Just Finished…Anchor Leg by Jack Croxall

Anchor Led

The Blurb…

Stranded 750 million miles from Earth. Stranded with a saboteur, stranded with a killer.

Humanity has spilled out into the Solar System, into a succession of giant space stations known as the Relay. Seren Temples is a security apprentice running the Relay’s remote Anchor Leg. When sabotage strands her vessel near another damaged ship, Seren and her team are sent across to investigate. The second ship is a zero-G graveyard. Inside its vast hold, nothing but a single vial of frozen blood.

 

 

My Thoughts… This became part of my ‘clear the Kindle challenge’ after I’d downloaded a free copy (I think) ages ago on an Amazon giveaway day. We’ve previously review and featured author Jack Croxall on the blog A-G-E-S ago in 2013, and this is a very different style of book to the historical adventure that Tony read (you can check out our other posts HERE).

Anyway, what about Anchor Leg I (imagine) I hear you cry? Well, how fast did I get into this book? First page and I was transported into the middle of the interview taking place between two of our central characters… I was right there in the room with them, could picture everything and bonded with our lead character, Seren, immediately.

I found the story fast-paced with plenty of mystery and twists. I liked the attention to detail in the crew, apprentices and characters, that felt realistic and sci-if without being OTT, I feel non-sci fi fans (which I’m on the edge of) could read and enjoy this. This is a murder-mystery, conspiracy theory, adventure in space – with the younger characters adding a YA slant to your reading of this, whilst the logical, investigative approach of the lovely Seren makes it feel like a cop-drama in space.

There’s a nice touch of romance in this, that fits with the story as a whole without feeling that it was crow-barred in just to add that element. When you look at it this way, there are elements in this book to appeal to a wide range of readers, and it can neatly nudge you out of your comfort zone if crime, or sci-fi are not really your thing.

This is a great read and I would highly recommend the author based on my reading on Anchor Leg. 5

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‘Thank you’ to Bloggers

Sharing Mel’s recent post from her author blog on appreciation for what it means to be a blogger… Happy new year!

Mel Cusick-Jones

dear-blogger Coincidentally, another Melanie seems to appreciate bloggers too! 🙂

I’ve just been doing a little ‘spring cleaning’ on my laptop today, tidying up the bookmarks that I keep on here relating to all things books: I have YA book blogger lists, MG/kids blogger lists, blogs on writing that I follow as well as other general writing resources.

For once, instead of dipping in and out of blogs based on what Twitter flashed up at me and made me go ‘Ooh shiny shiny!’ *click* I started at the top of my list (around 40 YA blogs) and I began running down from the top, to see who was out there from when I first started blogging and reading blogs myself, back in 2011… There are six active blogs left posting today. Just six.

Some of the blogs that have gone were ‘big’ to me – they had between 1000-10,000 regular followers…

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Just Finished…Slated by Teri Terry

Slated - CoverI really liked the concept of Slated – wiping the minds of young criminals to enable them to be reintroduced to society with improved behaviours – in a recognisable dystopian view of London.

The book is well-written and the characters have some depth to them – I particularly liked her adopted Mother. However, for my taste there was a lot of setup with not a huge amount of action – I suppose this might come in the future books in the series – but there was a lot of time spent running and talking, without much significant happening and so when I got to the end of the book I wasn’t really enticed to go further in the series and find out more about what was happening. 3* from me…

Just Finished…The Testing Trilogy

Maybe an odd few spoilers in here, so tread carefully, just as you might if you were going through The Testing yourself!:)

In the last couple of weeks I’ve read the three books that make up ‘The Testing’ trilogy by Joelle Charbonneau. I think I downloaded the first book in the series a year or so ago, when it was on a free Amazon download day… I picked it up because it was pegged as being for ‘fans of the Hunger Games…’ and with a blurb like this, you can see why:

Testing

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one and the same? 

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. 

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one. 

