On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga #1) by Andrew Petersen – #eARC #BookReview

ARC, Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Humor, Kid Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction

Goodreads: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga #1)
Publish date: 10 March 2020
Publisher: WaterBrook & Multnomah
Genre: Middle Grade, Children’s Book, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Panda Rating:

Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

Full of characters rich in heart, smarts, and courage, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a tale children of all ages will cherish, families can read aloud, and readers’ groups are sure to enjoy discussing for its many layers of meaning. Extra features include new interior illustrations from Joe Sutphin, funny footnotes, a map of the fantastical world, inventive appendices, and fanciful line art in the tradition of the original Frank L. Baum Wizard of Oz storybooks.

It’s been a very long time since I read any middle grade books but I’ve recently added a few to my shelves that have been well praised by many book lovers, and when I saw the cover for this book I immediately wanted to read it because it’s simply a really attractive cover (yes, I’m judging a book by it’s cover so hard now). Plus, the blurb sounded good and I enjoyed the excerpt I read of it!

That said, while I was generally entertained by the book, I also found myself unexpectedly bored for certain periods of time (off-pacing), and I think that the story was going on for a lot longer than it should’ve. I was also unsure about the use of the footnotes. While some of the footnotes were interesting, I found that even if I didn’t read them, I wasn’t missing out on anything other than a humorous story or anecdote. I’m also wondering if footnotes are something young readers (especially middle graders) would appreciate? I don’t recall ever reading a book with footnotes in it when I was younger unless it was non-fiction or a textbook, and as an adult reader, I’m still not always a fan of footnotes; unless they really added key/important elements to the world building and the story itself.

I think one of the things I struggled with was not being able to form a connection with the story overall and in particular with the characters. I liked the Igiby family well enough–Janner, Tink and Leeli were interesting characters–but I just didn’t feel as invested in their journey as I hoped to be. Perhaps my favorite characters in the story were Peet and Nugget (the doggo, reasons for which go without saying. He’s a loyal companion to the Igiby children, particularly for Leeli)!

Peet was a courageous side-character who suffered from (what I can tell) possible mental health issues and a disability. He was pitied in town and was treated pretty awfully by the Igiby heads of house (Podo and Nia) for a reason that only becomes apparent at the end, but to me never justified the unfair treatment of his character. While I started off liking Podo’s character, his awful treatment of Peet was so distasteful and made me like him a lot less (it says a lot about a person’s character IRL just as much as in a book)! The Fangs of Dang were obviously awful characters we were meant to hate and the author did a great job of stoking those feelings against these characters. I thought the disability rep with Leeli’s and Podo’s characters was really great. Leeli was such a strong female character that had a fierce independent streak. I loved that her disability didn’t stop her from having adventures and getting up to mischief with her brothers; her disability was normalized (as in, it didn’t hamper her in any way) and it was nice to see that being shown in books to such a young audience.

As this was an e-ARC, most of the illustrations and maps were not yet included, so that was also a little bit disappointing because the illustrations that were already included in the story were pretty amazing! I can only imagine how much fun these illustrations will be to look at once it’s done (and in color too)! Overall, while I was really pulled in by the premise of this story, I found it a bit difficult to get into and that’s what made me remove stars. I wish that the pacing was more consistent but it was still an enjoyable enough read. I think many young middle grade readers would enjoy it too!

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This new hard cover edition is out March 2020.
Have you read The Wingfeather Saga books? Let’s
chat in the comments!

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett – #eARC #BookReview

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

Goodreads: The Grace Year
Publish date: 08 October 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Dystopia
Panda Rating:

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden. Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, 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 their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been pulled out of my reading slump because I finished The Grace Year in one night (literally); and despite being hella tired the next day, I had zero regrets doing it. I tried putting it down at one point because responsible adult etc., but it didn’t work. I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I picked it up and kept reading until the end!

“In the county, there’s nothing more dangerous than a woman who speaks her mind. That’s what happened to Eve, you know, why we were cast out from heaven. We’re dangerous creatures. Full of devil charms. If given the opportunity, we will use our magic to lure men to sin, to evil, to destruction.”

