Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future (Lock In #1)

Title: Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future (Lock In #1)

Author: John Scalzi

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

Length: 336 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

Premise:

In a world affected by a mysterious disease that placed a large amount of people in a state of mental lock in, agents Vann and Shane try to find the truth behind seemingly random acts of crime and terrorism.

Review:

It took me a while to get into this book. You see, it opens with a chapter that sets the basis of what happened to the world when a mysterious virus spread and infected, well, everyone as far as I can tell (I never really got or at least retained any of the math), naming which measures were put into place, but getting into no details whatsoever.

Now I usually don’t mind that, I actually welcome it, but as the story progressed I still felt I had no idea what people were talking about for a long time. I even reread sections multiple times to try and figure out the sci-fi notions but then I just gave up and tried to follow-up on the crime being investigated. From then on, I enjoyed the story quite a bit more. Most notions finally made sense, although there was still a lot of sci-fi talk I didn’t quite catch, particularly towards the end, but there was a good balance of action, mystery and suspense in a science fiction scenario.

I still wish some things had been further developed. I wanted the world better explained, how things progressed to current day. It is just so odd that scientists could make that sort of progress in such a small amount of time. But most of all I wanted to know things that were brought up and never picked up again like how twins could inhabit the same threep or Vann’s side of the story of how her partner died. I never even got how exactly Hadens contributed to the society – at least the ones who spent all their time in the Agora -, since we are told they had their own economy.
After watching multiple series of the genre, I also had to wonder why the two agents never had to deal with their superiors and felt they found the bad guy a bit much too soon but the plot was still very cleverly built.

All in all, despite all these things, the fact is the book surprised me and it was mostly a pleasant surprise. I don’t think I had ever read anything quite like it and that alone has its merit. And it was even more surprising how the author managed to get such controversial subjects discussed in the midst of such a plot.

I am also glad the book did not end in major cliffhangers, as I had no idea it would be part of a series when I bought it.
I cannot say I came out of it loving any of the characters – I did find it tiresome that Chris Shane kept wondering if every single person he met knew who he was – but at the end of the day I had a good time and recommend the book.

Read from Jan 22 to Jan 28, 2016

GR Review

Random Chat: X-Files Comeback

On Watching TV

Step up, take a seat, make yourself at home and let’s chat!

The X-Files were one of my favourite series of all time.

I still remember a couple of scenes and the way they made me feel. I could not wait for the next episode and, at the same time, I was frightened.
Mulder and Scully made one hell of a team, that’s for sure.

I did not watch all the seasons so I still have no idea about all the mystery and especially what happened to Mulder’s sister, but the mystery and conspiracy theories were definitely part of the series’ charm for me, not just the horror and investigative bits, which rocked.

Now it appears they are being brought back. The new X-Files premiers on Tuesday here in Portugal, not sure when elsewhere in the globe.

Are you intending to watch this new series? Or do you think it has had its time?

I have to admit, I am curious. At the same time, I don’t think it will be the same.
The last episodes I watched and one movie (I believe there were more) felt forced.

I am pretty sure I will at least watch the first episode if I am able to.

Feel free to check out the article below, from someone who has watched the first three episodes:

‘X-Files’ Reboot Brings Back Mulder, Scully And The Search For Truth

The Red Mohawk

Title: The Red Mohawk

Author: Anonymous

Genres: Horror | Humour | Thriller

Length: 244 pages | 4484 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

In the town of B Movie Hell everyone seems to know each other and are not keen on talking to strangers, even when a psychopath is running around killing the locals.
It’s up to an alcoholic ‘ghost’ of an agent and an FBI detective to figure out what is going on and catch the murderous serial killer.

Review:

There are some books where I just cannot seem to appreciate the humour or irony behind the story and this started out as one of them. I especially distrusted a book written by “Anonymous”. Seriously? Couldn’t come up with an alias at all?

The writing wasn’t bad. There were a few very repetitive descriptions, such as Candy’s figure and how some men’s hands were like shovels.

At first, each chapter introduces different characters. From then on, some of them intertwine while some other poor folks get killed. Hey, it’s a horror story, no big spoiler there.
There are new characters being introduced even after halfway past the book. I have to admit at some point I no longer knew who was who.

I don’t believe everyone would appreciate this book, especially because it seems to address and explore in a very graphic way every rotten trait a person could have. There was a lot of pretty detailed violence, sexual acts, degrading of women, bribery and just about anything morally wrong.
In my case, there were times when I was not sure whether I should be shocked, horrified or laugh because the fact is there was dimension to the story inside the humorous bit and it appeals to those things everyone knows they should not find funny but do. I guess it depends on how lightly you are able to take horror.

