Book Review – Baxter’s Requiem

by Matthew Crow
Date Started: 18 August 2018
Date Finished: 24 August 2018

Firstly, I want to say thank you to the publishers who kindly gave me a copy of this novel to review.

This novel follows 94-years-young Mr. Baxter, who has been told he has a year to live and is move from his house into a Home. Whilst Baxter is there trying to keep living his life, he meets teenage Greg, who is merely surviving. Baxter takes it upon himself to ensure his last adventure is the first of many for Greg.

I adored Baxter and Greg, not only were they a great duo but they also worked well apart. Baxter is stubborn but lovable, who has so much knowledge, wisdom, and wit. It was easy to see why the nursing staff loved him so much, even if he did make their jobs more difficult. I really enjoyed seeing his interactions with other characters, especially his old friend Winnie.

The contrast between them and Greg was well written and they complemented each other well. Baxter was charming and charismatic, whereas Greg was more standoffish and reserved. It was great seeing Greg develop throughout the novel and seeing him begin to come to terms with his tragic loss.

Although it felt a little rushed at times towards the end, the plot was well explored and executed. I loved the way Crow slowly revealed more about the characters and their pasts. It’s through this you realise how similar Greg and Baxter are on a deeper level which makes them make sense as a duo. I also enjoyed the mix of having their stories told to us by themselves and other characters, and through the use of flashbacks.

Both of their stories were beautiful and tragic. I could have easily read an entire novel on Baxter and Thomas. Seeing them in the flashbacks was a lovely touch and I loved being able to experience Thomas himself and not just through Baxter’s words. I would have loved to have seen more of Greg after the trip to France for some closture, however, leaving it the way Crow did gives the end a sense of hope and made me feel warm reading it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and getting to know both Baxter and Greg. After reading this I’m going to check out more of Crow’s work. This novel is released on Thursday 6 September 2018 and it’s definitely worth picking up!

Rating: 4/5

Book Review – The Fire Sermon

by Francesca Haig
Date Started: 11 June 2018
Date Finished: 14 June 2018

I purchased this novel a couple of years ago after being intrigued by the dystopian plot. However, I found myself fairly disappointed in what had the promise of being an interesting novel.

In this world, only twins are born, however, they are separated into alphas and omegas with the former going onto greatness and the latter being branded and abandoned. Whilst most omegas are branded at a young age, Cass managed to hide and stay with her family long enough for her alpha brother Zach to be seen as an outcast, and harbour a deep hatred for omegas, which isn’t dangerous for just Cass…

I really struggled to like Cass which had a huge impact on the rest of the novel as it’s all told through her perspective. Whilst I understood her attitude towards her brother’s involvement in the treatment of omegas; and being against violence towards alphas so innocent omegas wouldn’t die too but I felt she was very preachy and, at times, whiny. My favourite character was the mysterious Kip and I feel the novel would have been much better had he been the protagonist (or even Cass was in Kip’s shoes but it was still in her perspective).

I understand that this novel is the first in a trilogy but there seemed to be a lot of things that went unexplained. Whilst some of it kept the novel interesting enough to carry on reading, the rest just left me quite bored. The pacing of the novel didn’t help with this either. I felt that it had a strong start, however, after the ‘Keeping Rooms’ the novel was just Cass and Kip always on the run with very, almost laughably, convenient getaways. This made the story feel repetitive and eve had some repeated dialogue, making the story more of a chore to read by the end. Although the final few chapters did renew my interest in the plot, but it was a little too late by then.

I am sad that I didn’t enjoy this novel as much as I was hoping to – especially after the beginning of the novel had me hooked and excited to read on. The story may well develop throughout the other books, making up for the issues of the first one, but I don’t think I will try them when it was only the opening and end chapters which made this novel for me.

