Archive for September, 2012


Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti

Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti

Published by 48Fourteen on April 1st, 2012

Synopsis and cover image from the Goodreads book page

Buy this ebook at: B&N / Amazon

Synopsis:

Ten large ships race toward Earth, broadcasting in every language: “Brothers and sisters, we come in peace and in need. We have found our way home.” The fear of a coming invasion begins the worldwide riots of 3062.

Yet, not all Earthlings fear attack. The newcomers, long lost descendants of Earth, speak of a paradise ninety-four light years away. Kipos is a land of plenty where there has never been hunger, murder, or war. However, they need more healthy young immigrants for the colony to thrive.

Many accept their offer to be tested. After assessment, Abby Boyd Lei is among the chosen. She leaves the protection of her family with dreams of higher education, a good job, and a kind-hearted spouse.

Will Kipos be everything she imagined? Abby is about to discover the cost of utopia.

Rating (out of 5):

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest, thoughtful review.  No other compensation or promise of a positive review was given.

Review: Don’t let a three star rating fool you, I enjoyed this book a lot.  The story was good, the characters were solid, the structuring was all good.  Unfortunately, the book had some issues that I couldn’t quite get past and this effected the overall rating that I gave it.  So let’s go through this point by point.

When I look back on the synopsis of this book in hindsight, it confuses me a little.  Yes, this book was about Abby and her journey to Kipos and a new life in this “utopia” she was presented.  The synopsis would have you believe that this was the whole of the story.  But in reality this discovery and journey was really only about 1/3 of the book.  The rest hardly touched on this at all and so the synopsis didn’t apply that much to the majority of the book.  The story I got was good, but it was far different than the story I expected.  What I got was a story of perseverance, daring, courage, and having the strength to make something better out of your circumstances.  This was a great story and I wish it was closer to what I had been pitched!

Now, the rest of this may be a bit spoiler heavy, so consider yourself warned. There was an event that takes place on Kipos that was supposed to be heavily emotional and increase my empathy for Abby.  Mostly it horrified me, but then confused me.  So basically Abby is raped in order to have her conceive a child.  Now, this is awful and horrifying.  But Abby’s reaction to this event really puzzled me.  She displayed no knowledge or understanding of her body or sex at all.  When her hymen is perforated, she thinks they are performing surgery on her.  She seems to have no idea what’s going on with her body or how sex functions.  But then later she starts having sexual fantasies about her guards and masturbating.  Um, that doesn’t really make sense to me.  Yes, I realize some girls become sexually promiscuous after a rape to take their power back, but she had never masturbated before and didn’t seem to understand sex at all so this move was confusing.  She also shows extreme naivety about her pregnancy, such as thinking that she is going to be raising this baby and allowed to be a mother to it.  Also, she doesn’t seem to have any ambivalence about the baby which is very common for babies conceived through rape.
Alright, enough about that, let’s move on to the next part.  I really loved Abby’s interaction with the crew of the Revelation.  I loved that she found her place and discovered something that she really enjoyed doing.  The characters were excellent and their interactions made me really interested to see what would happen.  The only thing that bothered me about this whole section was Abby.  She never thought to talk to anyone about anything before she came to a conclusion about their behavior and instead just decided that her conclusion was right and acted accordingly.  This alienated her from her companions and served to alienate me from them as well.

My last tiny little gripes, I promise.  Some of the more scientific aspects of this book confused the hell out of me.  I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent, but 2 relative weeks, 3 relative months, tachyon engine this, it just made my eyes cross.  The only way I knew how much time had passed is by looking at the dates at the beginning of the chapters.  Otherwise, I was clueless.  Also the ending of the book was rather anti-climactic.  The author built up some amazing tension in the plot for many chapters, and then when we got to that moment it was just…..over.  There was minimal drama and it was resolved within a few pages.  That was a bit disappointing.  But the ending after that was excellent and well planned out.  Abby may not have found her utopia on Kipos, but she did find it by the end of the book.  Overall I enjoyed this book a lot but there were a handful of things that prevented me from truly loving it as much as I could have.  But it is a fun read and I would encourage anyone who’s a fan of the sci-fi genre to read it, and new fans to the genre should give it a try.

