Our Future Good

Title: Our Future Good

Author: T.J. Kirby

Narrator: Simon Vance

Genres: Adventure | Science Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Length: 2 hrs and 47 mins

Source: Audible | Giveaway

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

Joe and Mary just turned 18 and they have to choose what their project will be.
Mary wants to work on NutriSuits but Joe wants to pursue a dangerous journalist career. Mary and Joe want to be together so whose drive will prevail? And what will that decision entail?

Review:

I have to admit right off the bat that I was not a fan of the narration at first, as there were some words I simply could not understand, no matter how many times I re-winded – starting with the first couple ones. Even one of the main characters’ name sometimes sounded as Joe, others Joel and others still Jay. So the enunciation was definitely not the best. I can only imagine the narrator’s age must be quite advanced, I don’t know.
However, Vance did the voices fairly well and the cadence he payed to the narrative maintained me interested, much more so than the story.

You see, I felt the entire thing was an excuse to dump a lot of interesting sci-fi concepts that the author had. They were interspersed with political agendas that for the longest time were muted, as well as a pretty immature romance. Not the relationship itself per se, but the way it was portrayed. Much as everything else, it was perfect. She is the perfect girlfriend, he is the perfect, motivated, passionate driven boyfriend. Also, even though they are only 18 they act as a married couple in many ways and I never heard an explanation for that.
Even the temperature was perfect during the entire time. And then they move to another place and everything is perfect and the people are perfectly happy and giggling and argh. It was just frustrating.
And then there is all this talk about how items and humans evolved but, again, it felt dumped without purpose.

So in a nutshell, even though there were thought-provoking issues being raised in the story, they were rushed and almost passed unnoticed and I felt they were definitely not the focal point. There really wasn’t really much to go on, certainly not enough tension to keep me interested. Even the only plot twist, I saw it coming miles away. And while the sci-fi was interesting it ended up becoming quite boring as it all felt pointless.

Disclaimer: I won this audiobook in a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Listened to from Aug 22 to Aug 23, 2016
GR Review

Dark Matter

Title: Dark Matter

Author: Blake Crouch

Genres: Fantasy | Mystery | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction | Thriller

Length: 342 pages | 4988 locations

Source: Blogging for Books | Negalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

After a series of strange events, a man finds himself in a reality he does not recognize. As he puzzles pieces together, he finds out the terrifying truth.

Review:

Well, it is hard to review this book without giving away spoilers, but I will try my best.

Dark Matter could have been an amazing book. I really wanted to love it. However, there were a couple of things that made me not love it:

1. A large part of my enjoyment depends on the gradual discovery of what is happening, and here I figured out within a few lines what the main character did only at 42% of the book. As the events ensue, the narrative is filled with action interspersed by mental monologues of this character, trying to make sense of what happened. Throughout the whole thing I was like… ‘Really? You still haven’t figured it out? That’s the direction you’re going?’ It was quite frustrating.

2. The perfection. Jason and his life are much too perfect. He is a very good man who has never done anyone any harm, he has great stamina even though he is a teacher and it is implied he does not exercise, and he makes odd choices such as if you are short on money and have no idea how to get more do you prefer to spend it on a hotel room or save it for food? while other times he is extremely brave. His wife is perfect. His son is perfect. His job is not that perfect but he can deal with it because as long as he has his family he is perfectly happy.
So yes, all the perfection bothered me and I could never connect to the main character. However, I do get that it is a major point of the book, to make you value what you have and so what ticked me off will surely not bother other readers.

3. Some things just did not add up and here I cannot go without spoilers. The main thing was, if Jason 2 had four times the ampoules he had, doesn’t that mean he would have generated approximately that many more versions of himself? And yet that was never addressed, I never found out why it only happened with the narrator. Also, how the heck did Jason2 manage to send him to his world if the ‘driver’ chooses which world he or she ends up in?

Still, the story was intriguing enough and I wanted to keep reading. Right about the time where Jason figures out what is going on things improve by a lot. I was actually surprised and the descriptions were very enthralling. At times there was a parallel narrative which was also quite interesting and I kind of wanted to know more about that.

