The Thousandth Floor – Katharine McGee

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This is the first in a series. The book is set in New York in 2118. Not sure what has happened to the world but the main characters all live in a tower block that is, you’ve guessed it, 1000 floors high! The richer you are, the higher up the block you live. The character that we first meet, Avery Fuller, lives with her parents and her adopted brother, Atlas, who has disappeared. The family are obviously mega rich and super powerful. Avery and her family live in a penthouse on the 1000th floor.

The book is written from five different POVs. Avery, Lena, Eris, Watt and Rylin. One of these is a boy…. Rylin lives down on the lower levels with her sister. Her mum is dead and she is  trying to make ends meet. She goes to work at a party hosted by another rich kid with a trust fund and she ends up involved in a murky world involving her current boyfriend and the rich boy she is falling in love with. Avery and Atlas have a secret that will blow all their world’s apart and there is a lot of unrequited love and drug usage going on. Watt is a super hacker and has created a computer that he has placed inside his head. This is highly illegal but he uses it to make money by spying on people and selling information. In a world where everyone does everything online this is a powerful tool, but could land him in prison for the rest of his life. He lives quite far  down the block as well.

At the beginning of the book we learn that one of the main characters will fall from the top of the tower to their death. The build up and who it might be will keep you guessing all the way through and this is a clever plot device. It makes you want to read on. All of the characters are pretty shallow and the only one who seems to value their life (eventually) is Eris. Leda is hiding an addiction and a spell in rehab, Rylin is trying to protect a boy she realises she n longer knows and Watt gets in way too deep when he discovers that he is falling for the very person he shouldn’t. Even though there is much made of the fact that Leda, Avery and Eris are all such great friends, when it all comes down to it, they leave each other to save themselves. It is also an interesting exploration of friendship amongst kids who think they have everything, but at the end of the day having everything doesn’t always make you happy.

All of them have secrets and some of them are more desperate to hide them then others. I liked the twist with Eris and Lena and it’s all nicely set up for a sequel. A good futuristic book that will make you want to go and read the next one, but if you like a fantasy book with a bit more action and adventure then this probably won’t float your boat.

There are also a few bits in there which are morally questionable and may make you think which of the main characters (if any) you actually like by the end of the  book! I will go on and read the next one, but it might take me a while to get to it. I didn’t invest too emotionally with any of them as they all have dislikable traits. Maybe we aren’t meant to…. Am interested to see where the author takes them all next though.

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Ink and Bone (The Great Library Series #1) – Rachel Caine

I haven’t read anything by Rachel Caine before; the whole Morganville thing didn’t really appeal to me even though they were really popular in the library. This one kind of grabbed me because of the library  connection and I thought I’d give it a go.

The book is based on the premise that The Royal Library of Alexandria in Egypt was not destroyed and is still standing at the time the book is set, which is in 2025. The Royal Library was built in the 3rd century BC and was a centre of cultural learning and knowledge. It housed thousands of papyrus scrolls and other scholarly works which were destroyed by a big fire in 30 BC. The library then moved to a daughter library or Serapeum and this was destroyed in the Muslim wars in about 642 AD. This background knowledge would have helped when reading the book but is not essential!

The Library is controlled by the Librarians (!) a sinister group that basically rule the world and all the knowledge in it. Any printed books are banned and any that exist are housed in the original library in Alexandria. There is a black market trade in printed books but this a dangerous game and, if discovered will lead to execution. All citizens of the world are allowed to read from tablets, or blanks, and these are controlled by the Library. There is also some wars going on, particularly between the Welsh and the English and these are brutal, almost medieval, warfare. There is also a group of people who live in the Iron Tower in Alexandria called Obscurists. They can preform some sort of magic that controls the blanks and other things. If you are an Obscurist you cannot leave the Iron Tower, ever. They are super powerful and rare. There is also a group of people called Burners who destroy books in a public way to draw attention to the fact that all books should be free to be read without being controlled by the library.

Jess Brightwell lives in London with his family. They are book smugglers and he is a runner. He has to deliver the books to the clients. Some are extremely rare and worth lots of money. He had an older brother called Liam who was executed at 17 for smuggling and a twin called Brendan, who is a mystery ( he makes fleeting appearances in this book!) The Brightwell family are large and have relatives all over. Although Jess is part of the business his heart isn’t really it so when he turns 17  his father buys him an opportunity. Every year students from all around the world are chosen to go to Alexandria to study. They have to sit a series of exams and if they pass, go to Alexandria and study with a Scholar, who chooses six of them to be taken in to the library. The others are sent back.

On the train to Alexandria he meets his fellow students; Thomas, Khalila, Danton and Glain. When he arrives he meets his room mate, Dario who isn’t very nice and later another mysterious girl arrives called Morgan. Their scholar is a chap called Wolfe who may or may not be dodgy, and they are also trained by the Garda, a man called Santi. These are all the main players in the book and you will get to know them as you go.

