The Power of the Masses, and of the Internet …

Heartstream

Heartstream by Tom Pollock

Amy is trapped in the house in which her mother died, and from which she’s been streaming the progress of her illness for all the world to see and feel. Now she’s all alone, even with millions of followers, and she’s on the brink of an emotional breakdown when, on the day of her mother’s funeral, things take an unexpected turn; Amy suddenly finds herself sitting in the kitchen, and drinking tea with a stranger, who’s literally about to blow her whole existence into pieces.

Cat is a superfan of the boyband Everlasting, and she lives for the fandom, a community largely run by her older friend Evie, and built around the assumption that the front figures Nick and Ryan are secretly in love with each other. But when a large group of fans starts to believe differently, and Cat finds herself in a potentially life changing situation, things rapidly starts spinning out of hers, and Evie’s, control.

When Amy’s and Cat’s stories eventually intertwine, one thing becomes unpleasantly clear: the power of the masses, and the internet, should never be underestimated.

Rating: 🐖🐖🐖🐖🐖

Heartstream has been said to be a “psychological thriller about obsession, fame and betrayal, for fans of Black Mirror”, and to my utmost pleasure I found that depiction to be utterly true. I’ve always been a big fan of Black Mirror, and of other sci-fi stories focusing on how near-future technical solutions could be used to do both harm and good; often at the same time. This novel by Tom Pollock plays around the very same themes as many of the Black Mirror episodes, and it is as interesting as it is frightening.

Without spoiling anything, I can reveal that this is a fast paced and thrilling read that was very hard to put down (you all know that “just one more chapter”-feeling), and that I was shockingly surprised with the twists and turns it took at the end of every. single. chapter. If you’re in for a gripping story that keeps throwing surprises in your face, go read Heartstream at once. But if you’re looking for clear and easy distinctions between bad and good, this may not be for you. The moral is more grey than black and white, just as it is with life (and the power of the internet) in general.

Dr. Bea approves

If you liked this book but are yet to watch Black Mirror, than what are you waiting for? Go do it already! As for books, I think Warcross, though it’s a totally different kind of story, can be said to revolve around similar dilemmas. Or, if you’re here for the puzzling parallel stories, Before We Were Yours might be the next read for you.

Lost Princesses and Weird Magic

IMG_20190615_110212_066

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

1918, Tobolsk, Russia. The revolution is rapidly moving towards its peak. The Bolsheviks have taken over from Lenin, and the Romanov Czar family are living their last months as prisoners in exile. While the hope that the White Army finally will set them free is fading, Anastasia, the youngest princess, a shadow of her former self, is secretly trying to keep her critically ill brother alive by using forbidden spell magic, the kind that got Rasputin killed. At the same time, she’s starting to connect with Zash, one of the family’s guards. But is he to be trusted? And what will happen to the family members that suddenly gets moved? As the slow days move by, Anastasia realises that she’s gotta move quick in order to save the last drops of both the magic ink and the Romanov blood. The question is just how.

Rating:🐖🐖🐖

IMG_20190619_132256_317

I received this book in May’s Seize the Crown-themed BBC box, so I didn’t have any special expectations on it prior to getting it, except that I knew it would be a re-telling, and I do LOVE re-tellings. As soon as I opened the (oh so gorgeous) package with the book, I realised it was gonna be a retelling of the Anastasia legend. I remember liking the movie, but even more so the mysteries surrounding this presumed lost princess, as a child, but it wasn’t my favourite ever and I don’t, as opposed to my buddy read comrades, recall all the songs. So, all in all, I was excited to read it because mysteries, but also not overly thrilled by the historical fiction and fantasy parts.

Romanov is a slow book. It’s sometimes thrilling, but in a VERY low key way. The whole story pretty much felt like a long prologue up until the last hundred pages, and even then, when it finally kicked off, it isn’t a book I’d stay up all night reading. I found the magic to be a bit … unbelievable? It didn’t really make sense. My biggest issue with this book though, is how it totally lacks all nuances and perspectives regarding the Russian revolution and the Bolsheviks. The Czar family are the good guys who have nothing but the people’s best interest in mind, and the Bolsheviks, or just the politically aware and engaged public, are wrong and don’t understand what’s best for them. The end. Kind of.

