Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ShortStories PENNY PINCHING TIPS FOR THE MORALLY BANKRUPT by @LibraryMarshall

Today’s team review is from Aidan. He blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Aidan has been reading Penny Pinching Tips For The Morally Bankrupt by Libby Marshall

56483715. sy475

This is probably the first collection of short stories I’ve ever read, and I had such a good experience that I will definitely be doing it again in the future. Libby Marshall has a seriously twisted sense of humour, and I loved it. The stories themselves were very short, with the longest being maybe twenty pages, and the majority being about five.

I couldn’t possibly cover all the stories in this review, but some of my favourite were: Act Of God, where a recently homeless woman has a morbid, yet uplifting conversation with a Sears employee about buying a fridge; Signs, in which a woman has become dependant on a sign that tells her what her current emotion is; 90 Day Fiance: Dracula (the title really speaks for itself). 

One of the key draws of this collection was its black humour. Its ironic, sarcastic and sometimes snide nature lined up well with the type of book I enjoy reading. I felt that it would probably be best enjoyed by a young, liberal audience.

The nature of reading short stories means that you will inevitably enjoy some of them more than others, and it was no different for me. There were a handful of the 43 stories that I didn’t like very much, and a number that I thought were mediocre or didn’t fully grasp. However, that’s the beauty of an anthology: the next one is a fresh start. Moreover, the extremely varied nature of the stories means that there is a significant chance you will find ones that you enjoy.

The stories themselves were very imaginative and out there. On multiple occasions I was astounded by just how strange the premise of one was. However, there were also plenty that were beautifully simplistic, although no less poignant. They covered a wide range of themes, with jokes on almost every topic relevant to the current social climate.

Due to just how short the stories were, the characters were often quite archetypal, although in some ways that was good. Playing into such stereotypes allowed the humour to be punchier and sharper, I thought. The dialogue was excellently constructed to give a sense of the character in the shortest space possible. However, a few of the characters were a bit deeper in some of the longer stories, which again was nice for the sake of variety.

Overall, I’d give the collection a 5.5 out of 7. There were plenty of stories that I liked and a few that I loved. The experimental ones that didn’t quite work for me were easily overlooked. If you haven’t read a short story anthology, this is a really easy place to start.

Book description

Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt is a fantastically funny, wonderfully weird, and surprisingly sincere collection of short stories, humor pieces, and miscellaneous bits.

Debra, an unhappy billionaire’s wife, decides to resurrect the 18th-century trend of hiring a man to live on their property as an ornamental garden hermit. An elderly serial killer, bored by her dull nursing home existence, finds a deadly new purpose when her high school nemesis ends up living down the hall. In 1953 a young couple drives to Makeout Point where instead of an evening of heavy petting, they find mountain lions, a man with no gaps in his teeth, and the opportunity to kill Henry Kissinger. Within these pages, a man tries to date after losing his wife to The Salem Witch Trials, a Wi-Fi router gains sentience, a series of cardboard boxes oozing with smoky-sweet baked beans mysteriously appear at a woman’s front door, and a Chuck E. Cheese is haunted by the spirit of Princess Diana.

Boldly strange, deliciously satirical, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt swings from the grim and ghastly to the exquisite and lovely. This one-of-a-kind book takes the reader on a surreal journey through the compulsory despair of daily life and concludes that the only sensible reaction to that much pain is laughter.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

56483715. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #SpeculativeFiction TOKYO MAYDAY by Maison Urwin

Today’s team review is from Aidan. He blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Aidan has been reading Tokyo Mayday by Maison Urwin.

50892960. sy475

Maison Urwin’s book takes a novel approach to addressing the increasingly isolationist perspective of England by flipping the problem on its head. Instead of other migrants trying to enter the UK, citizens of the FREW (Federal Republic of England and Wales) are desperately trying to migrate to the economic powerhouses in Asia. It turns an unrelatable situation into a relatable one with great success.

