Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman – #BookReview

Book Reviews, Dystopia, General Books, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Goodreads: Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopia
Panda Rating:

The stakes are high in this chilling sci-fi thriller, in which professional scythes control who dies. Everything else is out of human control, managed by the Thunderhead. It’s a perfect system – until it isn’t.

It’s been a year since Rowan went off-grid. Hunted by the Scythedom, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. Citra, meanwhile, is forging her path as Scythe Anastasia, gleaning with compassion. However, conflict within the Scythedom is growing by the day, and when Citra’s life is threatened, it becomes clear that there is a truly terrifying plot afoot.

The Thunderhead observes everything, and it does not like what it sees. Will it intervene? Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?

“That’s exactly what the scythedom is: high school with murder.”

A somewhat slower paced sequel to Scythe but it is no less enjoyable. I savoured learning more about this dystopia and I became even more invested in the characters. I loved the Thunderhead and as a reader, I felt its helplessness to do anything very acutely!

The world building is just as complex and creative as in the first book. In this book we learn more about the Thunderhead’s history and how it fairly and sustainably runs the world. We also go deeper into the political divide in the Scythedom. Truly, we humans are our own worst enemies. Shusterman continues to present thought-provoking writing, especially from the Thunderhead’s POV, that really made me reflect on what we’re doing not only to our world but to ourselves. We also learn about other parts of the world like Israebia with a rebuilt Great Library of Alexandria and D.C. with a neglected Library of Congress. But most fascinating to me was Endura, the heart of the Scythedom and where the Grandslayers of the World Scythe Council reside.

“The two of them against each other. The two of them against the world. Everything in their lives was now defined by that binary. If they had to die today in order to live, it would somehow be wrong if they didn’t do it together.”

There were several plot twists in the story that had me shook. Since this was a re-read and I obviously knew what was coming, I didn’t feel as shook as the first time but it still left me in awe. Shusterman introduced many elements that had me hanging on to the edge of my seat in sheer anticipation. That said, on top of the world building elements I sometimes still felt that there was a little too much information. I also felt that the pacing was more erratic with parts that were full of action and then others that moved at a glacial pace. While the slow pace did help me savour the writing, it also made me want to skim through a lot of the parts to get to the action at the end.

While Citra and Rowan still play the MCs, we’re also introduced to a new character: Grayson Tolliver. We also get entries from the Thunderhead sharing its history and thoughts as events happen. I loved the Thunderhead. I was getting some strong AIDAN (from the Illuminae Files) vibes but much less “sinister” and more benevolent. I also really liked Grayson’s character. He starts off as a meek young man, who just like everyone else is greatly dependent on the Thunderhead, but his growth is steady and rewarding as he goes through various trials. There were times that I felt bad for him, but he also had a great inner strength and resolve that I admired. With the ending of Thunderhead, I’m really curious to see what happens next with these characters and what role they’ll play in the finale.

“I can communicate in 6,909 living and dead languages. I can have more than fifteen billion simultaneous conversations, and be fully engaged in every single one. I can be eloquent, and charming, funny, and endearing, speaking the words you most need to hear, at the exact moment you need to hear them.
Yet even so, there are unthinkable moments where I can find no words, in any language, living or dead.
And in those moments, if I had a mouth, I might open it to scream.”

Also, I’m not going to talk about what happens at the end of the book, but I will say that it is literally what some of my worst nightmares are made of! Especially with what happens in the World Council chamber. I get goosebumps thinking about how horrifying it is 🤣 You can bet that I was still exclaiming my WTFs during this re-read! Overall, this was a great read and I’m keen to see how such a devastating ending in book two will turn around in the final–that is assuming it will turn around (I really hope so)! Seeing what Shusterman did in this book, I know we’re going to be in for some jaw-dropping surprises and I hope that they’re all good ones!

Have you read Thunderhead or is it on your TBR?

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – #BookReview

Book Reviews, Contemporary, Fiction, General Books, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ+, Magical Realism

Goodreads: The Immortalists
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Family Saga, Magical Realism
Panda Rating:

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

“Our language is our strength.
Thoughts have wings.”

It was difficult for me to write this review so apologies if it’s more nonsensical blabber than anything. I really enjoyed this touching novel about family and death. It sounds morose and it certainly isn’t the most fast paced storytelling, but as the story dove deeper into each characters’ life, I found that I couldn’t put the book down and very quickly sped through the pages. The Immortalists is a family saga that explores faith and the idea of destiny/fate. It asks readers the timeless question: if you could learn when/how you die, would you do it?

