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ARE YOU HAPPY NOW by Hanna Jameson

At a New York City wedding, on a sweltering summer night, four people are trying to be happy.

Yun has everything he ever wanted, but somehow it’s never enough.
Emory is finally making her mark, but feels the shame more than the success.
Andrew is trying to be honest, but has lied to himself his whole life.
Fin can’t resist falling in love, but can’t help wrecking it all either.

And then the world begins to end. The four of them watch as one of the wedding guests sits down and refuses to get back up. Soon it’s happening across the world. Is it a choice or an illness?

Because how can anyone be happy in a world where the only choice is to feel everything – or nothing at all?

An intensely compulsive novel for anyone who has ever felt hopeful and helpless in one breath, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW is about how you keep living when the world is on fire. Perfect for fans of Emily John St. Mandel’s Station Eleven, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Patricia Lockwood’s Nobody is Talking About This and Naomi Alderman’s The Power.


Title : Are You Happy Now
Author : Hanna Jameson
Format : Physical ARC
Page Count : 360
Genre : Contemporary/Dystopian
Publisher : Penguin Books
Release Date : February 2, 2023

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
A different kind of pandemic
Relationship reactions to impending risk
Melancholy, sometimes sad and definitely not happy

Firstly, I just want to say that I do not read pandemic books, it’s too early for me but this isn’t like anything we experienced in recent years, apart from how humans behave. Most people will feel safe reading this in my opinion. I’m not going to spoil the events this book is built around, but suffice it to say, it’s a clever concept.

This book was full of quirk and weirdness while being rather engrossing. The characters were completely eclectic and apart from Andrew who I liked, the rest I just observed with popcorn. Yun who I initally liked, didn’t cope with what the world was offering and that ending was strangely surprising. Emory I liked more early on but her characterisation lost a bit of shading as it went on. Fin was an interesting addition later on.

This book’s strengths lie in the telling of human reaction to fear, risk and the sometimes resulting resilience. It’s fascinating how life rolls on and how relationships form and crash along the way. Societal reactions to what happened were very in the background and I thought that was missing a bit from the narrative.

I’m aware this review is somewhat vague but I think this is a read best served without prior knowledge.

Thank you to Viking Books for the review copy.

GLEANINGS by Neal Shusterman et al

The New York Times bestselling Arc of a Scythe series continues with thrilling stories that span the timeline. Storylines continue. Origin stories are revealed. And new Scythes emerge…

There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control.

Neal Shusterman – along with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman – returns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between.

Gleanings shows just how expansive, terrifying, and thrilling the world that began with the Printz Honor-winning Scythe truly is.


Title : Gleanings
Author : Neal Shusterman
Series : Arc of a Scythe #3.5
Format : Physical
Page Count : 432
Genre : Dystopian
Publisher : Walker Books
Release Date : November 10, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Gleanings offers:
Thunderhead insights
Characters connected to beloved and infamous scythes we know
Goddard’s beginnings
Trixie the dog (hilarious)
Unsavouries
Insights into the Cirrus ships future

I absolutely ate up this collection of short stories which is a dream for any fan of the series. The stories were of sufficient length and depth that I felt satisfied with each. They were easy to get into and many of them were unexpected insights with wit, drama and deadish happenings.

The Thunderhead is a favourite character for me, so all things that being fascinated me and I think I’d have liked a full story about them. Trixie the dog had me in agog stitches. Other stories were more serious and I appreciated that too.

These stories were mostly Neal Shusterman but a few were collaborations with other authors but they all felt to have the same narrative voice. I do hope this isn’t the end of this world and that we’ll get future bits and pieces.

Thank you to Walker Books for the review copy.

POSTER GIRL by Veronica Roth

For fans of Anthony Marra and Lauren Beukes, #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth tells the story of a woman’s desperate search for a missing girl after the collapse of the oppressive dystopian regime–and the dark secrets about her family and community she uncovers along the way

WHAT’S RIGHT IS RIGHT.

Sonya Kantor knows this slogan–she lived by it for most of her life. For decades, everyone in the Seattle-Portland megalopolis lived under it, as well as constant surveillance in the form of the Insight, an ocular implant that tracked every word and every action, rewarding or punishing by a rigid moral code set forth by the Delegation.

