Monthly Archives: March 2012

Review: The Last Thing I Remember

The Last Thing I Remember
The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klavan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first book in at least a four part series, so perhaps many of my problems and concerns will be addressed in future volumes.  That said, it is a fairly easy book to read, not very taxing on the brain, about a young man who awakens, strapped in a chair, and obviously the victim of torture.  He eventually escapes, but while he is doing this, he goes back to the last day he remembers, and tries to piece it together, so that we get a strong sense of his life “before.”  It’s not dystopian, or PA, but more about homegrown terrorists, who wanted to try and get some information from him in their plot to do evil deeds.  The rest of the book is spent with him fleeing, remembering, and trying to prevent what he now knows is supposed to happen.  My main objection to the book is that we really have no idea (or none that I recall), of why he was chosen.  That, combined with the somewhat small plot of terrorists, is what keeps this from 4 stars. But I may change it when I read the others. Sometimes an author stretches some plot points over several books, in order to not give it all away.  Charlie is a junior black belt, and working his way up, and his training, along with Churchill’s motto of never give up are what keep him going.  Somewhat simplistic in that premise, but kids at that age often are rather black and white, and it is clear from the flashbacks that karate plays an important role in his life.  I’d say it was an easy read, done in a few hours, and will know more as I move on to the next.

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RANGE OF GHOSTS (I): What We Talk About When We Talk About Bear

http://scott-lynch.livejournal.com/272216.html

Check out this review (link above) of Elizabeth Bear’s new book, Range of Ghosts, which is described as central epic asian fantasy.  The author is “That Boy I Like” but he explains their relationship and how they view each other’s work, so hopefully that will dispel any notions of bias.

“Think of the cultures that spanned the eastern portions of what was once called the “Silk Road,” separated by vast harsh distances but intimately linked by trade. The world is more than numinous; the sky itself changes to reflect the prevailing paradigms of the people who live in each great region. In some places the sun sets in the west, in others it sets in the east, and the vaults of the heavens will re-order themselves in an instant (from a mortal perspective) as a character crosses a border.”

Now if that doesn’t make you want to go out and read it, you’re hopeless 😉

Bear is a great writer.  She started with the Jenny Casey trilogy, straight SF, almost military, with a twist.  I loved them.  Then she branched out into the vast unknown reaches of Norse folklore, Elvish things, etc.  Her talent is prodigious, and I highly recommend her.  I have never read anything of her that I don’t like, and that includes her short stories, and her blog, which can be found at: http://matociquala.livejournal.com/2125562.html

Review: Scarecrow Returns: A Novel

Scarecrow Returns: A Novel
Scarecrow Returns: A Novel by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again Matt Reilly delivers a seat-of-your-pants thriller. A laugh out-loud at the sheer glorious outlandishness of it all. The third I believe in the Scarecrow series, this time we find Shane “Scarecrow ” Shofield, and his best friend and Marine buddy Mother, an imposing woman of many talents with a gun, two others marines he doesn’t know, and 4 civilians – one an agent from a top DARPA contractor trying to get his product to be chosen and his assistant Chad, and then there’s Zack, the geek with the robot Bertie, and Emma, a scientist who studies atmospheric conditions, etc. up near the Arctic Circle. They are tasked to try out a lot of new gear and weapons, to see how well they perform in the arctic environment near the North Pole. Shane receives a call from his commander that they are the second closest team to a mysterious island in the arctic, known as Dragon’s Island, an old cold war Soviet installation, which has been taken over by an Army of Thieves as they call themselves who are about to rain destruction down on the entire northern hemisphere. The closest team is a sub team, lead by “Ironbark,” a talented soldier. Also in the vicinity, unknown to them, is a French sub, led by “Renard,” an assassin and her companion “Baba,” a giant of a man, with a gun as big, who are tasked by the French secret CIA equivalent to kill him – there is a bounty on his head for his destroying a French sub and the killing of her brother (all will be explained later). Ironbark says to stay clear – that they are equipped to handle this, and Shofiled and his band of civilians aren’t. But Schofield thinks that even so, they might be a handy back-up, which it turns out, of course they are. Staying back at camp, unwilling to help them save the world is the agent from the contractor – all the others are willing to come and help, although it’s unclear what some can do, esp. Emma.