Doctor Mirage (2019) by Magdalene Visaggio, Nick Robles – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Goodreads: Doctor Mirage (2019)
Publish date: 18 February 2020
Publisher: Diamond Books Distributor/Valiant Entertainment
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Superhero
Panda Rating:

How do you solve the case of your own death?

Paranormal expert Doctor Shan Fong Mirage was born with the ability to see and speak to the dead—an ability that has mysteriously stopped working. Have her powers failed or is something far more sinister at work? Will she figure out her fate and the fate of the one she loves the most? Valiant’s gripping supernatural mystery starts here!

A brand-new DOCTOR MIRAGE series conjured by Eisner Award-nominated writer Magdalene “Mags” Visaggio (Eternity Girl), artist Nick Robles (Euthanauts), Eisner Award-nominated colorist Jordie Bellaire (The Vision), and letterer Dave Sharpe (Harley Quinn)!

I admit to requesting this book based solely on the cover alone. The name “Doctor Mirage” rang a small bell but I actually haven’t read superhero comics, so I can’t speak to how differently or how well her character is portrayed in this new comic compared to previous ones. I will say that I really enjoyed it though!

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman – #BookReview

Book Reviews, Dystopia, General Books, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Goodreads: Scythe
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopia
Panda Rating:

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.

Having just finished my first re-read of Scythe I’m reminded of just how much I freaking love this series. I didn’t write a review after the first time I read the book and there was actually a lot that I actually forgot (not surprising considering my trash memory). In a way it kind of felt like I was reading it for the first time and wow, it was just as crazy a ride as the first time!

“The growth of civilization was complete. Everyone knew it. When it came to the human race, there was no more left to learn. Nothing about our own existence to decipher. Which meant that no one person was more important than any other. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, everyone was equally useless.”

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine – #BookReview

Book Reviews, Dystopia, Fantasy, General Books, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ+, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Goodreads: Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Dystopia, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fantasy,
Panda Rating:

Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time. In 48 AD, a fire set by the troops of Julius Caesar destroyed much of the Great Library of Alexandria. It was the first of several disasters that resulted in the destruction of the accumulated knowledge of the ancient world. But what if the fire had been stopped? What would the Library have become? Fast forward: the Great Library is now a separate country, protected by its own standing army. It has grown into a vast power, with unquestioned and unrivalled supremacy. Jess Brightwell, seventeen and very smart, with a gift for mechanical engineering, has been sent into the Great Library as a spy for his criminal family. Magical spells and riots abound in this epic new YA series.

How could my interest not be piqued after reading this blurb? Caine presents such a fascinating retold history wherein The Great Library of Alexandria is the most powerful entity in the world and knowledge is highly regulated. I admit to having a difficult time getting into the story initially. The pacing was slow and I found myself getting lost in the details of this alternate world, but I kept on reading because I was hoping that it would pick up and I wasn’t disappointed!

“There are three parts to learning: information, knowledge and wisdom, A mere accumulation of information is not knowledge, and a treasure of knowledge is not in itself, wisdom.”

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3) by Holly Black – #BookReview

Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Romance, Young Adult

Goodreads: The Queen of Nothing
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Romance
Panda Rating:

He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

WELL. I closed this book with a lot of new, mixed and surprising feelings for many characters that I honestly didn’t care all that much about to start with. This was a pretty good conclusion although it was really nothing mind-blowing. Honestly, if I had been more invested in the characters from book one, I might even go so far as to say that I might’ve been disappointed with this ending. But if you like clean happy endings (and I mean who doesn’t?), then I think that The Queen of Nothing will tick all your boxes and leave you feeling satisfied.

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones – #BookReview

Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Romance, Young Adult

Goodreads: The Bone Houses
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror
Panda Rating:

Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.

I was expecting to be terrified reading this ‘historical fantasy horror’, especially considering the title and it’s basically about zombies, but it had just the right amount of spook that even a chicken like me could read it alone at night! What a treat of a read this was 😍 Even before picking it up, I knew I’d enjoy it but I didn’t expect to not want to leave it for even a second!

“The anticipation of the loss hurts nearly as much as the loss itself. You find yourself trying to hold on to every detail, because you’ll never have them again.”

The writing was simple, atmospheric and the story read a little bit like a fairytale. I liked how things were so simply but vividly described but mostly I loved the magic in the story. It’s woven through so naturally it was almost difficult to picture the world differently. Although this is a fantasy, I was wondering what country inspired the story, and it’s Welsh folklore/mythology! I haven’t read anything Welsh inspired before (at least not to my knowledge) so that was pretty cool. The plot was fast paced and well paced. There were some ‘quieter’ moments towards the end of the book, but it didn’t slow the story down. There wasn’t much surprising in the plot though–it was quite linear which made it easy to predict what would happen in the end, but that’s OK. There were still some unique elements to the story that made it enjoyable!

