that fights against the war-machine monsters created by the Federation. All bets are off when one of the Federation experiments breaks loose and joins forces with Mara’s soldiers, especially with Talin, the main character.

I really liked the plot and scheming and felt like the action remained steady enough to keep me reading. The chapter lengths were perfect too to keep pages turning. Teens should have no problem staying engaged here, even if some of the action and plot revelations happen rather conveniently, i would expect this in books geared for 12 year olds. There is some monster face mashing gore and war scenes that might be a bit much for the low age range but it wasn’t too graphic.

I just loved the characters too. Talin can’t speak and is a bit of a pariah among the Strikers due to her ethnicity, but she remains strong in the face of it and continues to be a strong fighter. Red the Skyhunter is interesting too, I liked him ever since his little mouse friend popped out.  The book puts a huge emphasis on enemies and “enemies” also having human faces, and he is a great example of this.  There were a whole host of funny, strong, soft, ancillary characters too and I liked their little war band family of proximity.

The book remained more action than character driven, which I prefer. More world and action than character/relationship building and I am thankful that any romance remained contained mostly to shy glances and observations. One of my favorite aspects was how each enemy, even the monsters, had a human face presented as well and it kept the characters truer to their own humanity I think.

The ending too, omg the ending. I will need to refresh myself on this book before the next comes out because honestly I’ll probably forget it in two weeks but I definitely want to know what happens next!!

Categories
Dystopian Horror Literary Fiction Paranormal Science Fiction

Book Review: The Phlebotomist by Chris Panatier

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books for the finished copy of The Phlebotomist in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Quick facts:

  • Title: The Phlebotomist
  • Series: standalone
  • Author: Chris Panatier
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot – September 8th 2020
  • Length: 345 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

War brought the Harvest. Willa Mae Wallace is a reaper.

To support herself and her grandson Isaiah, Willa works for the blood contractor Patriot. Instituted to support the war effort, the mandatory draw (The Harvest) has led to a society segregated by blood type. Hoping to put an end to it all, Willa draws on her decades-old phlebotomy training to resurrect an obsolete collection technique, but instead uncovers an awful truth.

Patriot will do anything to protect its secret. On the run and with nowhere else to turn, Willa seeks an alliance with Lock, a notorious blood-hacker who cheats the Harvest to support the children orphaned by it. But they soon find themselves in the grasp of a new type of evil.

My dark sci-fi dystopian blood drawing nurse heart was all about this book. My patients not-so-lovingly call us night shift nurses “vampires” because we are always after blood at night, and I was immediately drawn to the synopsis where a mandatory blood harvest has created a segregated society based off of blood types.

Willa Mae is in her 60s and a fantastic older main character. Lock, the blood hacker, can’t be much younger, and for some reason reading about older women playing the heroes struck a chord with me. They are snarky and wholesome and so caring for their young charges. Both rely on their knowledge and use of older technologies in a highly automated big-brother type world to undermine Patriot and practice some old-school phlebotomy to (at least try) to save society.

I can’t talk about Patriot too much without spoilers but the company runs blood collection stations all over the country to fuel the need for blood transfusions after nuclear bombs struck in certain “gray areas.” The lies, murders, and political structure of Patriot.. let me just say that I couldn’t put this book down once I started.

100% not what I expected.

The side cast of characters was great too, there was so much hope in one area called “bad blood” where everyone that was undesirable for transfusions was sent. They grew gardens and repurposed factory stores. The book definitely was not always happy, there were some significant and bloody deaths which I 100% endorse in any good resistance based dystopian.

Lastly there is a bit of transfusion based science provided just for informational sakes and I thought that was great. We have to do so much checking and double checking of blood before transfusing and I think Panatier did a phenomenal job putting this all into layman’s terms for readers.

If you are even slightly into dystopias, sci fi, resistance based novels, even fantasy/paranormal readers could cross over and enjoy this, I totally recommend it.

Happy Book Birthday!!!!

Categories
Dystopian Horror Young Adult

Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

  • Title: The Grace Year
  • Series: No, Standalone
  • Author: Kim Liggett
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books (October, 2019)
  • Length: 407 pages
  • Rating & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes

Here is the description from GoodReads:

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

Thankfully I finally picked this one up! It was a buddy read with two Instagram friends and we had a great time talking about the book. There are a ton of good points for Book Club discussions and a lot of aspects left open to interpretation/imagination, which makes The Grace Year an ideal buddy read pick.

The plot is absolutely unique to me.  16 year old girls are sent out during their “Grace Year” to lose the magic that they are allegedly born with.  There is a definite Salem Witch Trials vibe as the men have total control of the society and can accuse women of magic at any time, resulting in hanging.

The book is definitely a bit violent at times, everything from bullying to hanging to men harvesting girls for body parts. There is scalping, missing fingers, and more than a few bloody crazy people to deal with.  I didn’t find it terribly graphic though, the grade 9+ (high school and onwards) actually seems appropriate.

Tierney is the main character and a black sheep of sorts among the other Grace Year girls.  She has survival skills and finds a nemesis in Kiersten, the leader of the pack of girls and….. I’ll argue that she’s the main antagonist too.  I didn’t really love the characters though and found the plot/story itself to be my main point of enjoyment.