Even so, the way the story developed kept leaving me uncomfortable. The first time I didn’t know how the box or the drug worked worked so I kept wondering why they were walking so far away and were not afraid of not being able to get back. Then I knew well ok the box stays there and they have the drug but what if someone finds the box? What if the military finds out it? These questions and others kept gnawing at the back of my mind and I supposed helped me from fully enjoying the story.

So in the end I found Dark Matter entertaining but lacking. I still recommend it, though, and it is one of those books that makes for a great discussion.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher, Blogging for Books and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Other info:

Read from Aug 14 to Aug 22, 2016
GR Review

Nerve

Nerve

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.”

Review:

Nerve was an entertaining movie but it asked for a lot of suspension of disbelief.

The strength of the film is the possibility that all of this could happen, born out of the feeling of anonymity that virtual lives allow. It explores that power to the limit.

In this game called Nerve, there are players and there are watchers. Players have to accept challenges, or dares, which get progressively more difficult to fulfil, even life-threatening, but the reward is exponentially higher as well.
Winning the challenge is part of the game, the other is getting more followers. So all these people gather around following their favourite players both online and in real life, rooting for them.

There was so much I didn’t get about this game and how the movie progressed.

How are the dares chosen? Only towards the end do we get an inkling of an explanation – that they are voted by the majority. Ok but who creates them in the first place and out of so many thousands of people how many are necessary to get a dare through? Do they all vote? It seems like a somewhat long process given the speed at which they came up.

Who created the game? Who wires the money and how? Who decides if the challenge is passed or failed, since it is not always that obvious?

One of the challenges was for Ian to take Vee to the city. What if she had said no? Would he have lost? Was he supposed to take her by force?

Also one of the rules is that for the dare to count it must be filmed by the player’s phone. I got so confused because the scenes would be filmed as if the player was holding the camera when they were obviously not… The motorcycle challenge was the one where this showed most blatantly. There is no way either of them could have filmed that, or even a watcher, not from that angle.

The movie is so fast paced that probably folks won’t be thinking about most of these things but I couldn’t get them off my mind. It just did not seem plausible for such a concept to exist in this fashion. It needed to be much more polished.

Also, the ending was totally anticlimatic since those issues were never explained, particularly about who created the game and how it worked. And having kid hackers admonish the watchers and that’s it, game over, slap on the wrist and people simultaneously gain a conscience and the game is destroyed was beyond ridiculous for a resolution of such a story.

The main character’s evolution was a bit too dramatic. She is portrayed as a bookworm with little to no self-esteem, cannot even speak to a guy she likes, and we are presented with a knockout of an actress who I can never believe is any of those things. She shines so much more than her so called star friend.
Anyway, assuming she was all that, I get that Vee gets carried away by the entire thing and it is a journey of discovering herself but some things were really extreme and it just struck me as not believable. Then there were all the clichés about the friend who obviously likes her more than she does, the jealous friend, and so on.

With all these things that ticked me off, Nerve is still a fast-paced movie which makes you wonder about possibilities in today’s world and how things can so easily change in the blink of an eye and how everything we take for granted may vanish and especially that just because we are anonymous online it does not mean our words and actions do not count or have no power.

I had fun. I wish the concept had been developed better but I had fun.

Writers of the Future Volume 31

Title: Writers of the Future Volume 31

Author: Multiple authors

Genres: Fantasy | Science Fiction | Short Stories | Speculative Fiction

Length: 496 pages | 6906 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

A sci-fi short story anthology.

Review:

This collection is supposed to feature some of the best sci-fi short stories by non professional writers, supported by illustrations by promising artists and I have to tell you it does not disappoint. It is just a shame that I could not view them in all their splendour in my Kindle Paperwhite as they seemed truly amazing.

The anthology opens with a bang. Switch was amazing, easily a five star story, even though at some point there was too much action for my personal taste.
The main character’s development was superb and the world created here blew me away. I would really love to read a full-length novel of this. Unfortunately it seems even though the author has written it he has not had luck having it published.
The writing is right up my alley. The author does not waste time with unnecessary flourishes nor long winded details and yet is able to paint the picture so clearly, grasping the reader’s attention.
I was truly impressed. I absolutely loved the sci-fi stuff, the complexity of the character, the fast paced development of the narrative and the touching, bittersweet ending.

