Jump to content
Goose

A Dystopian World - Ongoing Blog

Recommended Posts

My Dark Vanessa – Kate Elizabeth Russell

(adult, thought-provoking, mental health)

 

My Dark Vanessa is a story about a fifteen-year-old girl, Vanessa Wye, who enters into a sexual relationship with her forty-two-year-old teacher, Jacob Strane. The narrative switches between Vanessa at fifteen during the relationship as it progresses and also Vanessa when she is an adult after allegations of abuse from other students surrounding the teacher come to light.

 

We follow the perspective of Vanessa and therefore during her teenage narratives we are shown the excitement she feels of being singled out as special by her teacher. However, as the reader we are given indications as to how manipulative Jacob is being and how he is grooming Vanessa into believing that what they have is not wrong, but that they are in fact just different to other people. Russell does this cleverly, it is not spoon fed to us, instead we are required to read into Vanessa’s reactions to what she is experiencing, which although explained away by Vanessa herself, reveals to the reader how disturbing the situation is.

 

This book really is a counter to the argument that a young victim like Vanessa is in some way part responsible for the abuse they received, that they were willing and consenting. The book shows how skilled at manipulation and grooming these abusers are and how they manage to make the victim become fully and completely reliant on them and therefore making it impossible for the victim to leave. The book also gives a raw view of how this kind of abuse never leaves a person, we see Vanessa as she struggles to be a normally functioning adult and as she tries to unpack what she experienced as a child and tries to come to terms with the fact that it was actually abuse.

 

Overall, I would recommend this book, it didn’t feel over dramatized and it really helps to improve your understanding of the complex issue it covers. However, a word of caution as it is a difficult read, there are detailed scenes depicting the abuse Vanessa experiences which can be uncomfortable and therefore it may not be for everyone.

 

Opening line: I get ready for work and the post has been up for eight hours.

Edited by Goose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bones of Faerie – Janni Lee Simner

(fantasy, magical, adventure)

 

Bones of Faerie is a sweet little middle grade fantasy which felt quite different to many other fantasies I have read. The story follows Liza, a young girl who lives in a time after a magical war between faeries and humans has changed the world that they live in. She embarks on a journey in which she learns a lot about how the world has changed since the war. I really liked this element of the book, little aspects such as butterflies spontaneously bursting into flame and rocks that glow with magic.

 

Although the magic system in the book isn’t particularly developed in terms of people using it, I do like how the magic seems to reside in the earth and nature around them. A main element of the story is that plants have become dangerous and have developed a taste for flesh and we see how people deal with this danger every day. There is an eerie darkness to the book that really helps create an atmosphere which in turn helps to transport you into the world.

 

I would have appreciated a bit more character development, as well as their relationships with each other as this did feel a little limited, I feel that this would help the reader connect to the characters more. Bones of Faerie is the first of three books and I do plan on completing the series at some point.

 

Opening line: I had a sister once.

Edited by Goose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bunny – Mona Awad

(horror, satire, cult)

 

I don’t really want to say an awful lot of what this book is about as I don’t want to give too much away. I went into this book not knowing anything about it other than that it was a horror of sorts and I am glad I did. I think my not knowing what to expect made me enjoy it a lot more than I think I would of if I had an idea of what was going to happen, if someone was to explain it to me, I think I would have thought it sounded like a load of rubbish! All I’ll say is that the main character Samantha Heather Mackey is an outcast who ends up getting drawn into a strange cult with these perfect, twee rich girls in her class who call each other bunny; and that is when the surrealness begins.

 

The book gave some interesting commentary on female friendships and the complicated and delicate social structures within a group. It demonstrates how even when people are treated badly by someone, if they are desperate to feel loved and accepted then they can often end up going right back to them.

 

I saw someone describe this book as a mix between Mean Girls and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and I think it is the perfect comparison. I would recommend this book if you are looking for something just completely bonkers, it definitely left an impact on me!

 

Opening line: We call them Bunnies because that is what they call each other.