When car manufacturing giant, Matsucorp, decides to close its plants in the FREW due to lack of economic viability, it decides to keep one worker on from each. For Jordan May, this opportunity provides stability in an uncertain time. However, the cost is uprooting his family and bringing them to a new, sometimes hostile climate.

My favourite element of the book was its strong political themes, which were well developed. I really felt as if I had a window into the world of migrants, and the problems they face, ranging from the language barrier to being the target of hate attacks.These themes stayed strong throughout the novel, and gave the book depth.

The plot also held up well, binding the novel together without being over the top. There were plenty of twists, some of which I saw coming, others I didn’t, which continued to drive the book forward. Each of the May’s have their own plotline, which all show different facets of the challenges they face, and are all equally good.

The majority of the important characters are conflicted, and don’t always make the right choices, but are inherently good. The exceptions to this are Matsubara and Struthwin who are morally grey, as they balance their business agenda with human decency. They presented a different perspective on situations that aren’t typically found in books. 

The biggest issue I had with the book was the writing style. It just felt a bit rigid to me, and I thought it threw off the flow of the story a little. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the dialogue either, which often felt unnatural and not different enough between characters, with the exception being Struthwin, who I thought had decent lines. Also, the japanese terms were often not translated. Although this does help put the reader in the May’s shoes, I would have liked a glossary of terms at the end of the book. Throughout the novel, there were also places where the perspective would shift to a different character with little warning. While this was initially off-putting, I grew to quite like this element. 

Overall, I’d give the book a 4.5 out of 7. If you enjoy strong themes presented in a creative way, like I do, I’d easily recommend this book. I thought it was worth it, despite the issues I had with the writing style.

Book description

This is Maison Urwin’s debut novel, which follows the ordeal of a family’s economic migration from the Federal Republic of England & Wales to Tokyo

The power is in the East.

The Federal Republic of England & Wales is in crisis.

Western economic collapse has led to mass economic migration to China, Korea and especially Japan. Jordan May is offered a transfer with Matsucorp and takes wife, Shaylie, and son, Alfie, to a new and bewildering life in the Orient. The book is set in the 2050s when, following the end of capitalism in Europe, the Far East is now considered the developed world. Society in the West has fallen apart and the East Asia is the destination of choice for economic migrants who are prepared to take risks and endure prejudice in the search for a better life.

The May family emigrates from Harwich, England to Japan and husband, wife and son battle discrimination, are embroiled in political activism and forbidden romance, are targeted in racist attacks and are endangered by unwitting gangland involvement. As the climax approaches in a violent political demonstration on the streets of Tokyo, we begin to discover the extent to which a mysterious, wiry Englishman has manipulated each of them.

This work of speculative fiction sees the Mays thrust into industrial politics, illegal unionisation and hostessing. Teenage love and the organisation of a mass demonstration take place against a backdrop of racial tension and the rise of the far right.

Could Shaylie’s life be in danger? Is the mafia involved?

And just who is the Machaivellian Stepson Struthwin who sits on Matsucorp’s board and has such a hold over the lives of those around him?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

50892960. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HighFantasy PARIAH’S LAMENT by Richie Billing

Today’s team review is from Aidan. he blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Aidan has been reviewing Pariah’s Lament by Richie Billing.

56474866. sy475

If I had to sum up this book in one word it would be inconsistent. There were flashes of absolute brilliance, then those same aspects would fall flat just pages later. Therefore, the book averaged out as a fairly average read for me. Nevertheless, there is an argument to be made that those moments of excellence, which I’ll expand on below, make it a worthwhile read, if you are inclined that way.

The book is pretty typical high fantasy, albeit one that leans less into the fantasy elements, and more into the warfare and politics of a fictional world. It seems to be set just as the industrial revolution is beginning, but the world is substantially the medieval style one that is typical of the genre.

The first thing to mention is definitely the writing style. Richie Billing consciously uses a high level of vocabulary in order to make the book engaging, and when it comes together, it’s phenomenal. The issue is it can feel clunky and unnatural in places. He also uses small snippets of dialogue to enhance the realism of the soldiers, and to add some humour to lighten the darker scenes. However, I also found that in places the dialogue was too similar to the other parts of the prose, which didn’t allow the characters to fully come to life.

