book reviews

Queen of Air and Darkness

40696414Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Rating: XXXX

Published December 4th 2018 Simon & Schuster Ltd

“Every choice has a long afterlife of consequences. No one can know the eventual outcome of any decision. All you can do is make the best choice you can make in the moment.” 

What if damnation is the price of true love?

Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the disease that is destroying the race of warlocks. Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they could never have imagined. Caught in a race against time, Emma and Julian must save the world of Shadowhunters before the deadly power of the parabatai curse destroys them and everyone they love.

So let me get started by saying I love the Shadowhunters books, it took me longer to come around to reading them than I would have liked but once I did I was hooked, Jace is my ultimate book boyfriend and I love so many of the characters with a fierce passion. I fell in love with The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices broke my heart and now I’ve finally finished the concluding book in the third series of shadowhunter books, The Dark Artifices and…I don’t really know how that makes me feel.

I have to say, actually, that, among other things, I do feel a little relieved, I started reading Queen of Air and Darkness on the day it released in December and I only finished it maybe a week ago. Six months. This book took me six months to read. Don’t get me wrong it’s an absolute tome so I didn’t expect it to be a quick read but this third book in the series just really didn’t grab me like any of the others across the whole of the range of shadowhunter books have, it was easy to put down and forget about. Because of its size, I also found it incredibly uncomfortable to read so decided to purchase the audiobook petty early on which I did for Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows as well. James Masters is a brilliant narrator for it and definitely made it a lot easier to get through, I’m sure it would have taken much longer without.

Despite it taking me six months to read I’ve still given Queen of Air and Darkness an XXXX rating because although it certainly had problems, especially with pacing etc there were just so many parts I liked about it as well I think there was just too much crammed in for one book and that maybe some cuts should have been made or the book split into two, I feel like this could have been done fairly easy as it did feel like two halves of a story put together and I do wonder if maybe the Dark Artifices was meant to be another longer shadow hunter series like The Mortal Instruments but trilogies are popular and it was decided everything needed to be shoved into this last book?

There are a lot of moments in QoAaD that feel a little like fan service but I suppose when you have so many characters all existing in one world and close timelines it makes sense that they interact with each other but it did make this instalment feel like another book in the Mortal Instruments series as much as it’s own trilogy. I can’t deny that some of these moments, however, were some of my favourite parts, partially for the nostalgia and in part because some of the older characters feel almost like dear friends after eleven or so books.

A large part of QoAaD is the romance, mainly the relationship and swirl of emotions between Jules and Emma but honestly I still couldn’t summon up much of any kind of emotion past mild irritation for their relationship which felt like a shame as I love Emma but Julian has just really gotten on my nerves for all three books. I did like the other relationships throughout this book and this trilogy in general, especially the polyamorous relationship between Kieran, Mark and Christina which was a huge highlight for me, it felt like it was done exceptionally well and it was lovely to see a lovely, healthy polyam relationship in YA. We, of course, had Alec and Magnus too and I honestly fell back in love with the two of them in this book which is perfectly timed for me as The Red Scrolls of Magic is likely to be my next Shadowhunter read.

Even with the horrid pacing, I do have to say that balancing SO many characters is no mean feat especially with so many of them having pretty good arcs, I actually liked Alec’s entire arc in the Dark Artifices more than I did throughout most of TMI. We have at least eight main characters and over thirty other characters that I would say are still relatively important and I feel like we get some pretty good content for all of them. Overall I loved the story we got but as I’ve said I would have much preferred it had perhaps been spread over two smaller and better-paced books.

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I want to talk a lot more about this book but there are just many spoilers that I would need to go into so I’m considering making a spoiler-filled book talk video like I’ve done in the past for Lord of Shadows.

Have you read any of the Shadowhunter books? If so do you have a favourite? I’m not sure I could pick one!!

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book reviews

The Girl in Red

43550676.jpgThe Girl in Red by Christina Henry

Rating: XXXXX

Published June 18th by Titan Books

“She was just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that didn’t look anything like the one she’d grown up in, the one that had been perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.”

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined. 

