BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Disappeared – by Amy Lord #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Disappeared Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I think 1984 is one of my favorite dystopian classics along with Fahrenheit 451, so the promise of another dystopian bookish story instantly made me curious. I was definitely happy with what I found! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on The Disappeared.

Title: The Disappeared
Author: Amy Lord
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: May 2nd 2019
Publisher: Unbound
Finished reading: May 27th 2019
Pages: 368

“Our stories are how we grow and understand our place in the world. They give us a voice. They are fundamental to our being. We shouldn’t have to live without them.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Anne Cater and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are among my favorite dystopian classics and I love books about books in general, so it’s easy to understand that when I read the blurb of The Disappeared I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this story. I definitely don’t complain about what I found instead either… It might be true that certain aspects of the plot might not be all that original, but there is also no doubt I highly enjoyed my time with The Disappeared. If you enjoy dystopian fiction with a bookish focus, you will be in for a treat with this story.

The Disappeared is set in a near future alternative UK where a new government is in power and controls absolutely everything. Think 1984, think censorship and being forbidden to read certain books or having thoughts that are against the government. The story is set in a terrifying alternative world where there are almost no books, no phones or modern gadgets and people are forced to live in tiny apartments and are no longer allowed luxury… Unless they form part of the new government of course. This contrast between this ‘elite’ life and the rest of the population is a big one, and is described very well with the help of the main character’s mother. The stark contrast between the different lifestyles is showed in Clara’s mom, particularly in how she had to make a choice after Clara’s dad was taken away all those years ago. It’s true that she lives in luxury now, but it came at a price… And would that price be worth it? Clara herself never accepted the new situation and was soon shipped off to boarding school in Scotland. This is yet another example of this contrast as ‘normal’ difficult people tend to disappear into thin air rather than relocated to a remote but safe location.

The story is told in different times and with different perspectives, and that way we learn more about past and present and how things came to be. As always, the younger generation doesn’t really remember the situation before the drastic changes. And with the censorship oppressing free thought, the new generation is not able to learn about it either if they don’t want to be in danger of being taken away. This danger is always present and one wrong thought or word can be your end… As is shown in examples throughout the story. Clara is of course aware of this danger as well, but even though she knows the consequences she is determined to rebel and go against the government anyway.

It’s true that some dystopian cliches are involved and not all aspects of the plot are all that original, but overall it didn’t distract too much. The Disappeared has some pretty brutal moments, especially those related to the interrogation and torture scenes. Action scenes are mixed with slower and more psychological ones, but well enough balanced to keep you going. I’m not sure if the ending was all that credible as things were wrapped up a little too conveniently. Still, there is no doubt that The Disappeared is a very interesting debut that pictures a terrifying alternative world we will hopefully never encounter ourselves. Imagine not being able to read your own books anymore!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer from nort-east England. She won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015 for The Disappeared and was also longlisted in the inaugural Bath Novel Award. An earlier manuscript saw her shortlisted for Route Publishing’s Next Great Novelist Award. Amy is currently working on a new novel, which was developed as part of a year-long mentoring scheme with Writers’ Block NE.

 

 


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ARC REVIEW: The Fever King – by Victoria Lee

Title: The Fever King
(Feverwake #1)
Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: March 1st 2019
Publisher: Skyscape
Finished reading: March 5th 2019
Pages: 376

“Everything worth doing had its risks. Sometimes you had to do the wrong thing to achieve something better.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Skyscape in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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It was coverlove at first sight when I saw The Fever King first mentioned and after investigating further I really liked the sound of the blurb was well. I think that magic acting like a virus is a fascinating idea and a great starting point for a new series… The Fever King is set in a dystopian alternative future where a magical virus has been killing a lot of people for more than a century; the survivors end up being witchings with supernatural powers. They are basically a mix between witches and superheroes and it is an interesting take on the whole ‘a spider bit me’ phenomenon. Not everything about the plot might be all that original, but it is the characters who make this story stand out for me. For a YA dystopian series, there is a lot of focus on the characters rather than the dystopian world, but in this case I didn’t mind that much. Would I have liked to see more development of the alternative future the characters have to struggle in? Maybe. But Noam, Dara and even Lehrer make up for those holes and make this story worthwhile. Noam and Dara are easy to like and it was interesting seeing their characters and interaction evolve over time. Even Lehrer proved to be an interesting character, although I did had my guesses about him which turned out to be right… The other characters could have had more character development though. I did like how none of the three main characters is clearly good or bad, the author instead opting for blurred lines and basically humanity. The story started out quite slow, but picked up in the second half up to the point that it felt like a race against the clock. The writing is overall engaging and makes it easy to get to know and root for certain characters. Some of the plot twists were easy to guess and I didn’t agree with everything, but overall this was without doubt a very entertaining start of a new series. It does end with a cliffhanger though, so you’ve been warned…