The Grace Year was… wow? I really don’t have the words for it but I will say that it’s probably one of my favorite reads of 2019! Whoever said it’s reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies was spot on. It’s dark and full of twists. It’s mind-bending and insanely spooky and makes you question whether the magic is real or not. It’s also surprisingly violent and gruesome–don’t let that beautiful pink cover fool you. This book is not full of roses and fluff! It’s a dark read that makes you think and question your role in perpetuating inequalities (whether you know it or not). It’s set in a dystopian society but I have no doubt that elements of this story will ring true for many women because on some level, we have all experienced what these girls/women go through. It took me on an emotional and mental journey that I was totally unprepared for (lol) but hell, it was worth it! I didn’t expect to find myself in tears by the end of this book, but there I was at 4AM hugging my Billy bear to my chest and crying into my pillow.

I loved (MC) Tierney’s character and how she developed throughout the story. Most of the other characters were minor, but I still enjoyed the roles that they played too, especially Ryker, Gertie, Michael and Tierney’s parents. The story was tense and fast-paced; I always felt as if some unknown horror was lurking around the corner waiting to be unleashed. There’s a pervasive eeriness to Liggett’s writing that had me sitting on the edge of my seat and goosebumps constantly rising on my skin, especially towards the latter half. After everything the girls survived, what happens in the end brought me to tears. The defiance and camaraderie, the willingness to acknowledge the need for change, and to open their hearts to making it happen by taking just that small step against the patriarchy, made me emotional AF.

“The things we do to girls. Whether we put them on pedestals only to tear them down, or use them for parts and holes, we’re all complicit in this. But everything touches everything else and I have to believe that some good will come out of all this destruction. The men will never end the grace year. But maybe we can.”

If there’s anything to critique it’s that: 1) I don’t think the romance was necessary. It also came off as hypocritical, especially considering Tierney’s strong stance on marriage throughout the story. 2) I wish that there was more groundwork for how this society came to be. There were hints that things were different beyond the borders, but how did this county and the poachers come to be this way? I would’ve loved to know more of the backstory to this world. And 3) This might be because I read the ARC, but there were some editing errors that I hope are caught before publication because the way it reads right now, paragraphs start in next sentences and it’s often confusing, especially when there’s so much time that’s passed in between (hopefully that explanation makes sense).

This isn’t a story that has a typical HEA, and it was a little bit open to interpretation (imo), but it does bring hope and that’s just as important. I honestly can’t wait until everyone gets the chance to read this because I’d highly encourage you to pick it up. I’m so excited to see what else Liggett has in store!

The quotes used in my review were taken from an advanced copy, so there may be minor differences in the final publication.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author and St. Martin’s Press for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book is out 08 October 2019.
Have you read The Grace Year or does it sound like something you want to read?

Come let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Vicious (Villains #1) by V.E. Schwab – #BookReview

Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Science Fiction

Goodreads: Vicious (Villains #1)
Genre: Adult Fiction, Science Fiction, SFF
Reviewed: January 2019
Panda Rating:

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates–brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find–aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge–but who will be left alive at the end?
In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

“The paper called Eli a hero.
The word made Victor laugh. Not just because it was absurd, but because it posed a question. If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?”

This is a story about superheroes and supervillains and ExtraOrdinary people. It’s about right vs wrong, morality, jealousy, revenge and friendship. It explores a complex relationship between two college best friends turned archenemies, and the reasons and consequences of their fall out. Schwab does a magnificent job writing the fantastical into the ordinary, that although you know the concept is a little outlandish, you wonder if maybe it’s really possible. With an immersive style of writing that encourages you to devour as much as quickly as possible, it isn’t surprising that I was hooked right from the start!

Victor and Eli were college roommates and best friends until their senior year of college when everything came crashing down. After a shared interest in adrenaline, near death experiences and an exploration of seemingly extraordinary abilities moves from theoretical to experimental, things go horribly wrong incredibly fast and these two become each other’s worst enemy. When Victor gets thrown in jail because of Eli, he swears that he will get his vengeance and so the battle between our two villains begins.