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

See? Handsome boy from your home sector – check. Students chosen from outer colonies to come to the capital city for ‘Testing’ – check. Deadly competition and questionable morals amongst the candidates, check and check!

I think it was the reported similarities to The Hunger Games that made me avoid reading this for so long. I loved The Hunger Games: the competition, the rebellion, Katniss and Peeta (yep, Team Peeta, not the other guy – Katniss is the narrator and you never got the romance vibe from her in relation to him, did you?) The relationships between the characters as well, from Rue and Haymitch, through to Finnick and Mags – they all had good depth and realism, which I loved throughout that series and for me made it very strong.

Anyway, I’d not read any YA dystopian for a while and so I picked this up in the end and gave it a whirl – and it was worth it! Book one was good, book two was even better I thought – it moved further away from the Hunger Games-esque arena and built out it’s own world and plot.

After blasting through the first two books in this trilogy, I did stall a bit when it came to ‘Graduation Day’. I really liked the world built up in the first two books and in a way, keeping Cia’s world more compact (either controlled as part of the Testing, or built around her place at University) made her actions and the scale of the story realistic.

When we move to the final installment Cia doesn’t seem as ‘changed’ as she continually tells you that she is – this was something that started to grate on me a little in this final book. It felt like there was a lot more tell over show in this part and the characters that you were familiar with from books one and two began to feel a little more like cardboard cut-outs, despite the fact that you knew them already and could have seen their behaviours come out, rather than Cia telling you how she was interpreting things.

Overall, after two good books with plenty of pace and action, bounded nicely within the areas they were set inside, the third one fell flat. The various climactic elements left me a bit cold if I’m honest, which is a shame as the set up was good. I think for me – as some other reviewers pick up – things became quite unrealistic in the third book: the scope of what Cia got tasked with seemed inconsistent with the scale of everything else happening around her and her ever-present bag of magic tricks became a crutch. How could they be advance enough to manipulate genetics and do complex chemical engineering to revitalise their world, but not have anything more than basic communications, which a university student can apparently knock together in a workshop pretty quickly.

This is a good series and some comparisons to The Hunger Games are fair, particularly in the first book. But by the second it does stride out in its own direction, which I really enjoyed – the third book delivers many of the answers following the set up in the other books, it just didn’t grip me to the end as I hoped it might.

Overall I’d rate the series 4* – it is very readable and enticed me enough to buy the next two books in the series, having read the first one for free. I would have just liked something more, something different from the ending that was delivered.

Tony’s Review: Remix, Non Pratt

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4/5

Ruby and Kaz hope that a three day outdoor music festival will clear their heads about their changing worlds. Of course, nothing goes to plan…

I went with this on a recommendation from Blogs of a Bookaholic – Becky over there got an ARC and loved this book. It isn’t usually the genre I’d pick for my YA reads, but I’ve had fun with Non Pratt before with TROUBLE, so I gave it a whirl.

Boy, does Pratt know her characters! Both Ruby and Kaz leap right off the page with witty and realistic dialogue, pulling you right into the heart of who they are. Their narrative voices are very different, a real strength to Pratt’s writing (One minor complaint…I don’t think Ruby would use the word portmanteau). It’s only Pratt’s second book, but she’s already developing a major talent.

I was tugged along with the girls through their problems: Boyfriends new and old, changing schools, bad decisions and new friends. And these teenagers are realistic – they drink, they fret, they have sex, they get out of their depth and into bad situations through their inexperience.

And what a delight they are to be with. I’m thinking of how refreshing they are compared to the pretentiousness of the characters in The Fault in Our Stars. Read this and then TFiOS back-to-back…then tell me who has nailed teenagers better.

The minor characters were all given room to breathe and grow as well, going through their own character arcs off page. Everything is moving along, nothing is wasted. Only at the end does Pratt lose the plot a little, veering towards soap opera tricks to bring one of her plot lines to a close.

It’s a great character study from a very talented writer.

