[BONUS] Read and Review: COMMUNE by JOSHUA GAYOU @JoshuaGayou #BookReview #Dystopian

[BONUS] Read and Review: COMMUNE by JOSHUA GAYOU @JoshuaGayou #BookReview #Dystopian
  • Title: Commune
  • Author: Joshua Gayou
  • Published: 2017

Commune: Book One is the story of one small group of survivors who must adapt to a primitive, hostile world or die. As they learn the rules of this new era, they must decide how far they’re willing to go to continue living, continually asking themselves the same question daily: is survival worth the loss of humanity?

My Photo [Commune]

When I started reading Commune, I noticed a couple of minor technical issues. There were some grammatical errors, and the narrative occasionally swapped tenses by accident. Also, some words were written with excessive letters or punctuation, like thiiiiiiis????!!!! As a reader, I urge writers not to do this. It may look as if it expresses deeper meaning, I assure you it does not; I read it as this? or this! regardless of how many extra letters or punctuation marks have been added.*

*I covered these writing tips in a different book review last year, which you can read here:

However, looking past these technical issues, I really enjoyed the story behind Commune. It had all the great conventions of a dystopian, apocalyptic narrative – scavenging, survival, and strange encounters.

I was also thrilled at the relationship dynamic between Amanda and Jake. Their narratives begin at different places in the novel, and have separate paths until eventually uniting. It was hard to follow the (sometimes length) chapters that followed their individual stories, but once they joined forces, I loved their pairing together. It was refreshing to have a stronger female character who builds up a close relationship to a male without it being reduced to a love story.

When I first read the synopsis of Commune, I thought it sounded similar to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – an incredibly bleak survival story of a father and his son. Yet I didn’t find Commune particularly bleak. Albeit, there were moments of sadness and occasional danger, but the characters were never really lacking serious supplies and I thought their journey was relatively straightforward.

For a truly bleak dystopian, I would have preferred there to be a serious threat looming over the characters from the start – there were some mentions of an ominous Plague, but I don’t think this was explored enough to be seen as dangerous.

Although Gayou wanted Commune to focus on a human survival story, rather than a supernatural one, I couldn’t help but long for a subhuman threat, like the cannibalistic gangs from The Road or the zombie hoards from The Walking Dead.

Overall, Gayou lays a good foundation for future books about this world and the characters he’s created. Whilst I have my criticisms (as every book reviewer should), this was still a good read, and an enjoyable new dystopian novel.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Commune: Book One is available to buy as an e-book or a paperback from Amazon.com or Amazon UK.

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Thank you for reading my review!

Many thanks to Joshua Gayou, who sent me a copy of Commune to read for free. His website is: joshuagayou.wordpress.com.

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

 

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (4)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (4)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a non-fiction, Shooting History, by Jon Snow – an autobiographical account of modern history and journalism Snow was involved in. I’ve also been sent another book to read for Rosie’s Book Review Team, The Devil In The Countryside, a historical thriller by Cory Barclay. I’m also reading another free book to review – Being Simon Haines, by Tom Vaughan MacAulay.

It’s also exam-season, so as a form of revision, I’m aiming to re-read texts that will be covered in my exams. Here’s how I’ve got on so far:

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I read so much over the Easter break! I read The Seagull, a play by Anton Chekhov, as well some more Stephen King novels of course – The Shining and The Tommyknockers. I also finished the thriller Perfect People by Peter James, as well as The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. I also received a new book, Commune: Book One, to read and review for Joshua Gayou, a new author.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

As I really enjoyed Perfect People, I want to explore the works of Peter James, and the thriller genre as whole, further. It would also be nice to read some more classic literature as well.


What are you currently reading?

– Judith

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Terry Tyler

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Terry Tyler

This week, I interviewed Terry Tyler, a writer and blogger who currently lives in the North East of England. She has published 13 books to date, her most recent novel being The Devil You Know, a psychological thriller released in October last year.

Terry is a huge fan of history and therefore loves historical novels. “Philippa Gregory’s historical novel The Other Boleyn Girl is a masterpiece!” she said.

The Other Boleyn Girl is loosely based on the life of Mary Boleyn, the sister of the infamous Anne Boleyn.

Terry explained, “The book was brilliant; I like the Plantagenets, the Tudors and the 17th Century most of all, although I will read about other periods too. I prefer serious historical fiction, not romances, and it needs to be extremely well researched, so that it can teach me about the period. The film adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl, however, was garbage!”

History also inspires many of Terry’s novels.

