I thought with today’s post I would take the opportunity to share my Top Ten eagerly anticipated books that I will be reading next year!
Words of Radiance – Brandon Sanderson
You know when you start a series, and you finish the first book and immediately just want to binge read the rest? Yup. This is one of those for me. Given that Sanderson is only so far as having released the third book (out of ten) of this series, I am going to have to pace myself.
The Alloy of Law – Brandon Sanderson
Here is another Sanderson book, and it is the start of the second “trilogy” of the Mistborn series. I’ve been meaning to start these for some time, but you know, there are so many books out there and so little time… *sigh*
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
I was drawn to this book as it is both a classic and famously written from the perspective of an autistic child. Since it is so different from usual, I have to give it a read.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
I am absolutely sure reading this will make me cry, but it’s another classic that I have really wanted to read for some time. I’ll get some tissues to hand.
Sword Song – Bernard Cornwell
Sword Song is the fourth book in a series I started this year. As I haven’t read any of the books in this series since June, I think we are overdue the next instalment.
The Shining – Stephen King
I never thought I would enjoy Stephen King’s writing… and how wrong I was! I’m so ashamed I haven’t picked up any of his books until this year, I feel the need to make up for lost time.
The Seventh Scroll – Wilbur Smith
As much as I really dislike the MC at times, River God was such an enjoyable first instalment that I have to read this soon.
Soul Music – Terry Pratchett
I only finished Men At Arms, the book prior to this one in the Discworld series in September but somehow it always feels like an age has passed between me reading Pratchett’s books. They’re almost a guilty pleasure.
11.22.63 – Stephen King
I love books that have an element of history in them, so combine this with Stephen King’s amazing writing and you get a very excited me. I also managed to pick up a copy of this in a charity shop in good nick for 50p, so win-win!!
Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
I think this has the potential to be absolutely hilarious, so this was a definite addition to the list!!
So that’s the list!!
I’ve tried to keep it brief because if given the opportunity, I really could go on for hours and hours!
What are you looking forward to reading next?
Good morning everybody!!
The Sunday Summary is a post I like to put together every week to let you guys know what I have been doing behind the scenes. It’s also surprisingly effective at keeping myself organised when it comes to books I have added to the TBR in making sure they have been added to all the right lists etc.
So without further adieu, here is how my week has gone:-
This week really feels like it has been a productive one when it comes to the books read. I finished reading “The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson finally and OH MY GOD!! It’s a series I could very easily binge read but I am going to restrain myself… otherwise, this will be yet another series I am caught up with and waiting for the next release. Patience is a virtue, so they say?
The next book I picked up this week was The Weight of Shadows by Karl Holton. I managed to struggle on to about a third of the way through the book before I put it down again. It wasn’t for me. The book is about 300 pages long so why the author thinks it needs 50 chapters, I’ll never know. It quite literally does change perspective every five minutes and rather than integrating important information, it is just periodically dumped on you.
To my mind, there are some epic crime stories in books and TV at the moment so if it isn’t done exceptionally, I don’t think it compares to everything else out there. This wasn’t cutting it for me, so I decided I wasn’t going to force myself through it.
Lastly, I read Zero Debt by Neeraj Deginal. This is a short account of how one man fought his way back from the brink of financial collapse and how he now plans for the future. I figured this would be an interesting read as I am of the age where I am just setting myself up in life. Everyone makes mistakes, but if we can learn from others, that’s better.
This is the only book I have added this week as it follows on from The Way of Kings and so far it is AMAZING!!! Ahem. I really need to calm down, haha!
I have some fun posts lined up for you this week!! I have another Top Ten Tuesday (no prizes for guessing when that will be posted) and I am also taking part in my first Blog Tour!! Look out for that on Wednesday!
On Friday, I’m going to rant at you just how much I loved the first book of the Stormlight Archives series and why I am glad I persevered even though I didn’t finish it when I intended to!
On Sunday, well, I think you know the drill by now…
Yesterday I shared with you all my review of Aaru, written by David Meredith. Today, I am pleased to be bringing you an interview with the author about the book:-
First and foremost, please tell us a little about yourself
I’m a writer and educator originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. I received both my Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee. I also recently received my Doctorate in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. On and off, I spent nearly a decade, from 1999-2010 teaching English in Northern Japan, but I currently live with my wife and three children in the Nashville Area where I continue to write and teach English.
What inspired you to create Aaru?