Edited by Goose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You’re Welcome, Universe – Whitney Gardner

(YA, contemporary, friendship)

 

This is a very sweet book about a girl Julia, who is deaf and who ends up getting expelled from her school and is made to transfer to a mainstream school. Julia is a graffiti artist and all she wants to do is go out and create amazing artwork, but she realises there is a rival in her town and they enter into a ‘turf war’.

 

I thought the way the book presented the topic of Julia being deaf was really well done. Julia lip reads, however naturally she doesn’t always catch every word that someone is saying. Therefore, some words of dialog are missed out which allows the reader to get a better understanding of what it is like for Julia when she is communicating with others. I also really liked that Julia being deaf wasn’t a main focus of the story line. Yes, it came up a lot and was relevant in a lot of situations however it didn’t feel forced and overdone and it didn’t feel like Julia’s deafness defined her, we got to learn a lot about other aspects of her too.

 

There were parts of the storyline that I felt were a little too cliché and obvious and also found that everything just seemed to resolve itself a bit too easily and then just ended. However overall, I did really enjoy it and would recommend it.

 

Opening line: Six stencils in and it's gone.

Edited by Goose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good reviews!

 

Looking forward to what you have to say about Nineteen Eighty-Four and Howl's Moving Castle!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 03/08/2021 at 11:02 PM, Raven said:

Good reviews!

 

Looking forward to what you have to say about Nineteen Eighty-Four and Howl's Moving Castle!

 

Thank you! 😊😊

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1984 – George Orwell

(dystopian, thought-provoking, classic)

 

This book took me quite a while to get through, not because its long, but because I think I read it at the wrong time, a time when I felt more like reading fantasy and not sci-fi and therefore kept picking other books up. I finally decided to just focus on it and not let myself be tempted by anything else until I had finished it, and eventually found myself really enjoying it.

 

The story follows the main character Winston who lives in an age where people are completely controlled and brainwashed by the current governing body called ‘The Party’ in ways that the general population are blind to. Orwell wrote this book in 1948 and it is interesting to see how someone from that time imagined the world could change.

 

I found that the first half of the book dragged a little, we mostly follow Winston in his day-to-day life as he begins to have rebellious inclinations. However there came a point where the narrative seemed to switch more to focussing on building our knowledge and understanding of how the questionable government was controlling the country. This part I was intrigued by. I was taken aback by how detailed and well thought out the foundations of this story were, I really felt that Orwell had created a clear and fully constructed world and had left no stone unturned when it came to thinking of all the ways in which ‘The Party’ could control people.

 

As with many dystopian stories 1984 asks the question as to whether it is acceptable to sacrifice people’s freedom in order to provide them with happiness and contentment. I do feel like 1984 stands out from other dystopian novels in the way that it presents people being controlled and is one of the most well-thought-out systems I have read so far.

 

Opening line: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Edited by Goose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones

(fantasy, middle-grade, whimsical)

 

Howl’s Moving Castle is a beautiful tale of a girl called Sophie who a witch casts a spell on, Sophie then runs away where she joins the inhabitants of Howls Castle and partakes in their magical lives.

 

I loved the whimsy and enchantment of this book, it is so fantastical and there were many aspects of the story that, although in themselves not particularly important to the progression of the narrative, did so much to add to the magic and wonder of the story.

 

One of my favourite aspects of the book is the dynamic between Sophie and Howl. Sophie is stubborn and strong minded whereas Howl is overly dramatic and vain, the interactions between these too were a part of the book I found myself most looking forward to. One of my favourite parts is when Howl catches a cold and delivers lines such as “I feel ill (he announced) I’m going to bed, where I may die” and “Help me, someone! I’m dying from neglect up here!”. I just generally loved all the main characters in this book and they are all characters that I don’t think I will forget any time soon.

 

There were times when I felt that it was going a little slow, however overall, I really enjoyed it and would love one day to be able to read this to my own children.

 

Opening line: In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three.