During the read, Anastasia did however grow on me (or maybe she just finally got to my brain). Romanov is a story about living in exile, and if you like historical portraits of royal families with a tint of magic, you should really read this book. After all, it’s beautifully epic, and it surely makes you think.

Dr. Bea approves

If you’re in for more fairytale re-tellings, check out The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Less complicated fantasy, more fast paced sci-fi, and definietly more interesting and badass princesses!

Magic warriors and transgender thoughts

Mulan

The Hand, the Eye and the Heart by Zoë Marriott

[TW: deadnaming and misgendering]

When the Chinese empire is under the threat of the cunning Leopard and his merciless men, every man and boy able to contribute to the protection of the realm are called into duty. Zhilan’s father Hua Zhou, also known as the Wild Tiger, is a retired man with a bad leg, who was severely injured during his time serving as an high ranked officer. Still, the army calls him once more. Zhilan’s mum and younger siblings are devastated, and Zhilan is fearing for both of her parents lives. In a bold move, she uses her very special gifts to transform herself into Hua Zhi, the Wild Tiger’s oldest boy, now ready to fight in his fathers place. From that on, the story is rapidly spinning into a carousel of lies and deception, but also that of a new understanding of oneself and others. And when the war is over, it’s not that sure that Zhilan will ever return.

Rating: 🐖🐖🐖

I’m a cis-woman, and I can only take on this book from my own, sometimes very narrow, experiences and understandings of gender. With that disclaimer put out there, I do feel like this is a very sensitive depiction about the fluidity of gender identity, rolls and norms; a story that tries to explore different perspective on sex and the perception of belonging, rather than trying to explain or “own” a certain point of view. It’s also a very emotional journey, that makes me relate to and feel for Hua Zhi in a way that I normally wouldn’t with a typical soldier and hero figure in this kind of tale.

The Hand, the Eye and the Heart is a retelling of the legend behind Mulan but, as described above, with a hundred more layers, dimensions and complications. The war, that has to be said to be at least one of the novel’s main conflicts, isn’t action-packed or filled with the kind of one-liners that usually makes me page forward until the word “sword” isn’t appearing twenty times in every sentence. It’s still a thrilling and exciting story, but the focus on identity and relationships makes it deeper and more low-key than other fantasy retellings of the like. However, it took me a long time to get through the book. It’s still a bit too epic for my taste, and even though it’s interesting and thought provoking, it’s not brilliant or especially outstanding.

Dr. Bea approves

If you’re in for more mythical retellings, have a look at A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. Totally different story, but similar in style and feels.

Dream team adventures and time travelling paradoxes

StolenTimeStolen Time by Danielle Rollins

It all starts as an accident, when Ash unexpectedly crashes with his time travelling space ship in Seattle the year of 1913, on just the same day as Dorothy escapes from her own arranged marriage. Without Ash’s knowledge (or approval) she sneaks on board the shuttle, and soon after lands in Ash’s and his best friend Zora’s workshop, which is located in New Seattle year 2077. Unwillingly, but also excitedly, Dorothy becomes a part of the team that are looking for the lost Professor who can hopefully save them all, before the Black Circus, the escalating earhtquakes, or some tricky paradox kills off the entire Earth’s populations.

Rating: 🐖🐖🐖🐖

This is yet another book that I got from BookBox Club, that I was initially felt sceptical towards and probably never had picked out myself, but ended up very much enjoying. I was fearing this to be a mix of all the genres from my Big NoNo-list: historical fiction, space adventures and great life saving quests. But even though Stolen Time contains a good portion of the latter, it’s still dystopian in a very down to earth-kind of way that makes like it. There’s a bit too much action, and the book is a bit too predictable, but it’s still so thrilling that I’m really happy it’s just the first in a series.

Without spoiling anything, I also dare to say that the intrigue, on both the characters, the quests and the societal level, have much potential to develop and grow deeper in the coming sequels. But until that, this is just an exciting dream team adventure that I’ll recommend to anyone that enjoys a bit of time travelling paradoxes.