A lot of my own personal questions about faith, life, and death actually. Aaru is first and foremost an entertaining and emotional YA/NA SyFy/Fantasy novel. It is at its core a story about the love of two sisters, and how they struggle to cope as the paradigms of what they’ve always been taught is true and good is challenged and shifted in a monumental way. However, Aaru also explores a number of what I think are fundamentally human questions: What happens when religion and faith conflict with technology and science? Is there a way to reconcile the two? What constitutes a human being or human soul? What would happen to religion and faith if the fear of death was removed from society? How would that change the way individuals choose to live their lives? In a world where people in power can essentially choose who is and is not saved, how should that determination be made? Who should be saved? Is the act of choosing winners and losers, judging who is righteous and worthy vs. who is not in and of itself even moral at all? I suspected that the answers would be a lot messier and more complicated than the utopian realization of John Lennon’s Imagine lyrics and lead to a great deal of conflict as people try to hash it all out. In the end, Aaru doesn’t really answer any of these questions, nor is it intended to, but it does speculate on what the answers of different people from different circumstances and indeed society at large might be. What I want people to get out of Aaru is an intensely emotional experience that stimulates some productive introspection even as they enjoy it as a compelling story about the fierce love of two sisters that transcends even death.
Given the issues brought up in the book, do you think a system like Aaru would be a benefit or a hindrance to society?
That is the question, isn’t it? And I don’t think it really gets answered – At least not in the first book. This is to a certain extent intentional. By not tacking out a particular attitude about whether Aaru is the savior of mankind or its destroyer, I try to invite the reader to think a little more deeply about the idea and make their own determination.
What has been the most difficult part of publishing the book?
The fact that there are only 24 hours in a day mostly. But seriously, promotion takes A LOT of time. I would much rather be working on volume two than hunting book review blogs and sending out hundreds of book review requests, but it has to be done if you ever want anyone to read your work. The trick I think, is striking a balance among creating new material, promotion, and the hundreds of other things that also have to get done for work and family.
What other books have you written? Can you tell us a bit about them?
I have one other book currently available on Amazon: The Reflections of Queen Snow White
What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?
On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:
The king is dead.
The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.
It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?
Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.
On the happiest day of the year, Taro’s world ends. His people and his family are slaughtered. His lands are brutally laid to waste by merciless, imperial forces. Taro is certain that neither he nor the ghosts of his lost loved ones can rest until he has visited the same devastation tenfold upon the heads of the vile collaborators. Consumed with grief for the fallen and guilt at his own survival, he gathers his scattered people and solemnly vows bloody revenge on the allies of the Tenshuu in the neighboring barony.
At the same time, young Naomi, cherished daughter of the doting Lord of Numanodai, is blissfully unaware of the chaotic world spinning out of control all around her. She fervently studies the arts of dance, music, and poetry as she dreams of being accepted into the distant imperial court. However, when disaster visits her very doorstep and she loses everything that she holds dear, Naomi must learn what it truly means to be a woman and a ruler. She must come to grips with her own gnawing grief and paralyzing doubt if she is to have any chance of saving her beaten and bedraggled people from Taro’s unreasoning fury.
In the process, both she and her pursuer discover a magical world of vengeful akuma demons, fierce kitsune fox-people, droll tanuki badger-folk, and the mysterious, arcane power of the ikioi. Taro and Naomi must decide whether to use this power for healing or destruction, revenge or redemption. They must choose whether to react to their pain and loss with wrath or with love. In the end, both must come to understand that the only thing that really makes them different is the choices they make and what they are willing to sacrifice in attaining that which they desire.
Finally, of course, I’m about 95,000 words into the Aaru sequal – Aaru: Halls of Hel. I hope to release it some time in 2018.
Thank you to David for his time! If you haven’t checked out my review of the book and would like to do so, you can find it here!
Rose is dying. Her body is wasted and skeletal. She is too sick and weak to move. Every day is an agony and her only hope is that death will find her swiftly before the pain grows too great to bear.
She is sixteen years old.
Rose has made peace with her fate, but her younger sister, Koren, certainly has not. Though all hope appears lost Koren convinces Rose to make one final attempt at saving her life after a mysterious man in a white lab coat approaches their family about an unorthodox and experimental procedure. A copy of Rose’s radiant mind is uploaded to a massive super computer called Aaru – a virtual paradise where the great and the righteous might live forever in an arcadian world free from pain, illness, and death. Elysian Industries is set to begin offering the service to those who can afford it and hires Koren to be their spokes-model.
Within a matter of weeks, the sisters’ faces are nationally ubiquitous, but they soon discover that neither celebrity nor immortality is as utopian as they think. Not everyone is pleased with the idea of life everlasting for sale.
What unfolds is a whirlwind of controversy, sabotage, obsession, and danger. Rose and Koren must struggle to find meaning in their chaotic new lives and at the same time hold true to each other as Aaru challenges all they ever knew about life, love, and death and everything they thought they really believed.