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods…

You know that author you keep putting off reading? Not in an unkind way, but in an “I WILL get around to reading one of their books” muttered every time you see them because you just know they’re going to be great and you then something comes up and you for whatever reason the thought slips your mind again and again and again. This is Christina Henry for me so when the lovely Julia from Titan Books asked if I wanted to review The Girl in Red by Henry and take part in the Instagram book tour in I jumped at the chance! I love retellings at the best of times but this sounded like a really interesting inspiring take on the Red Riding Hood Story.

I found The Girl in Red to be slightly terrifying, absolutely creepy as heck and wholly addictive. It reminds me a lot of the human element to the earlier episodes of the Walking Dead when you begin to realise it’s not the zombies, or in this case, the cough that are the things you have to watch your back for it’s the survivors, most of who have become desperate or cruel (if they weren’t already) since the crisis. It’s not a unique tale by any means and is a little repetitive and predictable in some places but forgivably so because the real star of this book for me (other than main character Red herself) was the amazing way Henry builds tension. I found I was holding my breath, clenching my teeth and I had trouble reading it in my house alone, at one point my phone rang (a rare occurrence) while I was reading and it was during such a tense moment in the book that I screamed so loudly I woke up my four year old. On the slightly negative side, I did personally find the ending very rushed and a little unsatisfying but the book, even on reflection was no less enjoyable for it.

Red has possibly become one of my favourite fictional characters. She is a fantastic mix of badassery and compassion, she will kill and make tough choices to survive but she doesn’t let herself become dehumanised for it which I found a really refreshing balance, when she has to fatally defend herself she doesn’t relish it, when she has to take supplies she takes what she needs and likes to make sure that there is enough left if someone else needs them etc. Red often overthinks things, often to a fault and often thinks herself round in circles to inaction which is a habit I am also extraordinarily guilty of, so seeing it portrayed in this fantastic character who acknowledged that her obsessive and sometimes paranoid thinking could be debilitating like that felt incredibly eye-opening and has really helped to keep my own obsessive thinking in check by being able to identify it.

Main character Red is also an amputee and obviously, I can’t speak to the accuracy of her experience or identify with it but I found it really enlightening and I hope it helped people who find themselves with prosthetics feel seen and represented as well as hopefully helping to educate others. There is a line that is said in relation to someone question how much Red is capable of due to her amputation and Red replies with “Stop treating me like half a person…I am missing my leg below the knee. My brain is still functioning. I know what I can do and what I can’t.” and this feels SO important and relatable for anyone who is judged, babied and looked down on because they’re differently abled.

The Girl in Red is out in stores and online today!

 

book reviews, book talk, spoiler free

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

42423832X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Stuart Moore

Rating: XXXX

Published May 14th by Titan Books

“Within her, the power surged. Fiery, unstoppable; ancient and new all at the same time, all barely contained by her desperate will. Fueled by rage, bound for vengence, burning with the primal energies of the universe.”

Piloting a shuttle through a deadly solar flare, Jean Grey saves the X-Men, but is possessed by one of the universe’s most powerful forces–the Phoenix. As she adapts to her new powers, the mutant team launches an assault against the clandestine organization known as the Hellfire Club. Once inside, however, Jean is tricked by the villain Mastermind into betraying her teammates. She becomes first the Hellfire Club’s Black Queen and then Dark Phoenix, as the power to destroy worlds bursts forth uncontrolled. Shooting into deep space, Jean destroys an entire star system, then encounters a cruiser piloted by the spacefaring race the Shi’ar. When the cruiser is obliterated, the Shi’ar queen decrees that the Phoenix must die. But only the X-Men can hope to stop Dark Phoenix, and save Jean Grey.

Growing up one of my favourite things to do was the watch the ever-loving heck out of the animated X-Men show. This was my first real introduction into superheroes, this and the animated Spiderman show, mainly because they both had EPIC openings and are tunes that are basically wired into my DNA at this point. ANYWAY, not only did the animated X-Men show have people with superpowers, it had women and girls with superpowers, (and I was a girl so obviously this meant I could also have superpowers), it had some sweet beautiful angst, amazing romances, hilarious one-liners and some of the most 90’s costumes I have ever seen in my life (and I grew up in the ’90s). This show stole my heart and rocked my world, even more so when The Phoenix and Dark Phoenix story arcs started. I loved that Jean became so incredibly powerful and when she became the Dark Phoenix I have to say it made me feel incredibly empowered and the Dark Phoenix became my first villain/anti-hero obsession and I think very possibly where my love for seriously angsty stories came from.

