All tagged Meh

Living Proof, Kira Peikoff’s debut futuristic thriller, piqued my interest because it dealt with a near-future that seemed plausible and frightening. 

Set in New York City in 2027, destroying an embryo (say, for stem-cell research) is illegal and considered first degree murder. Similarly, pregnant women are monitored for any behavior that could be potentially unhealthy and a prosecuted for missing prenatal appointments or ingesting alcohol.

In this world, fertility clinics are big business, so there are many, many unused embryos in storage. Doctors are charged with preserving the embryos indefinitely and are subject to severe criminal prosecution if they are found to be negligent in their care of the embryos face prosecution while the separation of church and state has eroded almost completely, 

“I really think we are at a crucial fork in our history. The separation of church and state is breaking down all the time. First the line was blurring, and now it’s all but indistinct.” She swallowed the words that dangled from her tongue, threatening to expose her fury toward the DEFP and the DEP.

Arianna is a obstetrician with a secret—she has rapidly progressing multiple sclerosis and a connection to the radical scientific underground. Her only hope to avoid the always-fatal outcome of the type of MS she has is a stem-cell transplant, which scientists (including her father) had nearly perfected as a treatment prior to it becoming illegal. However, the Department of Embryo Preservation (DEP) is suspicious of her (they are unaware of her connection to her father’s work) because of the sudden popularity of the fertility clinic she operates, and they send in an undercover investigator (they are also motivated by threats to the department because they haven’t had a major bust in ages). 

I liked, but didn’t love Robin LaFevers’ debut novel, Grave Mercy.

(Similar to how I liked, but never loved Lyla Garrity, and often found certain aspects of her personality annoying—hence the FNL Character rating below.)

First of all, this book is erroneously being marketed as Young Adult.

The main character and narrator, Ismae Rienne, is a young adult. That’s the only element of this book that strikes me as YA. (Sandra, a retired English teacher and therefore someone who knows what she’s talking about when it comes to literary genres, thoroughly agrees that this book does not have the attitude of a YA book.) A large part of that is due to the Ismae’s voice, which never quite struck me convincingly as that of a seventeen year old girl. This book should be categorized as historical fiction/romance with a touch of the supernatural.

Just keep that in mind if you decide to read this.

Now, the premise of Grave Mercy is Assassin Nuns + Medieval Court Intrigue, which sounds like it would = Badass Fun. However, Grave Mercy ends up going light on the badass, middling on the intrigue, and heavy on the non-smutty romance.

If that doesn’t sound interesting to you, don’t read this book. 

Now, my favorite part of Grave Mercy is the setting. 

Books, I love them. So, who am I to judge whether a book is good or bad?

We’re all different so our taste in books differs.

I taught high school language arts for twenty-six years, so I suffered from an ailment I’ll call deep-seated-snob syndrome, DSSD. Some books I read in the privacy of my own home where I wouldn’t be caught holding a Stephen King novel in my hands—or God forbid, James Patterson.

I enjoyed these secret reads. I didn’t need to analyze them, rate them or discuss them with students. I simply climbed into their worlds, lost myself in the story and loved every minute of it.  

Reading King’s Pet Semetary late one night while lounging in bed, I came to the page where the main character’s dead cat comes back from the dead, drags its dead carcass up the stairs and leaps upon the bed. At that precise moment my own cat (clearly channeling her inner demon) leapt onto my bed. Fortunately, I avoided heart failure, but I may have screeched instead.

The point to all of this is to say, books have a place in each person’s life at its different stages and times.

After reading Gemma Halliday’s Deadly Cool this week, a bit of DSSD malady raised its ugly head. 

I adored the television series Dollhouse and was thrilled to learn that it’s continuing in graphic novel form—unfortunately, this first installment disappointed. 

If you’re not familiar with Dollhouse, the television show developed a cult following in 2009-2010 with it’s captivating stories of an evil corporation that ran an underground network of “dollhouses” that allowed wealthy clients to rent people whose personalities had been wiped out and replaced with temporary personalities and skills. Basically, clients could order up anything they wanted from the menu. The show centered around one “Active” (what the people who’s personalities had been wiped) named Echo, who remembers small amounts from each personality temporarily placed in her mind. This excellent Joss Whedon-lead show explored fascinating themes about identity and individuality and also had kickass scifi and action elements. 