In true Matt Reilly style, once the goal gets going, the going never stops until the final page. This one I had to read in a couple of nights, as it got me too worked up if I read until I went to bed. It was absurd in places, impossible in others, but pure unadulterated fun all the way through. And the star was Bertie – the little robot that could. Some of the stunts left me gasping with hilarity, for the sheer ingeniousness of it. How plausible it was, only someone with more knowledge of physics, and engineering would know, but leave your disbelief at the front cover, and enter the world of Shane,”Scarecrow” Shofield, where “no” is NOT an option. And in a wonderful group of traveling companions. The books sings with magic.

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Review: Wildefire

Wildefire
Wildefire by Karsten Knight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A real romp of a book.  Written by a guy, he still manages to negotiate the twists and turns of a teenage girl though parents,  boyfriends,  friends and school.  Asheline is Polynesian, who along with her sister Eve, was taken from an orphanage on an island,  and raised together by rich Jewish parents in a wealthy area of Boston. Eve was the wild child,  and Ash was the do-gooder (in comparision!) for the most part.  When Eve ran away,  it was really hard on the family but they adjusted.  The books starts with Ash in the middle of a fight in the parking lot with a girl who stole her boyfriend.  She hits her and splits her lip.  Then up drives her runaway sister Eve,  who takes matters in hand and really lays in on the girl.  Things happen, and it escalates later on, and so Ash decides to move away from her rich stuffy home,  and go to a private school in Northern California in the heart of the redwoods.  But things don’t go as smoothly as she hoped. Her sister keeps barging in, she finds that there is something different about her and some of her friends at school,  and the action becomes rather intense,  while woven around a normal teen life – dances,  dresses,  classes,  boyfriends.  The tone is light,  the action endless,  and the idea a fun one.  Looking forward to the next in the series.  Knight writes with a good eye for the female protagonist, and the romance scenes are normal, and seem like they were written by a female (to me, that’s a compliment!).  Who and what Ash is is the theme for the book as she discovers more about herself and her friends,  who are more than just “normal.”

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Review: Fracture

Fracture
Fracture by Megan Miranda
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a nice, little paranormal story – nothing great, but nothing bad.  Delaney is walking across the ice on a lake in Maine one day when it fractures, and she falls in.  Weighted down by her parka, she has no chance – she gets to the surface and is trapped under the ice unable to find the hole.  Her best friend Dexter, who had gone on ahead, comes back, and with the help of some friends, he saves her.  But she is dead.  He does CPR until the ambulance arrives, and eventually she sort of awakes, but is in what they think is a persistent vegetative coma.  After all, she was dead for 11 minutes.  Severe brain injury.  But she wakes, astounding the doctors.  And she is fine , after a little help.  The only problem is her brain scans are highly abnormal – she shouldn’t be able to walk and talk and think.  But she does.  So she tries to resume her life, but something has changed.  She is being pulled in different directions – feeling a tug towards certain places.  And how she figures that out – the why of it, and who she meets along the way to “help” with it is the basis of the story, along with relationship troubles with her best friend.  The main trouble with the book for me, and I’m middle-aged, was the teen romance – not telling anyone how you really feel, not sharing what’s going on in your life with our friend, your parents, etc.  Trying to keep it bottled up just leads to some major difficulties, and hurt relationships.  Not enough of her “gift” and more on the intricacies of teen angst.  But not a bad book, just not quite my style.  I like more plot driven books, unless the characters were compelling, and I just didn’t find her compelling enough – she seemed sort of faceless, as though even the reader couldn’t know what she felt.