I for one tried to tune out the gruesome stuff (although it still got to me) and focus on the mystery and therefore managed to enjoy it to some extent. Not an easy job, I tell ya. Usually, I take my stories very seriously, particularly horror. But since this is obviously a play on bad horror – starting with the town name, B Movie Hell -, I tried to tone it down and cut the characters’ “quirks” and events some slack. From then on, I began enjoying it more.

That said, there were a lot of plot holes. There was an entire subplot that was not nearly explored enough. There were things I wanted explained, such as how the guy from the asylum (Touretto?) escaped or how Mellencamp got his hands on Baby in the first place or how everyone in town knew where ‘Baby’ came from.

It is definitely not a book for everyone, including several of my followers most definitely.
You’ll enjoy it if you don’t mind the things I mentioned above.
As for me… It was, well, refreshing. I had never read anything quite like it.

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 Jan 17 to Jan 21, 2016
GR Review

Read the book before watching the movie in 2016

As a fan of doing exactly what the title says, I found this idea by Book Depository very cool!

They also have a ‘Books on screen’ and Books about films’ tabs in the same page.

How tempting is that??

Click the image below to see the full list:

Have you read any of these books?
Do you plan to?

I have read Luckiest Girl Alive and definitely plan on watching the movie.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and A Monster Calls have been on my to buy list for a while, so I am very tempted to buy them.

If you do plan on buying any of these books, will you get a hard or e-copy?

Tell me everything!


PS: There, I caved.

I bought:

A Monster Calls

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a nifty 10% discount lying around as well so just could not resist! Argh!

Have you caved in yet? :)

Astrum Divinus

Title: Astrum Divinus

Author: John D. Christopher

Genres: Mystery

Length: 277 pages | 4847 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 2.5/5

Premise:

An historian who is about to turn 33 years old has all his life had certain abilities.
A series of events unfolds as he slowly begins to understand them and struggle with his beliefs.

Review:

When I first started reading Astrum Divinus, I could tell the narrator was young. However, he didn’t sound young. At times he did but others he used expressions that were quite grown-up. A 5 year old doesn’t use the word depressed.

Moving along. Well. I have to tell you, I have read books that seemed to have no build-up whatsoever. This, however, felt like the mother of all build-ups. The large majority of the book is spent giving background to a sect. The narrative is long, the dialogues are long, there are lots of names to remember and it just lost me, at times.

Also, as much as I enjoyed the British touch to the text, I did not appreciate the lack of character development. The main one was as dull as dull can be. Here we have this rich, knowledgable guy who has several odd abilities and he simply brushes off as – eccentric I believe was the word he used – and never once seemed to do any sort of research on it.

So I did not relate to the main character at all, let alone any of the others. As a person, he only seemed to show interest in all things related to History. You’d think that after finally meeting the man who caused his life to drastically change at the age of 5 and whom he thought he would never see again or know who he was, he would have some sort of reaction, one where he would stop and acknowledge the fact. And yet he seems to completely lose it, a man who is usually so self-controlled.

Some things seemed to have been added just for the shock factor. Like saying Renauld was his father. Seriously? That was it? No explanation as to his absence for the first five years of the protagonist’s life? No expression on how it was so difficult for him to stay away? And that ending. It felt so forced. I could not even tell if the guy’s religious views changed at all, if he believed in God or not. And he always referred to the sect members as a completely separate thing from him. Not much of a hero development, if you ask me.

The entire book seemed quite devoid of emotion and yet, with all these negative points, the fact is it entertained me. Even though I found it unnecessarily heavy and some things I just shook my head at, I found the style innovative and kept going back to it. The descriptions were powerful, for sure. I just wish there had been better character and plot development, as opposed to this happened, then this happened and then this happened.

It was an ok book, refreshing writing most definitely.

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 Jan 05 to Jan 14, 2016
GR Review

Solace

Solace

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A psychic works with the FBI in order to hunt down a serial killer.

Review:

Solace had quite a few strong points. Visually, it was well-directed for the most part; some shots were just beautiful and there were some neat tricks with the camera acting on the subjects’ abilities. The soundtrack was very powerful and had just the right intensity at the right time. There were wonderful scenarios, if brief, and there was what I would consider some mystery, since the trailer had spoiled it for me. And there were small touches here and there that were truly a delight.
It was also great to see actors I am so fond of again, especially all working together.

The movie had me fairly entertained to me up to a point. There’s this cop who knows a doctor who happens to be psychic and has secluded himself in a house in a breath-taking area since his daughter passed away. The cop is at a loss with a series of murders and asks for his help, since they are friends and all. As expected, the psychic guy (Hopkins) is reluctant at first – being a hermit and all – but finally gives in.