Dr. Bea approves

For more time travelling adventures, have a look at Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children-series. And if you’re searching for more sci-fi space drama, look no further than to This Splintered Silence.

 

Free love, creativity and monsters

Monsters

Monsters: The Passion and Loss that Created Frankenstein by Sharon Dogar

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin is only a young teenager when Sir Bysshe Shelley first enters her home, where she lives with her father, her step-mom, and her sisters Jane and Fanny. Like almost everyone else, Bysshe is soon infatuated with Mary’s impressive but sorrowful heritage, her intellect, her determination and progressive values about women’s right to freedom and equality. Mary herself, as well as her sisters, falls in love with Bysshe, a handsome and troubled poet, and maybe more than the person himself, his ideas about and attempt to form a new world, where class and gender is secondary, and equality and free love shall prosper. This becomes the start of a remarkable journey, where the strive for a different world, and the consequences thereof, pushes Mary deeper and deeper into a spiral of psychological, emotional, artistic and physical monstrosity and loss, that eventually leads up to her writing the famous novel Frankenstein.

Rating: 🐖🐖🐖🐖🐖

Honestly, I was a bit put off when I received this book in January’s Bookbox Club-box. Historical fiction really isn’t my cup of tea, and even though I’ve been interested in Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley ever since I studied literature, Monsters is a massive book, and it’s set in the early 1800’s, so that did get me a bit sceptical.

However, while historical fiction isn’t my favourite genre, two of my absolute favourite subjects quickly appeared to be in the center of this story: feminism and tragic love. That kept me reading, even though I initially found it a bit tricky, since the story is told by an all-knowing narrator, and shifts perspective between the (quite many) characters all the time. The language though was quite easy, fast paced and flowing, and not at all old and dusty (there’s my prejudice towards historical fiction again … ). And even though I struggled for the first couple of pages, I’m so happy that I kept reading. Because suddenly, I couldn’t stop.

This is a story about a remarkable person, author and destiny, but it is also so much more than that. It is a story about social and societal boundaries, about women’s rights, about sorrow, about love, and about the norms we’ve set for how certain emotions and situations are supposed to be felt and handled. It is not the first book written about free love and the will to change the world, but the fact that it is about a teenage girl with high expectations lying heavily on her shoulders, sets it apart. Because usually, these types of idealistic attempts about how to live are often expressed through someone like Bysshe. Someone (male and white) that can afford to try on different life styles without being particularly affected. For Mary though, the consequences of practicing free love soon becomes a question of life and death. That brings on a pragmatic aspect, that is so much-needed when discussing what boundaries societal norms set for our lives, and for our practicing of artistic creativity. And it makes us think about who’s really the monster.

Monsters is a well needed and fresh breeze, taking on a new perspective on subjects that’s been literary praised, but honestly has gotten a bit old and well too mansplained. Read this book. It’s gonna be one of the best you’ve read this year.

Dr. Bea approves

For further reading, I of course recommend Mary Shelley’s own Frankenstein. And if you’re into more fictional/factual biographies on writing women, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson and the diaries of Virgina Woolf should be your next reads!

 

Getting Lost and Finding Oneself

IMG_20181104_164316_350.jpg

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby

Bri and Mari are cousins, and growing up, also best friends and soul mates. But over the teenage years they lose touch, and their lives develop in somewhat opposite directions. While Bri travels the world, hikes crazy mountains and make new friends, Mari chooses a more shallow path; that of a social media influencer. Cooking pretend (photo suitable) meals, dating a pretend (social media hot-shot) boyfriend, she’s lost touch not only with Bri, but also with their common dreams of future adventures. But then suddenly, everything changes. Bri loosing her step on a steep climb, and Mari receiving her diary and backpack on what would’ve been their shared eighteenth birthday, sets Mari off in a new direction. One of hiking, exploring, and in a way recapturing the relationship with her now gone cousin. This is a story about getting lost on trails, and finding oneself when trying to get on the right way back.

Rating 🐖🐖🐖

Starting this book, I really thought I was going to love it. The cousin friendship, the growing apart, the mountain climbing and cute illustrations and handwritten passages from Bri’s diary – I just knew I was in for a treat. The story set off well, with Mari taking on the erratic landscape, while leaving everything she knew behind.