I thought the plot was reasonably good, if a bit formulaic toward the end. I really enjoyed the political intrigue that was peppered throughout the novel, as well as Isy’s relationship with the Amast. However, I always felt the plot was just a tool for deepening characterization in this novel. I felt some of the scenes, particularly battle and journey scenes, within the novel could be stripped away, to give a more compact feel without substantially losing anything.

Of the two main characters, I preferred Edvar to Isy, although both were decent. I feel I just connected to Edvar’s issues more than Isy’s, yet they are both probably relevant to a wide audience. However, I felt these issues were dealt with in quite a heavy-handed way sometimes. By that, I mean the key elements of their characters were repeatedly brought up, which unfortunately created the impression that they lacked depth, which they certainly didn’t. Again, shortening the novel might alleviate this problem somewhat.

I appreciate that Billing always tried to create nuanced secondary characters, even if he didn’t always succeed. Of them all, I think Vil was the best, as he felt the most genuine. His emotions were shown well through his actions without being over-explained, and his unrequited love was painful. For most of the book, I found Ashara, the keeper (essentially the monarch of the land), to be quite simplistic, but there was a moment in the final section of the book that completely made me rethink him, which was great to see. Nevertheless, the villain, Tesh, didn’t really work for me. He had well-developed motives, and was morally grey to an extent, but I just didn’t find him very believable unfortunately.

The book has some strong themes. There are some comments about what it means to be part of a community, and the social exclusion of people who look different. There’s also a decent amount about the brutality and pointlessness of war. Thinking back, the themes are actually quite well developed, although they are by no means subtle.

Overall, I give the book 4 out of 7. As I said at the beginning, it is inconsistent, but Billing clearly has potential. I can see the reasoning behind many of his stylistic choices, and, as this is his debut novel, I’m sure his writing will grow. If you like high fantasy, then this certainly has good elements within it.

Book description

“So often it’s the forgotten who possess the power to change the world.”

When an attempt is made on the life of Ashara, Keeper of Yurr, his young, hapless advisor Edvar must uncover and stop those behind it. With enemies in the capital city and the belligerent Tesh, Keeper of neighboring kingdom Karrabar stirring trouble in the Borderlands, can Edvar hold together Ashara’s brittle reign? 

The troubles ripple throughout Yurr, affecting an ancient race of people known as the Amast, who in their time of utmost need, turn to pariah Isy for salvation. Rejected by society, kith and kin, can Isy guide the Amast to safety during the greatest turmoil Yurr has known since the War of the Damned?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

56474866. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Fantasy THERE WAS MUSIC by J.D. Grubb

Today’s team review is from Aidan. He blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Aidan has been reading There Was Music by J.D. Grubb

55555313. sy475

I’ll say upfront: There Was Music is a hard book to read. There was more suffering between its pages than any single person should have to endure. Certainly more than I thought there would be when I saw it described as fantasy. Yet it is absolutely a worthwhile read, since that kind of pain transitions into powerful emotions throughout.

The book is a character study of Prisoner 43-1-12, immersing us in her world. We follow her journey from one tragedy to the next, watching as each event changes who she is fundamentally. There is a rape scene, and others containing sexual assault and torture, while not particularly graphic, set the tone of the novel. It is set to the backdrop of a nation rebuilding after a devastating war, but for the most part the fantasy elements take a backseat to Prisoner 43-1-12, or in some way develop her psyche.

Prisoner 43-1-12 is undoubtedly one of the most complex characters I’ve read in a long time. She’s extremely strong-willed, but more of a quiet perpetually-alive flame than an overt, snarky character. This is a welcome change, as strong women are very rarely portrayed in this way. She’s also introspective, questioning her own choices and perspectives, as well as broader questions like the nature of war and humanity, on a regular basis. This deep exposure to who she is fundamentally really resonated with me, and made it easy to sympathize with her situation, despite never experiencing anything remotely similar to it.

