A World of Words

Reviewing children's books

Interview with Ruth Silver

I’ve just posted a review for Aberrant, which you can read here. Below is an interview, spotlight and giveaway with Ruth Silver, the author. Thanks for your time, Ruth!

Having read the story, Aberrant seemed to me to have hints of The Hunger Games and Brave New World. Did these books influence you at all? If not, did any other book inspire you?

I can’t say Brave New World had any influence because I haven’t read that book yet! The Hunger Games did have some inspiration in getting me to read a lot of YA dystopian fiction. Another book that influenced me (not so recently but in general) with world building and infertility was A Handmaid’s Tale. I read that novel in college and I absolutely loved it. At the time I had no idea a dystopian genre even existed.

I love dystopias, and thought the worldwide infertility, as well as the government choosing a partner for everyone, were both brilliant. Where did you get those ideas from?

The idea is a columniation from around the world, personal experience, as well as creatively. For example, most people by now realize China has the one child rule. How far away is our world from saying “you have one child, that’s great, but if you have any more, we’ll take them away”?

There are people that already suffer infertility, for a variety of reasons. Often, we as a society implement the use of vaccines, especially in preventing disease and now even cervical cancer. Of course the vaccines are all safe and approved by the relevant authorities for the country you live in. I decided to think a little further ahead, and a little darker. What if it was an epidemic where everyone was required to get vaccinated and testing had been shortened or barely done at all? It might take years to see the full outcome of infertility and at that point, the government might be forced to step in, to prevent our entire species from becoming extinct.

As for the government choosing a partner for everyone, book two will delve into that a little more deeply on the reason for it. Spoilers for book two: I will say it has to do with genetics. If the government was forced to help people conceive children and do so in a lab, why not insist on putting people together that would further benefit society? A sort survival of the fittest, chosen by the government.

I’ve mentioned in some of my previous posts that I think there are two types of dystopia: the far-removed kind (we hope!), like Aberrant, and the kind that could happen in 50 years or so if things went badly wrong. If any dystopian issues were to affect us in the not-too-distant future, what do you think these are most likely to be?

Disease could definitely be one of them. You hear in the news about SARS and H1N1, these epidemics that exist and you see how easy it is to transmit the disease with airplanes commuting between different countries and continents. A Biologist I was friends with right after college, she used to say it was only a matter of time until a disease wiped out a huge percentage of the population. I never wanted to consider it, no one does, but it’s a possibility and probably the most likely as a dystopian issue.

I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. Can you give away any teasers of what to expect for Olivia and Joshua?

They are definitely going to have their ups and downs, as a couple but don’t give up hope because I always love happy endings!

 Speaking of the rest of the trilogy, when will the next two books be released?

I wish I had an exact answer for that question. Right now book two and book three are rough drafts. Book two needs a lot of work, since I changed some plot points in Aberrant, now I need to fix those changes in the second book, Moirai. I do think Moirai (Aberrant #2) will be released in 2014 and am estimating book three will be released in 2015.

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About Ruth
Ruth SilverRuth Silver is the best-selling author of the YA dystopian novel, Aberrant, which is the first in a trilogy, released on 27th April 2013.  Silver first began writing poetry as a teenager and reading heaps of fan fiction in her free time.  She attended Northern Illinois University in 2001 and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Communication.  While in university she spent much of her free time writing with friends she met online and penning her first novel, Deuces are Wild, which she self-published in 2004.  Her favourite class was Creative Writing senior year, where she often handed in assignments longer than the professor required because she loved to write and always wanted to finish her stories.  Her love of writing led her on an adventure in 2007 to Melbourne, Australia.  Silver enjoys reading YA novels and sharing her favourite books with other readers.  She also enjoys photography, traveling and of most of all, writing.
 Check out Ruth’s FacebookTwitterGoodreads, and website, if you want!
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Aberrant, by Ruth Silver

Aberrant, by Ruth Silver

Published by LazyDay Publishing

Aberrant

In the future dystopian society of Cabal, the government instills equality for all and offers its citizens the perfect system. There is food, shelter and jobs for everyone. The one requirement is to follow the rules without question, including the government’s match in marriage and “The Day of the Chosen”, a lottery that randomly selects families to conceive children as natural means hasn’t existed in generations. 

Following her eighteenth birthday, Olivia Parker accepts her requirement to marry her childhood best friend, Joshua Warren, and is eager to start her work assignment and new life when it all comes abruptly to an end as she’s arrested and thrown in prison. The only crime committed: her existence.

