Fierce Competitors

Hey bookies!  Happy Hump Day (…and I’m already ready for the weekend!) – this has seriously just been such a busy week and I have barely gotten any reading done which makes me sad.  Since I have no books currently to review, I figured I would write a post today showing some love for fierce competitors in books.  I love competitions in books – they are actually one of my favorite plot lines.  Not sure what that says about me but I am Slytherin after all and I can admit to being a fairly competitive person. In addition to the competitions themselves, I also really enjoy the training that oftentimes leads up to those competitions.

What got me thinking about this is one of my current reads, Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen. This is a fairly recent YA sci-fi novel that I am absolutely loving! It was published in September 2017 and although I do not see too much buzz about it through social media channels, it definitely deserves some. The book is set in the near future where this huge corporation, Babel, picks ten teenagers to go to space and compete for a chance to be sent to the planet of Eden to mine a new miracle substance called, nyxia. The characters are very diverse, coming from countries all over the world, and the competition is fierce. The author, who is a teacher, writes teens very well- the dialogue and how they relate to one another is spot on.  I am about half way through and the gist at this point is training, training and more training. These kids have so much to prepare for, being sent onto alien soil, that is in fact inhabited by aliens! A lot of the training takes place in VR (virtual reality) which adds a super cool gaming element to it as well!  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a great sci-fi story with teenage protagonists!

Of course, one of my favorite books of all time featuring a fierce competition would be The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This book is pretty much the epitome of competition narrative. When this book was released in 2008 it quite literally took the world by storm.  Everyone of every age seemed to be reading it. The story takes kids seriously and puts them into a competition where the ultimate goal is to be the last man (or woman) standing – it was gritty and ground-breaking at the time and has seriously inspired a great assortment of other similar stories in YA-literature.

One of the main reasons why I love The Hunger Games so much is Katniss Everdeen.  I absolutely adore Katniss as a protagonist due to her smarts, her strength and her ability to overcome any obstacle set before her.  Her will and drive is unsurpassed and although at times aloof, I feel her character is one of the most likable around.  After she volunteers to be a tribute for her district, in order to save her younger sister, Prim, Katniss is swept away to the Capital for training. She is definitely in the position of underdog going into this competition. Firstly, she is a girl which people tend to underestimate in competitions of strength and survival, and also because she comes from one of the poorer districts. Once the media coverage for the games begins however she is quickly able to transform herself, owing especially to a cleverly plotted ‘romance’ with her district’s male tribute, to a crowd favorite. If you haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, at least watch the movie! A very well done adaptation in my opinion.

Now, I couldn’t possibly write a post about competitions in books without mentioning Harry Potter! Although a vein of competition runs throughout the series, through everything from Quidditch games, to the House Cup, my ultimate for the series would be the Triwizard Tournament. The Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in J.K. Rowling’s epic fantasy series, has always been my favorite and I think a lot of that is due to the competition itself. In The Goblet of Fire, we get to meet wizards and witches from other schools, which is also very cool and unique to this book. Even the legendary quidditch player, Viktor Krum is in residence at Hogwarts for this one! (swoon) The Tournament itself, well, it is by no means an ordinary competition – the level of danger and mystery is unequaled and this one, I know, will always stand on a pedestal to me!

Another book with an intense and highly satisfying competition element is, Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas.  This is the first book in Sarah’s hugely popular Throne of Glass series and it is where we meet 18-year old assassin, Celaena Sardothien. Celaena is a great character and has quickly taken a place on my ‘favorites’ list.  She is snarky, bold and haunted by a violent and mysterious past. In this start to the series, you learn that Celaena has been a prisoner at a labor camp, a mine to be exact, and she gets pulled out by Prince Dorian who offers her a chance to win her freedom.  In order to do so, she must act as his champion to compete for the chance of becoming the royal assassin. She agrees to his conditions and travels to the capital to begin her training. Once there she meets all the other champions, all strong, murderous burly men – okay, she is definitely an underdog but does she let it get to her? No way! Not Celaena – this girl is fully confident in her abilities and indeed they seem to be unmatched. She begins training with Chaol Westfall, the Captain of the Guards and Prince Dorian’s long-time friend. No matter what he throws at her she never backs down.  I love this girl! The competition is brutal and it pushes all contestants to their limits. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys a hearty competition!

Finally, the last book I would like to mention in this fierce competitors post is, Warcross, by Marie Lu.  This YA sci-fi novel was released in September of 2017. I pre-ordered a copy of this one for the cover alone but it ended up being one of my favorite books of 2017! The competition in this book is the International Warcross competition – what is Warcross you ask? In this story, Warcross is a VR game that essentially has taken over the world. Everyone in this story plays or at least it seems that way. Set in a rather bleak near-future, Warcross isn’t just a game, it is a way of life.  Our main character, Emika Chen, is a brilliant computer hacker who makes her living as a bounty hunter tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. When she uses her hacking skills to actually glitch into the real Warcross games she attracts the attention of the game’s creator, Hideo Tanaka, and our main course of action begins there. The gaming elements and competitive feel of this book keep it rolling along nicely with plenty of action. The final two chapters left me with chills. They say so much about our times, real life issues and philosophical ideas that could be hotly debated.  The second book in this duology is being release on my birthday this Fall (September 18th) so how perfect is that?  I will definitely be pre-ordering this one as well!

Do you know of any books with a strong competition element to the storyline that I haven’t mentioned here? If so, let me know about them! Comment here or message me on IG – I want to know and add them to my tbr! Cheers for now and happy reading!