Now at this point something bothered right away: For a guy who would not even open the curtains on his house he seemed to fit right in, on the exact same day of his friend’s visit, in the middle of all the big city’s hustling and FBI headquarters or whatever they were.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Anthony Hopkins, Colin Farrell on their own were awesome.
As I said, I love those actors. For some reason, I just did not feel the chemistry.
I suppose it has a bit to do with Hopkins’ character. John was like Lecter’s good twin. Constant poker face and the few lines he said were either evasive or cynical or both but he is a good guy at heart. I get it, it was probably either void himself of emotions or go nuts with the constant visions of people’s past and future, not to mention his daughter’s death. And yet I still wanted more from him. It was like he almost gave up. I am sure he had several lines and yet after leaving the movie theatre for mere minutes I have the impression he didn’t speak much at all.

And the others… It’s like they flew by the flick. At times it was even like either not much happened or what did was repetitive.
Oh and then there were the usual car/foot chases and accidents because you just have to have that in every major blockbuster, right?

After a point, I was just bored. The plot isn’t new although there are a few interesting bits, the most obvious the killer’s intentions and whatnot. But the plot twists were either predictable or disappointing and the ending was, in my opinion, dismal. After such a build up, I had just expected more.

Nice try, though. Still entertaining. I had just hoped for more, especially with such a cast.

Halfskin (The Vignettes)

Title: Halfskin (The Vignettes)

Author: Tony Bertauski

Genres: Dystopia | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Format: Mobi

Length: 258 pages | 1449 locations

Source: Author Newsletter / Promotion on Amazon

Rating: 4/5

 

Premise:
A summary of what happened when biomites were introduced to the world.

Review:

When I got this book as a gift from the author’s newsletter, it was presented as a prequel.

Now a prequel can be defined as noun 1. a literary, dramatic, or filmic work that prefigures a later work, as by portraying the same characters at a younger age.

So imagine my surprise when I start reading it and everything, for some reason, sounds familiar. I recognized all those stories I enjoyed reading so much from Halfskin #1. There they were interspersed with the main narrative and that construction was part of why I enjoyed that first book so much.

As I read on, I identified more and more episodes of all the trilogy’s books, some of them I consider quite spoilery (particularly the cube).

Having read the trilogy before, this just felt like a bunch of lines already written put together with a bit something extra and that was immensely disappointing for the majority of the short story.
As a prequel, I had expected a bit more background on how the world became what it was. There was clearly an attempt to do that but, in my opinion, quite glossed over to get to the juicy bits.

So why the high rating instead of a 1 or 2 or even 3 stars?
Well, for one, the last chapter saved it for me. I do not recall reading about charges at all and it was a great concept that somehow seemed to summarize the entire biomite ambition era.

Secondly, I really, really love Tony Bertauski’s writing.

Repetitive as it was, I did enjoy diving into the biomite universe all over again.

And finally, I accept that not everyone would feel the way I do. I know that I, personally, would be incredibly disappointed if I had read this ‘prequel’ and then moved on to book 1. The sense of deja vu would kill me and I would feel tempted to skip those chapters and then feel guilty about it if I did.
But others may find it had just enough interesting content to get them to move on to trilogy and not be bothered by that feeling at all. Who knows?

So I still recommend it, just in my personal opinion not as a prequel, as I feel the trilogy should be savoured in all its glory. I view it more as a great, thought-provoking sum up of it and would read it a long time after going through the trilogy to refresh my memory.

Note: This is good quality dystopia/sci-fi/speculative science, folks. I highly recommend looking up the author’s site because if you sign up to his newsletter you will receive FREE BOOKS and see for yourself.
This book is also free on Amazon; click here!

And on a final note, there’s no way this book is 258 pages in print, I read it in one sitting and I cannot even begin to tell you how rare that is even if the book is awesome.
I could also tell by the speedy way the percentage on my Kindle advanced and the number of locations.

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

Read on Jan 04, 2016
GR Review

Probably Monsters

Title: Probably Monsters

Author: Ray Cluley

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

Length: 359 pages

Source: Netgalley

Format: Pdf

Rating: 4.25/5

Premise:

Several horror short stories featuring all sorts of monsters.

Review:

These stories all have a few things in common: they are capable of infusing you with all sorts of feelings. Throughout them I was terrified, bemused, sad, cheated, baffled, nostalgic, amongst others I cannot really name.

I believe the strength of this book is that the line between reality and dream/supernatural/myth is stretched so very thin. Not many authors can do that with the artistry Mr Cluley presented us in this collection and I could tell he did quite a lot of research on some subjects.