Edited by Goose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really enjoyed Howl's Moving Castle too. Great review!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good review 🙂 I watched the Studio Ghibli anime version, but found it chaotic for the storylines. I have the Kindle version of Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones, and hope to read this one. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Arc of a Scythe Trilogy (#1 Scythe, #2 Thunderhead & #3 The Toll) – Neal Shusterman

(utopian, YA, sci-fi)

 

This story is set in a time where humans have almost completely conquered death and therefore are practically immortal. This obviously creates some issues regarding population so they have come up with a solution in the form of Scythes. Scythes are people who have been given the authority to glean (kill) people in order to manage the population. In this future there is also an artificial intelligence called the Thunderhead who looks after humanity and has created a world where everything is perfect. The story follows two teenagers who are chosen to become scythe apprentices, to learn how to glean and live a new life as a Scythe.

 

Shusterman spent a lot of time developing the world and all the systems in place to make this futuristic earth plausible. As well as this, the politics in the book are also well thought out and are a main focus of the story line. One thing however that I feel could have had more time devoted to it was character development as well as the development of the characters relationships with each other. There were some relationships that I felt were not given enough time to blossom and I found it difficult believing in them. The 3rd book, The Toll involved a large cast of characters all leading their own storylines, it did seem to jump around in time a lot without really explaining that it had however I did like that it kept the storyline interesting and engaging.

 

Over all I really enjoyed these books, I think the 2nd book, Thunderhead was my favourite as it focussed on the thunderhead as a character which was really interesting.

 

Opening line: We must, by law, keep a record of the innocents we kill.

Edited by Goose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Punk 57 – Penelope Douglas

(romance, adult, contemporary)

 

I have mixed feelings about this book. The story follows two teenagers who became pen pals when they were young and have never stopped writing to each other. They have never met and have never seen pictures of each other however they have a very strong bond. An accidental meeting changes everything and the story follows them as their relationship develops and changes. There is also a slight mystery as part of the plot which was enjoyable however I worked out the ‘reveal’ pretty early on.

 

I have very different opinions of the two main characters. The female character Ryen is displayed to the reader as a mean, popular girl who has shallow friends and only cares about herself. I really liked Ryen however, as we get to know her, we discover how torn up she is inside and why she has ended up the way she is. I have seen a few reviews that criticise the character however I think she should be given more credit, she isn’t perfect, just like everyone else and I would rather read about a realistic character than some perfect angle who can do no wrong. On the other had the male character Misha I feel we as the reader as supposed to like and connect with however, I really did not like him. He is possessive over Ryen, the way he treats her is questionable at times and he seems very self-righteous. Again, I don’t mind characters that have flaws however he never acknowledges these flaws or tries to become better and his character doesn’t seem to grow in any way.

 

I am not really much of a romance reader, I enjoyed it but it hasn’t made me want to pick up more romances in the future.

 

Opening line: Dear Misha, So, have I ever told you my secret shame?

Edited by Goose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 18/07/2021 at 3:52 PM, Goose said:

Bones of Faerie – Janni Lee Simner

This review really reminded me of a book I read a long time ago but I could not remember what it was and it's just popped into my head - the Faerie Wars Chronicles by Herbie Brennan. I like the idea that in Bones of Faerie there are more noticeable magical impacts on the human world though, I seem to remember Brennan's book mainly involving the main character being in the world of Faerie. I might have to look out for this one!

 

On 15/08/2021 at 8:34 PM, Goose said:

Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones

(fantasy, middle-grade, whimsical)

I've also thought about reading this before and your review has made me want to again! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/16/2021 at 11:01 AM, Hayley said:

This review really reminded me of a book I read a long time ago but I could not remember what it was and it's just popped into my head - the Faerie Wars Chronicles by Herbie Brennan. I like the idea that in Bones of Faerie there are more noticeable magical impacts on the human world though, I seem to remember Brennan's book mainly involving the main character being in the world of Faerie. I might have to look out for this one!