Then, however, nothing much happened. Sure, she climbed some more mountains. Made some friends (and there’s a love story in there too). Found out some things about Bri. But pretty fast, there was nothing more to the story than depictions of blisters, beautiful sunsets and quotes about finding oneself.

I really liked the concept of this book, but ironically enough, Mari’s journey towards finding her true self is plotted with the typical kind of shallow quotes that she wanted to get away from when leaving the influencer life behind. It is however a cute, easy read and pleasant feel good story, and if that’s what you’re looking for, The Other Side of Lost is a good option.

Dr. Bea approves

If you’re in for more wild life adventures, Wild by Cheryl Strayed or Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer might be your next read.

Shallow magic and straight on abuse

IMG_20180912_141536_558.jpg

The Lost Witch by Melvin Burgess

Thirteen year old Beas’ life goes through a rapid change when she suddenly starts to see and hear things that others can not. Confused and a pretty scared, she seeks comfort from her parents, that, convinced that she’s mentally ill, wants to take her to the hospital. At the same time, Bea is being approached by a group of witches that says that her visions is a sign of her special powers. They also state that she’s now in danger, because of the evil Hunt, wanting to destroy everything good and bright in the world with their dark magic. Conflicted and scared, torn between the (maybe not so safe) safety of her family, and her want to help out the other witches, Bea is soon (literary) dragged into a dark story of conflicting magic and straight on abuse.

Rating  🐖

I don’t often write a straight forward bad review, but folks, this is it. Even if I dislike a book, there’s often something to the story or the writing style that I appreciate. In The Lost Witch however, this is not the case.

The story balances somewhere between MG and YA, which I think adds to the odd writing style. Almost all of the story is explained and spelled straight out rather than figuratively told, which adds up to no feelings being felt during the reading. The magic and the way this whole fantasy world is working seems random, and I just don’t get it. There’s also a ridiculous amount of exclamation marks.

The biggest problem is though (surprisingly) not the writing style or the construction of the fiction universe. It’s the events of the story itself. The story where thirteen year old Bea, alone and scared, gets kidnapped, physically and psychologically abused, and then put on trial and blamed for it all. Without any form of hint from the moral in the story, the authors way of depicting it, or the after word that this is the wrong way to go about it. It’s not just conflicting, its distasteful, at the very least.

Dr. Bea does NOT approve

If you wanna read something about magic and witches, but without pedophile sex scenes and victim blaming, I recommend The Magisterium-series instead.

Pretty Bad Liars?

IMG_20180803_174340_674.jpg

All of this is true by Lygia Day Peñaflor

Miri, Penny and Soleil have been friends since seventh grade, attending the same classes at the same private school, looking at the same boys, arranging the same hyped parties, and most important of all, sharing the love for the novel Undertow, and worshipping its author. One day the girls, together with their new friend Jonah, goes to an Undertow-signing. The author, Fatima Ro, is everything they hoped she would be, and as if that wasn’t enough, she want’s the little high school gang to become “her new people”. Hanging out at Fatima’s soon becomes the new normal, but all relationships isn’t what they first seems to be, and conflicts, lies, and hidden agendas are boiling right under the surface. It all comes down to the question: Who can you really trust to keep your secrets?

Rating 🐖🐖🐖

This is exactly the kind of page turning mystery story that I do l.o.v.e. It’s similar to Pretty Little Liars and a lot of other YA-books, with the plot building up around a well-kept secret that you spend the time reading to try to figure out. In All of this is true, this premise also shines through in how the book is disposed and written. It consists exclusively of TV-interviews with the girls, excerpts from Fatima Ro’s new book, email-conversations, and news paper articles about the unraveling scandal that’s at the center of the story.

I strongly liked this disposition, as it added to the jigsaw format of the plot itself. What I didn’t like was that the book felt a bit thin. Not in size or number of pages, but  plot wise. After all, the “big secret” in this one was quite easy to figure out, and once it was exposed, there wasn’t much more to the story.