Rating: 2/5

Book Review – The Power

by Naomi Alderman
Date Started: 5 June 2018
Date Finished: 9 June 2018

I received a copy of this book as a birthday present from my friend. Strangely, I hadn’t heard the hype which surrounded this novel, which I’m quite pleased about as I was able to read the story without any expectations.

The novel centres on four main characters: Allie, Roxy, Margot and Tunde. All of which in very different roles, all vital to the new world and society that they all found themselves in. A society where women suddenly have an unexplained, lightning-like, power which spirals into fear and chaos.

I found all of the characters very interesting and I enjoyed how the novel would regularly swap between the different stories and perspectives. It simultaneously made the world feel as big and small like our own. It also kept the narrative going at a good pace which was important given that the book spans several years. For me, the character whose story I enjoyed following the most was Allie’s. Seeing her transformation was intriguing especially her interactions with others (Roxy, with her rough around the edges personality, in particular). I also liked Tunde’s perspective amongst all of this as a ‘trusted male reporter’, I felt it was a needed balance to the novel.

Whilst the plot was focussed on the wider society and the treatment of the women and their new power within it, which was fascinating in itself. There were many moments in the novel where politician, Margot, had several tender moments with her daughter. Seeing the fear in the beginning of the novel change throughout was a nice route to take among the politics and the ‘bigger picture’ of what was happening. The main issue I had with the plot was the convienience of some of the situations, especially involving Roxy. There were also times where some characters storylines felt a little repetitive.

What stood out the most for me was the framing of the novel. At first I was a little confused over the letters which begin the novel, however when it’s brought back at the end there was a wonderful moment of realisation and I loved it. There are many moments throughout the book which made it feel like a real research project which was a great tone to have and added a depth I wasn’t expecting.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and it was a unique dystopia – we saw the slow rise of power rather than being thrown into a society once it has already crumbled. A great cast of characters, which their unreliablity and unbalanced states somehow come together harmoniously.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review – The Boy who Belonged to the Sea

by Denis Thériault
Date Started: 1 June 2018
Date Finished: 4 June 2018

I first came across this book when I was at the airport, I decided to wait to buy it on my return as I had already chosen my books for the trip and didn’t want to get distracted. However, I couldn’t get the premise of the novel out of my head and rushed to buy it as soon as I returned.

The story follows a child, a nameless narrator, who is fascinated by another boy in his school, Luc. After his parents suffered a tragic accident killing his father and leaving his mother in a coma, our narrator is in the care of his grandparents. He is lonely but determined to make friends with Luc who has a passion for the sea and the fantastical stories surrounding it.

I absolutely adored these boys. Both of them have lived through terrible traumas which causes them to find new ways to cope. After Luc’s mother mysteriously disappears he begins to fill in the gaps himself and becomes set on waking up the narrator’s mother in any way they can. The friendship between these boys was extraordinary; bordering on a playful, childlike innocence and a dark, more obsessive nature.

The book is fairly short but it is enough to leave a powerful impression. There were times where I realised the turns the novel was taking mere moments before I reached them, but this didn’t make them any less heartbreaking. There were several instances where I struggled to keep it together when I was on the train reading this. I just wanted to reach out and protect these boys from the world around them.

This novella is beautifully written; with poetic, almost lyrical, language which was well preserved despite being translated. It was truly a joy to read; I barely noticed there was very little dialogue as the monologue of the narrator kept me gripped and informed of every slight detail which made the story come to life even in its short length.

Overall, and this will come as no surprise, I loved this book. I was always excited for my commute when I would read it again and in its final pages I barely put it down, even as I stepped off my train. I urge anyone to pick up this bittersweet story as you will not be disappointed.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: The Bees

by Laline Paull
Date Started: 18 May 2018
Date Finished: 22 May 2018

I have been waiting to read this novel for around three years. The concept sounded interesting, although at first, I thought it was just using a beehive as a metaphor so I was very surprised that this dystopia was a bee dystopia.