Years later I had devoured the Phoenix story again in comic form when I was finally old enough to buy and source them myself (my mum didn’t approve back then) and then we got X-Men: The Last Stand and everyone hated it but I ADORED it and although it obviously has some problems I still love the version of the Dark Phoenix we got. Skip ahead and now not only do we have the Dark Phoenix film that just came out (that’s a WHOLE other post trust me) we have also been treated to another Marvel prose story, this one by highly decorated author Stuart Moore and it’s all about Jean and the Phoenix force. To say I was excited is an understatement and thanks to the lovely folks at Titan Books I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Not only was this my favourite X-Men story, Stuart Moore’s X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga is an updated retelling as well. I find comic stories can be very subjective, especially the older ones and absolutely the origin stories, they change so much over the years and I think this was a tale that was definitely due an upgrade and when comparing it to the comic version and honestly, it was brought forward perfectly. I had another look through the comics after finishing this book (it’s been a while since my last readthrough) and it’s such a faithful adaption in that we still get all the key moments and beats, even some of the iconic lines are the same they’re just enhanced by being able to look beyond each frame and into the minds of these characters and really get a read on their thoughts and feelings which is fast becoming my favourite thing about these Marvel novelisations.

With a more in-depth look into each character, we also got to see a lot more character development as the story progressed from Scott finally beginning to understand Jean, Jean accepting herself, Xavier owning his mistakes (a rare find) and Logan actually being pretty damn amazing. For me, other than Jean, Logan was one of my favourite characters, he’s somehow rough and animalistic while also being a sweetheart who just respectfully loves this woman so much and he doesn’t make a fuss that she’s with someone else, he just loves her in his own, unobtrusive way and gets on with things while also understanding the hard truths and being able to deal with them and know his own limitations. I’m really glad we got to see this side of the Wolverine in this novel.

Another character I hadn’t expected to have enjoyed so much was also Emma Frost, she always seems to get the eye candy treatment so it was nice to see what her game plan is, how she feels about Shaw and the others as well as the way it seems she feels towards Scott and one of the big differences I noticed was Emma aiding the X-Men briefly for her own reasons but I won’t go into details for fear of spoilers, I just wanted to mention it because I felt it really helped to build a real personality for Emma.

There were some characters who did appear in the Dark Phoenix Saga novelisation that I hadn’t expected to see and that were brief cameos by Peter Parker and Doctor Strange as well as a small chapter featuring a group fo the Avengers. Although they seemed a little out of place and didn’t have any impact on the story at all I did enjoy them turning up, however briefly. In the original comics, we have one frame each for the Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer as well as Spiderman, Doctor Strange and X-Man turned Avenger Hank Mccoy (Beast). In the true spirit of this being an updated retelling the Avengers we see in the book are the ones we have come to know via the popular films set in the MCU at present and I’m curious if including them was a prerequisite by Marvel themselves to tie it into the success of the MCU at the moment or some personal wish fulfilment by the author in seeing these heroes all truly occupying the same space like we should have seen in the films if it hadn’t been for the rights to the characters being all over the place. Either way, I loved the inclusion, I wanted to be miffed they had no bearing on the story but I honestly couldn’t bring myself to be more than slightly annoyed by it and even that didn’t last long.

I didn’t find much that surprised me but in a faithful retelling that’s to be expected and sometimes welcomed, one thing I did have trouble with was keeping track of some of the action, there would be times when I think I’m following okay and then someone is on the opposite side of the room to where I thought they were or fighting someone completely different, it made sense enough when I stopped and reread the text again but I think some of it was just lost on me.