Death is a powerful and sensitive subject, and it is one that ought to be treated with dignity and respect.
When David approached me about his book, I was excited to read something that challenged our current beliefs about death. With our ever-advancing technology, is a system like Aaru possible in the future?
Quite so, I think, but I am not sure it could ever come to fruition as a result of the moral and religious arguments. I say this as a person, having grown up as part of a society still fighting for reform of anti-abortion laws. Yes, it is still illegal to terminate a pregnancy here. That isn’t for discussion here, albeit topical discussion locally at the moment.
Naturally, we are all going to have our own opinions about these subjects and I am glad the book touched on them all. Told mostly from the perspective of Rose and Koren, the narrative explores how the lives of the two teenage girls are affected. Rose, having suffered for years with Leukaemia, is offered a second chance at life through Aaru once her body succumbs to the disease. As an early resident, she becomes a part of both highlighting and ironing out the flaws in the system whilst her sister Koren becomes an overnight celebrity, marketing it to the world.
Not only does the book bring about the discussion of the social attitudes towards such a “solution” to death, it also highlights a number of practical problems that could arise, including security and data manipulation. Who should decide who gets to “live” after death? Think of the number of people that live seemingly good lives, yet after they are gone, we begin to hear more sinister things about their past. Would these people be let into Aaru? The concept of the system is that initially, it would be a chargeable service, becoming free and widely available later on. In my opinion, are not the people that have the wealth to afford such a service usually in a position or power and influence? Nobody is truly virtuous so some complaint would be made to their admission into eternal life.
For altogether different reasons, the book does take a sinister turn, and the element of danger greatly added to the plot. I love the concept of the book, even though I don’t feel it is a feasible option in reality.
I struggled to relate to Koren a bit, I will admit here. A thirteen-year-old girl at the time of Rose’s death, she really struggled to come to terms with the loss of her sister. She is then thrown mercilessly into the limelight by advertising this new service available, experiencing a maelstrom of emotions. Perhaps being the rebellious teenager she is, she intentionally pushes people away (including the reader, a tad). I was glad to see Koren’s parents step up to the mark as well. I felt they were a little absent from the beginning, before and just after Rose’s death, which doesn’t have a ring of realism to me. Every family is different though, I suppose.
The book is well written and I love how bold a subject it covers. Be aware though, it has mature themes so is probably not for the faint-hearted! Otherwise, it is a definite recommend to read.
Today I am working further towards clearing out my Goodreads of unwanted books (so obviously, I can just fill it up again!) Here is a refresher on what this tag entails:-
This meme was started by Lia @ Lost in a Story to clear out my reading list of unwanted books. Here is how it works:
Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
Order on ascending date added.
Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
Read the synopses of the books
Decide: keep it or should it go?
Once again, I am looking at the next ten books on the TBR:-
When his father dies suddenly, George Poole stumbles onto a family secret: He has a twin sister he never knew existed, who was raised by an enigmatic cult called the Order.
The Order is a hive – a human hive with a dominant queen–that has prospered below the streets of Rome for almost two millennia.
After Poole enters the Order’s vast underground city and meets the disturbing inhabitants, he uncovers evidence that they have embarked on a divergent evolutionary path.
These genetically superior humans are equipped with the tools necessary to render modern Homo sapiens as extinct as the Neanderthals. And now they are preparing to leave their underground realm.
I have actually started this book. It is the only book remotely anywhere near my bedside table. I haven’t picked it up in months though if I’m entirely honest. Given that my dad loaned me the series (when they were moving, so they had less stuff to bring up), I should probably get a wriggle on. They moved a year ago…
With The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.
Now, with The Bands of Mourning, Sanderson continues the story. The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metalminds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.
This is certainly a keeper! I need to get on and read the earlier books of this second trilogy.
Age of Myth inaugurates an original five-book series.
Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between humans and those they thought were gods changes forever.
Now only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer; Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom; and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over. The time of rebellion has begun.
I knew when I looked at this the name was familiar. I recently opted to remove another of Mishael’s books from the TBR… being Theft of Swords. Though I opted not to read this other book, Age of Myth looks to be classic fantasy so it’s right up my street!
With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future. The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one’s origins. It might also take true love.
Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.
Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.
With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O’Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.
I’m going to be absolutely honest and admit that I’ve changed my mind on this one. Whilst I am sure its historical nature would appeal to me, I am not sure about the rest.
In modern-day Britain, magic users control everything: wealth, politics, power—and you. If you’re not one of the ultimate one-percenters—the magical elite—you owe them ten years of service. Do those years when you’re old, and you’ll never get through them. Do them young, and you’ll never get over them.
