Review: Vox

August 17, 2018 in Book Reviews, Dystopian

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Vox Vox by Christina Dalcher
Published by HQ on 23rd August 2018
Genres: Dystopian
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial--this can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

A Wee Summary of Vox

Vox is set in a dystopian US where, post-election, a new President and his associates take control of the lives of US women – no working, no reading, no writing, no birth control and a limit of 100 spoken words a day. Every female is fitted with a counter around their wrist – exceed the 100 word limit in a 24 hour period and the counter shocks them. The further the 100 words is exceeded, the more intense the shock.

In line with the “Pure Movement”, the government are restricting the lives of women, effectively reverting the US to a previous time where the role of the female was to make the home, care for the family and be dominated and controlled by the men in their lives.

With schools introducing a new curriculum, boys studying such subjects as AP Religious Studies, and the girls focussed on home economics and crafts, the purpose of the Government and Pure Movement is clear – a patriarchal society.

Jean holds a doctorate. Before ‘it’ happened, she was working in neurolinguistics on an anti-aphasia serum, verging on a breakthrough that would make a high difference to many lives. Now, she and her 6-year-old daughter are restricted to 100 words a day, constantly under monitoring, while the males in the house are free. Her sole purpose is now to look after her family and home, all the while silently witnessing her oldest son’s conversion to the Pure Movement.

That is until there comes a time when the President needs her expertise, and she’s temporarily given back her voice, if not her freedom.

My Thoughts

I have tried many times to get my thoughts on Vox down in some kind of coherent manner. The majority of which ended up in a rant about the world today, so I’m going to try to rein that in!

To be honest, this book is pretty terrifying. It made me so angry, the thought of a world where our voices and freedom are stolen – but what’s more terrifying is that it has a very real feel to it! A few years ago a book like this would have seemed total science fiction to me; now though, it feels scarily possible.

I actually couldn’t put this book down – it’s the fastest I’ve read a book in a while. This is Christina Dalcher’s debut novel and what a debut it is! Dalcher herself is a doctor of theoretical linguistics, so her exploration of the consequences of removing language in Vox is all the more fascinating. Through Jean’s 6-year-old daughter, we see the impact of the 100 words on younger children and the potential damage to future generations.

This novel is cleverly written and incredibly memorable. The writing is engaging, and Jean’s character is an interesting one through which we explore the changing face of the US, the wider impact on the country, but also the effects on individual families. It’s a story that as well as providing food for thought, also has twists and turns, with moments where I actually held my breath while reading.

I will say though that I felt the ending of the book was a bit rushed. I could tell that I didn’t have many pages left for the conclusion to pan out, and personally, I would have liked a few more pages in that ending.

For me, I found the thought of losing my voice so deeply uncomfortable, and the way that the Pure Movement suddenly took control pretty terrifying. For me, this is a fascinating exploration of language, as well as an unsettling dystopian novel. It’s a book that is bound to generate a lot of discussion, and attract very different opinions.

Please read it so we can discuss it! I need someone to talk to about this book!

four-half-stars

Review: Jar of Hearts

August 14, 2018 in Book Reviews, Thriller

I received this book for free from Readers First in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Jar of Hearts Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
Published by Corvus on 2nd August 2018
Genres: thriller
Format: Paperback
Source: Readers First
Goodreads
four-stars

Georgina, known as Geo, is a 30-year-old rising executive when her world comes crashing down. Her high school boyfriend has been identified and arrested for a series of serial murders, including Angela, Geo's best friend in high school. Angela disappeared without a trace at 16 and her body has just been found. Now Geo is under arrest for helping her then-boyfriend cover it up. And it's one of her other close friends from high school, Kaiser Brody, who arrests her.

While Geo is sent to prison for her part, Calvin escapes from custody and is on the run. Geo, now thirty-five, is about to be released from prison to try and start over. But someone has started killing people and dumping their bodies in her old neighbourhood, with some of the markers of the missing Sweetbay Strangler—her old boyfriend Calvin. Is these killings some kind of message from Calvin? Are they some of revenge? Is she herself now in danger?

Everything turns on what really happened that tragic night back when Geo and Angela were high schoolers. Everyone thinks they know the truth, but there are dark secrets buried deep within other secrets, and it may be too late for anyone to survive the truth.

A Wee Summary

Jar of Hearts opens in the midst of a trial; executive Georgina Shaw, Geo, is giving evidence relating to the death of her childhood best friend, Angela Wong, 14 years ago, when they were just 16 years old.