There were all sorts of characters, with a huge range of age, sex, location, race and sexuality. I think there is something in each story that everyone can relate to. Some characters even appear normal, if quirky, and then the author flips it on you and you find out that maybe they are not, but sometimes cannot be really sure, or if there even is anything supernatural involved.

There were all sorts of themes too. I don’t believe I had ever seen an anthology with such diversity and yet a common theme.

Each of the stories was thought-provoking in their own way and entertained me as only the best horror can.
However…
Only a collection of short stories as good as this could make me realize that this is simply not a genre I can do. In the end, even with such quality, most of them left me wanting and I did not particularly care for some endings.
They are short stories. There cannot be that much development and that just doesn’t seem to be something I can handle well. I did like some, even loved a couple, their endings included, but I always wanted more.

Alas, I absolutely loved the thought that every single one of us, given the right circumstances, can become a monster. And that bittersweet taste at the end of some stories, where I just asked myself what the heck had happened and how such a piece of writing could come out of a person’s mind assured me that, even though I don’t appreciate the genre, I can definitely appreciate quality.
The notes at the end of the book with comments on how the author was inspired to write each story were a welcome plus.

The stories I found most intense, and therefore enjoyed the most are The Festering, Bloodcloth and Beachcombing. I just realized reading this that the focus of each is a child. Definitely some of the most disturbing tales I have read feature children, but it’s the way Cluley did it that was so mesmerizing.

The author mentioned in the notes Tommy from Beachcombing is coming back in his novel Sullivan Dunn but I have not seen that one around. I would definitely like to read it, though, something a bit lengthier by the author.

A few thoughts on each tale:

All Change
This first story was quite intriguing. The protagonist is a man in his late 70s looking for something we are not quite sure what could possibly be. It’s like he has this inbuilt radar that will tell him where to look. Little by little we are fed the information we need but in such little pieces that it never really comes together until the end. A crafted built story and the ending was very eerie.

I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing
This one was very slow for me. There was a lot of talk about lobsters and mermaids and I kept wondering when it would get interesting.
Sadly, neither the story nor the characters kept me intrigued, but I did enjoy the setting and that the author tried to raise awareness to issues in Nicaragua.

The Festering
This one was powerful. It was scary, creepy, disgusting and so, so sad. I felt disturbed reading the entire thing.
It is dreadful and horrifying that so much wrongness and anger could go around in a vicious circle.

At night, When the Demons Come
Not the best one to read when you wake up at 3am and can’t go back to sleep.
This one is a post-apocalyptic tale that is terrifying and makes you wonder what you would do to survive.
The writing is magnificent as usual and I did not see that ending coming.
Again I finished the story feeling immensely sad and disturbed.

Night Fishing
This is an eerie story which approaches several sensitive matters such as inter-racial relationships, homosexuality, trying to be something you’re not, utter desperation… The last few lines left me a bit wanting after such a good set up but the rest of the story was very touching.

Knock-Knock
This one is told through the eyes of a child, which I always find extra creepy. I could never tell how old our narrator was but he was young. The author was completely successful in conveying the terror a child feels under such circumstances and the ending was, as usual, very sad but expected. At least we get hopeful hints about the kid’s future throughout the story, that was nice.

The Death Drive of Rita, Nee Carina
I wasn’t sure what to think about this one, to be honest. Disturbing as usual, especially because the line between sanity/reality and dream/invention was stretched so thin.

The Man Who Was
This story approaches homosexuality as well but in a completely different manner. The development of the story was quite well achieved both because the narrator had a completely different voice of the previous stories and the suspense was deliciously frustrating. Everytime I felt I, as our narrator, was going to get the answer to the big mystery behind the General, something would interrupt. The ending, again, left me lacking because it felt too farfetched even for fiction.

Shark! Shark!
This was probably the one I enjoyed the least. Having a completely different narrating voice was interesting but the way it was done was not. I felt it dragged on and on. I get the point that the narrator tried to give subtle hints throughout the story but reading stuff like In the middle of the room, though, is a large fish tank. As in the tank is large, but also as in it could hold a large fish. Both definitions apply. got tiresome.
The ending was surprising enough but after such a development it just wasn’t enjoyable, there was simply too much redundancy throughout the story.

Bloodcloth
This one was right up my alley, my type of horror. Again, primarily seen through the eyes of a child trying to figure out why things are the way they are and why she is not supposed to do certain things – or other people for that matter.
However, I felt too much was left unexplained and I wish it had been further developed, if not to a full novel then at least a novella. It could be awesome.