What really made the story for me were the characters. Ryn is incredibly fierce, loyal and stubborn. She has a temper that gets the best of her at times, and while she does make some stupid decisions without thinking of the consequences, you can’t help but love her anyway. She’s hanging on to the past in the hopes that one day her father will return and it broke my heart a little bit. She’s the character that makes you feel safe and like everything’s going to be okay because they’re around. We don’t learn or spend a lot of time with her siblings but I loved Ceri! She’s a bright light in a dark story and her bubbly personality and love for baking and animals had me smiling from ear-to-ear.

“She was half a wild creature that loved a graveyard, the first taste of misty night air, and the heft of a shovel. She knew how things died. And in her darkest moments, she feared she did not know how to live.”

Then we have Ellis, the mapmaker who comes into town. Little is known about him at first, but it was pretty easy to figure out his story as we learn more about the curse. I loved Ellis’ character a lot! He had a certain innocence about him that stemmed from his questions about his past but he also had some great dry/sarcastic humor! I even liked the romance that bloomed! It’s progression felt natural and I liked the easy banter that flowed between them. Although they’re opposites in so many respects, they share a keen understanding in their loneliness, losses and grief, and as such complemented each other quite well. Opposites definitely attracted here!

Also, did I mention the amazing goat yet?! Because it definitely might have stolen the show! I loved it as much as everyone told me I would and I know that sounds weird AF but trust me, when you read this, you’ll love the goat too! I pre-ordered the book just so I could get that extra story about the goat! Overall, I’m so glad that I finally read this book. I enjoyed so much about it and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a fantastical zombie fairytale-esque story that’s just a little on the spooky side!

Have you read The Wicked King or is it on your TBR?

Sadie by Courtney Summers – #BookReview

Book Reviews, Crime-Thriller-Mystery, General Books, Young Adult

Goodreads: Sadie
Genre: Young Adult Thriller, Mystery, Audiobook
Panda Rating:

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

I’m really surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this story. I had seen very mixed reviews and the more people said they were disappointed by it, the more I hesitated to read it, but I started it on a whim and I certainly don’t regret the decision! Sadie is a young adult mystery/crime thriller told through an interesting format: a mix of podcast and first person POV. It delves into pretty dark topics including child abuse (off page) and drug/alcohol abuse and addiction. It’s not a happy story by any means and there isn’t much of a happy ending (though tbh, I’m still a little salty about that ending!), but I think it’s worth the read.

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black – #BookReview

Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Romance, Young Adult

Goodreads: The Wicked King
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Romance
Panda Rating:

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

3.5 stars for that pre-epilogue ending! And just when I thought that things were turning around and I’d like this newly established alliance, that ending had to go and happen! I’m shook but also angry? But also, I get it too? This seems to have really messed with my feelings (of which I thought I didn’t have many of for this series) 🤣

The Cruel Prince: ★★★½ – ★★★★☆
The Wicked King: ★★★½
The Queen of Nothing: ???

Trophy Life by Lea Geller – #eARC #BookReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Chick Lit, Contemporary, Fiction, General Books, Women's Fiction

Goodreads: Trophy Life
Publish date: 09 April 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction
Panda Rating:

For the last ten years, Agnes Parsons’s biggest challenge has been juggling yoga classes and lunch dates. Her Santa Monica house staff takes care of everything, leaving Agnes to focus on her trophy-wife responsibilities: look perfect, adore her older husband, and wear terribly expensive (if uncomfortable) underwear.

When her husband disappears, leaving Agnes and their infant daughter with no money, no home, and no staff, she is forced to move across the country, where she lands a job teaching at an all-boys boarding school in the Bronx. So long, organic quinoa bowls and sunshine-filled California life. Hello, processed food, pest-infested house, and twelve-year-old-boy humor—all day, every day.

But it’s in this place of second chances (and giant bugs), where Agnes is unexpectedly forced to take care of herself and her daughter, where she finds out the kind of woman she can be. Ultimately, she has to decide if she prefers the woman and mother she has become…or the trophy life she left behind.

This was slow to start and was a little difficult to get into at first but once the story got rolling, I found the ‘light and fluffy’ contemporary I expected. I didn’t find it very surprising or different to anything that I’ve read in women’s fiction before though. For some reason (probably based on the cover) I might have thought the story and characters would be more comedic, but it was still an enjoyable and entertaining enough read.