Then there was a revolution. The Delegation fell. Its most valuable members were locked in the Aperture, a prison on the outskirts of the city. And everyone else, now free from the Insight’s monitoring, went on with their lives.

Sonya, former poster girl for the Delegation, has been imprisoned for ten years when an old enemy comes to her with a deal: find a missing girl who was stolen from her parents by the old regime, and earn her freedom. The path Sonya takes to find the child will lead her through an unfamiliar, crooked post-Delegation world where she finds herself digging deeper into the past–and her family’s dark secrets–than she ever wanted to.

With razor sharp prose, Poster Girl is a haunting dystopian mystery that explores the expanding role of surveillance on society–an inescapable reality that we welcome all too easily.


Title : Poster Girl
Author : Veronica Roth
Format : eARC
Page Count : 288
Genre : sci-fi / dystopia
Publisher : William Morrow & Company
Release Date : October 18, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Ever wondered what The Hunger Games might’ve been like if Katniss was from District two instead of twelve? Something maybe a little like this; minus the actual Hunger Games event.

Instead, it’s more like Best Manners Royale because under the Delegation’s regime — which utilized eyeball implanted computers ala GoogleGlass (because people got too lazy to carry phones) that also tallied up infractions/awarded you points for good and bad behaviour — they wanted you molded into a compliant citizen. But after the Delegation fell, those who had enforced the rules, even the children of those families, they were all locked away.

Sonya Kantor is one of those children. Worse, she was actually the literal poster girl for the institution that had ruined so many lives. Now an adult, years after having lost her family, and most of the people she loved, she’s offered a chance to leave the prison she and other Delegation members/sympathizers, etc, have been locked away in; even though she’s deemed just too old to qualify for the new law that has passed. But she’s given a chance anyway — help track down a young girl, a second child (illegal for most people to have) who had been “re-homed” to another family, and she will earn her freedom. Along the way, though, she has to confront a figure from her past and realities she hadn’t known.

The concept of this story, which I’m actually loathe to call dystopian because some days it feels like we’re on the cusp of something this scary (whereas ten years ago it wouldn’t have felt that way!), was interesting.

There is some thought provoking discussion and allegory to be found in these pages but, let’s break it down into elements, as a mystery I would’ve liked more tension. As a dystopian some extra worldbuilding would’ve been nice. And for the little bit of romance we get I would’ve liked more chemistry — though to be honest the whole thing could’ve been ditched altogether.

While there is no overall satisfaction from the story, or at least I didn’t feel that way, Poster Girl is a quick read and might just be worth your time anyway.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

EMBERS by Claire Kent

I never thought I’d live through an apocalypse, but I guess no one ever does. Now my family’s gone, and the only person who can keep me safe in a violent, chaotic world is my dead boyfriend’s rough, uncivilized father. I don’t like him. At all. Cal’s the last person I want to rely on, but for now he’s all I’ve got.

Eventually we become unconventional partners as we try to stay alive, but then my feelings for him start to change. I want more from Cal but maybe I shouldn’t. I can’t risk losing what matters most.

One thing I do know. In a world as broken as ours, everything gradually gets burned away. Everything but him.


Title : Embers
Author : Claire Kent
Series : Kindled #3
Format : eARC
Page Count : 241
Genre : Dystopian Romance
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : August 9, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

The third installment in this Kindled world felt again a little different to each previous story. Rachel and Cal were the couple in this story and we had caught sight of them in a previous book. I knew this age gap romance might be a little more tricky to gel with and for me it was.

Rachel was the girlfriend of Cal’s son who died early into the post-disaster world. These two rubbed along as reluctant companions for a good few years. I liked both Cal and Rachel as characters but I struggled with them somewhat as a couple. To be fair, Cal also struggled with that a lot. I think it was the whole factor she was his son’s girlfriend.

The plot was good in general. I enjoyed seeing Rachel in the previous communities we’ve seen in Kindled. I didn’t buy into the couple or chemistry as much as I’d hoped.