Overall I enjoyed the book and I feel it’s a fantastic and faithful revival of my favourite story arc. I enjoyed the personal look we got into the characters and I am excited to read more novelisations like this as there are quite a few Marvel storylines, even bigger ones I didn’t get into due to my late-coming to the medium as well as being perplexed by all the different titles, X-Men especially. Another X-Men title, X-Men: Days of Future Past penned by Alex Irvine (he’s written for Blizzard I’m VERY excited) which is out June 25th and you can bet I’ll be reviewing it so keep an eye out.

Is there a comic, tv show or other media you’d like to see get a faithful novelisation or retelling?

book talk, spoiler free

Harley in the Sky Cover Reveal

It’s been SO difficult to keep this secret the past couple of weeks but as a member of the Harley in the Sky Street Team I was lucky enough to see the cover for Akemi’s newest novel a little earlier and I’ve been in love with it ever since! Harley in the Sky is the next book out by author Akemi Dawn Bowman, award-winning author of Starfish and Summer Bird Blue follows a multiracial teenage girl who dreams of quitting school to become a trapeze artist in her parents’ Las Vegas circus, against their wishes, prompting her to join a rival circus. There, she grows close to a handsome musician and performer—while untangling her family’s complicated past and present.

Would you like to see the cover?

 

 

Are you sure?

 

 

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I love the mix of yellow and bronze, the silhouetted figure, that absolutely gorgeous font and the beautiful stylised pattern in the background that just SCREAMS circus tent to me. You can add Harley in the Sky to your want to read on Goodreads RIGHT NOW. 

book reviews

Nexus Review

43257123Nexus by Lindsay Cummings and Sasha Alsberg

Rating: XXXX

Published: May 7th 2019 (Kindle Version)
June 13th (Paperback version) by HQ Young Adult

“There was only one person who might have the power to free the galaxy from Nor’s rule – and yet completely unaware that the lives of millions now rested in her hands.”

From the #1 New York Times bestselling authors of Zenith comes the dazzling finale to the Androma Saga, where stunning betrayals and devastating secrets expose an embattled galaxy to the ultimate nightmare. 

Her ship is gone, her crew is captured and notorious mercenary Andi Racella is suddenly a fugitive, ruthlessly hunted across the galaxy. The bloodthirsty Queen Nor now rules most of the galaxy and she’ll stop at nothing to destroy her most hated adversary. Andi will risk anything, even her precious freedom to stop Nor. However as her crew fight to regain their freedom, Andi and her unlikely ally Dex discover a threat far greater than anything they’ve faced before. Only by saving their mortal enemy can they make one last desperate strike to save the galaxy, unaware that a shattering, centuries-old secret may demand the most wrenching sacrifice of all.

Despite being a little disappointed in the first book, Zenith I had high hopes for its sequel, Nexus. I requested it via NetGalley a few weeks back and was pleased to be approved quickly so I could get to reading it during my sci-fi binge. Thank you so much to YA HQ for providing me with this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Zenith had some great ideas and character outlines but fell short for me, it just seemed lacking in too many areas and I mourned that lost potential. Nexus, however, seems to have thrown off any shackles placed upon it by its predecessor and is a much better, interesting and enjoyable read. A warning that this review will probably be comparing the two works because the difference is so pleasingly apparent. I would say, despite this being a sequel you don’t absolutely need to read Zenith beforehand because it recaps the events that have unfolded previously although it does make it a little easier to know what’s happening from the get-go; that being said although this review will be spoiler free for Nexus there will be spoilers for Zenith.

Although I missed having the crew around for a larger part of this book than previously I think it actually really worked and I found Lira much more interesting in Nexus while she was away from Andi, the same goes for the Bloody Baroness herself who also was much improved. In Nexus, Andi is still very (understandably) focused on her friends devoutly it feels much more in the right place here and I think giving Andi a much more direct purpose she cared for really worked out well as well as giving her a legitimate reason that made sense as to why she’s so important in the fight against Nor. Her space pirate persona is, thankfully, much less overhyped this time around, even with there not being a huge amount of action involved and don’t even get me started on Dex becasue I actually liked him in Nexus which was a nice surprise, I think the events of Zenith really caused him to see what’s important and to grow a bit more of a spine without making him too overconfident to a fault. All the characters in-fact were much improved and although characters don’t have to be likeable for them to be good I think it is preferred that we understand their motives which we got in truckloads during Nexus and I couldn’t be happier about it.