The writing style is a bit inconsistent I found, although I have absolute faith that as J.D. Grubb hones his style, he will overcome this issue. In places there is beautiful prose, which I can only describe as fluid. It had an almost surreal quality to it, and worked very effectively with descriptions of settings and Prisoner 43-1-12’s thoughts. However, there were also places where the writing fell a little flat, more ‘telling’ than ‘showing’. I felt this was particularly the case with the dialogue. Nevertheless, Grubb incorporates other novel aspects into his writing. One such aspect was the use of first person for all the flashbacks, which created a jarring effect between the past and present, among other things.

The other highlight of the novel was the themes. It has a vast amount to say about the futility of war, the nature of love and the power of hope. It certainly doesn’t end there, and I could write pages about each one. A key strength is the open ended approach to these themes though, which allows for each individual reader to walk away with a unique experience from the book.

I did find the other characters to be quite shallow. So much time is spent building up Prisoner 43-1-12 that the others feel underdeveloped, and more like tools for expressing themes than characters in their own right. While definitely not ideal, this was actually not as large an issue as you might think, as most of the time Prisoner 43-1-12 didn’t interact with other people.

The fantasy element of the book was interesting, although not a major part. I thought it worked well sometimes, such as providing a medium for an exploration of death and the after-life, as well as war. However, there was a strange section at the end of the book that felt like a big infodump about the world-building, which seemed strange to me, as most of the information received had no bearing on the overall plot. I think it would have been better off without it, as it made for an anti-climactic ending. I definitely preferred the more unintrusive way the fantasy was handled in the first 75% of the book.

Overall, I’d give it a 5 out of 7. There is clearly a lot of potential in J.D. Grubb’s writing, but there were also elements that could be tightened up. However, I thought the protagonist and themes were high-quality, and I’m excited to see where it goes in the future.

Many thanks to Rosie and J.D. Grubb for providing me with a copy of this book.

Book description

She defied them with survival.

Prisoner 43-1-12 contends with the voices of her past, present, and future in the war-altered world of Illirium. From a ranch outside a rural town, to a prison formed from city ruins, and a wilderness marked by supernatural encounters, There was Music explores the struggle between identity and the cost of survival, the power of music and the hope of healing.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

55555313. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #SciFi #Thriller APPARENT HORIZON by Patrick Morgan.

Today’s team review is from Aidan, he blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Aidan has been reading Apparent Horizon by Patrick Morgan


This book defied my expectations, being a strange existential character study with thriller mixed in, all grounded by a touch of sci-fi. It was very cynical, but I still enjoyed it. It took a simple concept and ran with it in a way that I wasn’t expecting at all.

The premise of the book is that Micheal finds out that the world is going to end, the night before his best friends wedding. The book develops from there, as he struggles with the morals of telling other people about this, as well as what to do with his limited remaining time.

Michael is a likable enough character as the book starts, but I struggle to continue to root for him as the book continues due to some of the choices he makes. Patrick Morgan uses him to paint a very pessimistic view of humanity in my opinion, which fundamentally clashes with my own world view. However, he does a good job of instilling a sense of agency in Michael, and of making us feel sorry for him. His emotions are clearly in conflict, and the deep exploration of this makes up the character study part of the novel.

Morgan’s cynical approach to characters doesn’t end with Michael however. His best friend, Drew, is a nasty piece of work whom I despised right from the onset. It felt strange that Michael was such good friends with someone who didn’t have a selfless bone in his body however. Drew’s actions never seem out of place, as horrible as he may be, and that was a real strength of the book. All the characters the author created followed this pattern.

The plot was very depressing overall. There was very few feel good moments, and those that occurred were often the outcome of Pyrrhic victories. However, it was well thought out, and the final twist of the book was unexpected for the most part, and allows the whole book to be viewed in a new light.