I was a lovely book! Really enchanting but also eerie and atmospheric and the same time. I loved the nature element to the story. I'll have to check out Faerie Wars Chronicles!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Escaping Exodus – Nicky Drayden

(sci-fi, space opera, LGBT)

 

Escaping Exodus is one of the most unique sci-fi books I have read so far. The story is set in a time when humans have fled earth and now live within giant space beasts. They capture a beast, make its body there home for a few decades until the beast eventually dies and they are forced to find a new beast to live in. The tale alternates between two main characters, Seske who is the daughter of the current ruling Matris and Adalla, a beast worker. These two characters have a strong connection but their different statuses in life mean they cannot be together. The story follows them as they change and develop as individuals and how this effects their relationship.

 

The world that Drayden has created is so interesting and creative, with lots of details and world building. I particularly like the scenes with the heart workers who have the important task of ensuring the heart is running at optimum level and acting quickly to fix any problems. Although it seems far-fetched to have civilisations living within another living beast, Drayden has managed to make it feel realistic and believable.

 

An aspect of the story that I really liked and one that drew me to the book in the first place is that it pushes against many racial and gender norms as well as featuring LGBT relationships. Seske and Adalla’s civilisation are all people of colour and women are in command. There are parts that directly challenge aspect of our society, for example ’being the only male in the accountancy guard was taking its toll. The stories he’s told us haven’t been pretty. A lot of harassment and crude jokes’ and ‘I can’t imagine how their people could find the trust to allow a male to lead an entire civilisation’. I think these topics were really nicely presented, it didn’t feel over emphasised, rather just accept factors of the story, particularly the LGBT element, it was just the norm of their society.

 

There were some points of the story that I felt jumped forward in time which made me feel a bit like I had missed things. Sometimes major plot points that had had a fair amount of build-up were skipped over when the event finally came around. Seske and Adalla change quite a bit and there were times that I felt I missed out on their character development and progression.

 

Over all however I really enjoyed this book. There is a second one which I have bought and look forward to reading at some point.

 

Opening line: Our family's stasis pod seems impenetrable as I rub my hand over the inner surface, looking for the exit seam.

Edited by Goose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have the Arc of a Scythe trilogy on my TBR, I'm glad you enjoyed it! Escaping Exodus sounds good and sounds like a book I might enjoy, so I'm putting it on my wishlist.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, Athena said:

I have the Arc of a Scythe trilogy on my TBR, I'm glad you enjoyed it! Escaping Exodus sounds good and sounds like a book I might enjoy, so I'm putting it on my wishlist.

They are both definitely worth a read 🙂

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/21/2021 at 1:18 AM, Goose said:

The Giver – Lois Lowry

(YA, dystopian, thought-provoking)

 

Over-all I enjoyed this book. I really like dystopian books that play with the concept of living in a ‘perfect and safe society’ but which overall removes the inhabitant’s freedom of choice and seeing the characters eventually develop an understanding of this.

 

I appreciate the amount of time Lowry gives to developing the readers understanding of the setting of the story and she really evokes a sense of peace and prosperity in this world. The characters live in what is called the ‘community’ in which decisions such as their job, who they are partnered with and even who their children are, are made for them. The main character, Jonas is a seemingly ordinary twelve-year-old boy and the story follows him as he learns to truth about the past that has been kept hidden from them.

 

The story is fairly predictable however I don’t think that this spoils it over all. It is definitely aimed at a younger age group but as an adult reading it encourages you to analyse our own societies and ways of life.

 

The giver is the first of a series of four books and although I enjoyed it, it didn’t inspire me enough to continue the series. Not to say that I wont one day read the rest but I had other books queued up that enticed me more.

 

I truly enjoyed this review of The Giver!! I just re read it couple of weeks ago with my younger child. Your description especially reminded me of this particular reading of the theme of memories (https://www.bartleby.com/lit/the-giver in the book. I also loved your honesty about not feeling like finishing the series!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/18/2021 at 8:23 AM, tracy18 said:

 

I truly enjoyed this review of The Giver!! I just re read it couple of weeks ago with my younger child. Your description especially reminded me of this particular reading of the theme of memories (https://www.bartleby.com/lit/the-giver in the book. I also loved your honesty about not feeling like finishing the series!