There is a little romance in Nexus but it isn’t a huge plot point and I enjoyed it all the more because of that. Romantic scenes didn’t feel out of place or as flat or frustrating as it had done previously and I actually enjoyed them and the paring as a whole.

The writing was much improved which makes sense, whether it be a result of the collaborating authors working together better after already writing one book with each other or perhaps experience over time? I found there were a lot less clunky sentences and I didn’t find myself having to reread parts to make sense of them which I experienced in Zenith. Apart from a small part in the middle, the pacing was spot on and towards the end especially I found myself reading frantically, desperate to know what happened, there was some good tension building for sure. I really enjoyed the ending despite having worried that I was getting perilously close to the end of the book with no clue as to the outcome (a good thing, it just makes me anxious!).

Overall, Nexus was a good read and one I would be happy to recommend, I absolutely loved reading it and would say it’s definitely worth giving it a try even if Zenith fell short for you as you may be pleasantly surprised! Nexus is out now on Kindle and releases on paperback in the UK on June 13th.

(Extra note that isn’t at all relevant to the review at all but I’m meeting Sasha later this month and I’m SO excited!!)

 

#SixforSunday

S4S – An ode to Sci-Fi

I always thought my favourite genre was fantasy because I liked sword fights, court intrigue and magic but after reading Once and Future I now know I can have my cake and eat it as over the past few years I’ve realised I actually really like space ships and new planets, moons and stars, I like rag tag crews flying their (usually) crappy ships through the black just trying to get by and getting dragged into the wrong fight for the right reasons or vice versa, sometimes both. I love rouge A.I’s, I love cyborgs and sentient machines and advanced technology. I love Science Fiction for so many reasons and today I’ll give you six.

Science Fiction:
noun
noun: science fiction; noun: SF; modifier noun: science-fiction
Fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.

1. SPACE. This point kind of covers a lot of ground, space means the potential for unexplored moons and planets, unearthing ancient civilisations and finding new ones, it means somewhere for our characters to hide because DAMN space is beyond even the concept of vast and then there’s the technology required to even live and travel in space which is often a lot of fun and then there are the consequences of it as well, be that the time it takes to travel anywhere or characters perhaps being confined in close quarters to each other meaning we get a great chance for interaction where it would have been a case of simply walking away if they were somewhere that didn’t need an airlock? Oh there’s also the fact that space will almost certainly try to kill you if you mess with it too. there are just so many interesting factors brought in when dealing with space and I am nowhere near articulate enough to explain them all but I hope this makes at least a little sense.
2. THE FUTURE! Although space isn’t always a given for science fiction time is often a factor, ether travelling through it or the fact that time is needed for certain technological advances and or changes therefore almost always putting us into the future. I can’t imagine there are a lot of people out there who haven’t imagined what the future will look like in one way or another even in the simplest of terms and so this is always such a fun part, looking at the way things have changed and sometimes imagining why things have come to be as they are. A good amount of science fiction based in the future, especially the dystopian variety I think also causes us to reexamine the way we do things and what impact our actions and even day to day lives can have on our own future.  Science fiction is at it’s heart, about where we’re going and how we get there.

3. NEW TECHNOLOGY! There is a never-ending of new technology in most science fiction, some of it wonderous, some of it terrible and some of it is overlooked as an everyday occurrence. I’m not especially technologically minded myself and even I find myself inspired by the new creations we see in Science Fiction. Did you know that American inventor Simon Lake was first inspired by undersea travel and exploration ever since reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and years later his company built the Argonaut which was the first submarine to operate successfully in the open ocean! OR when Martin Cooper, head of research and development at Motorola credited the communicator design from Star Trek as inspiration for his first design of the first mobile phone back in in the early 1970’s, Cooper was quoted as saying “that was not fantasy to us, that was an objective.” Not to mention influences on Atomic power, the rocket, helicopters, face time and many many more. Also just last month I had to google to find out if artificial gravity was actually a real thing…