The pacing is fantastic as well. I read the first half steadily and the second half in one sitting.  It just got too good to put down, even if I wasn’t connecting with the girls.  The little mysteries and end of exile, building team work, then the conclusion were all pretty engrossing.

I had a LOT of questions though, which again all make great book club discussions.   Where is this isolated town with such a Handmaid’s Tale type society? One main and lovely recurring theme is the use of flowers for language, since apparently a bunch of immigrants converged at some point, so where did they come from? Was this a planned, constructed society and how did it evolve? Also what time period is the book taking place in? Is the recurring life from death theme enough to explain the ending?  Did the love story really make any sense at all?

I liked the grim outlook of the book. A lot of young adult books aren’t written to be so desolate with only little shoots of hope poking through. I liked the grim realizations that the women and girls were too busy clawing for standing to help each other and have unity.  It is a very good but not very happy book and I think it’s absolutely great.

I guess the biggest question is – is the magic real?

I totally recommend for anyone 16+. I think it’s a little too much for younger readers but teens, definitely, and adults alike can enjoy this.  Be warned away now though if you hate open endings.

Thank you as always for reading! Have you read The Grace Year? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment!

Categories
Dystopian Science Fiction Young Adult

Refraction by Naomi Hughes

Hi all! Today is my instagram stop on the Fantastic Flying Book Club tour for Refraction, by Naomi Hughes! Thank you for including me!!

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Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest. With fast pacing and riveting characters, this is a book that you’ll finish in one sitting.

I actually read it in two sittings, the synopsis is not exaggerating at all when it says faat pacing! I was hooked from the start to the end, for a few different reasons.

First off I liked the characters. After an alien invasion where now any reflective surface can spawn vicious shadow creatures, mirrors become illegal. Marty deals in illegal mirrors, which are still prized for their potential to create electricity in the dystopian society that has developed on the island. Elliot is a great character too, I enjoyed watching them begrudgingly work together and then become friends.

The plot was absolutely breakneck, and after the boys are exiled and start learning what is happening to Earth, it became awful hard to put the book down. It is hard to not give spoilers but the main character has OCD, which ties into the rather large psychological aspect of the story.

The way that the action is framed can be done either very well or very poorly, and I was nervous at first but the author did it VERY well I thought, because it made sense. You’ll see what I mean when you read it!

I would fully recommend the book for any fans of sci fi, psychological aspects, and there is a touch of horror and supernatural as well. There is something for everyone here including found families and a lot of personal growth.

Thank you again for including me in the tour!!

BOOK LINKS:

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43263585

refraction
Amazon:
https://amzn.to/2IBDomN
B&N:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/refraction

naomi

hughes/1130016054#/
iTunes:
https://books.apple.com/br/book/refraction/id1458360171
Kobo:
https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/refraction

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Google Books:
https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Refraction.html?id=7E_DvgEACAAJ&redir_esc=y

Categories
Dystopian

A Savage Generation by David Tallerman

Thank you so much to Flame Tree Press for the ARC of A Savage Generation, which I won in their Instagram giveaway!

Synopsis off GoodReads: Sickness is ravaging America, driving the infected to savagery. Petty criminal Ben Silensky is determined to get his girlfriend Carlita and son Kyle free of the quarantined city they live in, enough so to risk a foolhardy crime and then to team up with Carlita’s equally desperate cop cousin Nando. Once they’re out, Nando is certain they’ll find a place in the open prison where his uncle works, unbeknownst to him already become a survivalist colony named Funland under the management of entrepreneurial convict Plan John. In Funland itself, guard Doyle Johnson is shocked when his ex-wife abandons his son Austin into his care. Fearing the vulnerable position he’s been placed in, he recruits the help of Katherine Aaronovich, the former prison’s doctor. But Aaronovich’s traumatic past has left her with vulnerabilities of her own, along with radical theories on the nature of the epidemic that will place all their lives in jeopardy. As the last vestiges of civilisation crumble, Funland may prove to be the safest or the most dangerous of places, depending on who comes out on top – and what can’t be held together will inevitably be torn apart. FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launched in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.

I really hate to liken a book to something popular like ‘The Walking Dead’, but reading this book felt like watching 4 episodes in the middle of a season! Each chapter is told from a rotating point of view and the action rarely stopped, resulting in a super fast read that I downed in three sittings! The infected are referred to as “Sickers,” and while there are no resources to find a cure…one popular theme in the book was how people from different backgrounds find ways to coexist and live and survive. The cast had to work with each other, the Sickers had to stay together… and the next generation of youth, unborn babies, and even Sicker children had to just find a way to live.

There was a pretty interesting psychological element involving the youth; I knew what Tallerman was trying to do at least. How are the youth supposed to react to these surroundings? What do they turn into when plain and pure survival becomes their primary instinct? Actually he did a pretty good job but I wish there was more focus on the youth going forward. The book started and ended pretty abruptly, which led me to believe that the psychological, thriller, and survival aspects were more important than the “zombie” theme.

I recommend for fans of thrillers, survivalist reads, dystopias, zombies that aren’t toooo scary, or even a slightly scary seasonal read. Warning for some graphic violence involving bites and shootings!

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