But I’m not Depressed!

 

A Memoir of Disintegration
By Lia Rees

It’s not often that I read memoirs, so I didn’t know what to expect with this one. To my surprise, I was blown away by how profound it was: it was a personal and intimate look into the loss of self, which still resonates long after I put the book down. I think you should read it: let me show you why.

Summary33279579

This is what happened when something devastating crashed into an unusual mind.

When I suffered a brain injury at the age of 19, I was not told what I had. The world became a dreamlike haze. I was cut off from my own thoughts and memories.

Instead of receiving medical treatment, I was sent into psychotherapy. So began a ten-year battle to recover my lost self. This memoir is a window into the surreal internal landscape of a brain injury survivor striving to find reality once more.

Positive thinking and pills couldn’t fix me, but a bizarre and cutting-edge field of medicine just might.

Musings

What happens when you suffer a brain injury and begin to feel your mind crumble away – but no one believes you? What sounds like a nightmare is actually the daily life of Lia Rees, the author of this book. Faced with her fantastic mind suddenly turning against her, she struggles to find help in a world where doctors still carry a bias.

The writing style is so gorgeous that it’s hard to believe the author is struggling so much, another example of how her high functioning stops doctors from taking her seriously.She describes mental states in a way that is so incredibly relatable and visual. It was painful to read how her knowledge about her own body and mind were refuted by well meaning specialists. As a reader, you just want the doctor to listen: if any of them took the time to thoroughly listen, we think, they might just be able to help.

But in the meantime, life as a brain injury survivor is an uphill battle, one where the energy you need to make it through the day is not enough to fight. It reminded me of a TED talk I watched recently, where Jennifer Brea describes the obstacles she’s faces in seeking treatment for her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She too had to use her reduced functions to find out what was wrong by herself, when the medical world would not.

This memoir is powerful. While the writing can get a little verbose at times, it was still witty and incredibly poignant. From brain injury to doctor to doctor to failed treatment after failed treatment, her road to recovery is filled with huddles she’s still fighting today.

A memoir that took strength to write and really shows. If you or someone you know has suffered a brain injury and found their daily functions impaired, you might want to grab this book. It is truly an eye opener and a fantastic read.

KHOLVARIA + Interview with ANDREW GATES

The Color of Water and Sky, Book 2
By Andrew Gates

Last year, we had the pleasure of interviewing the debut author Andrew Gates, for the release of his Science Fiction novel “IRIS.” Having just read the ARC of KHOLVARIA, the upcoming sequel, I just had to have him back to tell us more!  I like to describe his Color of Water and Sky series as being a science fiction series with the scope of Game of Thrones but the world building of Asimov, and Kholvaria does not disappoint. Potential spoilers if you have not read Iris yet!

Summary51mrkwhf2al

The ancient ones called it America. The survivors call it the New World. Others know it only as Kholvaria.

It is a desperate time for the Federation. The Atlantic Station, the last known city on Earth, has been destroyed. Humankind is on the brink of extinction. Nine survivors flee the crumbling city in a dire effort to survive. Their destination: the planet’s surface, a poisonous landscape untouched for generations. Plagued by danger, disease, hunger, and mystery, they do whatever they must to stay alive. But they are not alone. Other eyes, above and below the sea, watch the survivors with great interest.

For the first time in generations, humanity is coming home. But it may not be to the home they expect.

Musings

If you loved Iris, then this book is definitely not to miss. After the devastating ending, which left most of humanity dead, including one of our favorite characters, Iris and the eight other survivors have finally reached the surface. It’s a combination of excitement and shock, as well as complete abject terror. This new world is beautiful, but it hades many dangers, and you never know what to expect.

Once again, the author’s style completely pulls you into the world he created. The imagery is so vivid you truly do feel as if you’re actually there. Unlike the claustrophobic sense that came from Iris, Kholvaria on the contrary feels open to so many opportunities. It’s like taking a caged bird and releasing them into the wild: it’s almost overwhelming for the characters, and that’s something that really comes through.

The pacing is a lot faster than Iris, especially towards the ending when you feel like everything is life-or-death. And, in fact, there is quite a major death, one that left me personally reeling for days.

We also finally get some answers about what we were contemplating in the first book. While we might have guessed some things, or at least tried to, we finally get proof in Kholvaria. The author definitely rewards his readers’ loyalty by validating theories.

We also have a new character who’s introduced who’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. He might be my favorite POV of the entire series so far, and I just can’t help but want to know more about him!