Flora 717 is a born a sanitation worker – the lowest class of bee, however, unlike the others, she can speak. Despite her differences, she is still determined to accept, obey and serve her Queen which takes her to parts of the hive she was least expecting.

It was very easy to forget that Flora 717 and the others were bees which made the novel an enthralling read. It also allows you to compare this bee society to human ones, dystopian or otherwise. Flora 717 was a great character, I was fascinated by her internal conflict to obey the Queen and her hive and her desire to be more than just a sanitation worker.

The society that Paull creates is intriguing and very unique – whilst the novel felt like a familiar dystopian narrative by having bees and the hive it was explored in such a distinct way. It felt like a fresh take on an oppressive society and it was framed well. It’s difficult to talk about this novel as it was very different and surprising and this was down to knowing very little about the novel before starting it.

Therefore, I will keep this brief. This novel is definitely worth picking up as it’s not the usual dystopian novel you would find. It is a clever novel which twists the very real life of a hive with the very human fear of what society can become.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review – Lost Boy

by Christina Henry
Date Started: 5 April 2018
Date Finished: 6 April 2018

This novel was recommended to me by a friend, so I thought I would try it and it impacted me in ways I wasn’t expecting. Come to think of it, I think it was this book that reignited my passion for reading.

Lost Boy tells the story of how Jamie, Peter’s favourite lost boy, and right-hand man, becomes his most sworn enemy: Captain Hook. However, his rise to become one of the most iconic villains in children’s literature is not as straightforward as you think.

I adored Jamie, which surprised me as I thought we would be made to dislike the boy who became Captain Hook but it was the complete opposite. We are taken through the story from Jamie’s perspective which was great and I loved seeing how he was protective of all of the other boys, especially Charlie. His brotherly relationship with Chalie was so sweet and I was genuinely worried whenever they were separated. Charlie is the youngest of the group, Jamie thinks too young which makes it dangerous for the both of them as Peter begins to get jealous.

Peter Pan has always been a dark character when you read the original fairytale, but Henry emphasises this. We really get to see the obsessive and twisted side to Peter and his island. It was a perfect balance of fascinating, infuriating and terrifying. Seeing how Peter’s interactions with each of the boys change, and seeing how they all idolised him was chilling. Especially as more is revealed.

It’s impossible to talk about all the ways in which I loved this novel without spoiling it and there’s nothing like experiencing this book for the first time. It isn’t just the mystery surrounding Peter and Jamie that keep you hooked (I’m sorry) by the questions of who are the Many-Eyed? And how do the children stay children? By giving you the answers to some questions and not others, Henry expertly holds the tension of leaving you curious but satisfied.

When I picked this novel up I wasn’t expecting to become as emotionally attached to it as I did. Even days after I finished it my thoughts kept returning to it and I found myself frantically messaging theories to my friend at midnight. I highly recommend this novel which is a successful marriage between Peter Pan and Lord of the Flies, as it will not leave you disappointed and you’ll never look at Captain Hook the same way again.

Rating: 5/5 

It’s Been a While…

It has been far too long since there was an update on this blog, and for that, I apologise. When I last posted I was at the beginning of my final year of university. Unfortunately, between my dissertation and my other classes, I didn’t have any time to keep up with regular posts. My dissertation title ended up being: The Influence of Gender, Setting and Time on Psychological Survival in Dystopian Societies. After all my hard work, I managed to get a First for my dissertation and graduate with a 2:1 overall.

After I finished university I was completely burned out book-wise and I really struggled to pick anything up to read. I also completely took a break to recover from the relentless studying and research of final year. Even though I have been working since November, it wasn’t until the past few weeks where I have been reading regularly again. Now, however, I have got back into the habit of reading every morning and evening on the train.

Reading regularly again made me realise how much I missed this blog and how I think I’m ready to come back again. I’ll slowly start to build the blog back up to regular posts, however, I am very out of practice and a little rusty!

Thank you all for your patience and support.