The pacing of the novel was unorthodox to say the least. It swung from fast and furious action to pages of slow pondering about the meaning of life. Yet, to my surprise, I found I really liked the effect this created. It certainly fit with how Michael progressed as a character. However, I thought the first chapter was kind of irrelevant to the rest of the book, and can also see how this pacing might put some people off.

For a debut novel, Morgan’s writing style is polished. I found it flowed extremely well, and never distracted from the action at hand. I wouldn’t say it was exceptionally unique, but was good thriller writing. It was also well edited.

I give it a 5 out of 7. As mentioned above, I found it hard to connect with Michael after a while, but I think this was more personal preference than anything else. I feel like this book definitely has an audience who will fully appreciate it, and I wasn’t it. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked it, but there were some element that didn’t sit well by the end. If it does appeal to you though, I’d encourage you to pick it up, since I feel it has the potential to be profound to the right person.

Book description

With no tomorrow, what are we capable of today?

On the eve of his best friend’s wedding, Michael is warned by an old classmate, now a NASA scientist, that a gamma ray burst from a nearby exploding star will hit the Earth the following morning at 11:13 a.m. – an incident that will irrevocably destroy the ozone layer, disrupt the food chain, and ultimately prove cataclysmic for all life on the planet.

Michael and the groom-to-be, Drew, laugh off the prediction as a demented joke. However, at precisely 11:13 a.m. the next day, a blinding light in the sky disrupts Drew’s wedding. News media outlets dismiss the cosmic event as a harmless phenomenon, but Michael knows better. Wrestling with the burden of his truth, uncertain of how much time he has left or just what to do with it, Michael finds himself alienated from everything and everyone he’s ever known.

Under Drew’s influence, Michael begins to transform his rather mundane life, previously shackled by powerlessness and fear, into something more unrestrained and ultimately dangerous. Feeling the weight of an unseen doomsday clock ticking his final days away, he pushes the moral envelope further and further on a quest for control over his own reality – no matter who might suffer for it.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS


Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Scifi Future Of Humanity Story SYNTHETIC SELECTION by Arda Karaca

Today’s team review is from Aidan, he blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Aidan has been reading Synthetic Selection by Arda Karaca

55008688. sy475

I really like the sound of Synthetic Selection when I first read it’s description on Rosie’s blog. While it did raise some interesting questions, and had some more unique perspectives on different moral themes, I felt the execution was unfortunately clunky in places.

The premise of the book is that humanity has collectively failed, and has made the world almost unliveable for their frail bodies. However, an artificial intelligence called Galileo offers the human race salvation by transferring their minds into synthetic bodies. However, this process alters the way they think, deepening their understanding of the world. This causes a schism in society, between those who want to undergo the process and those who don’t.

The main characters are a pair of lovers, Ari and Lil, who I found to be uninspiring while apart, while very enjoyable when together. Their relationship was one of the highlights of the book for me, as they seemed to bring out the best in each other, and there were a lot more subtleties during that time that was lacking from the rest of the novel. However, I found that while they each had individual quirks, we never got below a surface level with them individually, since the author, Arda Karaca, fell into the trap of ‘telling not showing’.

The best supporting characters were the ones who were directly connected to Ari and Lil, such as Lil’s grandmother Judy. I think this was because they allowed a new perspective into the main characters’ thoughts, while contributing to the story themselves. However, there were many characters introduced, who seemed to have no bearing on the story overall, and were underdeveloped. There were often a few pages dedicated to such a character’s point of view, only for them never to reappear in the book. This was a truly odd decision by the author.

Similarly, the plot had events that I thought were unnecessary and just interrupted the flow of the novel. However, there were not that many of these, and the overall structure was quite good. There was a large and unpredictable twist in the middle of the book that sent the story flying off in a direction I wasn’t expecting at all. The plot facilitated the core themes of the novel nicely, and allowed time for the author to properly develop these. However, the ending did feel a bit rushed, and there were multiple instances of logical inconsistencies. For example, at one point it is stated that children under 15 were rare, yet children constantly came up from this point on.