I don’t want to elaborate too much on the story because it will give you too many spoilers, but this is a series opener so it needs to set everything up. Which it does! The story is fast paced and gritty and there is a hint of magic but it’s not too overwhelming for people who aren’t too into magical books. Jess is a great character and there is a developing love story as well but, the main plot is; who to trust? Should we agree that one organisation can control all the power and knowledge in the world just because they can? The other characters are really good as well and I’m sure that the ones that survive will make an appearance in the next book (which is already in my kindle!)

This is a great summer read and you will become immersed in their world, I am looking forward to reading the next one and the third one is out in July so that’s going on the kindle as well! There are also some spin off novellas which will keep you busy. If you love a series with some magical twists and turns then this is the one for you!

 

 

The Queen of the Tearling

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This is the first part of a three part series and definitely one for older readers as the swearing in it is necessary but bad! Kelsea Raleigh is a girl who has a destiny. The book begins with her living in a small house in the forest with her guardians Barty and Carlin. She knows that she is destined for greater things, and that she is the daughter of the Tearling Queen; when she reaches the age of 19 she will become the Queen herself but she has been hidden all these years because of fears that she will be killed. The Tearling is a land created by William Tear, and contains exiled people from England and America. They went there for a better life but things are pretty basic and there are few doctors and no technology. There is however, magic.

Kelsea’s mother Queen Elyssa was a weak queen and signed a treaty with the Red Queen to send people from Tearling to Mortmesne as slaves. Mortmesne is the neighbouring country to the Tearling and is ruled by the Red Queen, a magical figure who does not age. After Queen Elyssa’s death, her brother Thomas became the Regent until Kelsea was old enough to rule. He has left the country to ruin and is lazy and weak. There are also other factions like the Caden who are trying to kill Kelsea so that the Regent can stay on the throne and continue ruining the kingdom. All Kelsea has to do is get back the Keep in the main city of New London, and be crowned. This is easier said than done as so many people are trying to kill her. She is protected by the Queen’s Guard, a group of men loyal to the previous queen who will guard her until death. Their leader is a man called Lazurus, or the Mace. He is a huge man mountain who kills people with a mace!

When they arrive in New London, Kelsea begins to realize the extent to which the country has been ruined. She sees giant cages where people are herded in and taken to Mortmesne. They are chosen once a month through a lottery system run by a pretty nasty piece of work called Arlen Thorne. The decisions she makes will have a huge impact on whether the country will remain at peace or not, but she cannot sit by and watch such cruelty. The Mace can do little but advise her but she is governed by a mysterious jewel that hangs around her neck, given to her by Carlin when she was a baby and part of the proof that she is the real queen of the Tearling. It has magical powers that she had no idea existed. During her journey back to the New London she meets a mysterious figure called the Fetch who she kind of falls in love with, he takes the companion jewel from her. The two jewels together make her extremely powerful, she just needs to learn how to use that power.

As you can imagine, the book ends on a cliffhanger and I have already started the next one in the series. I was  getting a bit fed up of reading teen angst books where one kid has something wrong with them and it was all profoundly depressing. What happened to fun!? Anyway, so I thought I would read a fantasy fiction book to give my brain a rest from all the angst! This is a really enjoyable fantasy fiction book that transports you to another world. It is a little confusing as to whether the people who founded the Tearling left the present world or not but that seems a bit incidental and you will find out more about this in the next book anyway. The characters are interesting and you will enjoy seeing Kelsea grow from a bit of a geeky tomboy to a strong leader. She is constantly described as plain and a bit fat, she struggles with fitness and has to tell the cook to make her healthier meals, she is not the gorgeous heroine queen that you would expect, and I think that makes it a better book for that. She is a more realistic character. The others are good strong characters that  you will enjoy reading about. It is advertised as a Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games type book, although I can see some similarities this book is in a world all of it’s own. It is violent though and, if you don’t like swearing and violence then this is not for you.

further reading: Game of Thrones series (but only if you are prepared to invest some time and you don’t mind a bit of sex and violence!) The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman (and the rest of the series).

 

Maladapted – Richard Kurti

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Richard Kurti is a screen writer and director for television as well as an author. His first book, Monkey Wars, was shortlisted for the Hounslow Teen Read a couple of years ago and I had to read it. Now, I wouldn’t say this was a chore but if you have read my review of it then you will see that it wasn’t one of my favourite books. I think that I said it was a  bit silly. That is  not something that you can accuse this book of being.