Andrew Gates proves once again that he is a master of world building and suspense. it’s an addictive, fast paced read that will leave readers begging for more. A must read for scifi fans everywhere.

Compass

Interview with Andrew Gates

Hi Andrew! It’s great to have you back on Readcommendations. We here are very excited about your new book, Kholvaria.

Last year, you described Iris in one sentence: There’s an underwater city in the future and the people who live there think they’re safe, but now they may not be.

I made you recap Iris to one sentence; think fast, can you recap Kholvaria in a single word?

Kholvaria in a single word – Unknown

I love that! So Kholvaria takes place right after the events of book 1. What can the reader expect out of the sequel?

Well, without giving too much away, it’s a pretty dark time for humanity right now. The characters are basically starting over from scratch, hence “unknown”. They don’t know what to expect. They don’t know the trials or challenges they’ll face and a lot of surprises are thrown at them.

It sounds like there’s a lot more action in this book than in the first one. Would you say it’s faster paced than Iris?

I certainly would. Ironically though, it takes place over a shorter duration of time. While Iris elapsed the timespan of about 4 months, Kholvaria elapses closer to 2.

Now at the end of Iris, we lost a major point of view character. Will we have a new point of view to fill the void?

 Great question! Iris had 5 perspective characters (not including the prologue). Kholvaria has the same amount. I really like the 5 character format. I think that’s a good number. I plan to maintain that number throughout the entire series.

I’d just like to add that the new perspective character in Kholvaria is probably my favorite character in the series so far. He’s a very different type of character from anyone in Iris. The first chapter where he is introduced is probably my favorite thing I’ve ever written. I think readers are really going to like it.

So, let’s say another perspective character dies, which is purely hypothetical of course, I would fill that void in the next book and so on.

Many readers -including me – have compared The Color of Water and Sky series to a Science Fiction Game of Thrones. Do you feel the comparison is apt? Why or why not?

Absolutely it is. There’s a lot of similarities between the two. Tone, pacing, length, style, even the multiple-POV format. I’m a big fan of A Song of Ice and Fire so many of these similarities are largely intentional. What’s cool about those books is that you don’t ever see the full story. You get everyone’s perspective of the story, but there’s no omnipotent “third eye” in the sky showing you what’s going on. Sometimes characters will completely drop out of the book and leave you wondering where they are.

You don’t see a whole lot of writers do that, but I think it’s a smart choice. It’s a way to keep the readers engaged by withholding information, not providing it. If done well I think it’s very effective.

Now I hear you have a novella coming out. What can you tell me about it? How does it tie in with your Color of Water and Sky series, if at all?

Yes! The story is going to take place at the same time as books 1 -3 and will basically provide a linear narrative to the different prologues of each book. Captain Sara Gesetti from the prologue of Iris will make a return, as will Damien Saljov. We’ll find out what happens to them after the Cassidy submarine disaster. We will also get to meet a brand new character, who’s story intertwines with the other two.

The prologues from Iris and Kholvaria will be featured again in the spinoff, this time as regular chapters.

The book will be called Cassidy, named after the submarine that started this whole thing.

You’ve now been a published author for a few months. How has that been? What has been the most surprising thing this change has brought? 

The most surprising thing is – now that I’m part of the “writing community”, I’m amazed by how open and accessible it is. There are lots of people out there willing to provide help, whether it be with advice or with shared writing ventures. I’m amazed to see how open everyone is. And so kind too.

What’s your favorite part of being a published author?

And my favorite part of being a published author is knowing that this hobby of mine is actually worthwhile and profitable. There was a period of time when, if I just did my hobbies, I used to feel like I was wasting my time. But now I feel like I can still do things for fun and be productive.

Once again, you wrote a powerful ending that leaves the reader desperate for more. We didn’t have to wait very long for Kholvaria: is the third book currently in the works?

It is. In fact, I’d say about 60% of the rough draft is already written. It’s going to be a more unique story because each perspective character is on a wholly separate journey, rather than one shared journey. So it has a different flow and pace to it. Going back to your earlier point about A Song of Ice and Fire, I would say the next book is going to resemble that series the most in a sense of the characters all being separate and doing their own thing a lot of the time.

Right now I’m guessing the release will come around this time, early summer-ish in 2018. Followed very shortly by Cassidy. Those two books will likely come out mere weeks apart.

And to wrap up: For those who haven’t started the ACoWS series, if they were to be stuck on an island for a year with access to only one new book, why should they pick Iris?