4. TACKING BIG ISSUES! No matter when or where Science Fiction is set, often the issues that are at the heart of things can be directly tied to events that affect us in the here and now, Divergent explores early on, the repercussions of things such as stereotyping and shoe horning people into different categories and corrupt governments, much later going as far as to hold peoples genetics against each other and considering them lesser citizens for circumstances of birth which draws a frightening parallel to extreme racism and more (check out the ebook Divergent thinking for loads of great essays about this entire series) and then we have books like Enders Game which although they feature a ten-year-old main character and can easily be enjoyed as a fast paced, action packed, space fighty kind of book it is so multi-layered that it can also act as a scary close look at the ethics and accountability of modern warfare. These are two just two tiny examples, if you look closely there are a huge amount of Science Ficiton Stories out there that are no afraid to tackle big issues, even if they are disguised as an insectoid alien race.

5. ALL OF THE DEBATES AND DISCUSSIONS! Who would win in a fight, Han Solo or Captain Mal Renyolds? Could Spock beat Data at 3D Chess? Would a star destoyer or the Star Ship Enterprise win in a space battle? Is a lightsaber even possible? One of my favourite things about Science Ficiton are the discussions and debates!! I have spent COUNTLESS hours watching videos like the “Becasue Science” ones on the nerdist chanel, last week I watched one entitield “Are Alien Xenomorphs really no match for Darth Vader”, “How every Mass Effect Biotic Power works” and Could The Matrix actually be powered by human batteries?” and so on and so on. Then I go and talk about them to my friends and/or husband and some hilarious debates have come out of these, they’re fun and silly but also really get your head working.
6. NEW PROSPECTIVES! I love it when a “villains” story or prospective gets revealed and a story gets turned on it’s head, especially when the big bad is perhaps a seemingly crazy A.I or an alien race that just wants to survive, or maybe the Duplo pieces just want to be friends and play together!? (Don’t even get me started on how much I liked the new Lego Movie). These kind of reveals and reversals are one of my favourite science fiction “troupes” I love anything that can turn a story on it’s head and even better if they create moral questions and dilemmas like these often do, Star Trek has a great track history of doing this and as their crews are usually very moral people I love the turn of events this often gives the story and again it makes you think, what would you do in that situation, given that choice? I know this is something that can be present in many genres but it’s my favourite when use in Science Fiction especially.

So that ended up being a lot more involved than I thought it would so I apologise for going on, know this. I love science fiction and although those six points may suggest I love the big epics that make you think, honestly I’m such trash for space opera novels with some moral dilemmas and some good ole fighting. I’m easily pleased and happy to admit as much. Some of my favourite science fiction novels are (obviously) The Illuminae Files, Once and Future (review coming Tuesday!), The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, The Quiet at the End of the World, Skyward, Adrift, Invictus and much much more including a huge list of Star Wars, Star Trek and Mass Effect tie-in novels I won’t go in to now. Do you have a favourite Science Fiction book? Let me know!
Note: I’m aware that Star Wars isn’t technically Sci-Fi but I’m including it anyway.
 
book talk, Bookish Discuussions

Lauren James – The Q&A at the End of the World

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Happy release day to The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James today! You may have seen my spoiler-free book review earlier in the week but today I’m so excited to share with you a Q&A session Lauren was lovely enough to do for me despite her busy schedule so thank you so much Lauren for finding the time so close to launch and the team at Walker Books for setting this up for me, it’s not every day you get to interview one of you’re favourite authors!

I loved hearing about the physics question that ultimately served as inspiration for The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, was there anything in particular that inspired you to create The Quiet at the end of the World?

I was reading a lot of science non-fiction, which I try to do as often as possible because it always inspires new ideas for my writing. I was reading Seven Brief Lessons in Physics, which was discussing extinction.
It said, “We are a short-lived genus of species. All our cousins are already extinct. We are perhaps the only species on Earth to be conscious of the inevitability of our own mortality. I fear that soon we shall also become the only species that will knowingly watch the coming of its own collective demise, or at least the demise of its civilisation.”
It was the first time it occurred to me that it is a one hundred per cent probability that the human race will one day go extinct. It might be a hundred years from now or a hundred billion years, but it’s going to happen.
Which means that there’s probably going to be the last generation of people who will know that they’re the last people to ever live. That seemed to me to be an incredibly pressured situation to find yourself in, especially if there’s no hope of a cure.