This is the darkly decadent world of Gilded Cage. In its glittering milieu move the all-powerful Jardines and the everyday Hadleys. The families have only one thing in common: Each has three children. But their destinies entwine when one family enters the service of the other. They will all discover whether any magic is more powerful than the human spirit.
Have a quick ten years. . . .
I think I added this as I understand there is a lot of politics involved, which I enjoy.
One thing I know I don’t like is a book is set in a parallel reality in the same time period that we are currently in. This has put me off reading this if I’m honest.
Melange, or ‘spice’, is the most valuable – and rarest – element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person’s life-span to making intersteller travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world Arrakis.
Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.
When the Emperor transfers stewardship of Arrakis from the noble House Harkonnen to House Atreides, the Harkonnens fight back, murdering Duke Leto Atreides. Paul, his son, and Lady Jessica, his concubine, flee into the desert. On the point of death, they are rescued by a band for Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, who control Arrakis’ second great resource: the giant worms that burrow beneath the burning desert sands.
In order to avenge his father and retake Arrakis from the Harkonnens, Paul must earn the trust of the Fremen and lead a tiny army against the innumerable forces aligned against them.
And his journey will change the universe.
I received a copy of this book from my work colleagues for my birthday so I will definitely be reading this!
Dev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He’s in high demand as a guide for the caravans that carry legitimate goods from the city of Ninavel into the country of Alathia. The route through the Whitefire Mountains is treacherous, and Dev is one of the few climbers who knows how to cross them safely. With his skill and connections, it’s easy enough to slip contraband charms from Ninavel – where any magic is fair game, no matter how dark – into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.
But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution – and he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.
Yet Kiran isn’t the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other – or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel.
I like the idea of this but I am not sure it is something I want to read just now. Given that I am trying to clear out the list, I am going to take this off the list. Maybe I’ll re-add it at a later date?
On a bitter winter night in 1923, Fergus McKenzie loses his beloved wife in childbirth. Overcome by grief, he shuns the doctor, convinced he could have done more to save her. He also refuses to take notice of his daughter, Shona, until years later, when she falls in love with the doctor’s son.
I added this book as a starting point as my mum loves these books. Having taken a look though, I really don’t think they are my cup of tea. Don’t hate me, Mum!!
Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.
Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.
Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.
Having said I don’t really like parallel universes, I wouldn’t normally have added this book to the TBR. It is only because of the amount of hype around this author in the blogosphere that I am going to give it a try. Hopefully, with the presence of magic, this doesn’t feel like the setting is too realistic.
The bestselling feminist novel that awakened both women and men, The Women’s Room follows the transformation of Mira Ward and her circle as the women’s movement begins to have an impact on their lives. A biting social commentary on an emotional world gone silently haywire, The Women’s Room is a modern classic that offers piercing insight into the social norms accepted so blindly and revered so completely. Marilyn French questions those accepted norms and poignantly portrays the hopeful believers looking for new truths.
I added this book having read “Fear of Flying” by Erica Jong at the beginning of this year. To be upfront… yes, this is described as a feminist book. Do I classify myself as a feminist? No. That doesn’t mean I cannot educate myself on the subject though. I think feminism is massively misunderstood in terms of whether it represents the empowerment of women or fighting for equality.
Have you reviewed your TBR pile lately? I’d love to hear from you!
Today is Remembrance Sunday here; a day to remember those that have lost their lives defending our country and protecting our interests. I just wanted to take a moment here to reflect on this, because those people have far more courage then I could ever have.
Following my last Sunday Summary, I finished My Life as Steve Keller by Zach Baynes. If you want to check out my review, you can find it here. There is also an open giveaway on a copy of that book which ends 11:59pm local time tonight, so get yourself into the draw. If you aren’t on Twitter and want a chance to enter, drop a comment below!
I also started and finished my next ARC for this month, being Aaru by David Meredith. It’s a book that challenges the concept of death by, in essence, scanning a person’s brain and then uploading it to a server so they live “virtually” instead. I was interested in the concept and it didn’t disappoint. One thing I was shocked about was how dark it gets towards the end! I wasn’t expecting anything like that! No spoilers though… Review to follow!
I can tell I am making a conscious effort to save money for my upcoming trip, as I haven’t purchased any books this week! My sister is attempting to get a copy of I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson for me, as it is the O2 Priority deal this week, but I don’t know if she has been able to yet.
A Suitable Lie is a book I have seen a couple of reviews for and added to the TBR, as not only do I think I will really enjoy the book, it about a topic that really needs more exposure. All too often we hear about domestic violence in which men are the perpetrators and women the victims, but the statistics show that for every two female victims, there is one male victim. I think this is massively ignored so I would like to educate myself on the subject!