This book could easily have been a five pigs-read for me, if there had been just a liiiittle more dept; to the characters, and to the events that took place, i.e. in terms of psychological explanations or theories. ‘Cause at the end of this books, all my “how’s” were answered, but all my “why’s” where just left there hanging. And that’s really like ripping out the last chapter of a really good thriller, isn’t it?

Dr. Bea approves

If you want more mysteries, I recommend you to read One of us is lying by Karen M. McManus. (Moral wise I had some troubles with that one, to be honest, but oh was it an exciting five pig-read.)

There’s something in the woods …

IMG_20180729_182012_588.jpg

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik [book pictured in Swedish]

Winifred and her friends Pia, Rachel and Sandra have known each other since they were really young (and sometimes got really drunk). Now they’re all grown ups, with teenage kids, ex-husbands and full-time jobs. But every now and then, they go on vacations together, or rather on (often dangerous) adventures. This time they’re aiming at a full week of exploring the wilderness of Main. They start off with a white water rafting tour, that doesn’t end up anywhere near what the girls planned … After that, it’s all about surviving, in the deep forest. Alone. Or are they really?

Rating 🐖🐖🐖🐖

I got recommended The River at Night by a friend, and started the book without any particular expectations. Every now and then I like my average thriller, but by this book, I was pleasantly surprised. You see, this is a deeply unsettling thriller, without it being gory. I was just really scared (in an exciting and page turning way) throughout this whole read. It also totally got that Stephen King-claustrophobic thing that I love going on.

I found the book to be well written and interesting both when it came to the scary “something is watching us”-parts and concerning the “we have been friends forever and this is our life stories”-passages. And that is, in my opinion, quiet unusual when it comes to thrillers. It certainly helped to build up the story in an interesting way, since I wanted to know more both about the characters back stories, and about how everything was going to end.

The only remark I have is that I wish the author had dragged out the beginning of the story for a bit longer. ‘Cause those moments before everything escalates, is almost always the most creepy part of uncanny stories like this.

Dr. Bea approves

If you liked this book, you will probably also enjoy In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. It’s packed with intrusive forest environments, life long friendships, and conflicts boiling just under the surface.

The Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park

IMG_20180727_143802_424.jpg

                                            The Extinction Trials by S. M. Wilson

The continent of Earthasia is overpopulated, and the cities are full to the brim. It’s gotten to the point where people work in shifts in order to be able to share beds, sleeping in assigned hours during either the day or the night. Food is lacking, health care is non-existent, and the crowded cities are plagued by a rapidly spreading disease no one knows how to cure. But there might be a solution to all this suffering.

Just across the (somewhat deadly) ocean, the untouched continent of Piloria is sprawling. There’s clean air, endless space, and a plenitude of eatable plants. The only problem is that Piloria already is populated. By people-eating dinosaurs. 

Rating 🐖🐖🐖🐖🐖

The Extinction Trials has been described as a fusion of The Hunger Games and Jurassic Park, and after having read the book, that depiction feels point on. This is a dystopian adventure story, fast paced and plot-driven, but it’s also resting on a fine net of personal background stories and political conflicts.

The two main characters of the story, Stormchaser and Lincoln, both tells their life stories while competing in the insane trials to qualify for the (even more insane) Piloria-expedition. Together with the ongoing adventure, these stories, and secrets, contribute to further reflections about life and extinction, as well as that of human rights, unfair rulers, and a not too comfortable but alarmingly possible future if we keep on treating our planet this way. But unlike Jurassic Park, which I recently wrote a review about, those discussions doesn’t take over the novels story. So for those of you that are just looking for some good old velociraptor action: you won’t be left disappointed.

In my opinion, The Extinction Trials is the perfect dystopian adventure. It’s trustworthy, it’s emotional, it’s full of political tension, and it’s packed with hungry dinosaurs. There’s simply nothing more to wish for.

Dr. Bea approves

If you want more dystopia, check out The Lunar Chronicals or Outwalkers. And if you just can’t get enough of  dinosaurs, this surprisingly new book may float your goat.