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Review: The Fox Inheritance

The Fox Inheritance
The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second volume in the Fox set, it has little relationship to the first book, until the end. This takes two of the teens who died in the car crash that the first book revolved around, who’s brains were scanned as Jenna Fox’s was in the first book, but because there was no one thought to save their bodies, since the procedure that saved Jenna was highly experimental, and the technology didn’t really exist to bring them back, they were shelved and forgotten. They later heard after they were ‘revived” that the project was abandoned, but one researcher, who had worked for Jenna’s father, made copies of their minds, and kept them. But when he died, they sort of got passed around with his effects until a wealthy scientist bought them, and cloned them from tiny samples of their DNA, a nail clipping a strand of hair, that the original researcher had thought to save. He designed them too, making them a bit better, taller, stronger, better looking perhaps. But it took 260 years for all this to happen, and in the meantime, their minds were locked up in small black digital cubes. But they were awake the whole time. And somehow they managed to communicate telepathically with each other, keep each other going. and for Locke, the memory of his other friend, Jenna, also kept him going. The story starts out slow, in a rather normal sf vein – two individuals waking up in new bodies after a long sleep, and learning of the changes around them, etc. But the changes are greater than they have been led to believe. Kara is the one who seems the most determined to find out what is beyond this estate that they can’t leave. One day a wealthy client comes and they learn why they are there. So they escape. What follows is an adventure, some wonderful characters along the way, but also an insightful journey into what it means to be human, to be alive – where is the dividing line that make you a person? Laws were established long after their “deaths,” but it doesn’t fit them, or some of the people they come to know. Who? is the central theme of this book. It reads easily, allowing you to ponder these questions without bogging you down too much in esoteric philosophical questions. You can ask them, they ask them, but you are allowed to decide on your own. Questions posed, but not answered. I hope a final volume will finish off the story arc, since there is more to tell. My main complaint is that you really never see the story from Kara’s POV – it is entirely Locke’s. And Kara’s motivations and actions are central to the story. And I wish more attention had been paid to the world-building. You only get a few glimpses of what life is like now, before you are taken off the main city grid again.

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Review: Glow

Glow
Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first book of a planned trilogy, it is based on a ship, headed off from a dying Earth, to colonize life at their final destination, New Earth. Things seem to be going along all right. Everything still works, and the first generation is still alive, with memories of earth. The first kids born on the ship, ages 15 and 16 are the two main protagonists – Waverly and Kieran. Kieran is the captain’s favorite, and is the logical choice to succeed him and has been groomed, in part, to take over. But he is more of a thinker, a young man who thinks before doing anything. And he is religious. Most of the people on board the ship, the Empyrean, aren’t. It is sort of expected that he and Waverly will make a couple, and start having children, partly because they are good friends, and partly because it is expected. They need children if the mission is to succeed. There is a sister ship, the New Horizon, which is comprised of religious people, many of whom bribed their way on board, rather than being taken for their talents and abilities. The ships are vast, with living areas, orchards, farms, forests, etc. Everything is grown on the ships. One day, the New Horizon starts to come closer, having slowed down (it took off a year before the Empyrean), and then all hell breaks loose, and what happens is the bulk of the story. Can’t say much about that without major spoilers, but I can say that it is a speculation into religion, and how deep it goes, and how people view their faith differently in part.

The book is exciting, if a little problematic in areas such as kids taking out shuttles and being able to pilot them successfully with minimal work on a simulator. And the kids seem to know how to work and fix things, even though there is no mention made in the beginning of their being trained to do that. The characters, who are central to the book, are drawn in ways that make them 3-dimensional, although not as clearly as I would like, an they are not always as good as they seem. The SF part is almost missing, as there is little mention of how things work, how the ships run, how fast, have they reached FTL? And when are they supposed to dock with this suitable planet (habitable planets, at least as far as I know, as a long way off, if they exist). Hopefully the other books will carry through some of the ideas that are sort of half-baked, meaning not bad, just not “done.” Comments on it refer to the characters as often being unlikeable, which is true, except that it keeps them from being one-dimensional, and we really don’t know who’s good and who’s bad for the people and the mission. People who are desperate will do anything, and this book explores that. I just wish it had taken it a step further. It seems to pull away at the last minute from these tough areas. The characters seem willing to do horrendous things, but then all is forgiven, sometimes. And everyone keeps secrets and lies, which is half the problem right there. Flaws, but readable.