Olivia is unlike the rest of the world, born not from The Day of the Chosen. The truth haunts the government and puts her life in grave danger as one simple fact would destroy the perfect system.

With Joshua’s help, Olivia breaks free of prison and is forced on the run. Together they set out to find the promised rebel town in search of a new home and new life together. Their situation seems less than promising as they reach the town of Haven. New rules and customs must be adhered to in order to stay. Leaving would mean certain death in the large expanse of the Gravelands. Time is running out as the government mounts an attack to destroy Olivia and bury her secret with her. Thrown into a world unlike their own, they must quickly adapt to survive.

I was contacted by Ruth Silver, the author of this book, to promote Aberrant. In the next post will be an interview, spotlight and giveaway. She gave me a copy of the book to read, but it goes without saying that this review is honest.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was thrown headfirst into the action, first meeting Olivia when she is preparing for her wedding day. This piqued my interest, which was held right the way to the end. It was a brilliant dystopian plot, full of turns that I wasn’t expecting. It reminded me a bit of The Hunger Games and Brave New World, in that the government was very much in control – so much so that it could control the most intimate of features in its inhabitants’ lives. There’s a lot of uncertainty throughout the book as to what will happen to Olivia. She’s often not as safe as she would like to be, and feels the weight of expectation, the latter of which is something I think a lot of young adults can relate to.

I think what enhanced the book for me was Olivia and Joshua. Their relationship is written really well; as best friends with a complicated aspect thrown in, there’s the right touch of familiarity versus the unknown. Throughout, they work as a team, the realism of which I liked – it makes a change to the power games that appear in other YA books where sexual tension is at the forefront. Josh and Olivia have been raised in an environment where conception – and therefore sex – doesn’t happen, which made a really refreshing change. Even though they’re 18, the reader is able to see certain realisations bloom in their minds, and that was great to read!

When I interviewed her, Ruth Silver said about what inspired her to write the book:

Often, we as a society implement the use of vaccines, especially in preventing disease and now even cervical cancer. Of course the vaccines are all safe and approved by the relevant authorities for the country you live in. I decided to think a little further ahead, and a little darker. What if it was an epidemic where everyone was required to get vaccinated and testing had been shortened or barely done at all?

Hearing it put like that made me uneasy, because it brings home how potentially easy it could be for something to strike the world, and for us to find ourselves in a dystopia. I think stories such as this one, where it stems from a simple idea, are the most effective. Mix that in with great characterisation, a little bit of the supernatural, and a plot that twists and turns, and you’re sorted. A great read, thoroughly recommended.

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City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare

Published by Walker Books

City of Bones

 When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder – much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing – not even a smear of blood – to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . .

I’ve seen several blog posts recommending this book – it seemed to me to be one of the ‘staples’ of YA fiction. Enough so that it has been made into a film, which will be released on 23rd August.

I’d say this book was a bit of a slow-burner. I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t whipping through the pages as much as I would usually – until the end, anyway. At the moment, I’m hating how much YA stuff depends on a romance, and I think I was a little wary that this is what City of Bones would be all about. Clary (short for Clarissa – knowing that helped me pronounce her name) has two love interests – her best friend, Simon, who is in love with her; and Jace, the new boy she meets. As this blogger here writes (which I agree with), the love interests are fairly stereotypical and underdeveloped. With this much ‘choice’, I thought it was fairly inevitable that the book would sink into romantic fantasy, which would not have impressed me. It was about two-thirds in, then, when the ‘twist’ starts to unfold (no spoilers!), that I was able to start properly enjoying it and let myself be taken along for the ride.

Not all the characters were developed fully (as I mentioned before), so I did find myself not caring when certain people were hurt (namely, Alec). Then there were some elements that weren’t fully explained. A good example is when Jace mysteriously knows it’s Clary’s birthday, although I’m pretty sure she never told him and nobody else, even Simon, refers to it.

However, the plot moved at a good pace and I was blown away by the numerous twists at the end, only one or two of which I was expecting. I was fully immersed into the world the characters moved in, and had great fun reading about their adventures along the way. I’ll definitely be reading the next books in the series, and may even treat myself to see the film, considering it’s out a few days before my birthday!

Speaking of the film, I’ve just watched the trailer for the first time, and I’m not sure. While I can see that she’s supposed to be seeing unusual things, Clary’s mouth seems to be wide open for the whole time! It does look action-packed though – what do you think?

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Something a little different

Just a short post today! Since moving house, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down with the kids to read anything, and therefore, I don’t really have any new book reviews for their age group.