A never ending story

20180711_171236.jpg

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

The queen is dead, and the king is going mad. The Island of Innis Lear is under a lot of threats, from nature, from potential conquerors, from star prophecies, from history catching up and from its own kings actions. It’s time for one of the kings three daughters to take over the ruling before everything is too late, but who is best suited, and who is the rightful heir? The warrior Gaela, the political strategist Regan and the obedient star priest Elia all got their own ideas about how to rule the country, and whom it may be ruled by. But long-buried secrets, potential romances and the ever interfering whispers of the trees also influences the chain of events. And at the end of the day, only one daughter can be named The King of Innis Lear.

Rating: 🐖🐖

This is an epic fantasy story. It’s a woman’s gaze kinda retelling of good old Shakespeare’s King Lear, and it’s somewhat similar to A Game of Thrones. With one big exception. For almost 500 pages, absolutely nothing happens.

When picking up this book, I knew I was in for a long and tricky ride, due to 1) English not being my first language 2) Epic fantasy story and 3) That story being told in a Shakespearian style. Nay did it take long, before my worst concerns were fulfilled. ‘Cause even if I knew that this book was going to take some time to finish, I was hoping to be caught up in the plot and hence inspired to read on. After all, The Queens of Innis Lear has been said to be a womanly retelling of King Lear, and since I’m always tired of portraits of historical dudes, a change in perspectives is something I warmly welcome.

However, after reading about 200 pages, it became painfully clear to me that not much was going to happen. This book may be a fantasy story, but it’s not much of a fantasy adventure. Even close to the end (with some killings and drama finally going down), I had the feeling that the story never quite kicked off.

If you love dimmed political conspiracies, lengthy background stories and endless depictions of castles, this may be the book for you. It certainly wasn’t for me, though. I gave it two pigs since it wasn’t horribly written, but the reading experience was a single, exhausted, little piglet. 

20180713_104647.jpg

Dr. Bea approves of retellings from women’s perspectives, if not of this particular book.

If you’re looking for a lengthy fantasy adventure, told from the women’s point of view, I would recommend you to read the classic Avalon-series, that’s a retelling of the King Arthur-legend, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Life finds a way

20180629_130836.jpg

Jurassic Park & The Lost World by Michael Crichton

The eccentric millionaire John Hammond has finally figured out a way to recover dinosaur DNA from mosquitos capsuled in amber. With the world leading scientists at his side, and endless resources to spend, he has also managed to clone this DNA, and breed actual Jurassic creatures. To do a kind of test run of the theme park where he intends to show off his creations, John invites a small group of lawyers, insurance people, paleontologists and mathematicians to inspect the park. He also invites his own grandchildren. Everything is wonderous and epic, until a thunderstorm strikes, a biased computer expert hacks the system, and the dinosaurs suddenly runs loose …

Six years later some of the old crew, and also a few new professors and kids, sets out for an expedition to Isla Sorna, an island closely located to Isla Nublar, where the now destroyed and empty Jurassic Park once resided. Reports has started to come in from small villages along the Costa Rican coast, where strange-looking lizards are biting people and killing infants. But is it possible that dinosaurs still, or rather again, walks the earth?

Rating 🐖🐖🐖

The novels about Jurassic Park were first published in the early 1990’s. By now, a good 30 years and five movies later, we all know the story. However, I remembered really appreciating reading Jurassic Park the first time around, and decided to do a reread of it (and the sequel) before watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. All things considered, I’m glad that I did.

Jurassic Park turns out to mostly be what I expected; it’s an epic adventure story, with somewhat stereotypical characters, a lot of philosophical reasoning around life, extinction and humans manipulation of the planet, and never sleeping carnivores. A lot of background information around the scientifical processes are given, and sometimes the characters lines feels more like Michael Crichton sneaking in (what he think is) interesting theories more than anything that actually makes sense for the story. Jurassic Park balances on the thin line between fiction and non-fiction, where the non-fiction parts are mostly made up. It makes the book unique, but it also makes you yawn and scroll through endless reasonings about average growth in herbivore populations. When it gets interesting though, it feels nice that all of these thought gets this much space, and are not rushed through. In some way it’s both the novels strength and weakness to get lost in philosophic, mathematic and scientific reasoning. And before you grow too tired of it, there’s always a hungry T-rex to wake you up.

