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Reviewsday: Joelle Charbonneau’s Dividing Eden

Having read Joelle Charbonneau's Testing series (which has a Hunger Games-esque vibe to it for all of you dystopian novel lovers!), I think I can safely say I was jumping up and down out of excitement when Dividing Eden popped up on my radar.

Reminiscent of The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye, Dividing Eden tells the tale of twin royals, Carys and Andreus, pitted against each other in a battle for the crown after a disastrous accident leaves them with equal claim to the throne. Faced with a power hungry council watching their every move and faceless enemies stirring up trouble, the twins can only do what they've been doing their entire lives – stick together, watch each other's backs and, above all, protect the secret that's been haunting them since birth.

The novel was intriguing from the get go but I felt that Carys definitely emerges as the stronger lead throughout the book with Andreus' story taking a surprising turn that, whilst being beneficial to the plot line, was still a little tough to read through (if you find yourself shaking the book in frustration and wailing “Noooo!”, don't say I didn't warn you!). There a quite a few shady characters that appear in and around the castle which left me questioning almost everyone's motives. Even after finishing the book, I'm still suspicious as to who is really on which side.

Dividing Eden is truly an engrossing read – clear your calendar because you won't want to put it down until you've worked your way through all of the secrets, lies and manipulative madness that await you.

New Life for a Beloved Classic

When Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale was released in 1985, it was an immediate and visceral success. Thirty-two years later, the novel is even more terrifying and socially relevant today.

Set in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian theocracy that has overthrown the United States government, The Handmaid's Tale follows the story of Offred - a woman that is prized for her fertility in the same way horsebreeders value a winning horse. Offred is a Handmaid, a woman in indentured servitude to the Commander. She has one purpose only - to bear his healthy children (not as easy as one may think in this near future dystopia) and then to be assigned to her next household. But Offred is not a horse. she is a woman; she can remember a time before Gilead, her husband and young daughter, and perhaps more dangerously...she remembers her own name.

The Handmaid's Tale is a story of survival in the face of oppression, and the strength of the human condition despite all attempts to break it down. Readers today will no doubt identify just as strongly with Offred's plight as they did when the novel was first published. This is a must-read for any fan of thrilling dystopia, or someone just looking to remind themselves why our lives today are so precariously wonderful.

The Handmaid's Tale has just been adapted into a critically acclaimed HBO television series, but as always, there's nothing better than the book!

Reviewsday: A Court of Wings and Ruin

Sarah J Maas is back with the amazing third instalment in the Court of Thorns and Roses series, A Court of Wings and Ruin. War looms as Feyre Cursebreaker must decide who is friend and who is foe in a race to stop the destruction of not only Prythian, but the human world as well.

In my not-very-humble opinion, Maas is one of the best fantasy writers out there right now. The world of Prythian is richly imagined and full of complex, evolving, well-drawn characters. Feyre, Rhysand and friends burst into life the moment you open the book, and the world around them teems with magic and wonder. What I enjoy most about Maas’s writing is the way her characters grow, both over the course of each novel and the entire series as well. Feyre began as a frail human girl, starved both of food and of affection; by this book, she’s grown into the commanding High Lady of the Night Court, full of confidence in herself and her abilities, both magic and otherwise. The story itself moves at a cracking pace; even though it’s quite hefty at 400+ pages, it never feels too slow or too wordy.

Three things I loved about ACOWAR:
1. Feyre.
She’s complex, clever, and fearless. Kicks an inordinate amount of ass.
2. The revelation of the Bone Carver’s history.
And by extension the shared history between him and a few other characters (no spoilers!). I’ve always been intrigued by the Bone Carver, and ACOWAR briefly shines a light on the mysterious character.
3. Rhysand.
Just… a total babe.

Three things that drove me crazy:
1. Feyre.
Yes, she was also on the above “things I loved” list. But she made a couple of seriously questionable decisions early on that had me rolling my eyes.
2. Tamlin.
He’s just so different from the Tamlin we met in A Court of Thorns and Roses. His development makes sense story-wise, but I found the whiplash-inducing shift in his character a bit jarring.
3. The Mirror of Ouroboros.
Not the Mirror itself, but the fact that it’s part in the story felt a little glossed-over. I want to know exactly what Feyre saw in the mirror!