Angela’s remains had been hidden all these years. Now Geo’s teenage boyfriend, Calvin James, is on trial for her murder, with Georgina herself facing a prison term.

Over the course of the book, we uncover what happened the night of Angela’s death – traversing from the current time to Geo’s high school days.

Five years on from the trial and Geo has finished her time in the Hazelwood Correctional Institute and is facing the challenge of rebuilding her life as an ex-con. Upon getting out, she finds out that, having escaped from prison, Calvin James (aka the Sweetbay Strangler) is being hunted by the police for new, horrendous murders, each of which appear to contain a message for Geo.

My Thoughts

Jar of Hearts is impossible to put down! It’s actually really hard to describe this book without spoilers. It’s a clever novel that is packed with suspense. Hillier toys with her readers’ emotions when it comes to Geo – at times I hated her and then suddenly I wanted to give her a hug; she’s such a well written character.

It’s a gritty novel and I should warn you that its contents may prove distressing to some (View Spoiler »). It doesn’t shy away from detail and yet at no point does it feel gratuitous – it’s essential to the story.

There’s quite a cast of character in this novel, Hillier has a gift for bringing them all to life, no matter how brief their appearance.

This is a well written novel that will keep you thinking and desperate to read on. It’s a twisty, gritty thriller that will capture your attention from the first page, holding it until the very last.

four-stars

Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

August 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, Fairytales, Retellings, Short Stories

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings A Thousand Beginnings and Endings by Various
Published by Greenwillow Books on 9th August 2018 (UK)
Genres: Retellings, Short Stories, YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.

About The Book

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is an anthology of short stories, retelling the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia.

Editors Elsie Chapman and Ellen Oh have gathered 15 bestselling and acclaimed Asian authors, with each reimagining their favourite Asian myths and legends.

I guess, due to my heritage, I’m mostly familiar with Celtic folklore. That said, it isn’t something that I actively sought out until recently. My 7-year-old Goddaughter has taught me more about Greek mythology than I’ve ever known, and it piqued my interest (as well embarrassing me at my lack of knowledge!)

So when I saw A Thousand Beginnings and Endings which draws upon Asian folklore, with Asian writers, I figured it was time to expand my knowledge.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this anthology. As I find with most short story collections, there were one or two stories that I was less keen on. However, even with those I enjoyed learning about the traditional legends and folktales that inspired the works.

Following each story the author shares the premise of the original tale, myth or legend, and explains why they chose it for their retelling. That in itself is fascinating and educating.

Another beauty of such an anthology is that you get to discover some new (to you) authors. While I’d heard of the majority of the writers, I’d only actually previously read some of Renee Ahdieh’s work. Now that I’ve had a taste of the others’ writing there are many more books to add to my ever-expanding TBR list.

There’s a mix of everything in the collection – science fiction to fantasy, romance to contemporary, there’s something for everyone. My favourites? For me, Julie Kagawa’s Eyes like Candlelight, Alyssa Wong’s Olivia’s Table and Renee Ahdieh’s Nothing into All were perhaps my favourites, but I took something from every reimagining.

Whether you’re looking for a book to dip into, or binge read, I think you’ll enjoy these retellings. If, like me, you are pretty ignorant when it comes to Asian mythology, then I’m sure you’ll learn something too.

Authors

With stories from Renee Ahdieh, Aliette de Bodard, E.C. Myers, Elsie Chapman, Melissa de la Cruz, Cindy Pon, Sona Charaipotra, Julie Kagawa, Aisha Saeed, Preeti Chhibber, Rahul Kanakia, Shveta Thakrar, Roshani Chokshi, Lori M. Lee and Alyssa Wong.

Edited by Elsie Chapman and Ellen Oh.

four-stars

Review: Shatila Stories

August 8, 2018 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Translated Literature

Review: Shatila Stories Shatila Stories by Various
Published by Peirene Press on 18th June 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Most novels are written by professional writers using second hand material. Not this one. Peirene commissioned nine refugees to tell their ‘Shatila Stories’. The result is a piece of collaborative fiction unlike any other. If you want to understand the chaos of the Middle East – or you just want to follow the course of a beautiful love story – start here.

Adam and his family flee Syria and arrive at the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. Conditions in this overcrowded Palestinian camp are tough, and violence defines many of the relationships: a father fights to save his daughter, a gang leader plots to expand his influence, and drugs break up a family. Adam struggles to make sense of his refugee experience, but then he meets Shatha and starts to view the camp through her eyes.