It is impossible that the author of The Dog Whisperer has not seen Cesar Milan’s show, of which I am a huge fan. What a witty story! Such a wonderful play on it, not just the title. It is so wonderfully, quirkily believable, with an Alice in Wonderland sort of feel. So short and yet so satisfying. Full 5 stars as well!

Stars That Make Dark Heaven Light by Sharon Joss is probably the longest story of the bunch and it stands well on its own. Humans colonising other planets and genetically changing to adapt is not a new concept but this novella takes it to a new level, with Darwin quotes on the spaceships and several other particularities. I have to admit I did not see the development coming and while I began by twisting my nose at it, I opened my mind to it and you know what? It’s great sci-fi. I am still not entirely sold on some things but as a whole this story was very well achieved. 4.75 stars.

Art was, in my opinion, unnecessary. A clinical article such as this has no room amongst short stories. Perhaps as an introduction to the anthology but never here. I found it boring and out of context.

When Shadows Fall did not impress me in the least for quite a while, other than the fact that it portrayed an Earth more ruined than I had ever read about. I didn’t even know how people could survive in such conditions and I had trouble remembering the characters.
In the end it turned out to be a story told in the way of a parable, about greed, past offences, what it takes to get past them and who is willing to get it done. Quite beautiful, really. 4.25 stars.

A Revolutionary Guide to Practical Conjuration was not one of my favourites. I did not much care for the characters or story. Every time it seemed it was about to get interesting, there was a lot of info dumping. I liked the idea of an interactive book but that was about it.
The character evolution did not make sense to me either, as he never seemed particularly bright, which the plot twist near the end required.
I didn’t get the ending. So the Demon goes back to the book but it seems it keeps doing what Abe asked because bones were delivered to what’s their name. That means it will be free again when everything Abe mentioned is done, right? Meh. 2.5 stars.

Twelve minutes to Vinh Quang was surprising! The story had a tense build up which culminated quite unexpectedly – for me, at least. I loved how the sci-fi gadgets were introduced noncommittally and how the characters’ roles progressively reversed.
I even loved the old lady.
It was a very entertaining story without superfluous flourishes but which still managed to feel complete, well put together and very real. This is a great example of great sci-fi, when a story is obviously futuristic but you feel like you could be there and all that stuff could be happening. 5 stars.

Planar Ghosts takes place in a bleak post-apocalyptic world. I could not connect to it. The world, characters or story just did not even tickle me entertained. The idea of it could have been interesting and the plot twist was ok but in the end it was just a little below average. 2 stars

Fiction on Paper is a non-fiction text written by Orson Scott Card. It starts off really well, with an analysis on how writing and the various forms of writing have evolved over the years; how reading is becoming less and less sought out as a form of entertaining when there are so many instant alternatives out there that do not require imagination. Then it turns into a self-eulogy of the Writers of the Future anthology and how it is the absolute best platform to launch new sci-fi and fantasy writers. Again, that struck me as unnecessary. 2.75/5 stars

The idea for Rough Draft told in the author’s bio was almost more interesting than the story itself. The fact is it asks for quite a lot of suspension of disbelief. We are presented to a world where travelling to parallel universities is normal and I felt I did not get a solid enough foundation for that. Also, as intricate as it seemed to be to the society, the law system sure didn’t make sense.
I found the premise not that interesting. The time-travel company brings a book from another university that was never published in this one and the author, who turned into a hermit after one hit, does not like it one bit. The narrative unfurls as you would expect, with no real surprises. It has value merely as an inspiring, motivational tale. 2.5 stars

Between Screens reminded me a bit of A Clockwork Orange, oddly enough. A group of kids with their own language up to no good, skipping around in Space.
I didn’t really get how it worked because the viewings were described as live but yet the characters seemed to have seen it before, but it was an interesting tale and the character’s (d)evolution was rather unsettling. I felt the skipping was overwhelming and that I wanted more backstory but that is a very personal opinion, as there really was a bit of everything, it was a balanced story. A dark, intense story. 4.25 stars