There’s a lot of mystery in Iris, so if you’re on an island with nothing to do, you’ll have a lot of time to think of theories both during and after you read it.

Are you excited yet? Check out the official page for more information. Kholvaria is set to release on May 27th, but you can already preorder a copy right here! A huge thank you to Andrew Gates for providing me with an ARC and an opportunity to interview him.

If you’re a fan of hardcore science fiction, then you’re going to love The Color of Water and Sky! Check out the trailer for IRIS right here

The Song Rising

The Bone Season, Book 3
Written by Samantha Shannon

I have to say, I’m a massive fan of the Bone Season series. I’ve had this book preordered since last August and just waiting ages and ages for it to release and ship. Downsides of living in France is just how much waiting there is for good books. And with the fantastic twist ending of The Mime Order, well, the wait was unbearable! Spoilers ahead for the first two books if you haven’t already read them.

Summary31451267

Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population.

But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.

Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…

One of the most amazing things about this series is how every book is a different genre. The Bone Season was paranormal fantasy; The Mime Order was murder Mystery; and now, the Song Rising is definite dystopia. Paige is now the Underqueen, and has to lead her people, the voyants of London, as they stand up against the Scion Empire. And it’s not an easy task: there’s betrayal, deceit, new enemies and a whole lot of unhappy voyants.

We finally get to explore more of the world that Shannon has created. Paige’s mission takes her north of London, to Scion Manchester and Scion Edinburgh. We get to see just how much Scion has destroyed the lives of non-voyants as well, and learn more about the dark pasts that haunt our favorite characters. We learn about Scion Sweden, and Nick’s story, which is painful in every way.

Another strength of Shannon is how every book has its own villain, and gives Paige a very distinct goal to strive for. In The Song Rising, we finally get to meet the woman behind the fall of Ireland, Paige’s true home. Vance is a cruel commander who will stop at nothing to destroy everything Paige is trying to create. I would have liked to see more from her, but she was a great enemy to pursue.

The character growth is exceptional, especially for Paige and her relationship with Warden (which doesn’t go where you’d expect). However, I think the author might have spread herself thin by having so many supporting characters also evolving. There were so many to juggle, and I think they might have lost some of their depth on the cutting board.

I have to say the first half of the book was a little slow. it was hard to get into the story, as it was mostly Paige having to deal with annoying people, and hand out pep talks and long speeches to assert her dominance. A bit of a pain. but the last half was gripping to the extreme, and the last fifty pages were insane. So intense! Now I just can’t wait for the next book.

What I’m excited for: Scion France, and TBS à la international spy thriller. Heck. Yes. Sign me up now!

The Space Between the Stars

by Anne Corlett

This novel was nothing what I expected, and yet it is now stuck in my mind like an idea that just won’t go away. It’s one of those books that’s so breathtaking, so gorgeous, it becomes unforgettable. Fair warning, scifi fans: this is not hard scifi, this is not a space opera: it is something different, something more.

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All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit…

Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be…

Musings

The virus hits, and humanity as we know it is gone. Less than a dozen or so survivors per planet. The virus has consumed so entirely that the dead are nothing but dust in sunbeams. Jamie is one of the survivors, seemingly alone on a frontier planet, so she finds hope by clinging to one idea: she needs to find her ex-husband on Earth, as they promised they would do so long ago. She’s not alone: soon, she finds a religious man with a troubled past; a woman slowly losing her mind; a pilot with a cold exterior, and his engineer; a young prostitute, and a mentally challenged boy. Strays. Stragglers. Survivors. Together, they decide to head to Earth.

The surprising thing about this novel is just how… calm it is. Not so say that the plot isn’t gripping, it’s just that you can almost feel the voices snuffed out. The author juxtaposes small, personal loses (or quite large ones) with the wide scale loss of your entire species. Jamie’s loss of her siamese twin, then unborn child, then the crumbling of her relationship with Daniel are poignant pains that are still valid in front of the collapse of mankind.

It’s really a book about philosophies, and personal beliefs around hope and religion. Some turn towards a god in this apocalypse; others turn away. And some try to take god’s place.  Although some might try to take control, believing they know best, the truth is, all in all, there is no right answer to dealing with loss and grief. There’s no one sobbing in the street and mourning the dead – since this is a massive, collective loss, the hundred or so left might remain in shock forever.

I found that the plot was predictable, BUT, it was the philosophies that kept me hooked. Yes, the ‘twist’ at the end (or big reveal) is evident from about half way through, but I didn’t mind that since the rest of the book was so beautiful. It was very odd that out of the survivors (A little over a hundred out of the billions the human race used to be made up of) the protagonist knew or was related to two of them. The coincidences did feel heavy handed.