“But these words that people threw around— humans, monsters, heroes, villains—to Victor it was all just a matter of semantics. Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labeled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

What can I say about this book? I loved pretty much everything about it. The characters, the storyline, all of it! It pulls you in and makes you think about perceptions – for example, what makes someone a hero or a villain? In the movies it’s usually pretty cut and dry, but even villains have a reason why they end up being so evil, right? You could see from the start that Victor and Eli have such a complex friendship. It’s one filled with admiration but also jealousy, envy, and greed. Make no mistake—both Eli and Victor are “bad nuts” in the traditional sense of the word and as Schwab writes it, they have something dark lurking beneath their skin—but in this story, it works. It’s funny how I didn’t think I’d ever have a favorite supervillain but if there were teams, I think I’d definitely be team Victor. His rag-tag crew of misfits grew on me—especially Mitch and his story and of course, sweet little Sydney and Dol!

I loved that all the characters in this book had complex backgrounds to their stories and that we got to learn about them all as we moved back-and-forth from past to present. Schwab did a great job with that as well, with smooth transitions and always spot on with the answers to your burning questions from the previous scene(s).

Have you read Vicious? Are you a fan of Schwab?
Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

#UltimateBlogTour: A Different Time by Michael K Hill – #BookReview

Blog Tour, Book Reviews, General Books, Magical Realism, Romance, Science Fiction

I participated in my first ever blog tour earlier this year with TheWriteReads group for Ben Galley’s books (check out my review) and now I’m participating in my second blog tour with the gang, this time for the contemporary fiction: A Different Time by Michael K. Hill. Special thanks to Dave for hosting and organising another beast of a blog tour (please check out the other bloggers who have participated as they’ve all written great reviews for this book)! I’m in awe and super appreciative of all the time and effort you dedicate to TheWriteReads gang, and for bringing such a wonderful community of supportive people together! Special thanks also goes to Michael Hill for providing us with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: A Different Time by Michael K. Hill
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Magical Realism

In 1989 she spoke to the love of her life.
In 2019 he answered.
Keith Nolan falls in love with a remarkable young woman from the past, talking to him on a home video she recorded. To keep their conversation going, he must find more of her tapes – while forces work against them both – and time is running out.

About the Author

Beginning as a sketch comedy writer for American television, Michael K. Hill progressed to become an internationally published writer of fiction and non-fiction. His short story anthology, Anansi and Beyond, published in 2017, and his debut novel, A Different Time, is available now. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, kids, and 7 rescued animals. You can find out more about Michael on his website: http://michaelkhill.com/

When I first heard about this book, my first thought was OMG, IT’S LIKE THE LAKE HOUSE! You know, that movie with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves? The one with letters and past and future coming together? (The one that I may or may not be trash for…?) Yeah? No? It really doesn’t have the best ratings, but I love this duo and this movie is a definite guilty pleasure. BUT I DIGRESS!

At only 100 or so pages, this book was a very quick and easy read. The premise of this story is really fascinating and I actually haven’t read any books based on it. It’s told in alternating timelines between the past (1989) and present (2019) and focuses on Lindsey and Keith’s lives. There are few side characters so there’s not much to distract you from the storyline playing out between the MCs. I really felt for both of them. I think the strongest parts of this story were their characters; their indecision about their next steps in life and their loneliness and desire for company was extremely relatable. The doubt and loneliness make it unsurprising that they’re quick to accept the impossible the first time they connect, as they’re both desperate for connection, although the concept still requires you to suspend your disbelief.

As much as I questioned the possibility and probability of the events, I read on eagerly, wondering if they would ever find a way to be together and what that meeting would be like considering the large gap in the years between them. You can’t help but hope for a surprise that will allow them to be together. Despite being able to predict who Lindsey actually was, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of having it confirmed in the end. It was definitely a bittersweet one that made me feel emotional.

The only thing that had me feeling a little so-so about the story was completely based on my own preference when reading. While I used to be a fan of insta-love back in my younger days *cough* I’m very much not a fan of it now and this was very much what happened between the two. I found that I struggled to get past the fact that they almost instantly fell in love. Considering that this was novella length, I understand why things happened as quickly as it did. This made me honestly wish this book was longer so the story could’ve been more developed and we would’ve had the chance to get to know these characters and their stories more because Lindsey and Keith had very interesting backstories and they deserved more development!

