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Speedrun – a review of Shattered by Teri Terry

Kyla, now on the run from the government, has now found her birth mother. She starts her life anew to live with her again and get to know her again and tell her of her stories of being forced into a rebellion then getting her memory back and regaining her thoughts again. But it seems there was more secrets in the past that were kept hidden from her even then, and more secrets surrounding Slating that she uncovers. Her heart gets torn from trusting her family as she learns of her past, but what will be of her future when the government finds her again?

The ending of this novel wasn’t the ending or direction I expected. I like how it started as something very personal, and that was still a key part of it throughout. But it still took those directions of overthrowing a corrupt government. I understand that’s a key part of the genre and I’m not mad about it being there. I just like how the two wound up weaving with each other. So often dystopia endings up being too focused on overthrowing by the second act, and I like that Shattered remained personal.

Kyla’s character remains a highlight. I will say again and again how we learn about her brain so much and I am always here for it. Each time we see her evolve in a new way as the extents of her brain expand, and it was wicked to see her change through an adult perspective in this world’s version of tertiary study. It was very interesting to see Kyla take on her own life and make more independent decisions – or to fight for them.

I felt the book rushed through too many important events. This was jarring when the previous books took their time over a few days for many of the events and stayed in the same environments, and this book went all over England and expanded the world too quick. I liked seeing the world expand at first, but then too much happened all at once. It screamed two books stuffed into one.

And surprise surprise, the final act brought this book’s rating down so much. Kyla lost a lot of her agency in that last act, and she felt like something valuable being protected more than she did someone making impactful changes to help the situation. I think this was because the external impacts she was making then failed too much. Other people solved her problems. And while in this act she learnt her overall lessons about identity, she didn’t have any external credits to her name or things she did in that final act that helped.

So that’s the way the cookie crumbles and the way the ending felt hollow.

Shattered gets a score of 3.5/5. The other books too

Now my guys, it’s time for a series review.

Slated5/5, a terrifyingly close to our own world dystopia with a deep look into the human mind

Fractured4/5, stakes rise and secrets remain closed, and Kyla’s stuck between three sides.

Shattered – 3.5/5, the other books took time where this one did not.

The Slated trilogy is an exemplary look into the human condition, the power of the brain and the many ways we see our own brains working. With a concept that hits close to home and our present day struggles gone too far, this makes this world seem realer than ever. However, the world takes its time to reveal itself to you before feeling a rush of everything at once. Some pacing issues with the publishers wanting a trilogy and nothing longer perhaps? The ending wasn’t as good, but the first two books are excellent.

The Slated Trilogy gets a score of 3.75/5. This is a keeper.

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Everything’s Split – a review of Fractured by Teri Terry

Slated was one of my favourite books last year and high up there as one of my favourite sci fi stories of all time. Granted I haven’t consumed many. But I was thrilled to get into the sequel now that questions have been answered. And more rose throughout.

Kyla now knows about the other half of her, the one that wasn’t erased by the government. And she has found an old mentor who has been hinting about it all this time and ushering her to join the freedom-fighting FreeUK. When Kyla finally has the faith to seek him out she must decide whether his instructions are faithful or not as more flashbacks contradict his words. Does she want to live in ignorance with the happy, normal life she was reprogrammed to have? Or has she the guts and the power to take down the government, whatever it takes?

I wished there was more worldbuilding exploration like in the last book. While it was subversive to stay in the same town, the locations didn’t feel fresh or further explored. This was very much a character and interpersonal centred exploration hinging around FreeUK and their goals. It doesn’t make me too mad, but it made me disappointed. With how much the world hooked me last time it failed to do so this time around. Luckily there were other things to keep it going strong.

Kyla’s character weakened ever so slightly but her arc strengthened. I’m guessing the weakness being how she flipped and flopped between decisions was understandable considering she had two personalities present in her for most of this book, but her struggle with that and with which side to play to was exemplary. It really makes her an everywoman. The struggles she faced felt very real and relatable this whole time, along with her reactions and the things she got put through.

Another character worth noting was Nico. The more you read about him, the more engaging his character gets and you really experience certain emotions about him. I won’t say what specifically due to spoilers, but him and Kyla are arguably the strongest out of a weak bunch of characters. Their interactions run the whole show and it was always entertaining when they were in scenes together.