Thank you to the author for the review copy through netgalley.


THE FABRICATION OF EDEN PRUITT by K.E. Ganshert

Studious and principled Eden Pruitt stepped out of line just once. Unfortunately, that reckless decision ended with an arrest, a mug shot, and two very concerned parents. Now they’re starting over. In Iowa, of all places. On the cusp of her senior year, of all times. The situation is less than ideal but she’ll just have to manage, and without complaint. The change of address was her fault after all, and she isn’t going to make anything harder on her parents, who have already been through enough.

But life in Iowa turns strange fast. Odd things are happening, and Eden has no idea what any of it means. Then she comes home from her first day of school to a ransacked house and the nightmare officially begins. Her parents are missing. She’s convinced something terrible has happened to them. But nobody believes her. Except for a hardened, mysterious stranger who is as dangerous as he is enticing.


Title : The Fabrication of Eden Pruitt
Author : K.E. Ganshert
Series : Eden Pruitt #1
Format : Physical
Page Count : 440
Genre : YA Dystopian Thriller
Publisher : Self-published
Release Date : June 14, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Don’t accept events at first glance
A dystopian US
Who is Eden Pruitt?

This was such a ride of a read that started in normality but quickly spiralled into Eden finding her life was not as she knew it. The story was set in a contemporary dystopian US with events in the past that haven’t happened to us that shaped their future. Eden found herself separated from her parents and in the company of a possible ally Cass.

For much of the story I was second guessing who was friend or foe. There were some amazing plot twists that really pulled the rug out from Eden and the reader. This was a fairly fast-paced read where Eden was on the run, fighting an unnamed enemy and second guessing her existence. I don’t want to give away any of the plot but it was unpredictable, it had sci-fi elements and it read like a thriller. I thought this melding of dystopian ya thriller with sci-fi worked well.

There was a light romance in this story and that connection was belieavable, on the periphery but it fit well with the overall plot. There’s a second installment to come in this series (duology?) and I’ll definitely be reading on.

PRINCESS by Claire Kent

I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.

When the asteroid hits and the world falls apart, I’m seventeen, and my dad buys us a place in an underground bunker. We’re supposed to be safe down there, but we’re not. Gradually, I lose everything until all I have left is a bewildering relationship with a stoic, unknowable man.

As one of the guards in the bunker, Grant has lurked in the background of my life for years, teaching me to defend myself, making sure I’m safe, and infuriating me by treating me like a sheltered princess in a tower. I don’t even know if he likes me, even after we end up in bed together. All I know is that he’s always there beside me–during the bleak half-life of the bunker and the hostile, unfamiliar world we discover when we finally come out of lockdown.

Maybe one day he’ll open up. Let down his walls. And maybe eventually our days can be about more than surviving.. Maybe I am one of the lucky ones, but right now all I have left in the world is him.


Title : Princess
Author : Claire Kent
Series : Kindled #2
Format : eARC
Page Count : 222
Genre : Dystopian Romance
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : July 12, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Age-gap (not creepy)
A different take on this Kindled world
Bunker life

I am so taken by this series by Claire Kent and my only complaint is where the asteroid fell (what about Europe?!). What I like about this series is that there isn’t rehashing of the apocalyptic event, this series is all about survival afterwards and the interconnected couples through the series.

Princess gave us a bunker existence perspective for some of the book and that felt really fresh. The couple in Grant and Olivia took a familiar path, somewhat similar to the previous book but I still thoroughly enjoyed reading their journey. It was push and pull, uncertainty and chemistry.

I really enjoyed the grander picture, seeing the previous couples, communities and how that bigger plot is weaving together. The threats from the unsavoury part of humanity put the communities trying to survive at risk and it had the reader absolutely on edge at times.

I cannot wait for the two further books coming in this series and the names I’ve seen that will be in subsequent stories. Princess was the kind of book you can read in a day and feel completely satisfied in the ride.

Thank you to the author through netgalley for the review copy.

THE GILDED KING by Josie Jaffrey

In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well.

Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, who believes in fairytales that her world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside.

But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained.
Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight.

One way or another, the walls of the Blue are going to come down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.