Tony’s Review: We all looked up

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2/5

Four teenagers and an asteroid that’s coming to most likely kill them all and everyone else in the world in a matter of months…What would you do with the time that’s left?

The premise for this is great: Teenagers are suddenly presented with a finite lifespan. Instead of seventy years to plan for, they have months. They all decide that what they have doesn’t make them happy.
The book started off with a strong premise and some interesting characters – Andy the slacker was the most interesting from the start, certainly the liveliest and most carefree.

But then they all dissolved into a mess of similarity. Each character had an epiphany, a crisis, a resolution. They all went through it at the same pace, encountering problems that were cookie-cutter to their personality types.

There was almost no point naming them and they might as well have been called The Slacker, The Jock, The Outcast and The Achiever (Subgroup: Pushy Parents). Nothing really surprising happened to any of them. It would have been a joy if one had said, “Yes, I am actually happy with who I am and where I’m going.”

It felt like the author had chained them to a rowing boat, and they all pulled together, all the time, perfectly meshing until they crossed the finish line. Their character arcs were calculated to a fraction of a degree, and they were absolutely NOT allowed to deviate in any way. It made them two dimensional and they didn’t work for me.

And they were the only characters to go through their arcs as well. Secondary characters ended the book as they began it; there was no sense of them having lives of their own, of them coming to terms with the end of the world.

Teenagers, of course, rarely have a sense of contentment. Most of them don’t have a clue as to where life is taking them…well, I pretty much don’t either. That’s the fun part of living.

Tony’s Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

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4/5

In a harsh dystopian America, women are stripped of all rights…

It’s scary how prophetic this story is. A coup overtakes America – most members of Congress are killed in a terrorist attack and the constitution is suspended. Fundamentalism takes over, a fundamentalism that regards women as nothing. The reduction of women to non-citizens is done by the simple process of checking their bank accounts. If it has an F in your gender field, your account is frozen. And who, these days, carries cash?

So women aren’t allowed to read; they aren’t allowed to drive; they aren’t allowed money; they must go with their bodies and hair completely covered. They are split into castes that denote their position by the colours of clothing they wear. Women don’t exist without a man to act as a proxy.

Does any of this sound like a Middle Eastern society? Interesting if it does, because the fundamentalists running America are Christian. The subject here isn’t religion; the subject is fundamentalism, the corruption of religion.

This dystopia has a deeper problem as well – a catastrophically falling birth rate. The most fertile women are shoved into the role of Handmaids – inseminators, for want of a better word (artificial insemination is deemed immoral). In a cold and clinical scene, we see the process through the eyes of the protagonist, physically stuck between a wife and her husband in a symbolic and utterly passionless union.

The story is told from first person, and we only have the un-named protagonist to guide us. And we know she’s an unreliable narrator, frequently recounting events and then back-tracking to tell us what really happened.

We never discover her name. She is merely “Offred”, literally “Of-Fred”, nothing more than the property of her male owner and an inseminator for his wife. (Since this is a complete patriarchy, men cannot be sterile; only women can be so imperfect.)

There are complications when the wife, hungry for a child, sets Offred up with the chauffeur, and the husband, breaking taboos, tries to get to know her (intimately) better. For his purposes or just to make Offred’s life easier, we never discover.

There are times when we feel Offred’s sanity start to slip, and we slide along with her, travelling through disjointed flashbacks – sometimes in the middle of a thought. It’s disquieting to feel like you know her so well and then feel her reason falling away.

Attwood has a beautiful descriptive style of writing, throwing in marvellous images that work brilliantly (“I walk along the gravel path that divides the lawn neatly, like a hair parting”). It’s a world, despite its grim nature, that the narrator sees in vivid colours – the reds of the Handmaids, the black of a car, the green of a dress. However, Attwood skips on the punctuation of dialogue except when it suits her, and it can take a few reads to figure it out sometimes.

It’s an engrossing story, and one well worth reading. It took me along for the ride and never dragged or lost my interest. It’s a story not just for feminists or women, but for anyone who thinks and reasons.