The Lost World on the other hand, is more of a bleak shadow of it’s precursor than anything else. While the scientific theories are still there, and now to the edge of being overwhelming, the adventureness is almost all gone. By now, we know what happens when you meet a raptor in the woods. Throwing in another pair of kids and changing the location to another island doesn’t do the trick. I would recommend you to read the first book, but leave the second to be. Cause what Crichton does best, is after all epic scenes about epic giants. The philosophy and math are better left for someone else to dig into.

Dr. Bea approves of Jurassic Park, but not so much of its sequel.

If you want more dinosaurs and a bit more dystopian adventures, I strongly recommend The Extinction Trials by S.M. Wilson, that is said to be “Jurassic Park meets The Hunger Games”, and that I after just a few chapters already love. (Review to come later on, so keep your eyes open and on this blog.)

Mad or just utterly confusing?

 

IMG_20180224_181118_788

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Alice has been living a shattered life, always on the road, and seemingly always on the run – although her mother Ella has always been vague about from what. Used to overstay their welcome, shifting schools and (in the best of cases) apartments almost as often as clothes, Alice is therefore somewhat surprised when Ella after a very short romance decides to settle down and marry, and Alice gains an extra sister, Audrey, that’s she’s actually starting to get some kind of relationship with. But after just a few weeks, Ella is suddenly missing, and Alice’s got a feeling that what’s always been hunting them is starting to catch up.

From that on, everything unravels quite quickly, as Ella’s disappearance is somehow connected to Alice’s mystical grandmother whom been writing creepy fairy tales, before recently passing away in her (very fairytaly) mansion located inside the Hazel Wood. Ignoring her mothers only instruction; STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD, Alice is fastly and spinningly knee-deep in this mad and mystical forest, where nothing is what it first appears to be.  

Rating: 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖

When writing this review, I realize that I’ve got remarkably few notes written down from my reading of The Hazel Wood. One reason for that is that I’ve got a very vague idea of what I’ve actually read. I tend to like books that are unpredictable in the sense that I’ve got no idea what’s going to happen in the next chapter. The Hazel Wood has however taken this to a new level; throughout this whole read, I had absolutely no idea what was going to take place in the next sentence.

Language wise, this book is an easy read. Plot wise, it’s a nightmare. But maybe that’s the thing with Alice in Wonderland, of which this is a retelling (that sometimes feels quite far-fetched). It’s what I like about this book, but at the same time it annoys me. It’s first when I give up on the track keeping of things that I start to enjoy this story. And then, I really enjoy it.

I also reflect a lot around the original Alice in Wonderland story while reading. Maybe it’s just as confusing, but over the years and due to the literary canon, we’ve all kind of accepted it. When retold in a new format, I once again have to struggle with figuring everything out. Perhaps it’s just the non-classic retellingness that throws me off? ‘Cause part of me really like what I’m reading. It’s exciting, and sometimes creepy as hell. The Hinterland, as the Hazel Wood universe is called, is both uncanny and deeply fascinating. And it’s told in a very convincing way. Even though it’s “completely bonkers” as Cheshire would’ve put it, I buy it all. Maybe not the clichés at first, but then, what is a fairy tale without them?

What really bothers me though is that everything is so very real on the Hinterside, like obviously existing even to the people outside of the craziness. Part of why I like the whole Alice-dilemma is that it’s sometimes vague what happens in her mind, and what actually happens. Removing that thin line is removing something from the heart of the story. But by all means, The Hazel Wood is it’s own book. And, as Dumbledore would’ve said:

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

 

Dr. Bea approves

For those of you wishing for more Wonderland-related nightmares, and are up for an even creepier Alice-retelling, Alice by Christina Henry might be something for you.

 

Shallow relationships and a possible end of the world

 

IMG_20180522_091725_089.jpg

Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron

Soon after 16 y.o. Jaya’s mom passes, so-called Beings (a.k.a. angels) are starting to fall from the sky. In a pattern that seems random, every now and then a Being falls down to the earth, and towards its own unavoidable death due to the collision. No one knows where the Beings are coming from, or why they’ve started to crash down on the planet. Immense panic breaks out as everyone think’s the world is ending. But as the month’s pass by and nothing happens, everything is pretty much back to normal. For most people, that is.