The plot was very tense and kept me on the edge of my seat a lot. Being character driven, it always came down to how someone would react and what someone was planning, and to see that through the sometimes naive and sometimes keen perceptions that Kyla held as the first person narrator was tense. Getting in her brain during those moments were fantastic.

But with the events that came out of the end of this book, I’m keen to see how all this changes when Kyla becomes her own person in the final installment. Stay tuned for that review later this year.

Fractured gets a score of 4/5. Unlike Kyla, I’m not split on this one.

Yours in writing

Amy

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We Live In Dystopia – a review of Slated by Teri Terry

Do you know how hard it has been to find an enjoyable dystopian novel? I’ve DNFed or discarded six or so dystopian books in a row for multiple reasons, some of which you many have seen me slander in my reviews.

Today we’re changing things up. This is a dystopian novel I am now praising.

After having her memory wiped by the British government, Kyla has to settle into life with her new family, in her new school and with new friends who have been Slated just like her. For most this is a pleasant journey of learning about themselves and self discovery, but not for Kyla. She’s been getting nightmares of what she soon discovers is her past – before her memory was wiped. And she’s noticed things that others haven’t – people who get taken away and why, ways that her body and mind work differently, motivations of government terrorists. And she fears she was once one of them.

This dystopia felt very contemporary at the same time and I loved the world and messages that made. It felt perhaps thirty years ahead of life today, opening the possibility of our very own societies being dystopian to foreign eyes. I love worlds like that. Combined with the contemporary view of relationships, fitting in while not fitting in and a life that’s a distorted reflection of our own, this made the world of Slated feel more real than ever.

With this being our first time in this world, I liked how personal and small the plot was this instance. This made for a very easy plot to follow, clear stakes and goals, and a main character who felt very grounded in the world. Individuals being at stake rather than an entire population was a great trajectory for this first novel rather than straight away going into rebellion like in other dystopias I’ve read.

Kyla’s character shone like a supernova. For being a literal blank slate character she had so much personality and depth and continued to do so in the process of finding herself. I kid you not, she had more personality than many other YA protagonists who didn’t have their personalities completely wiped from them. We learn so much about how Kyla’s brain is wired and how that relates to the way she is made to think. I love how in depth we can see her brain ticking.

The other characters were great too. They were very easy to identify in a room based on mannerisms and body language, easy to spot in dialogue based on speech and each of them different breeds in subtle ways. What more was how genuine these relationships and connections felt between Kyla’s closets friends and the revelations she learns about each of them. This felt believable, giving purity to the darker edges of a dystopian world.

A world which I look forward to diving back into at that.

Slated gets a score of 4.5/5. Reality through a distorted mirror is something we all should learn from.

Yours in writing

Amy

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The Title Is Too Accurate- a review of self/less by AViVA

I was skeptical picking up this book. You’re right to be whenever someone not typically in the writing industry is. For the record, AViVA is one of my favourite songwriters. I didn’t leap at her book to buy it when it came out, but after seeing reviews come out praising it I listened to the audiobook teaser then decided to buy a copy for myself.

Now I’m betting that the five star reviews for this novel came from the AViVA fandom just to support her.

The city of Metropolis is forever haunted by their slogan “We watch because we care.” If you don’t behave accordingly even in the slightest, you will be reported and sanitised. Teddy’s been able to hide her differences for all her life, and as she learns darker secrets about the way Metropolis is run she soon learns about an entirely new city beneath her feet, one that stands for all her government does not. And when it comes at risk, she is the one forced to solve problems that could kill millions of people.

This had a very strong and engaging first act. The world of Metropolis was introduced splendidly, with high steaks surrounding the concept of surveillance. I thought this was a great direction for the novel to be going and a great theme to explore, because the theme of surveillance itself literally makes your hairs stand on end. You could see it building in the world and affecting the psyche of many characters, in both the main world and the culture of the rebellion. And by the midpoint where everything when downhill, I was certain I would be keeping this book and really enjoying it.

Then we go into the second and third acts. This novel reeked of sagging middle syndrome and it went downhill from there. You know your narrative structure is wrong when there was more tension at the start of the novel than the end. It ended up being more pleasant exploration and introduction. And then when the tension builds up again it is literally in the final chapter and ending on a cliffhanger. Now I have more questions than answers. I’m not even sure if any of my questions got answered.