That said I’m very glad I got the chance to read this and that I got to be part of this blog tour!
Thanks again to TheWrtiteReads for organising this tour and to Michael Hill for the book!

Have you read A Different Time? Is it something you’d perhaps be interested in reading? Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James – #BookReview

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

Goodreads: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Space, Psychological Thriller
Rating:

The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on the Infinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth. Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity. Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of the Eternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….

Holy wow, this was not at all what I expected… Hah! This story was full of thrilling twists that kept me on the edge of my seat and had me quickly flipping through the pages to find out just what the hell was going on! It was a much darker read than I thought it’d be. I admit to being initially confused by the details of space travel (I blame this on the fact that I started reading it way past midnight), but Lauren James did a good job of keeping the details as simple as possible throughout the story; which I greatly appreciated!

The focus of this story is Romy Silvers. She was the first baby to be born in space on The Infinity, the first manned aircraft bound for Earth II. She’s 16 going on 17 and after a tragic incident resulted in her parents’ death five years ago, she’s been living alone on the spaceship. She writes fanfiction of her favorite TV show, exercises, does homework, and loves pop music. Having to man a spaceship alone since the age of 11, she’s plagued by frequent and crippling panic/anxiety attacks, that she has been learning to manage with the help of her therapist, Molly, on Earth.

Her loneliness and yearning for contact with other people was a palpable thing. I can’t even begin to fathom what it’d be like in Romy’s shoes. Like, I honestly don’t know what I’d have done in her position. That kind of isolation can really do wild things to a person, especially when they’re haunted by the confined space that they live in. She is constantly overwhelmed by self-doubt, but she’s incredibly smart and when she springs into action, quick-thinking and so badass! Even though she’s in her late teens, her character’s voice comes off quite young and it’s hard to remember she’s not actually 12 or 13. While this normally would annoy me, I thought it did a good job in illustrating her isolated upbringing.

“I always told you that you were stronger than you realized, didn’t I, Romy Silvers?”

The build up of the story was terrifyingly awesome. Reading parts of this book *seriously* creeped me the f out and I thought it was brilliant psychological horror! At the same time, it was also an intense thriller kept me on my toes until the very end. I was soo impressed. This is definitely a book that you want to go into knowing less about and there’s honestly not much else I can say without giving anything away. Just know that whatever you think you’ll find in this book after reading the blurb, chances are you won’t anticipate what comes your way!

Have you read The Loneliest Girl in the Universe? Loved it? Hated it? Meh about it? Let me know in the comments and let’s have a chat!

Aurora Rising (Aurora Cycle #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – #BookReview

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

Goodreads: Aurora Rising (Aurora Cycle #1)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Rating:

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…
A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

I’m just gonna preface this review by saying that it’s going to be a whole LOT of gushing because friends… I WAS NOT READY. Which is so incredibly silly of me because I know just how much the Illuminae series affected me. I’m aware of the bewitching powers that Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff have over my thoughts and emotions. They never fail to make me feel ALL THE FEELS. Was I really expecting this book to be any different? Silly girl. Anyway, you’ve been warned!

If there was any group that I’d wish to be stuck with in outer space facing the hottest of hot messes I’ve ever encountered in my life, Squad 312 would be my number one. I loved this crew! This was an incredibly fun space adventure that was a combination of the Breakfast Club and Guardians of the Galaxy, with the haunting horror reminiscent of The Ruins. It was wildly entertaining and I was here for every minute of it! I laughed my ass off at their antics, was impressed with their insane skills, became sufficiently terrified of all the creepy things and ended up heartbroken and aghast with that ending. I was seriously impressed by how quickly these characters wormed their way into my heart. While it wasn’t as epic as The Illuminae Files, I still loved it!

Tyler Jones: The Alpha. He’s a stickler for the rules and is guided by his father’s legacy. Megawatt dimples that when flashed can make ovaries explode within twenty paces. Bee-bro. Twin.