Jaya’s dad on the other hand soon joins the so-called Wingdings; groups of people connecting through the internet, trying to predict where the next Being is going to land. Searching for answers to life’s existential questions, or just for a lot of money, they decide to gather near Edinburgh, and Jaya and her little sister Rani has no choice but to tag along on their dad’s obsession-like adventure. This soon takes an unpredicted turn, as the fall does happen, but not in a way that anyone would’ve predicted. At the same time Jaya meets the twins Callum and Allie. Allie that’s carrying both a heavy secret, an inside fire burning for change, and maybe also the key to Jaya’s much messed up heart.

Rating:  🐖 🐖

Before I received this book from BookBoxClub I had never heard of it, neither of the author Sophie Cameron, so apart from being curious, I had no expectations for this book. However, I immediately got into the story, as it’s written in a very easy read and fast paced way. If you’re looking for a light summer read while chilling in the hammock, this might just be it.

Even though this wasn’t my favourite read, what I did like about Out of the Blue was the overall plot. The Beings starting to fall, and all of the chaos, hope, fear, but most of all afterthought, the falls creates in both the society as a whole and within the characters of the story. These are some really thought sparking and interesting questions, and I would love to read about them from like four hundred more perspectives. So all of you fanfic writers, I put my faith in you!

As to what I didn’t love, that’s unfortunately a lot. Mostly that even though I quickly got into the book, I was never really into it. Something about the whole depiction of Jaya’s unhappy love story, her feelings about her mom’s death, her relationship to Allie and her father and sister … I never felt it. Maybe it was that same fast paced writing that made the story thrilling that got in the way; I did get the feeling that the relationship part’s of the story was just hurried through, and therefore they did feel a bit shallow. So …

Dr. Bea approves but not without some hesitation

If you’re looking for more angel related adventures, leaning to the fantasy rather than the contemporary side, I strongly recommend the Penryn & the End of Days-trilogy by Susan Ee, starting with the book Angelfall.

 

 

 

 

Oliver Twist meets 1984 in this dystopian surveillance adventure

IMG_20180503_165818_729

Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw

In near future England, the Coalition has taken over the rule of the country, and is now implanting small chips into all citizens in order to “keep them safe from cradle to grave”, which also makes them easy to track and, further more, to keep on track.

At the beginning of the book, Jake has almost miraculously managed to escape from the Home Academy where he’s been kept more or less in custody since the dramatic and somewhat mysterious death of his government employed parents. Almost alone in the world, ’cause he’s at least got his childhood companion Jet the Dog by his side, Jake soon finds a new existence and family in the gang of children called Outwalkers that he stumbles upon. Together they begin a dangerous journey towards Scotland, and the possibility of a life in actual freedom.

Rating 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖

I received this book via BookBoxClub and to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t heard of it before. So when picking it up I felt both very thrilled because OMG DYSTOPIAN ADVENTURE GOING DOWN but also a bit sceptical. ‘Cause these kind of plot driven, adventurous novels (especially if the main character is a boy) quite often tend to unravel in heroic and macho quests with a lot of attitude but not so much political analysis or relationship focus.

To my utmost happiness, this contained very little of world saving missions, action packed dialogue or black/white visions of what would make a better world. ‘Cause even though Outwalkers is adventurous and plot driven, it’s also all about relationships, survival, living as a refugee, and feelings ranging between those of tearing hunger, paralyzing sorrow and glints of hope of a better world – or just of a bed with clean linen.

At the same time as it does ask those big existential and societal questions, Outwalkers is nothing of a heavy read. It’s fast paced, plot driven, and full of those thrilling cliffhangers that just makes you wanna keep reading. So even if you’re more into underground rail rides than what this world is turning into-scenarios, you will probably enjoy this novel.

Dr. Bea approves

If “big brother is watching”-adventures are right up your alley, I can really recommend Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. And if you like some techy stuff and a bit of virtual reality added to those governmental conspiracies, Layers by Ursula Poznanski might be just your cup of tea.