The lighthearted banter between Ari and Lil was again a highlight, as it added some light to an otherwise bleak story, and restored hope in humanity. However, the rest of the dialogue in the book was quite flat, and rarely distinguished one character from another. This was unfortunate, as good dialogue can buoy a story, but if it’s less well-written it is glaringly obvious.

Overall, I give the book 3.5 out of 7. The story itself was decent, and in some places caused me deep reflection of the world we live in, which I see as the hallmark of good sci-fi. Unfortunately, the language didn’t hold up to this standard. I might recommend this for fans of thoughtful sci-fi, but wouldn’t go much further than that.

Many thanks to Rosie and Arda Karaca for giving me a copy of this book for free.

Book description

When billionaire Daniel builds the world’s greatest supercomputer, which calls itself Galileo, the world begins to change. During his first public address, Galileo explains to humanity that the only course of action is for all humans to adopt ‘Synthetic Selection’, a process whereby humans would exchange their outdated forms for a robotic body that would never deteriorate. This causes a division in the world, between those who decide to become ‘superhumans’ and those who wish to retain their human forms and lifestyles.
İn the middle of this division, Ari and Lil fall in love but little do they know how their destinies are going to change the course of humanity, even the universe, after meeting another super being called a wanderer, Al.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS


55008688. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #SpeculativeFiction THE SILENT BLUEBIRD by @Eh_Writer

Today’s team review is from Aidan, he blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Aidan has been reading The Silent Bluebird by Elle M. Holmes

The Silent Bluebird was a decent novel. Was it a masterpiece? No. Was it fun-filled, fast-paced and free-flowing? Absolutely. It balances tension and humour well, and has lots of vivid descriptions that help facilitate the creation of mental images. I didn’t think it was perfect, but that it showed the potential of Elle M. Holmes, given it’s her debut novel.

The premise of the novel is that two secret agencies, the Zeta Defence Agency and Domino, are locked in a secret, perpetual conflict. One wants to use their influence to mold the world to their satisfaction, the other to guard against such maleficence. The advent of a device that can read a person’s thoughts, however, dramatically changes how they go about their missions.

I really like the main protagonist, Sadie. She has a tragic upbringing, and Holmes uses this to bring depth to her character, without it overshadowing her inquisitive personality. She is very thoughtful and considerate, as well as knowledgeable, and i found it very easy to empathise with her (although that might just be that I see part of myself in her). I felt that the author did a good job of making each supporting character unique and noteworthy, with my personal favourites being Piper and Allyn. However, the villains did feel quite flat, and it would have been nice if their motivations had been explained further, so that they might have been more compelling.

On the whole, I thought the pacing of the story was good, and the plot twists were well-utilized, and some were definitely unexpected. This all created the feeling of a more traditional thriller, with a speculative fiction slant, than a more typical speculative fiction novel. My key reasoning for saying this is that I feel some of its more thought-provoking themes were not explored fully, like the moral ramifications of technology that could invade thoughts. However, I thought that the quandaries plaguing some of the characters lent depth to the novel overall, specifically when they related to family.

The ending was satisfying, both nicely setting up the sequel, while still neatly tying off the book in a way that makes it enjoyable as a stand alone read. I really appreciated how Holmes peppered in small references throughout the book that make callbacks to earlier events, most of which are easy to miss if close attention wasn’t paid. I felt this added to the general spy feel of the novel. Nevertheless, some of the plot points felt a little too convenient, which didn’t particularly bother me, but I am aware this is something that many readers don’t like.

My largest issue with the book was that the dialogue was a little lackluster. I felt it often felt forced or unnatural, which could have been (counterintuitive as it sounds) because it tried to reflect real speech too much. This led to some dull moments, because reading how we actually speak is not hugely exciting. However, I did feel this was less of a problem as I got further into the book.

Overall, I found the novel to be a very digestible read. I thought the raw potential was there, even if it felt a little unpolished, and am excited to see what Holmes’ next novel brings. Therefore, I give it 4.5 out of 7.

Book description

The stories we read have the power to change our lives.