On Tuesday I have decided to bring you another Down the TBR Hole post, in an effort to clear out my reading list of unwanted books! I want to try and make a real push on this so basically, I can add more books. Sounds productive, right?
On Friday I will be posting my review of Aaru by David Meredith, and there is also an anticipated interview I will be doing with David about his inspirations for the book. The date is still TBC, but please look out for that!
Finally, the week will close with a wrap-up, as ever!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Sunday Summary!! If you want to enter the competition mentioned above, you can enter via Twitter or drop a comment here!! So tell me, what have you been reading this week?
“My Life as Steve Keller” is one man’s journey through twelve cities, three decades, and four lovers, all while living with the realities of climate change and technology. The stories about food and history will make you want to travel and the charming dialogue will make you smile. The book depicts two of the most basic needs in life that neither technology nor the passing of time can erase: the need to be loved and the need to be protected.
Steve tells his story in three parts. In Part One, he tries to figure out what’s best for him, ending a long distance ending a long distance relationship and wondering if he should start another one. Over the course of 6 years, he travels to different cities – Hong Kong, Paris, Argentina, Tuscany and Dublin. He finds the answer to his questions through the help of his sister while on vacation in Tuscany.
From losing people he loves through missed opportunities, to being let go from his job due to increasing automation, Steve is forced into a self-analysis of his life and the choices he has made, while coming to terms with an addiction to Virtual Reality.
“My Life as Steve Keller” reads in places like a travel journal and is a fascinating and unusual coming-of-age book, which is set partly in the future and deals with the issues of romance, love, climate change, technology and loss through a traveler’s perspective.
This fictionalized memoir spans three decades of one man’s life, it is a look at what the world may look like as we hurtle towards near full automation and the way people’s lives change as a result of choices they make or fail to make, with recurring themes of family, friends and love throughout.
I firmly believe that as a reader, you can take away as much as you like from this book.
If you are looking for a casual read, exploring places all over the world and the fabulous food and drink on offer, then this is for you. Steve is fortunate to have spent a lot of his life travelling; he visits new cities, meets new people and gets to enjoy many diverse cultures and culinary delicacies along the way. Now I am not much of a traveller when all is said and done. In comparison to Steve, I am so unadventurous! Up until this point, I haven’t considered myself to be the travelling type. Since reading the book, I’m seriously considering visiting a few places that I hadn’t taken much interest in before. If I had to pick one place out of the whole book, it would have to be Amsterdam. The excitement of the busy markets, the tourism, and the ability to tour the city via canal appeals to me. It has nothing to do with the library with a bar in it… but that’s not to be turned down either, right?
Steve is a really likeable guy. As our main character, you really get under his skin and find that he is very much like you or me. He makes mistakes and takes pride in great achievements; he loves, is loved, and falls apart from time to time. He is a victim of circumstance and is on a journey to find himself as much as we are.
There is a more serious topic addressed by the book, should you wish to consider it. I would like to stress that it is not written in a way that makes it unapproachable, or heavy reading.
We see a lot of advancement in technology throughout the novel, and with constant development today, some of the future “tech” created is not that far off reality, in my humble yet uneducated opinion. We watch diesel cars become electric, then driverless, and robots take over jobs previously laboured by humans. We see the population of the Earth continuing to increase and all the while, the impact of production continues to take its toll on the planet. Climate change triggers drought; cattle numbers decline. Endangered animal species become extinct and the ice caps melt. Natural disasters become commonplace and life as we know it ceases to exist.
This all seems very dramatic when you summarise it like that in a couple of sentences. Let us not forget that the timeframe of the book spans three decades. When you put it like that, such significant changes happen gradually and it could be all too late before we realise it.
Here is why I am more than happy to defer to Zach’s idea of things. He draws on a lot of personal experience and takes interest in these subjects. As I have already admitted, I know very little about this subject. True, the book dabbles in a lot of “ifs”, “buts” and “maybe’s”, but they are worthy of consideration, I think. It COULD happen, after all.
Going back to Steve, I think this book resonates with me because I genuinely believe I could one day end up in Steve’s shoes. Whilst the book is undeniably fiction, could it become our potential reality? I hope not, but anything is possible.
Now – for the details of the giveaway!!
Zach has very kindly agreed to provide the winner of this giveaway, chosen by me, with a free copy of his book! All you have to do is:-
Today, I am pleased to introduce you to Zach Baynes. He very kindly approached me with a request to review his book, My Life As Steve Keller, in exchange for a free copy. You too could get your hands on a copy – tune in to tomorrow’s review for details!!