Maladapted is set in the near future. Cillian is a 17 year old boy who lives with his father, Paul, who is a doctor. He is exceptionally good at maths and has  been fast tracked and is already at university. His brain seems to work differently to other people’s and he can problem solve like you wouldn’t believe. At the beginning of the book he is travelling on the train with his dad when there is a terrorist explosion and everyone on the train dies, including his father – except Cillian.

Tess is an orphan who has been indoctrinated by a strange religious  order called Revelation. They believe that the world has been taken over by too much tech and it is against God’s wishes. They want the world to go back to the way it was. Tess and Cillian live in Foundation City, a new kind of city where everything is really modern. This is at a cost to the old way of life and the people that live there. Everything is controlled by technology and you are followed and accounted for all the time. Even if you look at a shop it’s picked up and the authorities can track your movements. Revelation have also heard about a secret government program called P8 which they think is developing children with superhuman abilities.

Can you see the connection yet?

Tess is involved in  the bombing on the train and, once Revelation think that have found a live test subject from the P8 program (Cillian) they get Tess to befriend him to find out what he knows.

The book is written like a high octane film. You can almost imagine what the film will be like. Cillian and Tess go off and explore various things, manipulate people and print off a 3D gun (Cool eh?) and try and find out what is going on. It is definitely the first in a series as the book ends on a cliff hanger. It’s a little bit too disjointed for me and some of the characters were not really fleshed out. I would like to find out more about Cillian’s Dad and how he  became involved in the program. Also, the last chapter was full of twists that will make you want to read the next one, so it’s clever. All in all, I enjoyed it 100 times more that Monkey Wars. And it’s not silly at all….

The 100: Day 21 – Kass Morgan

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# CONTAINS SPOILERS: READ THE 100 FIRST #

So, this is the second one in the series. I also found out that the book and the TV series are not necessarily linked; the directors of the series hadn’t even read the second book so apparently the TV series is only loosely based on the books, just the character names are the same. Bit weird. But anyway, the second book carries on where the first one left off. Glass is still not back together with Luke, Wells and Clarke are not together and Bellamy has a thing for Clarke and she might just feel the same. Oh, and annoying Octavia is still missing, possibly taken by the Earthborns. And I think at the end of the last book they captured a girl from Earth called Sasha.

So, you’re all up to date. Bellamy is going a bit crazy looking for Octavia and wants to torture Sasha for information. Graham just wants to chop her head off and put it on a spike. But, as Wells gets to know her he starts to develop some feelings for her, plus he feels a bit guilty about keeping her captive.

This is a good middle book as it ties up loose ends from the first one and sets everything up nicely for the conclusion. I liked the way that the Earthborns were arranged. It seemed more plausible that some people had survived and were living in relative peace but, that one group would take exception to this and break off on their own. In any society this would happen. Wells is trying to be the leader and again, I think any society needs a natural leader to follow and he is the obvious choice. I like his character for some reason,  but the others don’t seem to grab me. You’d think that if they were narrating large chunks of the book in the second book in you would know them a little better. Unfortunately I didn’t really feel that happened. Bellamy is obviously concerned for his sister but he still has time to get with Clarke and traipse around being angry. He is a pretty angry young man!

The scenes on the ship also lack a bit of excitement. Glass and Luke do make it but there is some stuff that happens along the way, including the fact that Phoenix is annexed with all the oxygen and cuts off the other two ships. It is survival of the fittest up there and eventually there is a mad scamble for the drop ships and Earth.

I am enjoying the series but it feels a little commercial to me. A bit like a TV company has asked an author to write an exciting TV series. I will definitely read the third one but I feel that I have other series to explore first.

The 100 – Kass Morgan

the 100

I think I may have come a bit late to this book as it is a huge E4 hit with cult viewers and lots of good looking teen Americans… yes I Googled them all! I’m not being funny or nuffin’ but, if you grew up on a ship in space would you look that good?!

Anyway, back to the book. The book has four main narrators: Clarke – who is the daughter of two scientists who were investigating whether it would safe to return to earth (more on this later) Wells – who is the son of the Chancellor and a bit of a posh  boy, Bellamy  – his sister is in the dropship (more on this later..) and Glass who has escaped the dropship to look for, and apologise to her boyfriend. The space ship that they all grow up on is split in to three areas; Waldon – where Luke (Glass’s boyfriend) lives; Arcadia and Phoenix where all the elite people live. Wells, Clarke, Glass and Bellamy are from there. Wells, Clarke and Glass have all been imprisoned for various offences and are due to be retried on their 18th birthdays. The ship has been floating in space for 300 years after a massive nuclear war has made earth uninhabitable.