The novel really did manage to speak about today, about how our fear of ‘others’ can destroy us all. We hear bits and pieces about the forced emigration when Earth became over crowded; about the protest ships; about the echelons that make up our future society, where our fingers are branded with our class. I would have loved to know more about that, even if that world is now gone.

For fans of Station Eleven and Firefly, this seems to be the perfect combination of ‘ragtag space team’ and the burden of loss and survival. It’s an exploration of grief and hope, and, above all, belief. It’s an exploration of our humanity, what it means to be human when humankind is lost.

And it’s gorgeous.

Expected publication: June 1st 2017 by Pan Macmillan

Fragmented

Untamed, Book 2
By Madeline Dyer

Those of you following my Instagram might have seen my middle-of-the-night post, where an exhausted me at 2 am finished reading the last page of Fragmented and found myself in a whirlwind of emotions. I hadn’t even realized how late it was, I simply could not put the book down. I’ve been so excited I could barely wait until today to tell you about it. Well, it’s Self Published Saturday, and I’m here to tell you about Fragmented!

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After the terrible battle against the Enhanced Ones, Seven and Corin find themselves on the run. With the Enhanced closing in, Seven knows they need to find other people on their side. So, when the opportunity arises to join the Zharat, one of the last surviving Untamed tribes, it seems like the perfect solution.

But the Zharat lifestyle is a far cry from what Seven’s used to. With their customs dictating that she must marry into their tribe, and her relationship with Corin breaking down, Seven knows she has to do something before it’s too late. But that’s easier said than done in a tribe where going against the rules automatically results in death.

And, with the Enhanced still out there, nowhere is truly safe for the Untamed–least of all for the most powerful Seer in the world…and Seven soon discovers how far people will go in order to ensure she’s on their side in the War of Humanity.

Battling against the emerging web of lies, manipulation, and danger, Seven must remember who she was meant to be. Her life has never been more at stake. Nor has humanity itself.

Musings

Many series suffer from a weak second novel. But Fragmented is the Empire Strikes Back here, and is even stronger than the first book.

I was captivated by the world that Dyer created in Untamed: a future where most of humanity live with chemical ‘augmenters’, and those who refuse the drugs are hunted down. Unlike most dystopias I know, there’s this incredible spiritual element: Seven, the protagonist is a seer capable of speaking with them through dreams. The spirits have a massive, sometimes physical effect on the land, able to change it or roam it at will. All in all, this is astounding worldbuilding which made me desperate to read Fragmented.

Fragmented has a much faster pace because of the short timeframe. While Untamed took place over weeks, months, Fragmented is the course of just a few days. Seven, Corin and Esther are all that is left, and decide for their safety to band with a massive tribe called the Zharat. But just because they’re Untamed does not make them good people.

The Zharat are an incredibly patriarchal society, and part of what I loved about Fragmented was how on edge I was the entire time. To put it simply: these guys are absolute creeps. To keep humanity going, their only weapon is their babymaking. Women are nothing but a tool in this regard. Seven’s strength and abilities are put to the test when the Zharat community refuses to treat her as a real person. I was cringing the entire time they were with them.

The character growth is also pretty incredible here. Seven is not only trying to make her voice heard in this new community, but also trying to keep her relationship with Corin alive and healthy. Not to mention that her Seer dreams are strangely stopped now that she’s with the Zharat, and she can’t mention that fact to anyone, because Zharat culture sees Women-Seers as demons. Not to mention the guilt she feels from the last battle…

We also learn more about the place of the Spirits and Gods within not only this culture, but the war itself. At the climax of the book, I was gripping the page as things became clear and the mysteries unraveled. I wanted to scream at the book.

This book has honestly been very difficult for me to review with a level head, because I’m still shattered from the ending. I just cannot wait to get my hands on Divided, the next book in the series!

You can pick up a copy right here!

Waking Gods

The Themis Files, book 2
by Silvain Neuvel
Reviewed by SA
I absolutely devoured Sleeping Giants last year: a brilliant scifi novel that really gave me everything I wanted. Mystery, giant alien robots, and amazing characters… I was hooked instantly. I have been so looking forward to this sequel, and avoided all spoilers. It did not disappoint!