Ahead of my review of his book, Zach took the time to answer a few questions about what inspired him to write about the life of Steve, a man finding his place in an ever-changing and advancing world:-
First and foremost, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Thank you for having me Rebecca, appreciate the offer and taking the time to have a conversation with me.
I studied Political Science for 5 years, founded a think-tank with some colleagues and had some fun with that for a few years. I then started working with technology and that’s where I am now. I work in Digital Transformation, working with companies to assess the state of their IT Infrastructure, or Digitization maturity level, and how they can improve it to gain competitive advantages.
I love reading books, in almost any genres, although for the past years I focused a lot more on non-fiction books. In particular, non-fiction novels – books that have a storytelling side to them. Besides that, I’m passionate about geopolitics, I like to stay on top of what is happening in the world. This also helps when building stories that are grounded in reality, driven by a chronic curiosity about anything. I love travelling, getting in touch with other cultures and people.
Just who is Steve Keller, and what inspired you to write about his life?
The book is written from his perspective, so I had to imagine how his life would be, while taking into account my own experiences. I guess it makes him an alter ego of sorts. But in many ways Steve Keller is a placeholder.
He lives his life in very similar ways to most of the people in the Western world. The book focuses on his view on the world and his relationships with the people around him. I love stories with morally gray areas, I’m not a big fan of clear cut storytelling with a hero and anti-hero. I feel that the reader should decide for himself if some questions are worth asking and if the answers that comes along are important. I don’t think it’s up to the writer to tell the reader what to think. Steve sometimes is morally ambiguous because he is supposed to be a normal person, most importantly, he reflects and doubts his own actions. The infamous “What if?” that keeps people awake at night.
Steve travels to a number of countries throughout the book, including HK, Paris, Argentina. Are Steve’s experiences linked to your own? If so, how?
Many of those locations are places I enjoyed in the past. I wanted the scenes to have a unique identity of their own and giving them a different setting helps with that.
Sometimes they add a lot in terms of world building; sometimes they tie pieces of Steve’s stories together. They aren’t different for the sake of being different. They are part of the scenes, they either build the dialogue or they bring into focus some other topics that might have felt random without a specific setting. As a literary device, it shaped the future into a coherent timeline, while providing the reader with a positive escape from some of the world building elements that might be overwhelming.
The locations change in each chapter because I like travelling and exploring new places. It was also a chance to imagine how those places might be different in the future – it was too irresistible of an opportunity.
I am a generally a visual person, I enjoy colors, art, nature and looking at things. Writing a specific location made it easier to imagine how certain elements of technology and climate change will blend together.
One of the intriguing things about the book is the time frame. Did you have any particular purpose in setting a larger portion of this book in the future?
I think when looking at the past century, each generation had its own self-induced paranoia about particular topics – most of them shaped by world events that people in those decades felt were tremendously impactful on them.
Our generation has its own challenges that shape the dialogue for this particular period. Climate change, with all the perils it might have; employment and its relation to automation; robotics and so on. We have CEOs telling us they will let go of 20%, 30% or even 50% of their employees in the next decade or so. And last, but not least, our relationship with the environment, which at times feels very impersonal. Specifically to ecosystems — animals and plants that are in a fragile state with each year.
I always enjoyed books or movies that have an element of time within them – how it impacts the relationships between people, how people change, the missed encounters, how people adapt to different stress factors in their life and so on.
I wanted to imagine what a person today would look like in 2025. Then in 2030 and 2040. We know how the world would look like, more or less. We have projections on how the weather will change, what cities will be impacted. We know when elephants will become extinct in the wild based on analysis of changes in their numbers; we know when the ice caps will melt. We know that we will be out of a job in 15 years. Soon we’ll have driverless cars, maybe robots walking around.
But what will my life be in that scenario? I would still have the same family around me, the same friends. Hopefully I will be able to fulfill my dreams, my dreams will surely change over time, but will I be happy? What challenges will I face on a personal level, while at the same time trying to cope with the ever changing nature of the world around me.
This feeling of inevitability, time marches forward kind of vibe, and everything that comes with it makes it in a way a character in itself. Time doesn’t care about the characters in the book, about the drama they go through, about what keeps them awake at night.
This quote always stayed with me while writing the book: “It’s funny how day by day, nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different.” I think the book has a similar feel to it.
What is the most important thing you would like a reader to take away from reading “My Life as Steve Keller”?