Few of these characters were written or introduced well. It makes sense why this novel was called self/lees – these characters had zero personality. For reference, the leading male’s main and only personality trait and purpose was to be horny for the main character. He was so hollow that it felt like Teddy was kissing a sex doll! And then the characters that did have personality didn’t have consistent personalities.

After reading that novel, I think I’ll just stick to listening to her songs.

self/less gets a score of 2.5/5. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a more accurate name.

Yours in writing

Amy

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The Future Is Now – a review of The Toll by Neal Shusterman

It is baffling how often a final book in a series can either close the narrative perfectly or go against everything that the series stood for. So how does the Arc of a Scythe series end? We got a lot to talk about with this book.

The world has fallen into disarray since Scythe Goddard has taken over the Scythedom without the artificial intelligence Thunderhead to interfere or guide the rest of the world. Citra and Rowan need to be found and resurrected to ensure the scythedom doesn’t fall under Goddard’s rule, Greyson Tolliver needs to guide the world as the sole confidant in the Thunderhead, and Scythe Faraday with his newfound assistant Munira need to find the land of Nod as the one failsafe to stop Goddard. Because in the middle of masses of people being killed, opposing forces grow more violent, the likes never seen since the Thunderhead was created.

This book worked very well at showcasing every point of view and closing their character arcs. In the previous novel I was uncertain of what the many perspectives in the novel were for, but this novel those and the new POVs all made perfect sense and offered perfect closure. From Rowan’s redemption arc to the Thunderhead’s understanding of the world, all pieced together near perfectly. I could understand where everyone was coming from, even the villains! God, the villain’s perspectives worked so well. They weren’t sympathetic unless they naturally needed to be, you didn’t need to know their entire backstory, and Shusterman knows how to paint them as their own heroes. Brilliant!

I also found it fascinating how the ending brought humanity full circle, almost to a point where we are at today. I won’t spoil it, but it does follow the trope in Dystopia of fixing the future becoming a little bit more similar to our society today. And it does it so well. The fate of humanity in its ‘current state’ has a very well established background and the way to fix it is equally fascinating. I will say the ending doesn’t wind up being completely happy, but it still finishes very well to see the new state of this version of humanity.

The almost non linear fashion worked really well with this novel too. The singular narratives and plot points were chronological within their own timelines, but it was a very good decision to have each develop when they needed to – to pause and rewind time to when it most makes sense in terms of getting the story told properly. Shusterman did this expertly for a novel that takes place over close to three years. Much better than other novels who tell things non linearly.

I can only hope the movie series will do it justice.

The Toll gets a score of 5/5. It’s the circle of life guys, just without the lions.

Series rating time!

Scythe – 5/5, this book instantly made me fall in the series.

Thunderhead – 4.5/5, I was lovingly scared for humanity

The Toll – 5/5, everything came full circle.

I will always recommend this series as a gateway to dystopian fiction. It accomplishes so much more than the genre stereotypes set out for – an exploration of the human state through a society deprived of something core to us in our current world. That core was mortality. Such a huge core explored expertly through portrayals of morality, beliefs, purpose and of course death. So many characters show all these aspects beautifully, and yet I hope this not what our future will actually be. All things said, this is the highest rated series on my blog to date.

The Arc of a Scythe series gets a score of 5/5. It’s staying proudly on on my bookshelf.

Yours in writing

Amy

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This is it, the Apocalypse – a review of Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

I’m scared of the future of humanity after reading this book. That’s how you know I’m hooked.

I don’t think I ever read a dystopian that felt so real before. Quite often dystopia is based around a futuristic society with a rule or law that we consider baffling, that is until we learn how the society got to be in such a state. And my god, does the future in the Arc of a Scythe series feel so real! The hype was definitely met from when I finished the first book in the trilogy. Spoilers for that book are ahead.

Corruption is evident within the Scythedom, the body of trained killers who are the only people possible of being able to kill humans in the near future of earth. Two people are seeking to rid it out – Citra, more commonly known as Scythe Anastasia, and Rowan, her ally who fell short of receiving the title of a Scythe. While Rowan seeks to kill the most corrupt in the Scythedom with the skills learnt in his apprenticeship, Citra is using her popularity and political sway to convince people to remain moral in their gleanings.