 

 

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Matched by Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie

First published: November 1st, 2010 by Dutton Juvenile

Synopsis and photo from the Goodreads book page

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N

Synopsis:

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Rating (out of 5):

Review:  First off I want to clarify something that has been bothering me, this should not be classified as a dystopian novel.  Dystopian novels are a genre defined by extreme poverty, oppressive governments, and just general ruin and depression for everyone in society.  That is not the case with Matched.  Yes there is an oppressive government but everyone is happy, everyone has a job, everyone has the same home and their every need met.  This is a utopian novel, not a dystopian novel.  Utopian novels are ones where everyone in the society is taken care of and basically happy, but there is almost always an undercurrent of something darker going on.  Okay, I got that out and I feel better now.

This was a book that I can’t really say I hated or liked, I was very ambivalent to it because I didn’t connect to the story or characters at all.  I found Cassia annoying and shallow and the world building was infuriating.  But let’s start with one thing at a time shall we?

I mentioned that I had a problem with the world building.  Here is that problem.  The author dumps us into this world but doesn’t bother to explain anything that’s going on.  You’re not allowed to share food, except for certain circumstances, but it’s not explained why that’s against the rules.  Cassia spends her days “sorting” in preparation for getting a job, but it’s not really explained just what exactly she’s doing with the sorting or why it’s important.  It’s not until the end when this is applied practically then you can understand but until then it was just looking at information for patterns and similarities.  Everyone dies on their 80th birthday, why that day?  Why that year?  None of those things are ever explained.  As a reader, I don’t want to just accept everything about your new world, I want you to explain that world to me or I just can’t have that much emotion about it.

Cassia was annoying and I spent most of the novel just wanting to strangle her.  She loves her life in this world.  Everything is provided for her, she has a schedule, she has a future and she doesn’t have to think for herself at all!  Then she gets her Match and it’s Xander, also perfect, but wait there’s Ky’s face there too.  Somehow, in that moment, she becomes obsessed with Ky and completely forgets that Xander exists.  She only remembers that Xander exists when she needs his help for something that could get him in trouble.  She spends the rest of her time fawning over Ky and making asinine comments about his deep, mysterious, color changing eyes.  She had barely even noticed his presence prior to that but somehow she’s decided oh I’m falling in love with him!  And because he questions Society’s rules, so does she.  Because he subverts Society’s rules, so does she.  This girl didn’t have an original thought cross her brain in the entire book.

There were a thousands fragments of a plot that never quite became a whole plot, combined with an irritating heroine who drools over someone and ignoring her Match and her “best friend”.  And then in the end she complains about how confused she is because she loves both of them.  No you don’t you self centered little twit!  You love that you can use Xander because he’s so damned loyal to you.  And you love fawning over Ky because he’s the forbidden fruit.  None of that is love girlie!  And could she be any more of an idiot about Ky?  She KNOWS they are watching her, she KNOWS they set up a circumstance for her to favor him unfairly and what does she do?  Favors him unfairly, knowing it will put him in danger!  Stop drooling over his eyes, grow a brain, and think about someone else’s welfare for once.  The author tries at the end to pull all these plot fragments together with the tried and true….it was all a conspiracy…line.  But it didn’t work for this book and just made me laugh at the absurdity of it.  I didn’t like this book, I didn’t like the plot or the characters.  At least I can say it wasn’t as awful as some other books I’ve read.

 

Archangel’s Storm by Nalini Singh

Published: September 4th, 2012 by Berkley

Picture and synopsis from the Goodreads book page

Buy this book at: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis:

With wings of midnight and an affinity for shadows, Jason courts darkness. But now, with the Archangel Neha’s consort lying murdered in the jewel-studded palace that was his prison and her rage threatening cataclysmic devastation, Jason steps into the light, knowing he must unearth the murderer before it is too late.

Earning Neha’s trust comes at a price—Jason must tie himself to her bloodline through the Princess Mahiya, a woman with secrets so dangerous, she trusts no one. Least of all an enemy spymaster.

With only their relentless hunt for a violent, intelligent killer to unite them, Jason and Mahiya embark on a quest that leads to a centuries-old nightmare… and to the dark storm of an unexpected passion that threatens to drench them both in blood.

Rating (out of 5):

Review:

I absolutely loved this book!  I have been having mixed feelings about the last few Guild Hunter books, but this ended with this book.  Jason is a character that I never expected to love and his story is one that I wasn’t too terribly interested in knowing.  Mainly, I looked forward to reading this one to learn more about Neha and how she is coping after the death of her daughter, and now her consort.  She was teetering on the edge of madness after losing her daughter, to lose her consort too I suspected might push her over the edge.