I think the book is a neutral journey into the future, a “what if” introspection and invitation for the reader to feel free to think about whatever he/she wants. It offers the possibility of drawing whichever conclusion fits the reader’s values, without forcing any explanation or justification onto them. Reading a book is a personal journey. So are our impressions of the story. I wanted the book to be exactly like this.
Having spoken with you I know that you continue to write. What can we expect the next book; can you give us any hints?
I have more ideas than I have time to write them. But given that I’m a pretty methodical person usually, I have a pipeline of books and plan to get with them one at a time.
The next book I plan to write is The Mermaid from Bastille. It is about an unexpected duo that stumble upon an industry-wide cover up in the fishing business. I want it to be a bit tongue in cheek, it’s a mystery book, and like any other of the kind, the pacing, characters and setting are sometimes more important than the actual mystery itself.
I also enjoy reading about the environment, it wasn’t until recently that I found out there isn’t any wild salmon left in Europe, only farmed. Then I wondered – what else did we lose? The world that I know is now is much different to even my parents’ generation. So I read some books around the topic, about how people are working to revolutionize cuisine in the Old Continent, farm to table kind of stuff. They experiment with cheese, with free-range animals, self-sufficient fish farms and so on. I feel the topic can be dry, but I also know it is extremely important.
Who wants to wake up one day and all you can find on the shelves of a supermarket is powder? I still care about having healthy, fresh ingredients available. So the book is a mystery book, but the overall theme is – there’s a lot more to this industry than we know, a lot of amazing things happening and it’s good if we take a break sometime and entertain the thought of having everything on our plate coming from sustainable, waste free, healthy sources. It will be a humorous and exciting read, while at a same time having a serious undertone about a pretty interesting topic.
Thank you to Zach for taking the time to talk to us about his book!
If you’re interested in my view of the book, please check out my review, being posted tomorrow. As I mentioned above, there will be a chance to get your hands on a copy… so stay tuned for the details and maybe you could be a winner!
I’ve decided to take part in another Top Ten Tuesday based on how popular my last post was. If anyone wants to check that out, here is the link – Top Ten Tuesday: Most Disappointing Books.
It’s fair to say that we, each and every one of us, have our own preferences when it comes to books, films and TV. In making my assessment of my Top Ten, I will obviously be taking into account how much I enjoyed the TV or film version of the book. Not only that, I think it is also important to recognise how alike the adaptation (because let’s not forget – it is just that) is to the book. As much as I appreciate everyone has their own spin on stories – deviating too far is just a pet hate for me.
So… let’s get started!
10 – The Maze Runner – James Dashner
This is one example of the few occasions in which I watched the film before I read the book. I’m glad I did, otherwise, I would have gotten sick of Thomas’ whining all the time. This book is at the bottom of the list because the film ending was a bit different to that in the book. They still got to the same “place” if you like, but went about it in a different way.
9 – The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
I have added this to the list, and I am going to make a little confession. This isn’t based on ALL the films – I still have the third instalment to watch. It’s been sat on my TV box for months. Four, in fact. I checked. Whoops! Anyway, these films, as far as my recollection goes, are pretty accurate to the books.
8 – Of Mice & Men – John Steinbeck
I love this book! I first read it in school as part of an assignment. I think it is the first book I actually enjoyed studying!! It grew on me more than anything – I didn’t take to it straight away. I’m glad I did though… who doesn’t love Lennie? I watched almost all the film during English class and it took everything I had not to cry at the end. I’m a self-confessed wimp.
7 – Harry Potter (Series) – J K Rowling
The Harry Potter films definitely capture the essence of the books, and I am happy I grew up with them. Again, I will admit here I am yet to watch the last film. What child doesn’t wish to be swept away to a new world of learning and magic? If you have to go to school, why shouldn’t it be fun? These are books I am absolutely going to be re-reading in the future!
6 – A Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
This TV series was shown on Channel 4 and I thought it was a great way to bring this classic to the mass market. There were a number of discrepancies between the book and the series though; some of the biggest being alterations in the timeframe and some “modifications” to make some of the characters more culturally relevant today. One example being that Ofglen (the first) is a lesbian and as a punishment for inspiring rebellion, has to watch her barren partner hanged. This never happened in the book – it was published in the 1980’s after all. They were different times.
5 – A Game of Thrones – George R R Martin
OHMYGOD this series!!! Like a vast number of people, I love it!! Having read the series twice (and I could probably fit it in again before The Winds of Winter – just saying), I have noticed a number of discrepancies. A quick search on the internet will bring you any number of theories and in equal measure, a number of inconsistencies! Given I am taking these into account, this is knocked off the top spot.