Scarlett Jones: The Face. The older twin but would do anything to protect her bro. Her uncanny ability to read people makes her an amazing face. Fiery, feisty, with sexy confidence to boot. She will get you in and out of all the sticky situations with her insane diplomacy skills. She’ll take care of you because she has a big heart.

Catherine ‘Cat’ Brannock: The Ace. She’s a bad-ass pilot who’s got snark and attitude for days. Childhood besties with the twins. Definitely not in love with Ty. She’s the character I had the most difficulty with at the start and I didn’t expect my feelings to turn around so quickly, but color me shocked, they did.

Finian ‘Fin’ de Karren de Seel: The Gearhead. An alien with biting sarcasm, dry slightly rude humor, and is into noticing all the hotness around him–both male, female and alien alike. Funniest of the bunch. Want to protect at all costs.

Kaliis ‘Kal’ Gilwraeth: The Tank. Of the alien elf race, Syldrathi. Tall, muscular, gorgeous silver hair and violet eyes, comes off as cold and unfriendly, but gooey on the inside. Can kick your ass faster than you can even blink. Seriously endearing. MY BAE.

Zila Madran: The Brain. Tiny, sociopathic, loves to shoot people, including her teammates, without warning, wearer of odd but very cute sounding earrings.

Aurora ‘Auri’ Jie-Lin O’Malley: The Girl Out of Time. Left earth at the “start” of space exploration only to get lost in cryo in space for over 200 years. Woke up with white hair and powers that turned one eye white. An enigma that could be the catalyst for a dormant billion-year-old war between two ancient, mythical, terrifying species…until now.

The story was told through alternating POVs although mostly through Ty and Auri. We only get to spend a few chapters (total) with each team member’s POV, but I thought they all had well flushed out personalities and distinctive traits that set them apart. Although they all come off as aloof in each others’ chapters, I loved that you see a lot of vulnerability from them in their own chapters. If there’s one character I would’ve liked to know more about it definitely would be Zila. We get a sense of her sociopathic ‘shoot-now-ask-questions-later’ tendencies, mostly through the others, but you can tell she carries a lot of emotional baggage and possibly trauma, and I would’ve liked to get more inside her head. I initially had mixed feelings about other members of the squad but by the end I was crying, rooting, and heartbroken for all of them. Yo, Amie and Jay, if anything else happens to these precious characters in the following books, I will burn them (the books, not the characters). Jokes lol I’d never do that but I’d be so angry I’d want to! Please don’t break my heart even more.

@Jay Kristoff’s website. Artist: Charlie Bowater

I think one of the main qualms people have mentioned about this book is the romance. Even I was a bit surprised that there was so much of it, and that it’d also sometimes creep up at the most inappropriate moments. Another point that people mentioned were the romantic pairings. I will admit that they weren’t the ones I expected from the start, but honestly, I wasn’t mad at them. The pairings grew on me and I think they just seemed odd initially because I didn’t feel chemistry between the characters. So I guess if romance is going to be “a thing” in this book, I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops! If I’m honest though, I don’t think the romance added a crucial element to the story so maybe they could’ve also done without it; but I love me some romance, so I’m just gonna accept what Kaufman & Kristoff dole out! 🤷🏻‍♀️

These two authors continue to surprise me with the incredible world building that they do. It’s kind of set in the same space dimension as Illuminae so everything isn’t completely new. But as more was revealed the virtual jaw in my head would keep dropping as the story became more complex and astounding! I continue to love all the -isms and details of our modern day that they’ve transformed in their story to bring this crazy world of theirs to life. Seriously, I never thought I’d be curious to know what shake n’ heat ration packs of NotPork’n’Apple Casserole and Pie!™️ would taste like. I know authors have to have one hell of an imagination but these two combined are seriously the ultimate! I could go on gushing about this book but TL;DR: just read it. I kinda wish that I didn’t devour AR because now I’m feeling a little adrift and unsure about what to do with myself until the next book comes out (lol). I already miss the squad and I just closed the book. I’m so ready and freaking excited for the next installment in this series!

