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: 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

Review: A Treachery of Spies

August 2, 2018 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, 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: A Treachery of Spies A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott
Published by Bantam Press on 9th August 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction, Crime, thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

An elderly woman of striking beauty is found murdered in Orleans, France. Her identity has been cleverly erased but the method of her death is very specific: she has been killed in the manner of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two.

Tracking down her murderer leads police inspector Inès Picaut back to 1940s France where the men and women of the Resistance were engaged in a desperate fight for survival against the Nazi invaders.

To find answers in the present Picaut must discover what really happened in the past, untangling a web of treachery and intrigue that stretches back to the murder victim's youth: a time when unholy alliances were forged between occupiers and occupied, deals were done and promises broken. The past has been buried for decades, but, as Picaut discovers, there are those in the present whose futures depend on it staying that way – and who will kill to keep their secrets safe...

When 92-year-old Sophie Destivelle is found murdered in an Orleans car park, it soon becomes apparent that this is no random killing. Her manner of death echoes that of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two.

This is Captain Picaut’s first case since returning from injury. It’s a case that will uncover secrets of her country’s past and provide some startling revelations – such as, who exactly was Sophie Destivelle?

A Treachery of Spies is a thoroughly absorbing read. I didn’t want to put it down, and when I did manage to extract myself from its pages, the story continued to play on my mind.

Firstly, I didn’t realise when I picked this up that it’s actually the second book featuring Captain Picaut. Don’t let that put you off though, I read it as a stand-alone and really enjoyed it. There are references to events in the previous book but I didn’t feel that I was missing out.

As for the story itself, it is clever, intricate, and evidently very well researched. The best way I can describe this novel is that it is historical fiction mixed with a thriller, mystery and police procedural – pretty much the ultimate combination in my opinion.

The investigation of Sophie’s death takes the reader across time and space – from present-day Orleans to wartime Britain and Germany-occupied France, with a focus on Resistance fighters and British Special Operatives of the Jura mountains.

Scott has meticulously researched this historical aspect, blending fact with fiction. I can’t tell you how much I learned from this novel, things which I intend to read up on further (no spoilers though so you’ll need to read A Treachery of Spies to find out what I’m talking about!).

This is a novel that taxed my fog-addled brain but in the best possible way. I had to focus to keep up with all of the characters and their timelines, to keep up with the intricacies of the story and to follow the clues and ciphers. I love a book that makes you think though – and this is a powerful novel that not only challenges in terms of the story, but it makes one thing of history and to consider the lives of those who lived during the war.

All in all, it is a fascinating, well-crafted novel that will keep you hooked until the very last page. I almost wish I could read it again!

four-half-stars

Review: Ash Princess

June 14, 2018 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

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: Ash Princess Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
Series: Ash Princess Trilogy #1
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 14th June 2018 (UK)
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

The queen you were meant to be
The land you were meant to save
The throne you were meant to claim

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. Ten years later, Theo has learned to survive under the relentless abuse of the Kaiser and his court as the ridiculed Ash Princess.

When the Kaiser forces her to execute her last hope of rescue, Theo can't ignore her feelings and memories any longer. She vows revenge, throwing herself into a plot to seduce and murder the Kaiser's warrior son with the help of a group of magically gifted and volatile rebels. But Theo doesn't expect to develop feelings for the Prinz.

Forced to make impossible choices and unable to trust even those who are on her side, Theo will have to decide how far she's willing to go to save her people and how much of herself she's willing to sacrifice to become Queen.

A Wee Summary

Theosodia Eirene Houzzara, daughter of the Fire Queen aka the Queen of Astrea, was six years old when the Kalovaxians attacked her homeland. She was 6 when the Kalovaxian warrior the Theyn murdered her mother before her young eyes.

She has spent the last decade in the palace of the conquering Kaiser, dubbed “Ash Princess” and given the name ‘Thora’ and under the constant surveillance of her three ‘shadows’. Her only friend is, ironically, the Theyn’s daughter, Crescentia.

Those Astreans who remain alive are enslaved in one way or another, often in the hallowed mines where magical Spiritgems are mined. The Kalovaxians ignore the sacred nature of the gems, disrespecting the Astrean way of life.