The government decides that instead of giving the teens a retrial they will send them back down to Earth to see if the atmosphere has changed and it is safe for them all to live on again. The oxygen and resources on the ship are at dangerously low levels and they need to look at other options (like maybe killing them all, but hey they’re only convicts right?) so they send 100 kids on the dropship down to earth to let them explore/ die. Bellamy’s sister is on the ship and he breaks on to it by holding Wells’ father hostage – in the ensuing struggle Glass manages to escape and remain on the ship where she gets pardoned (think her mum might be some kind of high class prostitute but it wasn’t too clear!)

This is clever as Glass is still on the mothership and we can get regular updates about what is going on up there. Meanwhile Wells and Clarke have had a relationship that ended in catastrophe and she now hates him. He still loves her and has broken the law so that he can also get banished to Earth. Even though this is super romantic she still hates his guts and strikes up a friendship with Bellamy.

This book is kind of Lord of the Flies in space. On Earth it’s survival of the fittest and Graham, the typical bully, starts to assert his authority and gather a gang of thugs around him. Octavia, Bellamy’s sister is also one to watch. At the end of the book they also discover that they may not be alone and that Earth may not be as uninhabited as they thought.

It’s an interesting concept but the best bit about the book is the interplay between the main characters and how/ if they will survive. Wells is a bit too bossy and Clarke is a little too sanctimonious but I have just started the second book in the series so I must be enjoying it right!?

Further Reading: Lord the Flies by William Golding and 1984 by George Orwell. Any dystopian novel because the themes are pretty much the same.

Maybe also try The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall or The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood- bit feminist these ones and they both explore the theme of the state controlling the birth rate post apocalypse. Also, Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel which is also post apocalyptic (and brilliant!)

The Ghosts of Heaven – Marcus Sedgwick

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Another one from the Carnegie Shortlist; this is the first year I have read them all so you all need to hear about them!

At the beginning of the book there is a foreword by Marcus Sedgwick where he says that the book is split in to four different quarters that can be read in any order. All the sections are connected by the central theme of spirals or helix and the Fibonacci spiral – a scientific spiral that has a mathematic principle that occurs again and again in nature. For example, a snail shell has a Fibonacci spiral. I will freely admit that I had to Google some of this stuff as maths has never been my strong point but, the principle exists as an argument for creation as a design by someone rather than things occurring naturally or Creationism.

The first quarter is written in poem form. It is about a girl in Neolithic times who is chosen by the seer of her tribe to help cast magic spells to protect the tribe from danger during their annual hunt. She hasn’t really been chosen as the next seer, she is chosen to carry the equipment up the mountain but it obvious that she has special powers that the seer wants. She isn’t chosen because she is a girl and girls aren’t supposed to know about magical things. While she is up the mountain she sees the destruction of her tribe and she becomes trapped in the cave. she walks into the cave to see if she can find a way out but finds drawings from the tribe that killed her own and a picture of a spiral. She then seems to disappear. The use of poetry means the story is quick and easy to read.

The next quarter sees a girl in 16th century England who’s mother is a healer in her local village and, after her death, the girl is then suspected of being a witch and a witch hunter investigates her. She is accused of bringing about the death of a baby through witchcraft and, her brother, who seems to have epilepsy is said to be possessed. She is put to trial by water and, at the bottom of the water sees a spiral.

In the third quarter we meet a doctor in America who has lost his wife when the boat she is travelling on is sunk. He moves to a lunatic Asylum on an island and takes his daughter with him. There, he meets a man who at first he mistakes for a fellow doctor. He soon realised that the man is in fact a patient at the hospital. This section is set during the end of the 19th century and the treatment of the patients is brutal. The man, it turns out, has a pathological fear of spirals and can only win his freedom if he goes up the huge spiral staircase at the centre of the hospital to meet the cruel warden. He also seems to know a lot of things about the doctor that he couldn’t possibly have known. The doctor likes the man so arranges for him to meet the warden – he manages to make it up the steps but the warden pushes his luck and disaster strikes.

The last quarter is set in the future. The human race is dying and the world government have given the population an opportunity to start a new colony on a planet called New Earth. The only thing is it takes 100 years to get there. They are all put on a ship in statis and are assigned some guards who are woken up every 10 years to check that the ship is all ok. The ship contains 500 hundred people and it is in the shape of a spiral (for aerodynamic purposes). The sentinel Kier Bowman is on his second waking cycle when he realises that some of the 500 are dying. He checks the CCTV and realises that they are being murdered by another sentinel who he cannot see. As the story progresses he realises that the ship and its contents are all based on a lie. Really interesting twist at the end as well.

Of all the parts, I think I enjoyed the one in the lunatic asylum the most. They all fitted together so well  but, to me, this one was the most well written. This book is a marvel. It is so so clever, but you don’t really realise how clever it is until it ends and then I was like ‘wow’! Give it a chance, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Further reading : Cloud Atlas  and Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Read Cloud Atlas first) Also Slade House by David Mitchell.