This is where Jason enters.  He is Raphael’s renowned spymaster, who has the ability to literally blend into the shadows and go completely unnoticed.  He offers to help Neha find the killer, hoping to stave off a rage that could end in war with millions of casualties.  She demands from him a blood vow to her niece, Mahiya, basically meaning that anything he learns he cannot reveal to anyone else about her family or how she runs her court.  This story intrigued me and I wanted to see what we would learn about Jason and Mahiya, and what would ultimately be the result of his investigation.

I was apprehensive when we got the first few chapters that continues the stories of Raphael and Dmitri, but excited to see what is going on with their characters at the same time.  I was concerned that these chapters were added because Jason’s story was going to be very thin and needed some buffer material.  Thankfully that turned out to not be the case, and Jason’s is my favorite story so far. Like all of the angels (vampires too) that we’ve met, Jason has a very troubled background.  It didn’t take me long to figure out what was going on with his flashbacks and what his story would end up being.  Although, even though I guessed it, it was still heartbreaking.  Mahiya has also had a hard life and has her own reasons for wanting to appear invisible.  But she’s not invisible to Jason and he is not invisible to her.  They find themselves drawn to each other and drawn to the darkness they recognize in the other.

In a way the story of the murder of Neha’s consort was secondary to the story of the budding relationship and trust between Jason and Mahiya.  Though I was much more interested in Jason and Mahiya, my jaw still dropped in shock when the murderer was revealed.  I don’t think I would have ever seen it coming, and I appreciate a story that can surprise me.

I appreciate Jason for being a flawed character and for having very dark demons that haunt him.  But he’s not looking for someone to save him and Mahiya knows she can’t save him.  Neither is trying to change the other and that makes their relationship all the more special.  They each hold to the other out of love and trust that the other will stay despite their flaws and that perhaps together they can begin to make a new future and leave behind their dark pasts.  When we arrive at the final paragraphs and Jason flies away on assignment, my eyes filled with tears.  Jason found a way even through his darkness and pain to show his princess the things he couldn’t say.  I have found this book entering my mind constantly for the past few days and I need another Guild Hunter book.  I can’t stop thinking, who is next?  Who’s story will we discover after Jason?  Aodhan perhaps?  Venom maybe?  We haven’t seen much of Galen of Illium lately.  I want to know what happens next and I look forward to reading it when it gets here.

 

 

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue

Published September 13th, 2010 by Little, Brown and Company

Synopsis and picture from the Goodreads book page

You can buy this book at B&N / Amazon

Synopsis:

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Rating (out of 5):

Review:

Before starting this book, I was not exactly sure what to expect.  I had heard so many things about it and all of them seemed to be good, which seemed very unlikely to me that I had heard nothing but praise about this book.  When it became a monthly read for an online book group, I knew it was time for me to give it a try.  This story was entrancing and yet dark at the same time.  This isn’t some fluffy, happy, cutesy story but it is very deep and emotional.

This story is told through the five year old eyes of Jack.  I think he was the right narrator for a few different reasons but it also presented a challenge.  How do you accurately describe some of the horrific things that happen in this book if your narrator is a mere 5 years old and may not understand it?  It’s a dilemma and there were times that I felt the author struggled with her narrator, but it also made the story better.  In my opinion, having a child be the narrator for the story made the subject matter easier to get through.  As an adult reading his descriptions you knew what was going on, but it was less gritty and thrown in your face and so it made it easier to deal with.  A story about a woman who was kidnapped and held captive as a sexual slave for nearly a decade and who gave birth in this room to her kidnapper’s child is really tough and emotional to read about.  Having it filtered through the eyes of a child lessens the horror a little bit, which allows you to see the story as a whole.

I had two issues with this book, one of them is small and one is rather big.  The small irritation is that sometimes Jack talked like a adult, or made observations that no five year old child would ever really care about.  For example, when Jack makes an observation about how people in the world are always busy and never have time for anything and so stressed.  A kindergarten age child doesn’t look around and think about other people’s stress.  It was moments like that when I felt that the author struggled having a child narrator who couldn’t realistically portray what she wanted to portray in certain instances.