Sadie Smith lives an ordinary life, unlike the extraordinary ones of the characters in the books where she finds an escape. She dives into her stories with wanton abandon.

Until one story changes it all.

The story of the impetuous Killian Quinn: an agent for the Zeta Defense Agency, determined to avenge his fallen partner. As she follows him further down the rabbit hole, worlds collide when she awakens with her hands tied to a chair in the face of armed men. Sadie finds herself dropped in the middle of a battle between secret agencies she didn’t even know existed, but maybe where she’s belonged all along.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC Aidan Reviews Nautical #Thriller JONAH by @CarlRackman

Today Rosie’s Review-A-Book challenger review is from Aidan, he blogs here

Aidan has been reading Jonah by Carl Rackman

36535078. sx318

I don’t typically enjoy war stories, specifically those set during World War 2. However, Jonah being set at sea made it stand apart from other books I’ve read from the same time period. Being on a ship inherently creates tension, since there is no escape, and Carl Rackman leans heavily into this. Moreover, this novel has very little combat (other than a battle scene at the very beginning), and is more a look at naval life, with a supernatural undertone.

The book focuses on the life of Mitch Kirkham aboard the US Navy destroyer Brownlee. After surviving a horrific battle, the novel explores Mitch’s naval experiences, and through his interactions, other experiences of different characters. It deals with PTSD and bullying, before switching direction with the introduction of ‘The Brownlee Beast’.

I thought that the character of Mitch was excellent, as Rackman made him feel relatable by having him grapple with moral quandaries. He means well, but doesn’t always make the best choices – similar to most real people. Furthermore, it is very easy to feel sympathy for him, as he often gets into bad situations through no fault of his own.

Many of the supporting characters were also good, with my favourite being Doc. While not actually a doctor, he had rudimental medical training as the pharmacologist onboard. I felt drawn to his strong moral compass and his relentless work ethic. While many of the other characters were strong, I would have liked more development of the captain since he appears in quite a few scenes without us really understanding his motivations.

The author’s deep naval knowledge was obvious, but technical vocabulary never impeded my reading. He created a glossary at the end of the book, but I never felt the need to use this, since he did such a good job of making the meaning of new words obvious by the surrounding paragraph. It felt very well blended.

I don’t want to talk about the themes for too long, as I can’t mention some of the most interesting ones in case I spoil anything. However, I found the examination of chain of command very interesting, as well as the somewhat toxic culture that was found aboard the ship. That being said, the main aim of this book seems to me to be to entertain, which it does very well.

The mysterious element of the book is handled very well, and it kept me guessing until the final reveal. The action is also paced very well, with the tension staying with me long after I’d put the book down for the night.

However, I found the ending to be unsatisfying. The pacing was again good, and it felt like a proper climax, but the resolution just felt too perfect. There were also flashbacks interspersed throughout the book that, while I didn’t dislike them, and thought they were very well written, didn’t seem to add anything to the plot as a whole.

Overall, this book was a 5.5 out of 7 for me. It was easy to get into and this ease of reading continued throughout. The few small things I wasn’t a personal fan of are easily outweighed by the well-crafted plot and relatable characters. I would recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers, especially historical ones, as well as fans of psychological horror (since it shares some similar elements, while not strictly falling into that genre).

Book description

The North Atlantic, 1940. A British destroyer pounces on a seemingly abandoned U-boat, leading to a spine-chilling encounter.

Five years later, the US Navy destroyer Brownlee grimly prepares to battle a swarm of Japanese kamikazes at Okinawa.

Mitch “Lucky” Kirkham, a young gunner on the Brownlee, wakes up miraculously unscathed after his crewmates are killed in a fearsome kamikaze strike.

Bullied and resented amid accusations of cowardice and worse, Mitch re-boards his patched-up ship for the long voyage back to San Francisco. All he wants is to go home.

But far out in the boundless emptiness of the Pacific, a strange madness begins to seize the sailors on the Brownlee. Terror, hysteria and suicide torment the men amid sightings of ghosts and a terrifying monster that stalks the ship by night.