4 – The Lord of the Rings – J R R Tolkien
I’m new to the party on Lord of the Rings. I should have read the books and watched the films sooner! As far as I could tell, I didn’t pick up any discrepancies… not that I’ve gone to the effort to look either. I read the books first and I wasn’t disappointed with the films.
3 – The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell
I don’t know how many people have heard about this series, but if you love historical fiction, please, please, please… watch it (and read it)!! Alexander Dreymon portrays our protagonist fantastically. The TV series has covered the first four books so far, and if what I have seen is accurate, we are looking at another year’s wait for the next one. So not only do I have to wait for GoT, I have to wait for this too… *grumble grumble*. All I am aware of is the presence of a character in the TV series that isn’t in the book. That’s literally it – if I have missed something though… please tell me.
I’ve only included the books I have read so far, but there are ten in all.
2 – War & Peace – Leo Tolstoy
I am grateful I watched the BBC’s adaptation of War & Peace before I even attempted the book. Had I not, I would have had no chance of reading it. Given the length and complexity of the book, I would actually say that MAYBE my understanding of what happened in the book was picked up from the show. Did anyone else watch this? What are your thoughts on the series compared to the book?
1 – The Green Mile – Stephen King
I feel I talk about this book a lot, and I have had a number of conversations with my Dad in particular about how alike the book and the film are. The only thing I am thankful for is that we don’t get to see Delacroix as described after his electrocution. The book made me feel sick… never mind actually having to see it!
So that makes up my Top Ten!!
There are so many books in my “Read” pile that I wish there were either TV programmes or films for!
Do you agree with my choices? What is your favourite book/film/tv series combinations? Are there any books you want to be put on screen? I really want to hear from you about it!
“Remember, remember, the 5th of November, gunpowder treason and plot”
In other words, tonight is bonfire night – so stay safe everybody! The public display we had locally actually took place on Friday night. I watched a little of it from the window because I’m lucky and don’t have to stand out in the cold for the privilege!
As I didn’t get to finish last month’s TBR, I am actually having to do something I haven’t done for a long time… read more than one book at a time.
I can get easily confused if I read too much at once, especially if the books are of the same genre. I’m also not too fussed about having the diversity of reading more than one at once. I know some people like to change what they read to keep things fresh, but as I tend to read books within a few days anyway, I’d rather just stick to the one and get it read quicker.
I am having to compromise on this occasion as I don’t want to forget what is happening in The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson. I am prioritising the ARC requests I have, as I have promised to read these at the beginning of the month. After that though, I’ll be doing my level best to get TWOK read and reviewed!
So as well as catching up, I am also reading the first book of this month, being an ARC from Zach Baynes, called My Life As Steve Keller. I’ll be perfectly honest and say I went into this book not knowing what to expect, but it’s a refreshing read and actually has some very good points about our lifestyle. I’ll bring you more on that at the review stage!
I purchased one book this week having seen it on one of my daily deals e-mails I get. If anyone else is interested, these are from Bookbub. It’s great for you if you love books, especially cheap ones! I can’t speak for your bank balance though, although mine might have something to say about it…
I first saw this book on Bookbub and bought a copy straight away! It sounds really freaky and you would hope that this sort of thing never happens!
After I bought it, I saw a post that there was a blog tour for it!! I am so gutted I didn’t see it beforehand and get involved!! I am starting to look at taking part in blog tours now. In fact, I am taking part in one later on this month, so watch this space.
My sister also purchased a book for me this week, which was part of a deal by O2 Priority I believe. They feature at least one book every week. This weeks book was Sleepyhead, by Mark Billingham.
I have added some books to the TBR this month as well, most being the books that I decided to keep from my Down the TBR Hole post on Friday.
In addition to these, I added An Almond for A Parrot by Sally Gardener as Wray Delaney (I know, the title sounds a bit nutty) but check the synopsis on Goodreads; it isn’t half as barmy as the title implies.
I was pleasantly surprised how well my first, (and last) Top Ten Tuesday post was received, so thanks guys! I’m considering making it a more regular feature, depending on how my next few posts go. This week, I am going to be posting my Top Ten TV/Film adaptations of books.
On Friday, I am pleased to be bringing you a review of My Life as Steve Keller by Zach Baynes. Whilst I don’t have dates confirmed, I am also working with the author to bring you some addiditonal material, including an author interview, a guest post and A GIVEAWAY! Stay tuned for details.
Sunday brings to us another wrap up of the week. I get to either jump in delight or cringe at the number of books I have bought and generally just get my crap together. Honestly, these posts really are the best for keeping me organised!!
So, what have you been reading?
What book blogger wouldn’t proclaim themselves an avid reader?
If found without a book in hand, send for medical aid!
My name is Rebecca; welcome to my humble little blog.