The bigger irritation was how the adults insisted on treating Jack after they were rescued from Room.  Even his Ma kept treating him as if he should have been acting and responding differently.  When he said he wanted to go back to Room his Ma would get angry with him.  I understand that for her it was a prison cell and a torture room, but for Jack it was the ONLY life and existence he ever knew.  It was never a negative place, it was home.  It’s only natural for him to want to go back.  And the other adults did it too.  When Jack took something from a store and tried to leave with it, they were angry with him.  He’s a child for God’s sake!  And a child who has no experience at all in functioning in the outside world!  It made me angry and it made me dislike most of the adults in the book.

The ending of this book, however, washed away any irritation I had with the book.  They get to put their experience to rest and that part brought me to tears.  The moment that Jack stands in the door and says, this isn’t Room anymore, my heart broke and I knew that I loved this book.  It’s very rare that a book brings tears to my eyes, but this one did.  It wasn’t perfect, I mentioned my problems with the book, but it did touch my heart.

The Twenty by Claudia Carozza

The Twenty by Claudia Carozza

Published June 6th, 2012.  Self published by the author through CreateSpace.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  No other compensation or monetary exchange was made.

Photo and synopsis from the Goodreads book page.

Buy this book at B&N / Amazon

Synopsis:

Imagine living in a time when infertility runs rampant and babies are no longer being born. The world is crumbling around you as people start talking about the end. This is the world Hazel DeSales grew up in. After her mother dies from a mysterious cancer, Hazel finds herself taking care of her younger sister Netty and alcoholic father.

It’s not until twenty women, known as the Elect, become pregnant all across the Barronlands when things start looking up. Hazel and Netty apply for jobs working as domestics in the Antioch Center where the Elect will be taken care of and protected. Hazel feels change in the air and her outlook for the future starts to improve.

But she soon learns that change is not without consequence. Rumors are brewing about a government cover up and Hazel finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. So begins the unraveling of secrets that uncover things from her past and, threatening her future. Hazel is determined to seek the truth and promises herself to do whatever it takes to succeed.

Rating:

Review:

This book was very enjoyable for me.  I was prepared to spend a lot of time hearing about Hazel and I found her to be a rather interesting character, so this wasn’t a problem for me at all.  Hazel lives in a world where the human race is going to be extinct soon, it’s just thought to be a fact.  Babies are not being born, women are not getting pregnant, and the cancer epidemic that wiped out much of the population seems to blame.  First, let me talk about Hazel and her family a little bit.  Hazel is very codependent.  Normally this is something that bothers me in a character but for her it makes complete sense.  Her mother died of cancer and her father is drinking himself to death in her absence, leaving Hazel to essentially become the woman of the house and handle all the responsibilities.  So in this way it makes sense that she is codependent, she has been forced into an adult role long before she was ready for it.

The premise of this book is that seemingly out of nowhere 20 women have become pregnant.  Since these women are the hope for all of the human race, they are going to be taken to the most secure facility around to be catered to until they give birth.  I suppose I can understand this mentality but it was a pretty big giveaway that this was going to be linked to the government somehow once they start segregating these women from the rest of society.  I was a little disappointed that we didn’t see more of these women.  Mostly we see then during the limited time that Hazel spends with them, mainly while they are eating, bathing, or going to the doctor.  I didn’t necessarily dislike this, but these women are the key to the survival of human beings so I was hoping they’d be a bigger focus.

I was absolutely thrilled to see that we avoided any insta-love in this book!  I can’t stand insta-love in stories because it isn’t real and it isn’t love.  But we didn’t have this in this book and I appreciated it.  I really liked Shane.  Granted, he came off a bit stalkerish to begin with but that quickly went away and I thought he was a very good match for Hazel.  They got along well and seemed comfortable with each other and things were moving along at a natural pace.  But then Hazel gets her job with the Elect and Shane neglects to write or make any kind of contact with her at all.  Rather than have Hazel shrug her shoulders and think, well it was a budding relationship anyway, and move on she broods.  I honestly couldn’t understand why she was thinking about him so much.  They only knew each other for a few weeks I believe, so what’s the big deal?  This is when I began to suspect that a love triangle was brewing.  Insert sigh here.  Then she meets Luca.  Luca is an awesome guy. He’s smart, protective, and sweet.  But he’s protective in a chivalrous way, not a jerk way.  I was practically shouting at my book for Hazel to fall for him..and she does.  They take their relationship nice and slow and it forms very natural and sweetly and I LOVED it!  Then at the end I was confused again when she starts freaking out about seeing Shane again.  I thought we were in love with Luca, so why are we still moaning about Shane?  Consider me scratching my head on that one.

