Today’s Mini-Review Monday is going to be a little longer than normal. This is because last week was the Read-O-Rama readathon and I read a lot of books. You can find reviews of the first two books I read in last week’s Mini-Review Monday. Today, I’m going to cover the rest. I nearly managed to meet the goal of reading seven books in seven days but, while I did start the seventh, I did not actually finish it until the weekend, when the readathon was over. I still managed to complete the six other challenges, however.
For the most part, the final five book I read were pretty good. There were a couple which were more in the middle for me, but the other three really caught my attention. Strangely, most of the books I read this week touched on the theme of death, from being stuck in a world where everyone is dying around you to a world where immortality has been achieved and the power to wield death has been given to a select group of people. It certainly made for an interesting week of reading, and you can find out more about the books I read below.
For reference, the way I rate is as follows:
1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved
Everland by Wendy Spinale
Everland is a re-telling of Peter Pan, set in an alternate, dystopian world where London has been ravaged by bombs and by a lethal disease. In the aftermath of the war, it has lost its London name and become Everland, home to a group of surviving orphan boys, a 12-year old girl called Bella, and their leader Pete. Gwen, on the run with her two siblings, gets drawn into the world of the Lost Boys when one of her siblings gets kidnapped by Hook, leader of the invading forces.
Even after finishing the book, I am still not quite sure what to make of it. While there were a few obvious similarities to Peter Pan, for instance the characters and a few choice phrases, most of them felt a bit far-reaching or forced, as if the novel wanted to go one way but, because this was a re-telling, it had to fit to a certain path. In particular, a scene about Gwen being a ‘mother’ to the Lost Boys because she was the only older female and they needed a woman to soften them up just did not sit right with me and I felt like it was only included because that was what Wendy’s role was in the original. The writing, while not overly complicated, allowed the book to progress at a fast pace, while still allowing for character development and allowing the reader to invest in the story. I did enjoy the book, but I feel like it would have been a lot stronger if it had been written as its own being, rather than a re-telling.
The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Everland-Everland-Book-1-Wendy-Spinale/9780545836944/?a_aid=rosienreads
Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis
I went into Given to the Sea with a touch of trepidation, having seen a number of mixed reviews about the book. Coming out of it, I can see why. Given to the Sea is a book set in a world which fears the sea, treating it as a place of death and destruction after a tsunami destroyed the land in the far past. One such society, in order to keep the sea at bay, sacrifices a single girl to the sea after she has birthed a daughter who, in time will also be sacrificed. The book follows one of those girls, Khosa, as she tries to escape her fate.
Having read the book, I think I can see what the author was trying to do, using the story to explore themes of destiny, beliefs as well as an exploration of rape and a woman’s freedom to make choices in the fantasy setting. These latter two points were part of the main reason I find myself unable to properly enjoy this book. This feeds into two main sources of frustration. The first is the men in the book – only one or two of them could be considered half-way decent. The others just treated women appallingly – the crown prince, in particular, was awful – an adulterer who offered an award to whoever could get Khosa pregnant, by any means necessary.
On the other side were the women – there were three of them: Khosa, Dara and Dissa, all of whose lives were dictated by the men in them. Dara, for me, was the biggest disappointment. She was the most interesting, and my favourite character, for most of the book. Then her story just gets suffocated by the fact she has a crush on someone which she believes is unrequited. She had such potential, and then that happened.
Despite that, there is no denying that the writing was incredible – the world felt alive and the characters, for all their many flaws, were, unfortunately, very realistic. I was also really curious as to how the story would end. So, while it was a difficult and frustrating read, the strong writing and the emotions it carried did hold it above water.
The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Given-Sea-Mindy-Mcginnis/9780399544620/?a_aid=rosienreads
The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
The prize for the most beautiful book I have read this year goes to The Language of Thorns – the hardcover of which had a gloriously designed cover with an interior filled with stunning illustrations. The book itself is my third Leigh Bardugo book of the year, and yet all three are very different. This particular book is a set of fairy tales from the Grisha-verse; each one adapted from, or had similarities to, a fairy tale in this universe (for example one tells the origins of Ulla, a sea-witch based off of Ursula and The Little Mermaid).
The tales in the book are varied, and I read one a night before bed. Bardugo did an excellent job of capturing the essence and feel of a fairy tale while also adding in her own twists and renditions of the events that played out, taking on the tales in a way that was unexpected. It was almost as if you could feel the magic taking place as you read (helped, no doubt, by the illustrations). I did feel slightly disappointed that the LGBTQA+ representation was not as strong or as prominent as I had believed it to be, based on the images, and I did struggle to fully connect or invest in some of the stories. That being said, I did enjoy the fact that the main characters in each tale are outcasts, or not traditionally pretty, or are somehow different to the rest of the society they live in. Some of the tales could have been longer while the final one could have been a bit shorter and, perhaps, a little clearer. For those who have not ready any of Bardugo’s previous novels, this book is perfectly accessible – the only real links to the series are the locations. The Language of Thorns is a magical book and I can see many a people returning to it again and again.
The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Language-Thorns-Leigh-Bardugo/9781510104419/?a_aid=rosienreads
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
One of the books that had been most recommended to me in the last few months is How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. This book explores the concept of immortality and the purpose of life through the perspective of one man – Tom Hazard. Tom is an Alba, a human who develops and grows old at a fraction of the speed of normal human beings. As a result, he’s been alive for centuries, wandering the Earth, searching for his long-lost daughter and trying to find meaning.
While it did take me a while to get into the book, once I did it was fascinating to read about Hazard’s life through flashbacks to his younger years against his life in the present day, all the while everything was tinted with a touch of melancholy. Haig does a really good job of getting the emotion into his words, regardless of what is being discussed at the time, and, as you read the book, you end up experiencing a whole range of them. The whole discussion of the purpose of life, or living, was really compelling and I found myself thinking about the book long after having finished it. The only let-down for me was how swift the ending occurred – there was a gentle, but quickening, build up then all of a sudden the climactic scenes occurred and were over with in a few pages. It almost felt like it could do with being a touch longer.
The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/How-Stop-Time-Matt-Haig/9781782118640/?a_aid=rosienreads
Scythe by Neal Shusterman (narrated by Greg Tremblay)
This was easily my favourite book of the readathon. Scythe had me hooked from the get go – the concept was so fascinating, I just had to read more. It is set in a world which has achieved immortality. In order to avoid over-population, the Scythe-dom was created – a group of people with the mission to glean (or kill) a certain number of people each year. In this society, two people – Rowan and Citra – are chosen to be trained as Scythes.
While the novel is slow with regards to the action, a lot of time is spent establishing the world and very little time passes before you learn something new, and there is so much to take in. What interested me most was the different methods the Scythes have in choosing those they intend to glean. The slower pace is also necessary to establish Rowan and Citra’s places in the world, and the conflicts which face them later on. The writing really captured the world and the characters, solidifying them with apparent ease, something which was only highlighted through the narrator who made the audiobook one I had to fight to stop listening to. It is rare for me to finish a book in the series and immediately want to reach for the second one. This book is one of those rarities and I cannot wait to read the sequel, Thunderhead.
The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Scythe/9781442472426/?a_aid=rosienreads