Unrefined did not work for me at all. Corporate, hard sci-fi is just not my thing. It started out exhaustingly descriptive, with a lot of tell and not nearly enough show, and it evolved into a weird narrative full of motivational speeches and stilted dialogues, with a main character I could never find interesting. Nuh huh. 1.5 stars

Half Past was a lovely short story, very well written and with an interesting premise. Externalising strong emotions in such a way is so clever!
The plot twist was surprising but it did not quite fit in the rest of the story for me. If Elizabeth says Echoes stick to the same place and are stuck in time, how come she gets to roam around the entire house and premises and interact with other Echoes while they seem so isolated? Also, is she perpetually about to leave but never does? How does she account for that? I can’t even imagine what that father must have felt like, stuck in a house with those crazies for so many years. It was still a wonderful fantasy tale and I give it 4 stars.

Purposes Made for Alien Minds features a humanoid creature that can only think and speak in 5 worded sentences. The entire thing felt like a challenge the author put himself up to, to write an enthralling story only 5 words at a time. In my opinion, it didn’t work. Not only did I keep having brainfreezes, the story would go round and round and it just wasn’t worth it. 1 star

Inconstant Moon is an okay apocalyptic tale. I felt the sense of doom but there was nothing there that made me go ‘wow’. 2.75 stars

The Illustrators of the Future is a text about the importance of illustrators and more self-praise to the anthology.

The Graver is easily the most emotional story in the anthology. It started really well, with all the fantasy, sci-fi and supernatural elements inherent to the story being introduced in a very organic manner. The resolution itself did not wow me but all the elements make for a very good story indeed. 4.5 stars

Wisteria Melancholy features such a curious notion – that when people are emotionally disturbed they experience morphological changes. The concept and context was introduced very well, no info dumping, all very natural. Then as it developed I lost a bit of interest and I can’t even really tell you why. It’s like there’s this concept that is so cool that I wish more had been done with it and that even though it depends on the characters being emotional, how it was done was just not appealing to me. Much like the ending, it left me wanting. Also, I would have liked to see or at least hear about more morphological changes – invisibility is so overdone at this point.
However, I still found the concept very intriguing and had fun reading it. 4.25 stars

Poseidon’s Eyes was enthralling on several levels – the setting, the spirits, the characters… It bothered me I didn’t get that the main character was female until about half through the story and there were minor things here and there but overall it was excellent. 4.75 stars

On the Direction of Art, along with the other two texts, is what makes me want to bring the rating down even more. I just feel that these texts have no place in such an anthology. In my opinion, self-gratifying eulogies along with essays on the importance of reuniting writers and illustrators of sci-fi and fantasy are fine on the back cover, introduction and/or as a way to promote the anthology, but taking up space in itself just feels unnecessary and redundant.

Overall I enjoyed the short stories quite a lot and it has got to be one of the best collections of the genre I have read.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from July 13rd to Aug 14th, 2016
GR Review

Surrogates

Surrogates

Rating: 4.25/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
Set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation and interact through surrogate robots, a cop is forced to leave his home for the first time in years in order to investigate the murders of others’ surrogates.

Review:

Surrogates is a thought-provoking, generally well made sci-fi movie. There was a little too much action for my taste and I didn’t get how people who were connected to their surrogates almost 24/7 still had functioning bodies at all, or how they performed basic functions, but the main concept was intriguing.

In a world where you look however you want and never get hurt, who would ever use their real body? What is the point? In doing so, are you losing a large portion of what makes you human?
The movie asks these questions and others.

It started really well for me, as it presented an evolution to the current state of the world. It was progressive, we didn’t just get ‘bam, this is how things are, doesn’t matter how it got here’.

The development of the story was ok, it felt the pacing was off a bit at times. I thought the concept and its consequences was so powerful that it could have been better executed – all the action and superhero stuff only got in the way. Still, I appreciated the main characters, their struggles and their development. I particularly enjoyed the anxiety experienced by the main character when going out to the world for the first time in years.
All the cool effects were a welcome bonus. That flawless skin… Wowza. How the heck did they do that??