The Tilt
This story features two gay friends, one male and one female, visiting a citadelle in France.
I enjoyed the development and particularly the ironic ending that I never saw coming, which is always a pleasant surprise.

Bones of Crow
Not sure what to say about this one except it was very symbolic.
Creepy, of course but the ending made sense in a twisted way.
The notes at the end brought my attention to things I had not contemplated, besides the cancer thing which seemed obvious.

Pins and Needles
Wow. This guy was pretty messed up. And what’s even scarier is that it felt like he suffered from some kind of mental illness. To think there could be people like this out there, living their own lives and doing these little acts to get noticed. And what an ending… Perfect conclusion.

Gator Moon
Guilt leads you to do strange things.
Once again myth bleeds over to reality and what you get is a very creepy story of a haunting that just won’t go away.

Where the Salmon Run
This one takes place in Russia and is full of analogies.
Another story where myth and reality merge in the mind of a woman who has been through a very traumatic experience.
There’s a lot of talk about salmon, for sure.

Indian Giver
This tale appears to take place when the settlers took over northern american from the indians.
I think the characters were a lot more scared than me. Ok story.

A Mother’s Blood
Postpartum depression taken to an extreme. Wow.
Intense thoughts, stuff I never imagined to see on paper.

The Travellers Stay
A story where people who visit a motel never leave. Not a new theme, but interesting twist to it.
Though why anyone would stay in a hotel full of cockroaches in the first place, regardless how tired they were, is beyond me.

No More West
Much too short to account to anything relevant. Only slightly piqued my interest.

Beachcombing
Another of my favourites. A young boy can touch things and feel the emotions of those who handled them.
It is such a heartwarming and at the same time heartbreaking tale. I truly enjoyed it.

 

In the end, these stories manage to grip your attention while addressing extremely sensitive matters. They will most likely stay at the back of your mind for a while, perhaps even creep into your dreams.

All I can say is that I would love to read a longer piece by the author and that this one in particular comes highly recommended to fans of the genre.
Very hard to beat this horror anthology.

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 Dec 15 to Jan 03, 2016
GR Review

December 2015 Wrap-Up

Alas, the year comes to an end.

Sadly I did not get much reading time this month either but overall I can say I had a pretty great year.

I created Ana’s Lair on February 19th and there was a period where I would post everyday.
Then my life changed and my free time was drastically reduced, mostly due to a much yearned for new job (yay!), so I have not been able to be as active as I wished.

I am at least happy to say I believe my Books page is now up to date. It had to be at least 3 to 4 months since I was able to add the information because I am a noob at coding and kept getting errors. No time to deal with them, which added to the frustration, so yeah, I am happy to finish the year with all that done. Still, let me know if you find any mistakes!

Ah… 2015. I was lucky enough to meet some awesome people on the blogosphere so thank you all so much for visiting and especially for your feedback! I truly appreciate each and every comment :)

Here’s to an awesome new year! *cheers*


December Summary:

Total Books Read: 3

Longest Read: True Calling (400 pages)

Shortest Read: The Realms of the Dead: Crossfades and Bleedovers (265 pages)

Book of the Month: The Humans

Favourite Cover:

Challenges Progress:

GoodReads: 103/100 You can view them all here.
2015 Netgalley & Edelweiss: 52/?


December Books:

 

The first book I finished in December was True Calling, by Siobhan Davis.

I wanted more out of this dystopia. The romance was simply overpowering and I finished it feeling very disappointed.
It was still entertaining at parts and I recommend it to teenagers.

I rated it 2/5 stars.

 

 

I then read The Humans, by Matt Haig.

It is obviously a novel intended to make you think. As I mentioned in my review, I finished it with an intense sense of nostalgia.
I felt some things should have been handled better or further explored, particularly in the science fiction department, but overall it was a special book and I recommend it.

I rated it 3.75/5 stars.

 

 

The last book I managed to finish in 2015 was a little two in one, The Realms of the Dead: Crossfades and Bleedovers, by William Todd Rose.
Overall these two novellas were quite a pleasant surprise! Well, perhaps pleasant is not the right word, considering the genre. I hadn’t read such good horror in a long time.
I had a few issues with each of the stories but overall both were a thrilling read and I could definitely see a series spinning off the adventures of Chuck Grainger.

I rated it 3.75/5 stars.

 

 


Where I got the books:

Author:

  • True Calling

 
Book Depository

  • The Humans

 
Netgalley:

  • The Realms of the Dead: Crossfades and Bleedovers

 

Movie Reviews:

 

Other Posts in December:

 


How was December for you?
And the entire year?
Do you have a Wrap-up post? Please link it below!