 

Kate and Harry

 
However, there are loads of children’s apps out there, and I thought I’d write about Kate and Harry build a ship today. Basically, there are five steps, each with 5 options of a different ship component. It means that you can make a submarine with fairy lights and a cannon, or a pear ship with a mermaid fin instead of propellers. Once you’ve made your ship, there’s a short sail, where you can tap Kate or Harry (whoever you’ve chosen) to get them to say hello, as well as various other things to keep engagement up.

I’d thoroughly recommend this one! If I remember rightly, it’s 69p from the Apple store, and it’s the one app I have on my phone that keeps both Caitlin and Lewis happy. It’s saved the day (and my sanity) on a fair few occasions when they were bored and bickering. One ‘go’ lasts for about a minute, so it’s perfect for making them take turns. They always end up with something different since there’s so much choice, and it can also be a way of focusing them. You can get them to make the perfect pirate ship, for example. Actually, I’ve also played this with N, my best friend’s nephew. The complete opposite from Caitlin and Lewis, N had to be encouraged to make random choices, and spent all his time making submarines!

I have a few reading apps I’ve been trying out with the kids too, but I’ll talk about these another time. Does anyone have a good app they find is fail safe with their children?

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The second type of dystopia

Noughts and Crosses, by Malorie Blackman

ISBN: 0-552-54632-1, £2.32 from Play

noughts and crosses

Callum is a nought – a second-class citizen in a world run by the ruling Crosses…

Sephy is a Cross, daughter of one of the most powerful men in the country…

In their world, noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. And as hostility turns to violence, can Callum and Sephy possibly find a way to be together? They are determined to try.

And then the bomb explodes…

A friend recommended this book to me back when I was at university. The noughts are the white-skinned underclass, only 50 years out of slavery to the Crosses, the dark-skinned people that have the majority of the prospects and jobs. Sephy is the daughter of the Prime Minister, whereas Callum is a nought whose mother once worked for Sephy’s. The book alternates between the first-person perspectives of both characters, and together they tell their story, starting from when Sephy’s 13 and ending when she’s 18.

I realised today that there are two types of dystopia. The first is like The Hunger GamesIt’s an interesting idea, but still removed enough from our everyday lives that the message it sends is fairly subtle. Noughts and Crosses is the second type: the dystopia is near enough to life today to make one feel distinctly uncomfortable. And that’s what it did; the politics of Noughts and Crosses slapped me in the face. There are still enough issues with race and equality today for this book to be extremely relevant, which I can imagine is why Malorie Blackman wrote it.

The character development was brilliantly done, and I was able to empathise with the perspectives of both main characters. Their flaws were exposed as well as their strengths, so they were really believable. Reading it as an adult, I think I figured out pretty early on that the story was only going to go downhill for Sephy and Callum, despite what they might dream and I might hope. In that respect, I did find myself a little depressed in that all I could do is see how badly things went wrong – there was only a tiny glimmer of hope, which I’m not used to. I wonder how I’d have interpreted this story as a teenager?

Despite being saddened by the book, I still really enjoyed it. The message is clear but didn’t stop to preach – everything was put in context. The plot was fast and Callum and Sephy’s relationship was handled deftly, according to their situation. It was a gritty book I’d thoroughly recommend.

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A book I wouldn’t recommend

Bone Dressing, by Michelle I Brooks
ISBN: 0-615-47759-3, £1.53 from the Amazon Kindle store

Bone Dressing

Time is running out & the Dark that’s been chasing Syd for many lifetimes has finally caught up with her.

Sydney Roberdeau lost her parents as a young girl. Waiting for her life to start and the freedom that will come with her eighteenth birthday, Syd spends much of her time haunting the local cemetery. It is there, stretched out among the dead, that she feels most alive, most at home. Until one rainy night when Beau, Sarah and T.J. crash her ghostly sanctuary, appearing out of nowhere, turning her already inside-out world one degree past upside down.

Syd must now revisit past lives, dressing in the bodies of her previous selves & bone dressing. Her only chance to outrun the evil breathing down her neck is to face her own worst nightmares and her strongest desires. But if she can’t stay out of trouble in this life, how can she possibly fix mistakes from past lives? And just how many lives has she lived, loved and lost? What is Syd exactly, and what will she risk for the life of a man she doesn’t remember, the man she spent a lifetime with, the man she loves? Everything including her very own life?

Bone Dressing, the first in a series of seven books, will carry Syd and Beau on an adventure that transcends life itself.