I read one of these novels, The House of York, a historical fiction inspired by the Tudors and Plantagenets, which I reviewed here:

However, Terry is not only interested in the past, but the (possible) future.

“I’ve watched every season of The Walking Dead three times over!”

She explained, “I love stories about life after pandemics and zombie apocalypses, but they must be really well-written and thought out. It’s how people survive on the breakdown of society, when the world as we know it has gone, that fascinates me.”

Yet being a keen reader writer, it took Terry a while to begin blogging. “Although my first book was published in 2011, I didn’t start a blog for another six months.” She said, “Everyone kept telling me writers have to have blogs, so reluctantly, I started one.”

Eventually, Terry began to appreciate the use of having a blog. “It was a useful tool for me when I wanted to write things other than my current novel-in-progress. Now, I’m a part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I write about all sorts – writing advice, publishing advice, book reviews and other random things that pop into my head!”

Terry’s newest novel, The Devil You Know, was the culmination of half a year’s hard work.

My Photo [The Devil You Know]

“It takes me about six months to go from having an idea for book to finishing it” Terry said, “I write very intensively once I get going – it’s what I do – and I fit the rest of my life around it. Although all my novels have different storylines, they always tend to be character driven and have a good plot twist or two!”

I asked Terry if she had any tips for any other writers. She said, “Show what you’ve written to someone who you can trust to give you an honest opinion, to make sure you can actually write.”

Whilst on the subject of honest opinions, Terry shared her thoughts on positive and negative reviews. “Negative reviews are just as valid as positive reviews because everyone reads a book differently.” she explained, “Even if a book is so badly written that it makes your Kindle cringe, they have the right to tell you so, just like when someone enjoys it, they have the right to express that.”

However, despite the risk of negative reviews, this shouldn’t be scare away a budding writer, Terry says.

“Don’t give yourself any grief; write because you want to write.” Terry said, “Even if you can only manage 500 words a day, you’ll have a first draft ready in six months or less.”

The Devil You Know is available as an e-book on Amazon UK and Amazon.com.

You can find Terry Tyler on Twitter @TerryTyler4 at and her website is terrytyler59.blogspot.co.uk.

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Thanks for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, and  don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more blog posts.

– Judith

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (3)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (3)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Finders Keepers by Stephen King, as well as The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy; if you’ve been following my other WWW posts you’d know I’ve been planning to read this particular Hardy book since February. I only have two books on the go at the minute, which is allowing me to get through both books at an excellent pace.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

If I remember rightly, I finished reading two reads: Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, 11.22.63 by Stephen King. However, I’m sorry to say I’ve also given up on not one, but two books. I’ve abandoned To The Lighthouse by Woolf (in fact, I’m not at all sorry for giving up on this one, it was a disastrous book for me to try and get into) as well as The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Whilst I had read some the stories and found them amusing, I just wasn’t engaged enough to want to commit top reading the entire thing just yet.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I honestly don’t know – at present I don’t have a burning desire for any other books in particular, but I’m sure that’s bound to change.


 What are you currently reading?

– Judith

Read and Review: 11.22.63

Read and Review: 11.22.63
  • Title: 11.22.63
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Published: 2011

11.22.63 is about Jake Epping, a recently divorced high school English teacher, who discovers a wormhole in his friend’s diner. The wormhole transports him to 1958, where Epping begins to adjust to 1950s life, as well as plot to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which happened on the 22nd of November, 1963.

It’s hard to summarise the genre of this novel. I think it’s an interesting combination of science fiction, historical fiction, political dystopia and alternate history. Although I don’t profess to be a science-fiction fan, I really enjoyed the science-fiction elements of this book, because they were not too abstract for the common reader to understand – they felt normal and believable, which I think is rare in books that tend to focus on time, space, aliens and everything in-between.

I also liked the historical and political themes; I studied American presidents as part of my A Level History course, and 11.22.63 provided a decent recap of this. It was also interesting to consider the repercussions of each and every seemingly small action had in the “grand scheme of things”.

Furthermore, despite 11.22.63 being set in a world a further 50 years in the past, the questions it raises are still just as significant today:

  • If you could change a terrible event in the past, not knowing the future consequences, would you? What if this triggers an equally horrific event later in time?
  • Is it better to learn from the past, rather than try and undo it?*

This reminds me of the famous quote by the philosopher Santayana: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. (Reason in Common Sense, 1905), p. 284

I also liked the length of the novel. It’s a big read, and took me a sizeable amount of time to get through, but I was kept captivated throughout and I was glad I had so long to enjoy the book for.