Also, I am now sufficiently creeped out by succulents and even more so by viney plants?! Like, WHY. I wasn’t expecting to encounter elements that reminded me of The Ruins, which is actually one of the best-worst horror novels I’ve ever read (horrors are not my jam). Why can’t we just leave plants alone?

Have you read Aurora Rising? Did it live up to the hype for you? Love it? Hate it? Meh about it? Let me know in the comments and let’s have a chat!

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker – BOOK REVIEW

Book Reviews, Contemporary, General Books, Science Fiction

Goodreads: The Dreamers
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction
Rating: ★★★★☆

One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep–and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry the girl away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled. A quarantine is established. Mei, an outsider in the hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrown together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. A psychiatrist summoned from Los Angeles attempts to make sense of the phenomenon as it spreads. Those infected, she discovers, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams–but of what?

I’ve been itching to read The Dreamers ever since I saw the book (cover) on IG earlier this year, and then I read the blurb and honestly, how could I resist?! I can’t really pinpoint why I love this cover so much; maybe it’s the combination of text and bright colors over a dark background? Whatever it is, it works for me. So, to say that I was excited to finally find this book a few weeks ago is probably an understatement. At the same time though, The Dreamers has been so incredibly hyped on IG that I also felt a little hesitant about reading it because there’s always a chance (however slim) that I will find the book disappointing. But when Brenda over at The Traveling Sisters told me they were doing a group read, I didn’t hesitate to join in, and I’m so glad I did because this book definitely needed talking about afterwards!

The first night I fell asleep after finishing this, I had the strangest dreams courtesy of the book’s ending. Clearly, the story had gotten into my head, but truth be told, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about it. This was unlike any science fiction that I’ve ever read. When I think of sci-fi, I generally think Michael Crichton–which is great storytelling, but also very heavy on facts, terms that I can’t pronounce and other physic/chemistry related details that oftentimes leave my head spinning. The Dreamers was basically the opposite of that. It’s written in a slow, slightly melancholic and detached way, with alluring dreamlike quality prose. It’s entirely fitting for the title and what the book is about, but it also means that the pace moves at a fairly sleepy pace. Honestly, if the story was any less interesting, I probably would’ve fallen asleep multiple times or really dreaded getting through it. As this is my first KTW book, I didn’t know what her writing would be like, but this was the first “oh” moment when I realized that the book would be quite different to what I expected. It took me quite a while to really get into the story, but after a certain point when the epidemic started getting more intense, I was unable to put it down. While this dreamy-sleepy-storytelling is not normally my style, I found KTW’s prose compelling and too beautiful to leave unfinished.

The story was not so much about the what, how and why of the virus, but about the characters, their reactions, and the impact of the ensuing events on their lives. Told through multiple perspectives, there wasn’t much character development and as a result, you don’t become very invested in any of them; but it was interesting to experience the epidemic through the various viewpoints. KTW highlights the human capacity to endure, and how high-intensity crisis situations can bring people together or pull them apart. I thought this was a pretty unique angle to take in approaching a sci-fi. During the discussion someone asked how we’d react in such a situation and I realized I would probably end up being that anxious, hot mess that everyone wishes would fall asleep–I’d be all panic and absolutely no disco 😂

As we follow the story, we learn that the sleepers experience unprecedented levels of brain activity, higher even than a person experiences in an awake state, but how is this possible and what does it mean? While the question is never really answered, the exploration of memories, dreams, and time, while sometimes abstract and philosophical, was thought-provoking. I enjoyed mulling over why certain people experienced events very differently and trying to decipher what was real and what wasn’t.

In the end though, there were many questions left unanswered and I think that was my biggest frustration with the book. It felt incomplete, like there was no resolution to the story, even knowing that answering the why and how wasn’t necessarily the point. I’m still curious about the message KTW was trying to send or make us understand with this book. With a few days to process the story, I realize I enjoyed The Dreamers a lot more than I initially thought, and I think it’s a story I will continue to think about long after I’ve finished the last page.

Have you read The Dreamers yet or is it on your TBR? I’m curious to know your thoughts! Leave a comment down below and let’s chat 🙂