Once again, I got this as a read to review from the Goodreads group ‘Never too old for Y.A. books‘. It goes without saying (especially once you’ve read my review!) that what I am about to write is completely honest. I don’t think I can explain my feelings about this book without letting spoilers slip, so please beware!

Unfortunately, unlike the first book I received to review, I really didn’t like this story, and I won’t be reading the next books in the series. Part of the premise wasn’t bad – a 17-year-old girl, Syd, goes back to a previous life and discovers she has an ability to shapeshift into 5 different animals – but there are many flaws that made it a challenge to read.

To start with, the premise I mentioned above was bogged down with so many other storylines trying to demand attention. There’s a sexually harassing, paedophile teacher; issues with her dead parents (which never actually goes anywhere); boy issues (which I’ll discuss later); and probably several other things I genuinely don’t care about.

Then, there’s Sydney. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a book with a main character as unlikeable as her. Now, I understand she misses her parents (who died 7 years previously), but from what the story says, she has been with her foster parents ever since, and they treat her as good parents should, so I don’t understand the amount of anger that spews from her for about 80% of the time she’s appearing as Syd (as opposed to Rachel).

If you’ve read my reviews before, you may have realised that I hate books that completely devolve from reality, especially when it comes to love. Syd mentions at the beginning of the book that she’s had dates with ‘hot’ guys, but that she’s put off as soon as they open their mouths. Then, one day, she’s met by Beau  (at the friggin’ cemetery, by her parents’ graves), and despite his stalkerish (and is it just me to think vampiric? It’s never revealed what he is) tendencies, she falls head over heels in love with him. Well, duh. She then has her life threatened by a panther, and decides to take that moment to declare how she feels. I’m not sure about anyone else, but that’s not what I’d do.

When Syd goes back to her previous life, as Rachel, she again is madly in love, this time with a man named Jesse. This section of the book is slightly better written in that Rachel has more vulnerability than Syd, and the events are more exciting and less jumbled. I was intrigued as to how Syd could help Rachel change the events (which was hinted at by Beau), and can’t help feeling that if there had been more of this and a LOT less lead-up, I would have enjoyed the book more. I didn’t like that the end of the book finished on a cliffhanger, with nothing of importance having been ‘tied up’, with only an expectation that the reader would buy the next book in order to carry on.

Then there’s Mr Askew. I won’t waste my breath on this: he is a paedophile that sexually harasses Syd in front of the whole class at one point. Worst student in the world or not, Sydney could get him done – no bargaining. Plus, why have her burning down the school at the start of the book, only to not refer back to what was already mentioned when it happens at the end?!

In general, an annoyance throughout the book was the amount of metaphors and adjectives used for everything. If there’s one word used to describe something, there can be three, appears to be this book’s motto! Metaphors can be amazing, but they were taken too far here. (This blogger here agrees!) Picture this type of language every other page or so:

“I could feel the waves of an overwhelming heartbreak ravaging my body, taking hold as if preparing to replace every part of me with an ache that could never be soothed. Somewhere in the distance I heard agonizing sobbing, sobbing too painful for a mere girl to endure.”

Yeah. So, it’s safe to say I won’t be recommending this one.

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My first ‘read to review’

Dead Letter Office (Parish Mail #1), by Kira Snyder

Dead Letter Office

When Celia’s father is killed in Afghanistan, she moves with her mother to New Orleans, the city where her father grew up. Struggling to adjust and haunted

by troubling dreams, Celia finds comfort in new friends like Tilly, a practicing witch, and Donovan, the son of police detective. On Halloween, bizarre supernatural occurrences rock the city. Celia meets the mysterious Luc and finds a letter, over a hundred years old, addressed to her.

The paranormal repercussions continue when Celia learns that Luc is the restless spirit of a young man murdered in 1854, only able to assume solid form at night. And then, to her shock, Celia finds that the letter, which describes the suspected murder of a man in 1870, contains uncanny parallels to the present-day death of Abel Sims, a homeless veteran.

With help from Luc, Tilly, and Donovan, Celia races to solve the murder—and the mystery of the letter—using both magical and forensic clues.

 

I’m very excited to have received my first ‘read for review’ book, through the ‘Never Too Old for Y.A.‘ group on Goodreads. I should probably point you to my new review policy at this point. This is also the first ‘Active Fiction’ e-book I’ve read. It gives the reader an option of the direction they want the plot to take. The last time I read a book (let alone an e-book!) in any way similar to that was when I was about 10, reading an Enid Blyton Famous Five ‘red herring’ book. I was therefore really intrigued as to what to expect. Would there be red herrings? Would it make the book worse? Well, no and no, as it turns out. I’ll get to that in a bit.