In the first book, Scythe, we learnt of the trials of those going into the Scythedom and what it means to hold such a responsibility. From there, the world was expanded greatly in Thunderhead. We learn about the politics and activities amongst Scythes, and much more outside of that society and how the world is connected through various relationships with the A.I. entity, the Thunderhead. What I appreciated about this world building was how is was shown through how it was orchestrated just as much as what consequences this society made. I went very deep into so many individual aspects of this society and I relished in how easy it was to digest. It was a perfect expansion from learning of the Scythedom to the rest of society.

The plot was incredibly strong here. Everything connected very well and left me on the edge of my seat constantly. I can say that this plot was definitely unpredictable – a rare occurrence if I am to be honest. I’m certain after every five or so chapters my reaction was “Wait, what?” in a good sense. That’s how you know you got a good book, when the “Wait, what?”s are positive and leave you excited. I never felt confused following this story along. It had a perfect balance of flow, predictability and shock – a balance that is hard to leverage to the degree that Shusterman did.

Again, we have strong characters leading us through the story – with extra characters to follow along with. You could understand the mindset for each of them so quickly, even those we looked into the minds of for just one chapter. However, this also becomes a weakness. There were characters that I wanted to learn more about – namely Citra and Rowan – but not enough chapters highlighted or developed them enough. In hindsight I can see why we read those particular perspectives, but the sheer number of them while reading it was at times off putting. With this being a series about Citra and Rowan, there wasn’t enough chapters or scenes from their perspective to satisfy me completely.

I’m not entirely mad though, not with how emphasised the conclusion of the novel was pivotal to them. Soon, I shall be finishing what is undoubtedly a fantastic series. I know Shusterman isn’t going to let me down.

Thunderhead gets a score of 4.5/5.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Captured My Heart – A Review of Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

There are very few books I would describe with the phrase “I couldn’t put it down.”

Where do I begin with this book? I guess I should tell you what it’s about first.

Steelheart is the first book of the Reckoners series, which combines action, science fantasy, and dystopia together to create this alternate version of earth. Superhumans known as Epics have taken over the world, each claiming a city or region as theirs to dictate. The one ruling over New Chicago, Steelheart, has killed David’s father, and since then he has devoted his life to working out how to take this epic down. For he’s the only one who knows his weakness. David seeks out to join the Reckoners, a group of underground rebels, their mission aligned with his. They seek out Epics across USA to kill, to give the people hope. If David wants to take Steelheart down, they’ll need to join forces.

A plot and story very reminiscent of Marvel movies, if you ask me. But GOD this was so much greater than them.

First off let’s talk the main character, David. When I first read him, one thing went into my mind. There wasn’t much to him. He started off as a very everyman kind of character, a relatively blank slate. All he had to him was his goal to kill Steelheart. But as I continued to read into the story, that was the point. He was realising how cold his blood had been running. He was so geniusly written! His character arc wound up brilliant as he ultimately became more and realised there was more to the world around him. I wasn’t sure if I would like him initially, but I absolutely did by the end.

Let’s actually take a moment to talk about that world. The way it was politically built felt incredibly real, even when the world is ruled by superhumans. Every aspect of it was shown as it was relevant, barely any information felt forced. From the socio-political status of Newcago’s citizens, to revealing technology and powers, none of it was ever shoved into my face. The way it combined various aspects of fantasy, science fiction, and dystopia into the story felt seamless. I could imagine it so vividly. I guess part of that was the unique imagery of an entire city made of steel, but it had so much more character than that.

I could also imagine the action scenes so vividly. Not only was everything so clear and vivid in my mind without having to write stage directions out like a script, but the emotions and sensations felt so real too. This is what I live to create in my own fight scenes! Seeing it through David’s thoughts, emotions, and logical ways of thinking made it feel very real and personal in my eyes. Not to mention the backdrops they were placed upon felt very cinematic and thematic.

So much of this book was engaging. Honourable mentions go to the first quarter of the book and the last third. That’s not to say this book had a sagging middle, it was still very entertaining. But I read the first quarter and the last third in one sitting. Each. Now that’s what I call engaging. There are very few books that can do that to me outside of the climax alone. And there are very few books where I get close to crying. I won’t say what made me get there, I’m kind like that, but I will say well done for cracking my emotional core.

And yes, this book is now one of my all time favourites. Also I heard that there’s a freaking board game based on this book. HELL yes.

Steelheart gets a score of 5/5. A book that’s impossible to put down will forever be a winner.

Yours in writing

Amy