However, I thought there was an unusually high amount of explicit violence in the book – punches, stabbings, broken noses, and gun fights. I’ve read some of King’s horrors that do have high levels of bloody violence in, so on the one hand, this isn’t an unexpected feature in King’s writing. On the other hand, I naively thought those sorts of scenes would be unnecessary and therefore omitted from a non-horror book.

For me, the best part of 11.22.63 was the intertextual references to another of King’s books, IT, which is also set in 1958’s America, and the last King book I read, so I feel like I’m reading his books in some kind of weird order. I completely forgot that IT was set in this timeline, and to be drip-fed clues and references to another plot was really entertaining, although this isn’t a huge feature within the narrative of 11.22.63.

I also found the ending incredibly powerful; it’s rare for me to be strongly moved by a book’s ending (especially as most of them seem to end on cliff-hangers nowadays…) but I felt so sad for Epping, and the Dystopian America portrayed. I won’t spoil the ending for any who may wish to read it, but I was certainly affected by it.

I strongly recommend this book.

– Judith

Please click ‘Like’ or leave a comment, I really appreciate it.

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (2)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (2)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

My current fiction reads are: 11.22.63 by Stephen King – this is carried over from last month’s WWW post, because it’s a huge read – as well as The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

Since my last WWW post, I feel like I’ve finished a lot of books. I’ve finished The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, and The Man In The High Castle, by Philip K. Dick, both of which I’ve now written blog posts about. I finished Child Taken and The Old Man At The End Of The World, two brand new works sent to me to read and review by two new authors making their debuts. I’ve also been reading various short stories and poems by D.H. Lawrence*, and I’m really enjoying his style of writing.

*Hence my starting Lady Chatterley’s Lover – I already have opinions of this book forming, and a book review will almost certainly follow once I’ve finished reading it.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I’ve bought some more Stephen King books (I honestly don’t know why, I’ve got plenty that I haven’t read already, and I haven’t even finished 11.22.63 yet), so I’d like to get round to reading them. I’d still like to read some more Thomas Hardy too, but it’s incredibly difficult fitting everything in, with what I need to read for university as well.


What are you currently reading?

– Judith


Read and Review: The Man In The High Castle

Read and Review: The Man In The High Castle
  • Title: The Man In The High Castle
  • Author: Philip K. Dick
  • Published: 1962

The Man In The High Castle is an alternative history novel, presenting a future where Japan and Nazi Germany won World War II, and now rule over the USA. This book stood out to me for two reasons: I love reading Dystopias and I am also interested in the Amazon Prime series (I’m a stickler for reading the book before adaptations).

I’ll admit, it was harder than I expected to follow the plot because the book regularly switched between various characters, to allow exploration of Dystopian America through different sets of eyes. However, I just wasn’t able to engage with some of these characters – like Tagomi, Childan and Baynes.

The plotlines I enjoyed the most were the stories of Frank and Juliana, an estrange married couple, who have different lives and face different struggles. This reminded me very much of Winston Smith and his estranged wife Katharine in Orwell’s masterful Dystopia, 1984.

I also noticed other similarities to 1984, such as a subversive writer (Hawthorne Abendsen / Emmanuel Goldstein) who pens a book that challenges the totalitarian state and seeks to reveal the truth (The Grasshopper Lies Heavy / The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism).

Dystopian fiction such as The Man In The High Castle seems all the more important, given the current political climate in America. It demonstrates how extreme certain individual’s views on race can become, and the dangers of redefining what “truths” and “facts” are – I’m sure plenty of people have already drawn parallels between Nazi Germany and Trump’s America.

What I found most enjoyable about The Man In The High Castle is its blend of fact and fiction – sometimes it is so seamless, I’m incredibly thankful that I studied Hitler and the Third Reich for my History A Level to be able to pick apart what is genuine historical evidence, and what is a distorted version of events. This is exacerbated when some of the characters begin to see through the façade of totalitarian America. The glass shatters, the curtain is pulled back, and they see the “facts” for what they are: lies.

The ending of the book is very open-ended, and I’m left with lots of questions. Normally, I prefer neat endings, because most open-endings I read are more like weak cliff-hangers. However, I don’t dislike the ending to The Man In The High Castle – it’s given me lots to think about – I want to go away and read more about the book, its plot, its world and its themes.

I found 1984 entertaining, The Man In The High Castle fascinating, and you should read both.

– Judith