This is a brilliantly written story that centres around Celia, who has just lost her father and moved to New Orleans with her mum so she can get to know her father’s side of the family. Celia soon has 3 friends (2 of which are potential love interests) and bounces well off the other characters. Snyder has included the obligatory ‘popular crowd’, but added unusual details to a few of the group’s members that makes it interesting, and slightly more dangerous than your average ‘death-by-gossip’ group.

Starting from the beginning, this was one of those books I knew would capture my interest as soon as I read the first line:

” The dead man smiles at me.”

The rest of this page draws me in further, and I went from there. An odd thing I liked (and noticed fairly early on) is that Celia doesn’t ruin the first person narrative she’s got going on by telling us what she looks like. It’s good enough for me to know she’s pretty enough to have a surfer dude boyfriend before she moves away, haha!

Coming back to the reader choices, I was a little startled when the first one came up, but that’s just me not being used to it! I liked the sense of power I got from helping Celia make the ‘right’ choice. They were also placed really well within the story, at pivotal plot moments, so there wasn’t too much or too little of them. There was only one (right at the end) that I thought was pointless, although having re-read the description on Goodreads, I now know that it’s a vote the author wanted so as to establish reader preference on Celia’s love interests. Lucky Cee!

I must admit, I did read all the alternative versions, so I can say that there are no ‘red herrings’. Some choices lead you to the answer faster than others, and sometimes there’ll be a quirky scene that comes with one choice, but is barely mentioned in the other. Without wanting to spoil anything, something key to the background knowledge of Donovan and Peyton’s relationship is only mentioned in one of the choices. I haven’t quite decided if this is a good thing yet – that little piece of knowledge was good to know, I thought!

Overall, Kira Snyder has built a great sense of anticipation between the main characters, and has set the foundation for future crime/mystery-solving. It was a brilliant book and I’ll definitely be reading the next in the series.

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Review policy

Since I’m starting to review books that have been given to me, I thought it best to put a review policy here. I wasn’t sure what to put, so I used this blog here as a template.

First of all, it needs to be said that I promise to give a completely honest review, but this does not mean positive.  If I don’t like it, I’ll say so.

What kind of books do you accept for review?
I read a variety of books, but for the purpose of this blog they should be designed for readers aged 18 and under, although I don’t mind reviewing New Adult books.  I will consider anything, although so far it has just been fiction. Please note that if you’d like me to read a book that isn’t the first in the series and I haven’t read the previous books, I’d be grateful if you could supply the previous books for me to read, as otherwise it may take a lot of time/money that I don’t have.

What about e-books and audiobooks?
I’ll happily accept paperbacks or e-books suitable for a Kindle (that’s mobi or pdf). I’ve never tried listening to an audiobook before, but I’ll consider it.

What should I do before making a request?
Have a look around the blog, and see if you like the reviews I’ve written for other books.

What if I don’t hear from you?
I’ll always try and get back to you with something, at least. If not, I may be on holiday or have other things going on. If that’s the case, leave me a comment on the blog and I promise I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

What do you do other than reviews?
Generally, that’s all I’ve done so far, but I’m happy to host author Q&As and giveaways (once I’m not so poor!).

What if you don’t like the book?
I do my best to accept only books that I think I will enjoy. However, I honestly review every book that I read, and my acceptance of a review copy does not guarantee a positive review. In cases where I didn’t enjoy a book as much as I thought I would, I always do my best to describe my reasons in such a way that my readers can draw their own conclusions about whether or not the book would be a good fit for them.

What if you really don’t like the book?
In the very rare case that a book and I don’t get along to the extent that I can’t finish it, I will make every effort to pass it along to another reviewer for whom it might be a better match. I will also occasionally hold giveaways to pass along ARCs that I have already read and reviewed. If you would rather I did not re-send your review copy, please let me know this when you send it.

Where will your review be posted?
All reviews will be posted here, as well as anywhere else that’s requested – usually Amazon and Goodreads.

When will your review be posted?
I’d prefer it to be flexible, but if you have a date in mind I’ll arrange a rough date when I’m contacted – I’m fairly flexible!

Okay, I’ve read this page. How do I submit a request for a review?
Thanks for looking at my blog, and thanks for asking! If you’d like me to consider reviewing a book for you, please contact me by e-mail at kayleighreviews(at)hotmail(dot)com.

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