Summary30134847

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

Musings

Nine years after the events of Sleeping Giants, the Themis team doesn’t have much to do except show up and look pretty. Kara and Vincent have talked about marriage, but it really hasn’t happened yet.  Dr. Rose is terrified of what she is, wondering if she is even human anymore. But it’s all UN ambassador missions, nothing life or death anymore. That is, of course, until the day another giant robot appears in London, and sets off a chain of events that could have humanity at its knees.

It’s quite possibly the end of the world, and the stakes have never been higher. Gigantic, alien robots with firepower and toxic gases the likes we’re never seen before. People doing whatever they can just to survive. Our nameless friend is dashing from one country to another, trying to keep everyone together. Can can he keep himself together?

Just as in Sleeping Giants, Neuvel manages to create an incredibly gripping narrative and relatable characters even through his unusual format. As a matter of fact, his format seems to optimise the reading process, making the story flow quickly and impossible to put down.

The one thing I was not expecting was for so many of our beloved characters to die. I’m not going to spoil them, but they were incredibly unexpected and heartbreaking – and unexpectedly heartbreaking. But new characters are introduced that will get you excited about the future… if there’s going to be a future.

Old enemies. New threats. And finally, some gosh darn answers. It’s the end of the world, and the only people who can save it are severely outmatched.

I won’t even mention the ending yet! Only to say that I desperately need the next book NOW!

I Still Have a Soul

by Kelly Blanchard
Reviewed by SA

Happy self published Saturday! Today, I bring you the sequel to an exciting fantasy epic which I reviewed about a month ago: I Still Have a Soul, the immediate sequel to Someday I’ll Be Redeemed, in the Chronicles of Lorrek (see the first review here).  If you haven’t read the first book – spoiler warning!

Summary32616308

[Goodreads] Stripped of his memories and told he is a criminal of the worst kind, sorcerer Lorrek must commit one last dark deed to earn back his memories. However, he has no idea his target is family or that he is about to step into a war between advanced technology and ancient magic.

[Back of the Book] They said his memories were taken as punishment for the crimes he committed. They said the only way he can regain his memories is by killing a target assigned by them. Lorrek doesn’t know what is true or what he had done, but he decides to take the lead they gave him. He would find her, even if that means following her into the battlefield between advanced technology and ancient magic as two neighboring kingdoms clash. He will find answers. He will restore his memory, and he will kill any who stands in his way. 

Quick refresher: where we last left off, Lorrek had just given up his memories… after revealing to the reader what really happened those ten years ago, in the event that left the world thinking he was dead. He now awakens knowing none of this, at the complete mercy of king Roskelem. The king has one mission for Lorrek: to kill the assassin named Vixen.

Meanwhile, the kingdoms are at war. The tensions between Jechoram and Cuskelom have risen too far, and now it’s technology versus magic in the battle of a lifetime. Countess Veddra is still occupying the nation of Nirrorm, and it seems she has bigger, loftier goals in mind. And Vixen has gotten herself involved with a plot which may restore the very humanity of some non-citizens of Jechoram…

As tensions come to a boil, an epic battle looms on the horizon.

As with the last book, I was much more entranced by the events that took place in Jechoram than the rest of the continent. The storyline with the guardians could have been an entire book, in its own right. It’s brilliant: so creatively crafted and woven into the larger plot, it let the reader ponder what it truly is to be human.  This plot line borders on science-fantasy, a growing genre which combines technology and fantasy into one brilliant story.

There are so many different plots going on at once, it might get tricky to keep track of! But this means every reader will find a story they like – or many – and fall in love with the characters. But here’s a fair warning – don’t get too attached. It’s a war, after all, and wars have fatalities. So you have been warned!

I found that Lorrek was a bit of a… jerk, to put it mildly, without his memories. I mean, it’s understandable, seeing as how he can’t remember who’s friend or foe, who he can trust and who needs to be killed. But the result was that he wasn’t as relatable as he was in the first novel. No matter, because with everyone else, there’s so many other characters to relate to. I still hold Vixen as being one of the best female assassins I’ve ever read, and I desperately need to know what happens to her next.

The worldbuilding in this series remains phenomenal. The carefully crafted political tension between kingdoms, making the reader keenly aware of the motivations of their respective leaders, is just further evidence of the author’s skill at creating a complex narrative. The author’s strength really lies in the creation of these realms.

It is an exciting sequel, so if you like Someday I’ll be Redeemed, you’ll love I Still Have a Soul. It’s a must read for fans of Lorrek Vixen! The ending leaves me excited for more, as I can’t wait to see what direction the series will go.