(Please note, this review contains spoilers for the TV show from this point forward, so if you don’t want to be spoiled for the show, go hit up Netflix, get caught up on Dollhouse and come back to this review.)

The graphic novel series, published by Dark Horse, takes place before the two episodes of the show that are set after the two episodes (Epitaph 1 & 2) that follow the technology that creates the Dolls spreading like a virus, creating a legions of zombie-like people that can be controlled by Rossum Corporation. In this post-apocalyptic world, there are only a few survivors who are trying to save humanity. 

Much of the action centers around Alpha, the seriously screwed up rogue Active who became obsessed with Echo in the television series. And therein lies my problem with this contribution to the series story.

I simply don’t care about Alpha, he served his purpose in the series, but when I think “Dollhouse,” I think “Echo.” 

Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series is a favorite of Urban Fantasy fans—and I can see why—but I was left both intrigued and frustrated.

The Fever series has been recommended to me by a number of folks, most recently Tatiana of The Readventurer and Goodreads fame, who answered my desperate plea for a good adult read (I get sucked into the YA rabbit-hole easily). Darkfever follows southern bell, aspiring Barbie MacKayla (Mac) as she travels to Ireland to pressure the local authorities to further investigate her sister’s murder. She stumbles into a hidden side of Dublin, and eventually (albeit under duress) teams up with the mysterious Jericho Barrons. Together, they seek out the seediest of Dublin’s fae underbelly while Mac discovers her own unique abilities.

The world, atmosphere and setting in Darkfever is top-notch. 

Warring, warring, a love triangle and more warring.

I had such high hopes for The Shadow Reader—I’d read a number of rave reviews of it and since I’m desperately seeking a new urban fantasy series, I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, Sandy Williams’ debut novel, fell flat for me despite its creative premise.

Mckenzie is a Shadow Reader. And, despite her incessant complaining (which is understandable, given all the warring she winds up involved in as a result of this job), this is a pretty sweet gig. Basically, she can read a fae’s (which is basically a magical badass fairy-type person) location when they “fissure” (move from one place to another). She’s really, really good at her job, so her services are in hot demand. She’s been at this job since she was teenage, when the Fae King’s Swordmaster (annnnnd… this is where I should have reminded myself that fae-based urban fantasy simply isn’t my thing—too much royalty) recruits her. During her decade of service with the fae court, she falls in love with the swordmaster, Kyol, though much of the time he chooses to not allow the relationship to progress. So, Mckenzie plans on quitting her job just as soon as she finishes her last exam and gets her degree. Except during that last exam, Kyol interrups her on Very Important Fae Business™ and drags her off into the middle of a fae battle, during which she is kidnapped by a fae rebel, Aren.

This all happens in the first couple chapters. 

At which point, I thought, 

This book is either going to be a badass action trip or tediously detailed as these fae battle for supremacy. 

Unfortunately, we went through Door #2. 

It Was Fun While it Lasted

When I was a teenager in the early- to mid-nineties there was a place a few towns over called Incredible Universe—it was a big box store that sold CDs and electronics and featured, in the center of the store, a massive virtual reality station. I never tried the VR station, because it freaked me out (for the same reasons that first-person video games freak me out), but people were really, really into it, and teenagers would spend so much time queuing up to use it. Aria, the protagonist of Under the Never Sky, basically has a VR station like that implanted in one of her eyes, and has spent her entire life existing in that world (called The Realms). She’s completely sheltered (and is the product of bio-engineering) and hasn’t experienced any of the “normal” things we expect of teenagers, including basic physical contact.

Overhyped, Underwhelming. 

SPoLaFS has some really great marketing—the cover, the plot summary, all of that. I was thinking this would be Before Sunrise in novel form, but on an airplane (if you’re looking for a Before Sunrise-type read, check out Graffiti Moon, which I highly recommend). Because, you know, Before Sunrise is amazing.

Unfortunately, fairly or unfairly, those expectations weren’t met for me. And, to frustrate me further, there is a very sizable storyline about Hadley, the main character, and her father (a straight up cheater, who ran off with a woman he met while serving as a visiting instructor in England) that did not sit well with me and was far too tidily wrapped up.