 

Review: Wonderblood by Julia Whicker

Expected Publication Date: April 2018

Firstly, hello bookworld! I have been very absent lately on what I believed to be a 1-week Christmas vacation that has since turned into a 2-week Christmas vacation.  Yes, you read right!  Unexpected 2-week vacation. Due to inclement weather I have been unable to get back home – part of the joy of living on an island!

Okay, back to the topic – Wonderblood by Julia Whicker! I finished Wonderblood late last night and needed to sleep on it before I could formulate my thoughts into a coherent review. Firstly, this is a debut novel for Julia Whicker and although this book did not blow me away, I would certainly be interested in other books (unrelated to this one) that she may write in the future. I enjoyed her writing style a lot which was not just agreeable but at times absolutely lyrical.

At the beginning of the book, literally the first 10 to 15-pages, there was some content that almost made me give it up. It did not grab me at all and in fact certain elements of it turned me off. It is an adult sci-fi novel that is set in a very gritty, very harsh post-apocalyptic wasteland. There are triggers for abuse, child rape, sibling incest and/or sibling molestation; I could see this causing a lot of people to turn away very quickly from this book. If you can get by that, it does get a lot better and I am glad that I stuck with it.

The middle is where I feel the story is at its strongest, with political intrigue and an interesting “religious” system. The story does take place in a future United States, which has had its population decimated by a mad cow-like disease – this story picks up in the aftermath of that although we never learn too much about the chain of events prior to the current action. Quite generally, it reminded me of Mad Max meets The Road.

One of my biggest disappointments for this book was the lack of character development. I came away just feeling blah about all of the characters – there were none that I related too or even felt that I knew enough about to care for in any way. If this were a start to a series (I am not sure if it is slated as a stand-alone or a series), I would not pick up the second book, really because I just do not care what happens to any of these characters. Additionally, I didn’t feel like the atmosphere was strong enough to make up for the lack of character development.

Mainly, I gave this three stars due to the writing style of the author and the unique ideas included in the world she was creating – for example, I loved that the characters worshiped NASA space shuttles and had Cape Canaveral as their holiest of sites – but the execution overall fell a little flat for me. Please note, I was given a copy of this book from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, in exchange for an honest review. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to read it, comment on it and am excited to hear what other readers think of this story!

Another great thing about 2017….

Happy Saturday my bookish friends!  Earlier today I was watching a few different booktubers and it is definitely the time of year for wrap-ups!  While I was thinking back over the books I have read this year (73 books in all, if you’re interested in that sort of thing), I tried to pull together my top 5 to 10 books. This is a much harder task to do than one would think.  I haven’t decided what exactly those will be for now so decided to write a little bit today about an author, new to me, that I discovered in 2017.

Octavia E. Butler (1947 – 2006) is a phenomenal American science-fiction writer who I certainly wish I would have discovered earlier in life.  Her writing is intelligent, heartfelt and oddly prescient of today’s political climate, e.g. The Earthseed Series, (please look this up on Goodreads if you haven’t heard of it).

Kindred, originally published in 1979 was the first Butler book I read and I am very glad I started with that one.  In fact, I feel that is a good starting point to anyone new to her writings. I’m not sure I can properly convey in words how much I enjoyed this book. First person slave narrative portrayed by a person not of that time, seeing that time with fresh eyes; a true examination of American history. Categorized as a science fiction novel, the only sci-fi element really was the time travel that allowed Dana, our protagonist, to travel back through time to antebellum Maryland. It was seamless and simple and worked very well with the story. I was moved to the point of tears in the last portion of the book and my brain was still running in circles hours after finishing it. I loved everything about this book. It didn’t shy away from harsh topics: rape, slavery, race relations – I found it real and meaningful. I would recommend this book to anyone, everyone – get your copy today!!

Review: The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer

Pegasus Books expected publication date: January 2, 2018

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wow – what a book! I know I will be mentally processing this one for a while – thank heavens for Kindle highlighting. I did a lot of highlighting during the course of reading this book, not because the concepts were difficult to understand or follow but because they were so meaningful. Ian Mortimer, as many know, is a wonderful historian, and he doesn’t disappoint with this work. The Outcasts of Time is indeed a work of fiction but is replete with very specific historical details; it runs through every element of the story.

Although there is a ‘time travel’ in this story, I wouldn’t classify it is science-fiction or fantasy. The only ‘magical’ element is the fact that the main character is, as he puts it, ‘skipping across time like a stone across water’; all other elements of the story are realistic. The time travel element allows the author to delve into a cultural examination of place through the passing of time that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. In a way, this reminds me of the format of Octavia Butler’s, Kindred; where time travel is similarly used to examine cultural changes over time.

Mortimer truly digs deep into society and how the workings of that change over time due to things like increased wealth, better living conditions, changes to transportation and the invention of more powerful and devastating weaponry. A phrase repeated throughout the work, ‘homo homini daemon’ – man is devil to man, speaks to the heart of some of the issues taken up in this work, that seems just as much a philosophical treatise as a work of fiction. A couple of my favorite lines being, “The man who has no knowledge of the past has no wisdom” and “…you must see what you mean to others to know your true worth.” The last paragraph practically made my heart explode as the narrative came to its resounding conclusion.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read this book – thank you to Pegasus Books for providing me with a copy. I would definitely recommend this book to history lovers of all kinds!