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Noam has spent his whole life trying to help refugees fleeing magical outbreaks and trying to live in the nation of Carolinia. He was born here, but his parents have always been illegal… One day, Noam wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the magical virus that has been tormenting the country for over a century. Him surviving means he is now a witching, and powerful enough to attract the attention of the Minister Of Defense Calix Lehrer himself. They soon discover his ability to control technology, and Noam accepts Lehrer’s offer to train him personally as a way to fight for the rights of the refugees from the inside. But that is easier said than done…

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Gorgeous cover aside, this was without doubt an entertaining start of a new dystopian alternative future series. In The Fever King magic is in fact a virus that will kill most and leave the survivors with superpowers. A very interesting take on magic and without doubt one of the stronger features of this story. While the worldbuilding is a bit simple and not that developed, the three most important characters (Noam, Dara and Lehrer) mostly make up for it as they all have something special to add to the story. I would have liked to see the other important characters being more developed though, and the pace did start out a bit slow. But the story ends in a whirlwind and will definitely leave you craving for more.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #85 – Shatter Me (DNF) & Wintergirls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that have been published over five years ago and titles I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. The first, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, sadly turned out to be my first DNF of the year. The second, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, is without doubt an emotionally tough read to read with lots of trigger warnings and a prose that is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow started to irk me.


Title: Shatter Me
(Shatter Me #1)
Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: November 15th 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: February 13th 2019
Pages: 357
DNF at 51% (182 pages)

“The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”


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WARNING: It’s unpopular opinion time again! Please don’t feel offended if you love this series. We are all entitled to our own reactions and feelings after all…

Ever had your sixth sense screaming at you to back off and stay away? Well, that is what happened to me whenever I started thinking about trying the Shatter Me series. I’m not sure why or how, but there was just something about it that made me think it wouldn’t be for me… But curiosity won in the end and made me ignore my instincts. I should have known better… Because sadly this turned out to be my very first DNF of the year. Why? There were various reasons, but the main one is this: I absolutely could not stand the writing style. The endless metaphors, the short sentences, the wacky grammar, the 1 2 3 4 numbers… It seemed like every single word and page was destined to annoy me to the limit and I simply reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I feel sad for reacting this way to a story I know so many seem to love, but that doesn’t take away that Shatter Me and me definitely didn’t get a long. Nothing much was happening in the pages I read either; lots of words, metaphors and feelings, but no real actions or proper worldbuilding descriptions. The fact that I could already see a love triangle coming from a mile away didn’t really help either. Things might have improved in the second half, but since I had such an extreme reaction to the writing style and had already started skimreading just to reach the end faster, I decided to throw in the towel and leave this series alone to be enjoyed and treasured by those who can connect to it. Oh well, at least I know for sure now… Intuition, you were right. Sorry I didn’t listen to you.


Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 19th 2009
Publisher: Speak
Finished reading: February 20th 2019
Pages: 300

“The sentences build a fence around her, a Times Roman 10-point barricade, to keep the thorny voices in her head from getting too close.”


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I have been meaning to try one of Laurie Halse Anderson‘s books for years, but somehow other books always ended up getting in the way. The BTB Epic Bingo challenge was the perfect excuse to finally pick up Wintergirls. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this story, and if you go in blind you will definitely be up for a surprise. Trigger warnings are in place for eating disorders, self harm, cutting, suicide and mental health problems… Wintergirls is a story that will bring those cold and chilling winter feels and is an emotionally draining read that shows us the struggle of the main character with her eating disorder and the way she sees herself and her surrounding world. It’s not an easy or happy read, but I thought the topic was well handled and represented in Lia. The prose is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow irked me at points. I named magical realism because the writing sometimes almost has that otherwordly and magical feel, especially the descriptions of how Lia sees herself and the world. The story also has a hint of paranormal with a symbolic feel; those two aspects making it hard to properly place the story in just one genre. I suppose you can say this is mostly a realistic fiction story with a mental health angle, where we can see how the eating disorder takes over Lia’s life through her very own eyes. I had a hate/love relationship with the writing style, but there is no doubt that the writing has that original and almost otherworldly feel and I can understand why so many people seem to love this story.