All in all, A Court of Wings and Ruin is a really satisfying conclusion to a fantastic series. And Maas has very skilfully managed to resolve the storyline, but also left room to return to Prythian for more adventures – so hopefully we’ll get to see Feyre, Rhysand and their friends again very soon!

Reviewsday: One-Punch Man by One & Yusuke Murata

Have you ever found yourself in the great Shounen debate of who would win a fight between Goku, Naruto, Ichigo or Luffy? Well today I have come to you with an answer to solve this quarrel once and for all. The winner would undoubtedly be One Punch Man's bald headed Saitama.

One Punch Man is a manga based on a web comic of the same name by artist One. Yusuke Murata has taken One's roughly etched drawings (emphasis on the “roughly”) and recreated them into incredibly illustrated and exciting story, whilst retaining the charm and humour that made the original web comic popular. As a warning, Saitama, as far as fighting ability goes, is the 'Mary-Sue' of all characters, he is a part time hero who saves the world from destruction before breakfast on a daily basis, so don't expect much development in his own abilities, because as the name of the series implies, he always wins in One Punch. Of course besides Saitama the series has a wealth of other colourful and zany characters, from Saitama's future pupil Genos the cyborg, looking for a chance at revenge, to the Mumen Rider - an aspiring hero who has zero special abilities at all.

I can't recommend this series enough for any Shounen Manga fan, especially those who hate waiting 10 volumes for the hero too arrive. It will make you laugh and beam with excitement, without the baggage that normally comes in this genre of Manga. A solid 10/10 from me.

~Ashley, QBD Tea Tree Plaza

Reviewsday: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The last time I read this book was thirty or so years back, in my teens, and from then I would have described it as being a ‘dystopic novel’ ... a ‘world gone mad’. It was scary, in a kind of abstract way. But, reading it now was very different. Reading it now, with a greater awareness of the world, recent history, and contemporary politics and art ... it is startlingly 'now'. It is the horror of utopia, all our social dreams answered. Startling in the degree of its vision, written in its time, and also in the way it provides very few easy answers, other than Huxley’s own strangely dissatisfying post-war 1940s argument-antidote of a banal middle ground between savagery and civilization.

Much has come about as Hux had seen, but maybe through different means and technologies. Overt promiscuity: zippers were even seen as a sign of this in the 1930s due to how easy they made taking off one’s clothes. The idea that the family unit as destructive and unsavoury. And that overarching American mantra: the pursuit of happiness; hey, if it’s not hurting anyone else... Sure, we don’t have ‘feelies’, but we have 3D, HD, super HD, Smart TVs ... hyper-real animation on screens you could shelter under. And the crass electro-music and simplistic rhymed lyrics of American Pop music were ringing in my ears for much of this book, reading it. And the importance of consumption, and even consumption through sport (what would Hux think of a Superbowl now? He wrote this in the 30s...) the Semi-Demi-Womens wrestling finals, the aquarium antics of the tennis-champions, the Foot-and-mouth-ball, and even the Centrifugal Bumble-puppy (which, I admit, I kinda want to see in action...). COMMUNITY. IDENTITY. STABILITY. They reminded me of the Stay/anti-Brexit arguments almost immediately. There, were, after all, two fear campaigns going on. And the EU could easily stand in for something that could one day have become a Brave New World.

The utopia element of the civilised society has more cracks in it than I remember. People are still capable of dissidence. The interview between Mond and the Savage is an unmissable highlight of world literature. And the failure of the Savage, in the face of his baseness, is actually everything. It’s our own failure. And it’s the kind of failure that maybe has to happen, even if it’s terrible. That’s what the novel demands, in the end. It demands you confront the failure of civilization at the same time as you schmooze into its necessity; Shakespeare invented the World State, whether he likes it or not; he invented a world where he manifests himself as his own absence...

~ Jeremy, QBD Doncaster