Tag Archive | thought provoking

Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Series: Arc of a Scythe #2

thunderhead -neal shustermanRowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

4 Drink Me Potions

Explore this new facet of yourself with my blessing, he would imagine the Thunderhead telling him. It’s fine as long as you remember who you truly are and don’t lose yourself.
But what if this is who I truly am?

Thunderhead leaves me oddly impressed with the progression of the series. With unexpected twists and new characters thrown into the story, the problems Citra and Rowan now face are crazier than before as they each embark on a journey of self-identity in the new circumstances they now face.

While its predecessor, Scythe, made me think more as I wrapped my head around the different concepts of the futuristic world Shusterman has created here, this sequel was more about the intensity of what’s happening with our favourite characters as the worldbuilding seamlessly continues and fits like a second skin as I re-immerse myself into it.

This book was split more into individual storylines as each character faced a different challenge that occasionally merged together with another, but rarely as each could hold its own. It’s tricky with these kinds of stories as some plotlines I find are more intense whereas the others lack behind and feel so very bothersome to read in between, like filler for the exciting scenes. However, I never found myself feeling that, which is a very strong compliment for Shusterman’s writing skills as he can so easily craft separate stories that can (and eventually will) tie into each other that makes each part of the whole more understandable in the grand scheme of things.

Citra, now Scythe Anastasia, is in mortal danger. I know, that’s weird, right? She’s a scythe, for goodness sakes! Yet someone, or some GROUP, is out trying to kill her and Scythe Curie for good for who knows what reasons. The ramifications of how she chose to glean and her secret popularity among young scythes makes her a possible target for numerous enemies. Meanwhile, Rowan’s off hunting bad scythes, hiding from the rest of the scythedom only to appear to Citra occasionally (aww, how romantic! which means a lot because you know there’s really not much “romance” in this book). Although his storyline sounds less structured, a great amount of action and surprises were through his POV that I thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t tell you what, but I liked these new developments as it made the story juicier.

There’s also a new guy who’s been added to the roster of main POVs. Greyson Tolliver. He’s your average guy who had a conscience and wanted to do the right thing. When his life crossed with Citra’s, nothing stays the same. Out of the 3 teens we get to follow, I felt the most for him. Life took unfair turns (for interesting reasons that you’ll find out!) and he was left to deal with all its messes. But he also had the most amount of growth/re-growth/change. His character really spiced up the story and I think there’s more potential in where his role comes in with regards to the scythedom as the series continues.

As for the ending, we don’t exactly get truly ridiculous cliffhanger moment, but all 3 characters find themselves in some dire or strange circumstances. Neal Shusterman really knows how to amp up his game as this makes me so much more excited for the next book to come out! His worldbuilding is superb and it’s like you could live in this world after reading 2 books. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a scythe walking down the street in MidMerica. We get more layered understanding of how the scythedom works and its hierarchy of authority.

But most importantly of all, we get more of the Thunderhead. As the title may suggest. Where Scythe provided snippets from certain scythes’ journals, we get to see how the Thunderhead thinks. What it sees. What it wishes it could do. What it feels – if a system could express true feelings. I liked the change-up, but it is also a timely move that I think prepares us for how things may be different in book 3. Does anyone else feel like the Thunderhead may be benevolent towards humans, but it could go all bad AI at any moment if it could justify its actions? Hmm? Anyone?

So. Having read all that, you probably realized that I didn’t really say much of anything about the book. That’s ’cause there’s just so much beauty in how it was laid out and the surprises that came along the way that I think it’s best to leave most of it unsaid here. It was well-balanced between action, suspense, and continual worldbuilding. The only thing missing was a tad bit more romance between Rowan and Citra. Hey, I know it’s technically “wrong” for scythes to be together, but they could try being a bit rebellious, right? Here’s to hoping there’s more of those 2 together next time. Then maybe it’ll move to 5 stars.

Overall Recommendation:
Thunderhead continued seamlessly from where Scythe left off after months since the dramatic events of book 1 has passed. With individual storylines that are still full of action and surprises, Rowan and Citra – along with a new guy named Greyson – are faced with tough circumstances that make them question their actions, decisions, and just who they truly are after everything’s said and done. Although there’s still a lack of romance in this book (why, Shusterman??), the little teases of romantic chemistry whenever Citra and Rowan are together suffice as unexpected events take up precedent. With crazy things happening one after another towards the cliffhanger ending, I’d say this book wonderfully connected our introduction to scythes in book 1 to the ultimate conclusion to these characters’ fates in book 3, which marks it a true sequel.


Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

letters to the lost -brigid kemmererJuliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate.

But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

5 Drink Me Potions

Where do I even BEGIN with this book?

Letters to the Lost is everything that I could EVER hope for in a YA contemporary. Brigid Kemmerer is an absolute genius. It’s like she gets the heart of not only teenagers – and how they react when cornered – but the general human heart. When have we not suffered from isolation, feeling like we didn’t belong; grief from the loss of a loved one; the need to talk our feelings out with someone – ANYONE – before we feel like we’d explode from keeping it all within?

This book has ALL OF THAT.

Juliet and Declan have both been dealt a crazy hand in life. With the loss of her photojournalist mother, Juliet found it was hard to let go of her so she wrote letters and placed them on her mother’s grave. Where surprise, surprise, a guy with a recent criminal record for crashing into an empty building while driving drunk picks it up while mowing the grass in the cemetery.

The beauty of this story lies in how our paths connect. That was how Juliet and Declan intersected with each other. Yet the story asks big questions! Do we have the power to make our own paths or are we destined to stay stuck in the awful hand that was thrown our way?