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ARC REVIEW: The Living – by Isaac Marion

Title: The Living
(Warm Bodies #3)
Author: Isaac Marion
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: November 13th 2018
Publisher: Zola Books
Finished reading: November 13th 2018
Pages: 384

“It’s easier to fall than to climb, and yet against all logic, life keeps rising.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Zola Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Before I start I have to make a confession and say that I probably would never have decided to read The Living if I would have read The Burning World before requesting a copy of this final book. Why? I was considerably underwhelmed by the sequel, and I had serious problems with the writing style. Still, part of me hoped that this final book of the Warm Bodies series would be an improvement and a satisfying conclusion to R and Julie’s story. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. The Living follows the same structure as the sequel and even intensifies the confusing writing style and structure as the end is coming near. Once again, I felt that the story in general lacks a proper plot and that both plot and characters were mostly all over the place and running into random trouble instead of following a coherent line. As for the writing style: especially the WE chapters were frustratingly confusing and there were too many jumps and switches between past, present and the different characters to make for a coherent story. I can forgive a zombie story not being scary and the humans being the bad guys for once. This is actually quite a refreshing angle. I can forgive the romance, especially since we are spared a love triangle. But between the writing, lack of proper plot and general feeling of confusement I can’t say I had a great time reading The Living, and to be honest I was relieved when I finally reached the final page. I didn’t find the ending particularly satisfying either… All in all not exactly a positive experience unfortunately.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

R used to be a flesh-eating zombie, but now he is breathing again. But what if he was something worse before he turned that first time? He finally remembers his former life, and what he has learned terrifies him. Especially if he things how it will change how Julie sees him… R feels the only way to redemption is to destroy what he once helped create, but how to start such an impossible task? And who will help him achieve that goal?

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I was really hoping The Living would be a more positive reading experience for me, but sadly it was a repeat experience of The Burning World. The whole different stages of zombies and returning to life angle is without doubt refreshing, and the story has some interesting aspects. But between the writing style, lack of plot, confusing POV switches and WE chapters I just couldn’t enjoy this final installment. I was in fact relieved it was finally over, and that is never a good sign. If you are able to connect to the writing style though, you will probably have a significantly better experience.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #62 – The Burning World & Elevation

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories that ended up disappointing me unfortunately. The Warm Bodies sequel The Burning World by Isaac Marion and the ‘impossible to understand why this is horror’ Elevation by Stephen King.


Title: The Burning World
(Warm Bodies #2)
Author: Isaac Marion

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: February 2nd 2017
Publisher: Atria
Finished reading: November 6th 2018 
Pages: 512

“There’s no bigger threat to the world than people who think they can improve it. “


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I confess I actually read the first book so long ago (three years) that I confused my feelings for the first book with another zombie read. Oops? It turns out I wasn’t convinced by the first book Warm Bodies, and sadly this sequel didn’t wow me either. The first thing you have to know before you start the series is that the zombies are not actually scary and they are in fact not the real enemy. That on its own isn’t a real problem, as the idea of having different kind of zombie states is actually quite interesting and original. What I didn’t expect is just how NOT scary either book is. And of course, the romance plays a big role in the story. While I appreciate the idea of a zombie and human being together and all (you can’t deny it’s a slightly disturbing but original idea), it doesn’t lend itself for the most exciting plot. And talking about plots, I found that The Burning World in general lacks a proper plot and that both plot and characters were mostly all over the place and running into random trouble instead of following a coherent line (although things might become clearer in the final book I guess). This wasn’t the only thing I struggled with though, as more importantly I wasn’t a fan of the writing style itself. Especially the WE chapters were frustratingly confusing and there were too many jumps and switches to make for a coherent story. The story was overlong for me with its 500+ pages and I sincerely hope my experience with the final book will be better.


Title: Elevation
Author: Stephen King

Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Science Fiction
First published: October 30th 2018
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: November 8th 2018
Pages: 160

“This was the same. Not a wind, not even a high, exactly, but an elevation. A sense that you had gone beyond yourself and could go farther still.”