There remains a band of Astrean rebels who seek to free their country and see Theosodia (Thora) in her rightful place as Queen. The Kaiser tortures Thora, punishing her for the acts of these rebels. She knows that she must show deference to the Kaiser at all time, lest she be whipped.

When one of the main rebels is captured, the Kaiser forces Thora to kill him. Along with his death goes Thora’s distant hope of rescue.

When the Kaiser’s heir, Prince Søren, returns from his warfare training, it becomes clear that he has feelings for Thora. She begins to wonder if he might somehow be her route to freedom.

My Thoughts

On the whole, I enjoyed Ash Princess. It has a very well-built fantasy world with interesting politics and magic. I will warn you though that some people may find some of the issues tackled triggering. (View Spoiler »

I must admit that I felt this book rather “samely”. Broadly, it resembles many YA fantasies I’ve read in recent years. However, I tend to enjoy this kind of fantasy so this is just a warning if you’re somewhat fed up with such themes. Oh and there’s a bit of a love triangle going on too, FYI.

While I really liked the world building and premise of this book overall, I didn’t really connect with Theodosia (Thora). Although we get a bit of an insight into her mind, I just didn’t feel drawn to her. Perhaps this was intentional as part of the PTSD she suffers from? I’m not sure.

It was those around Theodosia that actually piqued my interest. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m going to be a bit vague with this, but I liked Søren and would’ve loved more on him. There are rebels as well that I hope we get to learn more about in the next book.

Ash Princess is largely set within the confines of the palace, and I’m looking forward to finding out what lies further afield.

While I didn’t feel that this book was anything particularly ‘new’. I did enjoy it. There were a few twists – some I foresaw, others I didn’t. These twists coupled with the darkness and the politics of the world have me genuinely intrigued about book two, Lady Smoke, which will be out next year.

Have you read Ash Princess? Do you share my opinions?

three-half-stars

Review: Thirteen

June 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, Crime, 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: Thirteen Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh
Series: Eddie Flynn #4
Published by Orion on 14th June 2018
Genres: Crime, thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

The serial killer isn't on trial. He's on the jury.

Hollywood actor Robert Soloman stands accused of the brutal stabbings of his wife and her lover, but he is desperately pleading that he had nothing to do with it. This is the trial of the century, and the defence want Eddie Flynn on their team.

The biggest case Eddie has ever tried before, he decides to take it on despite the overwhelming evidence that Robert is guilty. As the trial starts, Eddie becomes sure of Robert's innocence, but there's something else he is even more sure of - that there is something sinister going on in the jury box.

Because of this, he is forced to ask: what if the killer isn't on the stand? What if he's on the jury?

The premise of Thirteen immediately caught my attention on NetGalley – the serial killer is not the one on trial, rather he is occupying a seat on the jury!

I had high hopes for this read and wow, it even surpassed my expectations.

Let me start by saying that this is actually the fourth book in the Eddie Flynn series but you don’t have to have read the other three – I hadn’t and I loved it! Cavanagh makes his characters easily accessible to us, filling us in while, I imagine, refreshing the memories of long-term fans.

A Wee Summary

Hollywood actor Robert “Bobby” Solomon stands trial for the murder of his equally famous wife and their security guard. All the evidence points towards Bobby’s guilt, but Eddie Flynn finds himself believing in Bobby’s innocence and working his case.

All the while, Flynn is watched from the jury by Joshua Kane who has infiltrated the bench. With chapters told from both Flynn and Kane’s perspectives, we gain a fascinating insight into the minds of the defense lawyer and a highly intelligent killer.

My Thoughts

Cavanagh’s writing is brilliant. He provides us with just enough information that we find our own theories evolving, feeling compelled to read on.

I really liked the character of Flynn, an ex-con-man turned into a defense attorney. I knew I’d love him from the outset, with his tricks in courts piquing my interest.

The whole concept of the trial itself was fascinating to me. The evolving case kept me guessing, with Flynn and Kane head to head.

I don’t think there’s higher praise to give this book than to tell you that the minute I finished it, I downloaded Cavanagh’s first book in the series straight to my Kindle (it’s currently 99p). I’m so excited to learn more about Flynn.

I could gush all day about this book but I’m so wary of any spoilers. It really is an altogether fantastic read. It almost felt like a movie playing out in my mind. Read it!

five-stars