Besides the amazing imagery and all the action, Surrogates had suspense, mystery and interesting plot twists, so I recommend it.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

So I recently heard about this Netflix series that was da bomb, especially if you were a fan of Stephen King.
I watched the trailer and was intrigued so went out to look for the first episode and woohoo, the 80s – cool music, no internet and duct tape! Hooray for duct tape saving the day!

This kid goes missing under very odd circumstances. From the first frame you can see there is something supernatural happening here. His three friends, frantic mother and brother, as well as the town chief are the main characters who do their best to find him, but Will seems to have vanished into thin air. In the meantime, an odd child appears, who does not speak. Apparently, her name is Eleven. And there is surely a link between what happened to Will and her.

You know, in a time where every single entertainment piece seems to not go without huge, loud FX, be it image or sound, going back to this era is truly refreshing. There is actual content. And it is amazing how much suspense and interesting stuff goes on. I for one truly enjoyed reminiscing about how much you could do back then without all the stuff we have now. Kids had to actually have imagination to have fun!

I think this is really well done. The story is intriguing, develops well, it is incredibly suspenseful and the side stories are catchy as well. I have watched two episodes and am enjoying it very much so far.

Everyone is doing a great job at acting and the weird kid… Who I’d never say was a girl, by the way… Wow. So expressive. Says so much without speaking. All the three remaining kids are very distinct and develop an amazing dynamic, and other side characters do really well too. Ryder is amazing in her role of an unravelling mother, of course, who has so much on her plate that she realizes she never stops to appreciate what she has and now it might too late. And I cannot wait to know what all the freaky stuff is about.

I just hope I get some closure at the end. I tend to turn away from watching new series because they have a nasty habit or ending in cliffhangers, some of them never even being renewed.

Have you watched this? Which episodes? What do you think of it?
If not, do you plan to watch it?

July 2016 Wrap-Up

July was a very busy month at work and so I tried my best to get some relax time, or I’d go nuts.

The weather was for the most part very pleasant and I managed to go to the beach most Sundays, which is one of my favourite things to do.

I did not read many books. I am sad to say I only managed to finish two, which were lengthier than my usual.

You see, around mid-month I start hearing about this new thing called Pokemon Go… How everyone is going around hunting for Pokemon and this huge community is forming, and the pros and cons of the game.

DSC_0027

Back in the day, I was quite the Pokemon fan, so this piqued my interest.

(Un)fortunately my phone is not compatible with the app. So I installed this free app called Evocreo instead, which is quite similar to the original Pokemon. It only lets you go so far without paying roughly 1 dollar so yep, I got the full version.
Great for those times when I just could not focus on reading but I have to admit it completely took over almost all my free time.

I watched some movies as well, most very good.

I would say that, even though there wasn’t much reading, it was a very nice month.


Summary:

Total Books Read: 2

Longest Read: Cujo (464 pages)

Shortest Read: The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel (304 pages)

Book of the Month: The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel

Favourite Cover:

Challenges Progress:

GoodReads: 31/50
2016 Netgalley & Edelweiss: 18/?


July Books:

 

I began the month by finishing The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel, by James Renner.

It was a book that took a whole lot of twists and turns. Confused the heck out of me.
I felt there was a good story hiding somewhere in there but it was covered by a whole lot of smoke and mirrors.
Pretty much everything was explained towards the end but by that time I had completely lost track. It’s my book of the month because it did surprise me quite a few times, whereas I had expected more from my favourite author.

I rated it 3.5/5 stars.

 

I then did a buddy read of, Cujo by Stephen King.

It was a scary book for the most part with well built characters but, being such a hardcore fan of King, I just felt that something was amiss.
There were certain aspects I would have liked to have seen developed and/or linked to bring the story to a whole new level.

I rated it 3.5/5 stars.

 


Where I got the books:

Book Depository

  • The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel
  • Cujo

 

Movie Reviews:

 

Reblogs:

 

Other Posts in July:

 


How was July for you?
Do you have a Wrap-up post? Please link it below!