Thank you very much :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Choice – Claire Wade

(dystopian, political, rebellion)

 

The Choice follows the main character Olivia who lives in a time when the government heavily controls aspects of people’s lives, in particular diet and exercise, in an effort to maintain health and eradicate illnesses. You can’t trust anyone as you never know who might report you to the authorities for suspicion of illegal activity, such as baking a cake and as a result you could be forced to spend a day in a ‘shame box’ or worse.

 

There is a lot of detail within the story about what measures the government have in place to control people, things such as regulation size glasses and plates to ensure people are not consuming more than instructed, their bins being able to track everything that they dispose of and your meal choices at a restaurant being recorded. Wade has done a good job of creating the atmosphere of the story, you really get the sense of the hopelessness and fear that they live.

 

This book was an interesting take on the over-bearing government trope and overall, I think it worked and I enjoyed the book.

 

Opening line: It was impossible to ignore the Shame Box.

Edited by Goose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Unit – Ninni Holmqvist

(dystopian, speculative, human connection)

 

The story is set in a time where people are split into two groups, ‘needed’ and ‘dispensable’. Once a person reaches a certain age and has no children or is not in an occupation that is considered important then they are sent to a ‘Unit’. The Unit, also called a Reserve Bank Unit for Biological Material is where dispensable people go in order for their organs to be harvested. The story follows Dorrit who moves into the unit when she reaches her 50th birthday.

 

Something that really intrigued me about this story was that the idea of these people donating their bodies was a lot more intricate than I had first realised. Although ultimately the they are there to donate their organs, in the mean time until they make their ‘final donation’ they partake in various studies that range from testing medications to the impacts of certain factors on the body. The studies can have serious health implications on them however this is deemed okay as they are dispensable people.

 

It’s not a particularly uplifting story for obvious reasons and overall not much actually happens but I really enjoyed it as it explored the concept of people being ‘profitable’ to society and how those that aren’t are treated.

 

Opening line: It was more comfortable than I could have imagined.

Edited by Goose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Choice and The Unit both sound like interesting concepts! Nice reviews :).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Athena said:

The Choice and The Unit both sound like interesting concepts! Nice reviews :).

Both good reads, The Unit was particularly interesting and different to other novels I have read in the same genre.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Divided Kingdom – Rupert Thomson

(dystopian, political, speculative)

 

Divided Kingdom is set in the UK but it is very different to the one we know. In an effort to manage the countries racism and violence the government has split the population into four independent regions based on their personality types. The groups are defined by the ancient medical concept of humourism, people are split into four temperaments, sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic. The book follows Thomas through his life as he navigates this world.

 

This was an annoyingly frustrating book. I was drawn to it as the concept really intrigued me and I liked the idea of people being categorised based on psychological factors. For a majority of the book however there was little direction and eventually it just kind of ends. I found it hard to understand the decisions Thomas was making and they seemed a bit random. There are secondary characters that are relevant for a period of time and then just disappear making it feel like there are lots of loose ends left hanging. There is also an element towards the end of the story that just does not make sense and feels like it is just added in in order the create a ‘resolution’.

 

Overall, I was very disappointed with this book, especially as I found the idea so interesting, so much more could have been done with it.

 

Opening line: There were men in my room, and it was bright, too bright, and I was being lifted out of bed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Sad Ghost Club – Lize Meddings

(graphic novel, mental health, touching)

 

All I will say about this book is that if you have ever suffered from anxiety and/or depression, read it. It touched on such specific aspects of the disorders that it is probably one of the most authentic representations I think I have ever read.

 

Everyone’s experience is different, but for me this certainly hit home.

 

Opening line: For anyone who's ever felt like a sad ghost.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×