Lowrie and Shen often wonder just what mark they might leave on the world after they’ve gone and how they might leave a message for others to find in the future, what would you leave and how?

Ooh, good question! I would love to create some kind of message in hedgerows. You know how hedgerows around fields in England have been there since medieval times? I’d write a message across miles of space by planting hedges to create letters. Super long term, large scale communication!

What skill would you most like to learn from the surviving populace in the lead up to the extinction of the human race?
Lowrie and Shen learn loads of stuff, like mudlarking and kickboxing and engineering. I think if it was me, I’d want to learn something really useful like first aid and medicine. Knowing how to set a broken bone seems like it would be totally vital.
Creatively, I think I’d like to learn how to make stained glass from scratch. Just because that’s something I’m planning to take up as a hobby myself anyway!

Time travel has featured heavily in your books before and in Quiet Lowrie asks Shen, “If you got one turn in a time machine, what time period would you visit?” How would you answer this question yourself?

Such great questions! I became slightly obsessed with the Cambrian explosion when I was writing the book, which was 500 million years ago when life on Earth was evolving. I would definitely go and take a look at that in person. This is also Shen’s answer, because we are pretty similar people.

At the start of each chapter, we see an entry in Shen and Lowrie’s Discovery Log book, (the beanie baby tag was my favourite) other than the ones that were more plot-relevant how did you pick the others?
A few of them are things that I’ve personally found, either at car boot sales or at the tip or genuinely in the ground. Others are ones I’ve seen on mudlarking social media accounts (yes, that’s a real thing – tidelineart is my favourite.) And a few are my wishlist items of things I’d love to find one day!

Did you have a favourite one and were there any you were particularly fond of that didn’t make it into the finished book?
I actually split up scenes to make more chapters so I could use all the ones I wanted! I was quite selfish about it, because I liked them so much. My editor wasn’t sure the logbook entries would work, but I persuaded her to let me write them – and I’m very happy with how they turned out.

We see a lot of struggles throughout this book but also adapting and working through difficult times, was there anything in particular that you struggled with while writing Quiet and did you have to adapt to solve any problems?

Finding Lowrie’s character was quite tough. I really wanted to write about another female scientist, as I do in all my books, but I didn’t want Lowrie to feel exactly like Romy or Clove. So it took me a while to find the right style of intelligence for her – she’s an engineer, so she’s very physical and thinks in terms of the mechanics of things, but struggles with the more fact-based side. Once I had worked that out, she clicked into place, but it did take a while to get her voice right.

We learn about characters Maya and Riz through old posts on social media, what do you think future generations might think of us if they were to see a slice of the activity we experience on social media today?

I think they’d be completely perplexed by how much we were all focussed on politics and debates over land boundaries, when we should have been trying to reverse climate change and save the world. We’re on the brink of destroying the planet and I think in the future it’s going to seem crazy that we knew that and yet did nothing about it.

I couldn’t finish this Q&A without asking about Mitch, a firm favourite in my heart and I couldn’t help but wonder how you decided which coloured lights to use for different answers and reactions? Did you have a list or go with what felt right? As a reader, I felt that the colours fit with his emotional responses really well and helped to build his personality for me.

I love Mitch too! The coloured lights were a very late addition – originally he made beeping noises. When I changed it to flashing lights, everything clicked into place. I definitely didn’t make a list or think too much about it – I just chose them instinctively. I like to imagine that the lights are part of a broken LED screen that would have originally displayed actual pictures and text. But only a few of the LED lights still work, so the lights seem to appear at random.

Lauren James was born in 1992 and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. She is the Carnegie-nominated British Young Adult author of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, The Quiet at the End of the World and The Next Together series.
She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university.
Her books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone and been translated into five languages worldwide. She has been described as ‘Gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘A strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly.
Her other novels include The Last Beginning, named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent, and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. The Quiet at the End of the World considers the legacy and evolution of the human race into the far future.
Lauren is published in the UK by Walker Books and in the US by HarperCollins. She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2020. She lectures in creative writing at Coventry University, and works with Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.
You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.