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I was curious when I saw a new Stephen King was coming out, and I’m sure we can all admit that cover is gorgeous. Even though Elevation is a novella and I don’t read a lot of those, I was really looking forward to reading it. The first thing that stands out for me is that I have no clue whatsoever why this novella is marked as ‘horror’. Contemporary romance with a hint of sci-fi and even a far-fetched urban fantasy… Maybe. But horror? I don’t think anyone would find Elevation scary unless you are afraid of hights or stepping on the scale. That was the first thing that went wrong for me. The second thing had to do with the characters. I know it’s only a novella, but the characters just felt like one big cliche for me and didn’t add anything interesting to the story for me. A big problem, as the story is mostly focused on them. I did like the huge focus on the running, but overall there wasn’t really that much of a plot to talk about. Just a guy losing his pounds until he is closer and closer to zero… Not horror, not thrilling at all, and mostly a cliche contemporary story on how one person’s doom can bring other people together. And mostly just a meh story for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #59 – The Giver & The Giving Tree

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two ‘giving’ stories and two modern classics… The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I probably would have enjoyed these better if I would have read them a long time ago, because at this point they didn’t make the impact I thought they would.


Title: The Giver
(The Giver #1)
Author: Lois Lowry

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: April 26th 1993
Publisher: Ember
Finished reading: October 28th 2018 
Pages: 208

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”


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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead… First of all, I have to say that I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot better if I would have read it 15-20 year ago. I have been meaning to read this so-called modern classic for years, and I think the story itself has a bigger impact on younger readers than adults. That said, the worldbuilding and story of The Giver reminded me a bit of Brave New World with a new twist. It was quite an interesting take on a dystopian world, where everything is controlled in such a way everything seems the same. This contrast with Jonas and his experiences once he starts training as a Receiver on its own is fascinating. Especially as he starts discovering more about his world and his eyes are truly opened… But somehow, I wasn’t able to enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would. This is probably just me and not the story, especially since this modern classic is so loved. I’m glad I did finally read The Giver though, as I finally know exactly what the story is all about.


Title: The Giving Tree
Author: Shel Silverstein

Genre: Children, Picture Book, Fiction
First published: October 7th 1964
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: October 30th 2018
Pages: 64

“… and she loved a boy very, very much– even more than she loved herself.”


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I have been meaning to read this picture book classic for ages now… When I came across my copy the other day I picked it up on a whim. I can see the appeal of The Giving Tree, where the tree is like a mother to the little boy, and the writing style is spot on and really flows. BUT. I did have my doubts about the message behind this story. Why? Well, the tree isn’t exactly treated with respect and only gives and gives and gives without ever receiving much in return… Not exactly a healthy relationship I would want to show to my kids. Especially since this message is never questioned and even when the little boy grows up to be old the relationship still doesn’t feel equal. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but it still made me feel slightly uncomfortable as children tend to soak up everything like a sponge.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #56 – Rebel & Evidence Of The Affair

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA sci-fi sequel and a contemporary romance novella… Two completely different genres, but both stories I enjoyed.


Title: Rebel
(Reboot #2)
Author: Amy Tintera

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 13th 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: October 20th 2018
Pages: 352

“Maybe you need to take a look at who I am, instead of who you wish I were.”


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It took me years to finally start this duology, but after enjoying Reboot recently I decided to pick up the sequel while the first book was still fresh in my memories. I have to say that the second book didn’t disappoint and is just as good or even slightly better than the first. Between the writing style and likeable characters it was really easy to fly through Rebel. Sure, I would have liked to see a slightly more complicated and developed dystopian world, but its simplicity didn’t bother me all that much either. The idea behind the Reboot duology might not be completely original, but it works as a charm anyway. This success has a lot to do with the writing, fast pace and the main characters. Wren and Callum are so easy to like and the romance somehow didn’t bother me at all… The humor is spot on and it was interesting to see how the duology ended. I really appreciate this story being wrapped up in two books; it saves us from the story being dragged out and instead gives us two strong books to savour. If you haven’t read this duology yet, enjoy reading YA sci-fi/dystopian stories and like me treasure ‘love triangle free’ stories, both Reboot and Rebel are must-reads.


Title: Evidence Of The Affair
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Novella
First published: September 20th 2018
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Finished reading: October 21st 2018
Pages: 115

“It is funny the crazy things our brains make up to save us from the truth.”


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Even though contemporary romance isn’t really my genre, ever since reading The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo I had no choice but add Taylor Jenkins Reid to my list of exceptions. There is just something about the way she writes that makes me forget all about the fact that is not my favorite genre, and she is one of the few authors that can make me enjoy it. I’ve heard great things about this novella, and there is no doubt that Evidence Of The Affair has only reconfirmed to me that I have to read more of her work. I loved the fact that the story is told exclusively through letters, and just how well we get to know the characters despite its short length. It was interesting to see how things developed, and I actually quite liked the ending as well. It’s short, well written, well crafted and entertaining, and 200% worth your time.


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