Top 5 Tuesday: Books I don’t talk about enough

Hi again, for this week’s Top 5 Tuesday! And what an interesting topic it is this week… There are definitely books I shout about constantly so I’m so glad to sing about some of the books which I 100% need to talk about more often. Because they are awesome.

Love from A to Z by S.K Ali

I read this book earlier this year and it is one of the most beautiful love stories ever. It is just so incredible and utterly perfect! Love from A to Z follows Adam and Zayneb as they meet and fall in love. There is such as strong Muslim voice in this book – I adored seeing how religion guided the relationship. Zayneb is one of the fiercest, stongest characters – she refuses to back down from what’s right and is so driven. As well as a love story, this book also discusses topics such as Islamaphobia and discrimination, with the author using her own experience for several scenes in the book. Love from A to Z is such a powerful story about love and strength and the strength of faith. You can read my full review of this title here.

I Still Dream by James Smythe

So this book actually featured on last week’s Top 5 Dystopian but I’m also featuring it here because it is one of my absolute favourite sci-fi, dystopian novels but I never seem to talk about it which is so wrong. It’s a brilliant tale about artificial intelligence and what happens when humans choose to input morality and control (or not….) into AI. It’s a very character driven story, like most of my SFF favourites, and follows Laura, who creates her own AI, from her teenage years until she’s an old woman. It’s a brilliant look at how humanity will likely destroy itself for power.

Keep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan

Keep This to Yourself is a queer murder mystery, set in a small country village by the sea. The setting really shines in this book – it creates such creepy and tense scenes, with rough seas and caves and the small-town village vibe which always seems kind of creepy to me. (I grew up in a tiny village so clearly this is something I picked up from my years there…) The fourth murder by serial killer ‘The Catalog Killer’ in this small town was that of high school hero Connor, beloved by the inhabitants of Camera Cove. After this murder, the serial killer disappeared. Mac, best friend of Connor, is unsatisfied with the resolution of the case so begins his own investigation, but it reveals more than he could ever have wished for… Great mystery, awesome to see a queer relationship and such an interesting setting!

The Afterward by E.K Johnston

The Afterward has such a different feel and tone than any other fantasy I’ve read – instead of focussing on the quest, it focusses on what happens after, on how the heroes settle back into everyday life. It’s a very quiet book and really does feel a breath of fresh air in such a heavy, action central genre, hence I really want to give this book the praise it deserves because I think it might often be overshadowed by those more action heavy books. This is another superb queer story – I love both Kalanthe and Olga, our two very different MCs as they try to forget their feelings for each other that developed during the quest and move on with their lives. Fantastic characters, brilliant relationship and awesome female knights! Check out my full review of this book here!

Birthday by Meredith Russo

Oh god this book is just an emotional and heartbreaking read. What a spectacular book! The book follows Eric and Morgan each year on their shared birthday. This is a brilliant way to tell the story, which focuses on Morgan and her journey to transition. This book has such a harrowing and honest depiction of depression, and really shows how strong Morgan is to survive her journey. It is a potentially triggering story, with a graphic depiction of attempted suicide, transphobia, homophobia, and depression so please take note of warnings if you do want to read. A powerful, incredible story of survial and strength.

That’s it for this week’s Top 5 books I don’t talk about enough! Let me know if you love any of these books as much as I do!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Title: The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Publisher: Henry Holt & Company

Publication date: 28 May 2019

Genre: Dystopian| Young Adult

Page extent: 352 pages

Goodreads blurb: Welcome to the Kingdom… where ‘Happily Ever After’ isn’t just a promise, but a rule. 

Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species–formerly extinct–roam free.

Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.

But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty–and what it truly means to be human.

This was one of my most anticipated reads this month, I have been giddy with excitement to read because it sounded so deliciously creepy and horrible. And it didn’t disappoint! Whilst I think it would’ve worked better with a less hopeful ending, I understand there will be a sequel which will continue this creepy and haunting not-so-far future world. 

The Kingdom is the world’s most magical theme park. Happy ever afters aren’t just a dream or wish, they are the rule. Ana is one of seven fantasists who work at the park, engineered to make people’s wishes come true. But there’s something wrong with the park. Below the seemingly perfect facade of the theme park, is a seedy and haunting layer. Fantasists are beginning to lose memories, the engineered hybrids (extinct animals who have had DNA merged with technology to bring them back to life) are becoming violent, and at the heart of all this is Ana. Ana, who spends her nights strapped to a bed so she doesn’t escape, who is always watched via camera, who has to create a secret language to talk with her sister fantasists and who, until now, hasn’t questioned her life. But Ana, along with the other hybrids, are beginning to change. And then she’s charged with murder. 

The Kingdom is broken up into Ana’s POV, where we see from her eyes the events before the trial, what led to the murder and her slow discovery and realisation of the horrors of the park; and then excerpts from the trial, from CCTV, and a post trial interview with the terrifying Dr Foster. I thought the way this was structured was absolutely fantastic. These glimpses of interviews allowed the reader to gain a glimpse of the horrors of the park before Ana realises, which meant we could see a lot of the creepy and darkness in the events of her POV before she did. This made for a tense reading experience and a state of shock and horror at what happens at the park and Ana’s naivety. These excerpts, in just a few pages, paint Dr Foster as this terrifying nightmare man. It’s fun realising the similarities between him and a certain character you meet in Ana’s POV and brilliant when you realise you were right and they’re the same person.

The Kingdom feels very dystopian in the way it questions society’s behaviour and treatment towards these hybrids who aren’t quite human. It raises questions about what makes something human: the ability to feel? To love? To kill? I did feel the ending let this intention down a little. It might just be me, but I kind of wanted a much darker ending that could really drive home this message about humanity’s darkness. The book felt very Black Mirror and I love that show because it doesn’t always have a happy ending, they showcase the truly awful parts of humanity and I kind of wanted more of that in the ending. I know there will be a sequel so the ending is setting up the next book, I just think this would be worked really well as a standalone. 

In saying that, I did really enjoy this book. It was creepy and dark and I thought the structure of Ana’s POV interspersed with these trial excerpts was fantastic! 

Paws out,
Rach + Draco