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Review: Crossed

Crossed
Crossed by Ally Condie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This second book in the Matched trilogy came to me from the library in large print edition. Which gave me an impression that the original was slight, since this one had very short chapters, and wasn’t that long. It continued the story started in the first (Warning: spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the first book), of Cassia and Ky, who were wrongly matched at the ceremony for choosing your mate. Xander her long time friend, and the match that was supposed to be, is fairly absent in this book, both physically as well as emotionally. Only one small major scene with him in it. This book is about her obsession with Ky, his in surviving and trying to find Cassia, and a couple of new people picked up along the way who had heard of a resistance group. The importance of one of her favorite banned poems helped tie some of it together, but although I loved the first book, this one left me wanting more, a lot more. It was just so little to sink your teeth into. You can only traverse the came defile canyon so many times, and meet in the same spots, before it gets old. And the descriptions of the Society, the Officials and Officers, and it’s opposition, the Uprising, were just sort of loosely flung in the story line. This was mainly a plaintive “I will do anything to find my boyfriend,” and be stupid about it at the same time, taking risks I don’t need to, and for some unknown reason, once I find him, decide that the Uprising might be more important (which is sort of huh! – where did that come from). I actually downgraded it writing this review. I was just that disappointed. Not a bad book, but one that really did nothing to advance the story arc, except add a small amount of detail about the resistance movement, and fill in some of Ky’s backstory, but no one else’s. Hopefully the last book in the trilogy will bring it all together. To me this was an example of selling a story arc, based on a first book, and not being able to pull it off under the time pressure constraints of a contract. I may be wrong, but it felt rushed.

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Review: Seizure

Seizure
Seizure by Kathy Reichs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s difficult to categorize this 2nd book in the Virals arc. It continues the story from the first book. Warning! spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the first book which I would recommend you do before reading this one. That said, it continues the story of the teens and their enhanced “flare” which gives them canine senses, much better hearing, smell, and vision, stronger, faster, etc. Each one of the four teens has a sense that is stronger than the others and Tori, our heroine, can at times, though she has little control, connect her mind on some basic level with the others. The book follows them as they hunt for the legendary treasure of Anne Bonny in an attempt to forestall something bad happening that might split them up. All of them the need to be together – being a pack, as well as being the only ones like this. They want to discover more about what happened to them, and learn to control it better – flaring at will, etc. It’s a fun book, and a lighter side of Reichs. It’s a fast paced adventure with plenty of others interested in their search as well. But under it all is the bond between the friends. Good solid read.

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Review: Life Eternal

Life Eternal
Life Eternal by Yvonne Woon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the sequel to Dead Beautiful, and I didn’t think I’d read Dead beautiful, although tiny bits and pieces seemed familiar as I read it. So I went on Goodreads, where all these reviews are done, and found that yes, I had read it, back in May of last year. So less than a year ago and I had forgotten nearly the entire book – that’s what my memory is like. Though as I read this one, through vague references to the past one, pieces came back, but I think I would have benefited from a reread, or a long synopsis of the first. That said, this is a great book, and could even stand on it’s own in many ways, since obviously I enjoyed and didn’t recall the first very much. It starts out with Renee in summer break from Gottfried Academy, a school for the Undead, and the Monitors, of which Renee is one, and her boyfriend an Undead. Her family history is steeped in monitor lore, and although he brought her back to life last year by kissing her (a kiss from the undead can kill you, but if he happens to be the one soulmate n the world from you, apparently he can also bring you back to life, well, almost). She has changed, in subtle ways. The story surrounds her new school in Montreal, new friends, and a search from the past for a secret so big that many would kill for it, including the young Undead, that might be a way for her and Dante to be together. You see, once a person dies, under the age of 21 as I recall, they are reborn, mostly the same, but age, slowly and they can live for only 21 years after their first awakening. Dante has been an Undead now for 17 years. They cannot kiss, since that would kill her, and he can’t be seen by anyone at her school, or any in the town, since the Monitors are everywhere, and Montreal was originally built as a Monitor stronghold. Monitors wish to watch the Undead, to determine their motives, and if bad, to bury them with rituals, so that they stay in peace. But there are many who think Dante killed someone, and so he would be killed on sight. It is an interesting premise, not quite zombie, not quite ghost. Just undead – cold, but they can touch, see, hear, etc. It’s an interesting twist, and the city of Montreal is beautifully described. All in all, a fun book, esp. if you like doomed love.

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