Title : The Gilded King
Author : Josie Jaffrey
Series : Soverign #1
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 285
Genre : Dystopian YA
Publisher : Silver Sun Books
Release Date : June 25, 2018

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s star review

Headlines:
Humans ‘v’ vampires ‘v’ zombies
Parallel stories
Dystopia meets historical

I feel like I’ve possibly done this series starter a disservice on the one hand because this is a story that builds on a previous series. I think I would have understood quite a bit more if I’d read that previous series but with this being a book one of a series, I thought I would be okay. Overall, I found the world building confusing at times and I was jarred by my lack of understanding.

Those aspects said, this was a very character-driven story and some of these characters were ones to get behind. This was a tale with two stories running in parallel where Julia and Lucas were at the fore of the story in the Blue and Cam was at the fore of the story in the Red. It took a long time for these stories to intersect but I wasn’t bothered by that.

While this was a dystopian tale that occasionally harkened back to our contemporary times, life in the Blue felt somewhat historical, ancient Grecian or Roman with nobles, servitude and a basic standard of living. I was most interested in Julia and Lucas in the Blue for these reasons, but still, there was a lot to get your head around.

The story did pull the threads together towards the end but I’m left with many unanswered questions that I’ll have to read on for.

Thank you to the author for the review copy.

THE FOREVERS by Chris Whitaker

What would you do if you knew the world was going to be destroyed by a huge asteroid in one month? The mesmerising YA debut from acclaimed crime writer and New York Times Bestselling author of We Begin at the End.

They knew the end was coming. They saw it ten years back, when it was far enough away in space and time and meaning.
The changes were gradual, and then sudden.

For Mae and her friends, it means navigating a life where action and consequence are no longer related. Where the popular are both trophies and targets. And where petty grudges turn deadlier with each passing day. So, did Abi Manton jump off the cliff or was she pushed? Her death is just the beginning of the end.

With teachers losing control of their students and themselves, and the end rushing toward all of them, it leaves everyone facing the answer to one, simple question…

What would you do if you could get away with anything?


Title : The Forevers
Author : Chris Whitaker
Format : Paperback
Page Count :355
Genre : Dystopian YA
Publisher : HotKey Books
Release Date : July 8, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


Micky’s 2 star review

Headlines:
Difficult plot to gel with
Unlikeable characters
Confused writing

I’m sorry that I don’t have better things to say about The Forevers. I love the cover and I definitely found the blurb appealing but as it spun out, the plot was very difficult to like. When the end of the world is definitely coming in 30 days, this small community was pretty wrapped up in the death of Abi, not the big impending asteroid. That seemed a little out of kilter with my expectations.

Mae as a character was likeable but the rest of the characters weren’t. The school, the forevers, the community were a messed up ball of intricate effed-up-ness. Added into this was the fact that the writing was really confusing at times. I was jarred when unnamed characters entered scenes and I never knew who that person was and so the plot point was lost. There were also occasions where I felt like a small chunk of narrative was missing, so again, I was confused. All that said, I was able to string the story together but it was a push to keep going with the aid of some skimming.

I liked the premise but sadly the execution didn’t work for me.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for the early review copy.

DARK LULLABY by Polly Ho-Yen

For fans of Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale, in Dark Lullaby a mother desperately tries to keep her family together in a society where parenting standards are strictly monitored.

When Kit decides to have a child, she thinks she’s prepared. She knows how demanding Induction is. She’s seen children Extracted. But in a society where parenting is strictly monitored under the watchful gaze of OSIP (The Office of Standards in Parenting), she is forced to ask herself how far she will go to keep her family together. 


Title : Dark Lullaby
Author : Polly Ho-Yen
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : Dystopian
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : March 23, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 2.5 – 3 star review

Dark Lullaby was a tale centred around infertility dystopia and needless to say, this was a story that was mostly impactful on women. The book plunged the reader immediately into a sad and oppressive world where there seemed to be limited hope and expectations for people. This world was very similar to the world we exist in now. As a reader, you did feel the various stages of desperation that the women in this book experienced. I would have liked more from the male characters in the book.