It never felt too dark. It was more realistic than anything. You can’t expect a light, fluffy little piece when the topics it covers are literally life and death. But alongside the heavier topics, friendship and family were very much highlighted. Juliet had a hard time dealing with her comparably more boring father who looked like he barely acknowledged her presence even after all these months since her mother died. Declan felt like he couldn’t fit in with his mother and stepfather as they seem to think he’ll never amount to much more than this hardheaded criminal who may repeat his crime. If it wasn’t for the fact that they anonymously found each other, and through letters and emails, were able to talk about the deepest stains on their soul.

It was just beautiful. And heartwrenching. And the exact right thing for both of them.

Aside from family, Declan’s friendship with Rev was a delightful thing. Rev too had his own demons and his own story (stay tuned for More Than We Can Tell to learn even MORE) was hinted at throughout Letters to the Lost. For a secondary character, he was very well-developed and definitely not your regular plain besties that are just featured but never really stand out. No matter his past, he was there for Declan and stood by him even when the world felt like it was crushing him on the shoulders. I loved that about him, and I can’t wait to see how he’ll fare as a protagonist.

Anyway, coming into this book, I thought the romance would be the highlight of it all for me. Oh boy was I wrong. I normally LOVE romance, but I’m so glad that this took a bit of a backseat here. Yes, they exchange messages all the time, and attraction of some sort grows. Here’s the thing. They don’t know who the other is and so the attraction isn’t physical per se. It’s the connection they have with each other. Later, even when they don’t know who the other is, their crossed paths show that there’s underlying chemistry there. A sense of pain that only the other fully understands. So who needs the physical stuff (kissing, etc.) when this relationship is built on just KNOWING the other? If only ALL of our relationships were more like Declan and Juliet’s.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. My heart is still somewhere in between those pages and those messages. And to top it all off, Brigid ends the story with a great message for us all. Yes, we can make our own path and change it if we’re just brave enough to do so with our unconquerable souls.

P.S. there are so many beautiful quotes in this book that I just can’t figure out where to start and how to group them all in this one review. So I’m not gonna post any and just tell you to READ this thing NOW.

Overall Recommendation:
Letters to the Lost is a gorgeously written story that evokes true emotion in its readers as we follow the tragic situations placed in Juliet and Declan’s lives. This is a novel that really punches you in the gut and heart as it depicts topics such as true friendship, grief, family, strength from our experiences and future growth. The romance was realistic and just PERFECT as their relationship was equal parts friendship, trust, and attraction. I don’t think anyone else can write this story any better. If you love anonymous letter/email messages between protagonists such as Tell Me Three Things, then this book is for you. If you have a HUMAN HEART, then THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU. I honestly don’t know how to be any more clear about this.

So, something different with this review happens to be that this book was provided to me directly from Brigid Kemmerer. Granted, I won the auction late last year for donations to Puerto Rico, but I am still so lucky that this is a signed and personalized version of the book in my hands. Honestly am so delighted that this book was physically in Brigid’s hands as well. This story just blew my mind and I am ecstatically the proud owner of such a beauty! Look below 🙂 Oh, and look out for a review of her next novel, MORE THAN WE CAN TELL, soon as it comes out in March!!

letters to the lost book

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Series: Arc of a Scythe #1

scythe -neal shustermanTwo teens are forced to murder—maybe each other—in the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

Thou shalt kill.

In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.

4 Drink Me Potions

What can I say about Scythe?

Honestly? After taking a couple of days to think about it since finishing this book, I’m not sure I can put it into any better words. But here IS what I would say.

Scythe is deeply thought-provoking and makes you question bigger things such as morality and good and evil. Who is allowed to take a life? At what cost would this come? How does human nature tie into it all? Can you maintain your own soul when you are charged to take lives as a duty, over and over again?

All these things swirled in my mind as I was reading this book. And this book could be read pretty quickly but I had to take my time with it.

Citra and Rowan were both ordinary individuals living out their boring day-to-day lives. Very rarely do people around them die – otherwise known as being gleaned in this somewhat far off society on Earth. But then they both encounter a scythe and life as they know it becomes completely different.

I loved reading their stories from both their perspectives. It may not have been first person, but it was still really descriptive about their thoughts and feelings as they trained as apprentices to a Scythe Master. I loved the snippets at the end of each chapter that took insight into certain Scythe Masters’ thoughts about what they did and why they did it. Although they may seem random at first, everything tied together well in the end.

I felt that Neal Shusterman did an amazing job building this world that seems plausible as technology and data grows. But the most amazing feat he accomplished was the ability to capture complexity of human conscience and the in-between gray areas behind people’s intentions and actions. That is what kept me going throughout this book.

The only reason I couldn’t give this a full 5 star rating was my annoyance with Rowan at times. I’m not sure what to make of him nearer to the end, although I do hold out some hope that things are going to more than what they seem. Yes, I know that sounds vague but let’s not give away anything too much, right?

As for romance, I was so sure that there’d be more between Rowan and Citra but they weren’t together all that much in the story to truly develop anything stronger than attraction in my mind. I’m not sure what the ending implied but I look forward to seeing what’s to come for the both of them and the whole Scythedom as some crazy things really shake up its workings then.

Overall Recommendation:
Scythe provided a wonderful platform for a story about morality behind every action. As a Scythe or even as a simple apprentice, our protagonists Rowan and Citra learned so much about the workings of their immortal society and the role of scythes that is far more complex than simply killing a certain quota of individuals. In such a complex world that may not be so far off into the future, Shusterman did an amazing job building a believable society and its own problems that need to be solved. Overall, this story was one that made me think and it followed me long after I closed the last page.