Mitch stumbles upon a possible explanation for the madness. But as the ship presses on alone, deeper into the vast Pacific Ocean and the grip of insanity, will anyone listen to him before his famous luck runs out for good?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

36535078. sx318

Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC Aidan reviews Dystopia WASTELAND by @TerryTyler4

Today’s review comes from Aidan, who joined our Review-A-Book Challenge. Find Aidan here

Aidan has been reading Wasteland by Terry Tyler

53245445. sy475

Wasteland just got better and better as I was reading. It might start off slowly, since it’s worldbuilding is monumentally ambitious, but once it gets going it never slows down. The book has plenty to say about family, poverty, activism and democracy, social media, liberty… the list just goes on. I could spend all day dissecting its multifaceted themes. For me, it felt very reminiscent of the Children of Men film.

The novel is set in a dystopian version of the UK far in the future. Most of the population has moved or been moved into megacities – vast urban centres that can meet all needs, so that their residents never have to leave. The government controls almost every aspect of its citizens’ lives, and they are taught not to question. Outside the megacities is the wasteland, home to those who have escaped the government’s iron fist.

The story centres on Rae, a young woman who has grown up in the orphanage system within a megacity. Upon learning that her family might still be alive, she starts to question what it is that she wants. Along her journey, there is a constant flow of diverse characters – it’s a real strength of the book. We can see the effects of the harsh world upon a whole host of characters, which gives small insights into a whole host of differing viewpoints and allows for interesting discussions of the various themes.

While Rae’s story was great, and she evolved seamlessly throughout the book, it was Dylan’s journey that was a highlight. His part was relatively small, since he was a secondary character, but I believe it to be crucial to understand the human aspect of the government’s policies. He encapsulates the idea that luck has a lot to do with your position in the world, and I found it impossible not to feel for him.

I found that the themes of the book mesh together to act as a study of humanity. It painted a poor picture of us, often being very cynical. Yet, despite all the flaws it exposed, it manages to maintain a spark of hope throughout – the idea that no matter what, humanity will find a way. I also don’t feel that Terry Tyler’s exploration of themes in any way impeded the overall flow of the story, something I’m always wary of when books have a strong message. However, the ambitious nature of the novel did mean that some themes are only touched on at a shallow level. I didn’t find this an issue personally though, since there is more than enough food for thought.

In my opinion, the book really comes into its own in the last 3rd. There was a twist that I didn’t see coming at all, which was great, and then the pace is relentless from there on out. It’s one of those that I just couldn’t put down, since the tension and stakes are so high and I was hugely invested in the characters.

Overall, this book has made me really excited to read more of Terry Tyler’s work. It was really easy to read as a standalone book, despite kind of being a sequel (it’s set in the same world as another book, but many years later). My only small criticism is that the writing occasionally was a bit awkward, so I had to reread bits which I misunderstood because I’d missed a word that was in an unexpected place. However, it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment, and would suggest that you don’t let it put you off in any way. Therefore, I give the book 6 out of 7, and would easily recommend it to lovers of sci-fi and dystopia. I’d also recommend it more widely, but warn that it can be quite bleak in places, so don’t go for it if that’s not your thing.

Book description

‘Those who escape ‘the system’ are left to survive outside society. The fortunate find places in off-grid communities; the others disappear into the wasteland.’

The year is 2061, and in the new UK megacities, the government watches every move you make. Speech is no longer free—an ‘offensive’ word reaching the wrong ear means a social demerit and a hefty fine. One too many demerits? Job loss and eviction, with free transport to your nearest community for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

Rae Farrer is a megacity girl through and through, proud of her educational and career achievements, until a shocking discovery about her birth forces her to question every aspect of life in UK Megacity 12.

On the other side of the supposedly safe megacity walls, a few wastelanders suspect that their freedom cannot last forever…

Wasteland is the stand-alone sequel to Hope, and is the second and final book in the Operation Galton series.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

53245445. sy475