It was a discomforting read as you would imagine, but it was also an unsatisfying read for me. The story was told in ‘then’ and ‘now’ and this element was executed well but I was left wondering about issues all the way through, some of which were never answered. There were conveniences in the plot that I struggled with; the ending felt rushed.

Overall, I was left somewhat unsatisfied throughout the read and in the culmination. The theme of the story had all the potential, the characters were not necessarily likeable but they were robustly developed. I don’t why this just didn’t hit the spot for me considering my enjoyment of dytopia. I’m a huge fan of The Handmaid’s Tale that also tackles this theme of infertility changing the world but that book was so much more, in my opinion.

Thank you to Titan Books for the early review copy. Dark Lullaby is out now.

BIG BAD WOLF by Suleikha Snyder

In 2016, New York became a Sanctuary City for supernaturals…but things quickly spun out of control. Now, Third Shift is an elite team of operatives tasked with exposing the gritty underbelly of New York’s criminal-supernatural underworld, taking down the worst of the worst and protecting human- and shifter-kind alike.

Joe Peluso has blood on his hands. But lawyer and psychologist Neha Ahluwalia is determined to help him craft a solid defense…even if she can’t defend her own obsession. Because Joe took out those Russian mobsters for good reason–they were responsible for the death of his beloved foster brother. Those six bad guys were part of the ruthless clan of bear shifters who control Brooklyn’s Russian mafia, so his vigilante justice has earned him countless enemies in New York’s supernatural-controlled underworld, and no friends in a government that now bends to Russia at every turn.

Joe knows that creatures like him only deserve the worst. Darkness. Solitude. Punishment. But meeting Neha makes him feel human for the first time in forever. He’s never wanted anything in his life like he wants Neha, and he’ll break almost any rule to spend a minute alone with her. But when the Russian mob attacks the jail for payback, Joe and Neha are forced to escape. Before long they’re on the run–from monsters who want him dead and from their own traitorous hearts.


Title : Big Bad Wolf
Author : Suleikha Snyder
Series : Third Shift (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : urban fantasy/PNR
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ 


Hollis’ 1 star review

Here’s a series I can unequivocably say that I will not be continuing. See? Even I have limits.

Where to even start, gosh, well. If you thought post-2016 was A Lot, buckle in, folks! In Snyder’s world it gets worse. All those awful real-life things plus a big supernatural outing and rarely does the author miss an opportunity to remind you just how shitty things are. Sure, its fiction, but it doesn’t feel like fiction when you’re rehashing 80% of the crap you’ve just lived through in a gritty dystopian paranormal fantasy. No thanks.

If that wasn’t bad enough, one of the (many) POVs you get is from Mister Melodrama Man Pain himself. Like, I don’t want to shit too hard on this guy, not all his boo hoo’ing was without reason but.. well. Most was. Yeah. The constant spirals of “I’m the worst, you deserve better, I’m a killer” were exhausting. Watching the other half of the pairing put up with it, be reduced to hormones, and waiting until it all got rehashed post-bang? I was so over this very early on in the game. Particularly as I found little to no chemistry between them (or anyone) despite the whole relationship hinging on this big dose of epic lust.

Actually even before we discovered the man pain, I was twigging to this not likely being my thing — as early as the first chapter — but what had interested me about this in the first place was my previous experience reading one of the author’s novellas.. which I thoroughly enjoyed. This? No. Zero enjoyment. Only boredom or frustration or pure misery.

This is clearly being set up as a huge series because we had lots of POVs with lots of little offshooting set-ups for coupledom, or drama, or adventures, and while some of those minor dynamics sort’ve interested me at first, I just eventually lost the will to care. The writing isn’t terrible but it does not draw you in; I found it very hard to keep track of events in some of the scenes, particularly action sequences, and had to backtrack to determine what had happened, and yet we were forced to rehash so much dialogue (literally, pulled from previous chapters, as one character or another relived it) and all together it just felt so offbalance.

I somehow dragged my lifeless carcass through this book to the bitter end but hey that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Particularly if you want a gritty pseudo-real world PNR that somehow manages to lean into all the cheese and tropes that call this genre home. As mentioned, though, this is as far as I go.