How The Book Came About

I was a bit late in finding Shatila Stories, discovering it on its publication day rather than during the Kickstarter campaign to support the publication of this book.

Commissioned by Peirene Press, Shatila Stories is a work of collaborative fiction created by nine Syrian and Palestinian refugees who reside in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

The Shatila camp was founded in 1949 for 3000 Palestinians but now houses up to 40000 refugees following the Syrian crisis. It’s a camp that was made infamous by the 1982 massacre there.

Meike Ziervogel, Publisher of Peirene Press, together with London-based Syrian editor Suhir Helal, travelled to Shatila in 2017 to run a creative writing workshop. With participants ranging from 18 to 42 years old, some of whom hadn’t completed their formal schooling, and others still had never read a novel before. The Introduction shares how this process worked, how nine refugees came together with Peirene to create this work of collaborative fiction.

My Thoughts

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading Shatila Stories, but what I found was a power, insightful story that opened my eyes to life in the camp.

We follow various characters, many of whom are interlinked in some way. Within the overcrowded, harrowing conditions of the camp we see families trying to make ends meet, drug problems driving families apart, violence, people trying to find their place in the camp, and music bringing people together. There are so many interweaving tales that address many issues of life in the camp.

I found this book so easy to read, devouring it in a day. The quote on the cover from one of my favourite authors, Khaled Hosseini, sums up the importance of this book.

this remarkable novel isn’t about refugee voice; it is born from it and told through it

The writing may, at times, be less refined than some may be used to, but surely this can be forgiven for what is a truly inspirational project and a remarkable read.

Charitable Donation

It would be remiss of me not to tell you that Peirene will donate 50p from the sale of this book to charity, specifically Basmeh & Zeitooneh (The Smile and The Olive).

Basmeh & Zeitooneh ‘aims to create opportunities for refugees to move beyond being victims of conflict and help them to become empowered individuals who one day will return to their own country to rebuild their society.’

B&Z are currently managing nine community centres, seven in Lebanon and two in Turkey. By purchasing this book you will be supporting their projects.

The Authors

Omar Khaled Ahmad, Nibal Alalo, Safa Khaled Algharbawi, Omar Abdellatif Alndaf, Rayan Mohamad Sukkar, Safiya Badran, Fatima Omar Ghazawi, Samih Mahmoud and Hiba Mareb. Translated from Arabic by Nashua Gowanlock.

four-half-stars

Review: Resin

August 4, 2018 in Book Reviews, Thriller

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Resin Resin by Ane Riel
Published by Doubleday on 9th August 2018
Genres: thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Liv died when she was just six years old. At least, that’s what the authorities think.

Her father knew he was the only one who could keep her safe in this world. So one evening he left the isolated house his little family called home, he pushed their boat out to sea and watched it ruin on the rocks. Then he walked the long way into town to report his only child missing.

But behind the boxes and the baskets crowding her Dad’s workshop, Liv was hiding. This way her Dad had said, she’d never have to go to school; this way, she’d never have to leave her parents.

This way, Liv would be safe.

A Wee Summary

Resin is one of those novels that it’s hard to say that you ‘enjoyed’ because it makes you feel so on edge, so deeply uncomfortable. So perhaps I can say that this is an unsettling but good read.

Liv is six years old when her father reports her missing and dead. She lives isolated on an island with her mother and father, hidden from the world. Her father, Jens Horder, was brought up here too, on the Head, a small island attached to a larger one by a strip of land known as the Neck.

Her Grandfather had been a carpenter and instilled a love of trees and nature into his younger son. Liv never met her Grandfather but she had gleaned a similar interest from her father.

Nowadays, the house doesn’t look as it did in her Grandfather’s day – there is stuff everywhere. Her Dad hoards things, convinced that they will be of use, scared that anyone will try to take them away from him. That’s why he told the police that Liv was dead, then no-one could take her.

As I read and uncovered the history of the Horder family, I became increasingly unsettled, and yet unable to stop reading.

My Thoughts

While this book is dark and disturbing, it also captures the emotional relationship between parent and child. Liv’s innocence of youth and her sheltered life add to this, providing quite a contrast from the constant foreboding feeling I had as I read.

It is also a very atmospheric novel. Riel has captured this island location beautifully, with the feel of isolation further compounding the story.

I’m finding Resin a very difficult book to describe without giving away any spoilers. I should give you a warning though that this book contains animal cruelty and infant death. Consequently, it won’t be a book for everyone.

What I can say is that this is a disturbing, but memorable read that will keep you on edge from the first page until the very last.

three-half-stars