I also liked the idea of people “disappearing” if they ask too many questions or find out too much information.  I was interested to see where this went and I wasn’t disappointed.  Overall this book was probably 3.5 stars for plot alone, but with my added enjoyment of the book it bumps it up into 4 stars.

I am not sure whether this post will turn out to be a rant or more like a review, so I’m not calling it either.  I’ll let you fine folks decide.  So there’s the skinny:

Yesterday I spent some time with my family, my mom and brother.  We went to lunch and my mom and I went shopping the sales at Macys.  Sales is the only time I even go INTO Macys, let alone buy stuff.  I needed some new jeans and I managed to get a few pairs of $90.00 jeans on sale for $14.00.  That is what I call a deal!  Anyway, we decided that we wanted to go see a movie.  My brother and I tried to convince mom to go see The Possession, but she doesn’t like scary movies the way we do.  I tried to argue that she’d fall asleep by the time the previews were over anyway, so what did it matter what movie it was, she didn’t bite.  So instead we decided to see The Bourne Legacy.  Now, I really have no feelings, either negative or positive, on the franchise itself.  I’ve only ever seen The Bourne Identity, and it was enjoyable enough despite starring Matt “Fat-Face” Damon in it.  I am not a fan of his.  And yes that is my nickname for him, usually I just shorten it to fat face Damon.  Seriously did you see him in Contagion?  Even emaciated and close to dying he had chipmunk cheeks!  Anyway, I digress.  But this movie does not have him in it, and it DOES have Jeremy Renner and Edward Norton.  Ed Norton is on my shortlist of top 5 favorite actors ever, so I was happy to agree to see this movie.

Basically here is what it’s about.  The Jason Bourne fiasco is spreading too much light on the Treadstone project, and by association the other related projects that have spawned from it.  When information about the connection between these programs surfaces in the public, the CIA decides to eliminate the program entirely.  They decide to kill the scientists involved and eliminate the subjects of the experiments.  Their goal is to wipe out all evidence of this project and give the public time to move on and then they’ll start over.  Everything goes according to plan until Aaron Cross gets lucky and isn’t killed along with the other agent he was with.  He figures out what is happening fairly quickly and decides to make a run for it.   There’s only one problem, he is required to take 2 kinds of pills (green and blue) every day or the enhancements made to his physical and mental capabilities will revert back to how they were before the project.  He goes looking for the one remaining scientist involved in the project before they can manage to kill her, to convince her to get him more pills.  And let the adventure begin.

I actually quite liked this movie for most of the film.  It was even good enough to keep my mom’s attention and for the first time in at least a year she didn’t fall asleep during a movie.  I liked everything about this movie…..until the end.  I don’t know about any of you but I prefer my books and movies to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  There is a right way and a wrong way to do a cliffhanger in either a novel or a movie.  This movie was not the right way.  We spend most of the movie in chases and running around, which was fine.  But then we get to a point where Aaron Cross sends a message that this isn’t over to the government who wants him dead, they escape an assassin and plot their next move…and end credits!  Seriously?!  We were right in the middle of the climax of the story and then it just ends.  They might as well have put a message on the screen, “The end…of part 1, come back next year and give us more of your money when you’ve completely forgotten how badly this one ended.”  It irritated me to no end.  There was no resolution, there was no ending.  We were right in the middle of the action and it just….stopped.  I hate it when books do that, I hate it equally when movies do that.  This movie should have left me curious about what happens in the next movie, but another movie shouldn’t be required for me to get the end of the story.  It left a bad taste in my mouth and I have no desire to see the next movie because they’ll just end it the same way so that they can squeeze as many bucks out of the public as humanly possible by dangling the rest of the story in front of their noses.  What happened to storytelling!?  Did you just forget that stories are supposed to have endings?  Seriously!

We didn’t even get a good sex scene either.  All they ever did was hold hands and tend to each other’s wounds.  Well they were about to get it on when the credits started rolling, but hopefully they waited till they were somewhere a little more private than the deck of a boat where there are children present.  But we didn’t even get a kiss.  That wouldn’t have made the ending good, but it might have eased the pain a little.