Borne

Title: Borne

Author: Jeff VanderMeer

Genres: Dystopia | Speculative Fiction

Length: 336 pages | 4590 Kindle locations

Source: Netgalley

Publisher: Fourth Estate

Publishing Date: June 15th, 2017

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a woman named Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear. Mord once prowled the corridors of the biotech organization known as the Company, which lies at the outskirts of the city, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly and broke free. Driven insane by his torture at the Company, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers like Rachel.

Review:

OK, I have to admit it straight out – I am shallow and got this mostly because of the cover. I mean, how gorgeous is that? Mesmerising, really. And such a contrast to the world created here, which is completely bleak.

I had read a previous book by the author and I ended up having much of the same feelings while reading Borne. You see, Mr VanderMeer wants to take you on a journey to discover and experience the wonderful worlds he creates and at times I felt completely enthralled. I particularly really loved Borne’s personality. So like a child, eager to know what was around him.

However, in other instances the writing threw me off and again I wished I had had more explanations. Rachel’s narration style could be quite odd in my opinion and I especially disliked her soliloquy about being a ghost and constantly referring to herself in the third person – or rather this other side of her. It wore me out after a while. As this example, there were some parts I could have done without, as I felt they dragged the book on. Still, there is beauty in all.

As my previous experience, as we come towards the end of the book explanations are hinted at but not given and that also left me unsatisfied.
Still, it was an incredibly imaginative world, with biotech and modified creatures and children – there’s even a flying bear in it, for crying out loud, and the author manages to not make it look silly – and you cannot help to be sucked in by the amazingly complex writing, that carries so much meaning, albeit taking quite a lot longer to go through than I had expected.

Recommended.

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 June 11th to Jul 3rd, 2017
GR Review

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Gambit (The Prodigy Chronicles #1)

Title: Gambit (The Prodigy Chronicles #1)

Author: C.L. Denault

Genres: Dystopia | Paranormal

Length: 556 pages

Source: Author / Giveaway

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3/5

 

Premise:

Sixteen-year-old Willow lives in a world where humans with extraordinary skills lead lives completely apart from the normal ones. Her life in the small village compares nothing to the Core, but she is free… Until her secrets are exposed and Willow is forced to choose between her freedom and the life of her family.

Review:

Gambit had a bumpy start for me because I could not take to the main character. She was made to be too much of a bad-ass – He planted a delicate kiss on my forehead, the one man in the room brave enough to dare such a thing, and went back to work. – and was manipulative of those who care about her (father, best friend, etc). I really didn’t like that, although it played into the story. Still, she was just not someone I liked and that remained throughout the book.

Then there was the all too seen best friend who wants to be something more and the main character doesn’t. At this point I was wondering what I had gotten myself into.

However, the prose is so engaging that next thing I knew I had read well more than half the book in one sitting and it was the wee hours of the morning. I had to force myself to stop because, you know, headache, blurry vision and so on.

There were quite a few characters, so I had to keep reminding myself who was who but after a while I got used to it and each had their own voice. This is a long book and I got a good idea how it was like for Willow in her life before all the madness happened and then with all the changes she endured.

The novel sets a new world well, where for some reason I kept hearing Hook from Once Upon a Time every time a villager spoke with their ‘Aye’ and addressing Willow as ‘love’ or ‘lassie’. At the same time, it touches quite a few important issues, specifically human ambition and its potential consequences. Genetic manipulation and irreparable damage to the environment surely loom in today’s future so to some extend this was pretty believable.

There were a few things I didn’t get.

I didn’t quite grasp the concept of the Surge. It seemed like something that should be hidden in case you were a normal hiding a skill but at the same time it seemed expected that Willow go through it, regardless of being a prodigy or not. Did everyone go through it? Always at 16? I didn’t even get how people went from begin normal to becoming prodigies and that seems pretty basic world building to me. I am hoping this and other things left unexplained will be addressed in further books.

I had major issues with the men in this book. First of all, every man that shows interest in Willow, which is pretty much any male she comes across, seems to be coveted by numerous females, including her teasing best friend. Then I don’t understand why rebellious-I-can-take-care-of-myself Willow would trust Joshua so blindly from the moment they met. Not to mention it’s totally creepy, with him at least looking twice her age and all. And the way he kept calling her little one got old really fast. I realise it was probably done to keep from such climate was emerging but it was still creepy. And then the level of intimacy 23-year-old Reece had with Willow was just plain wrong. She’s 16, for crying out loud. Yes, he was respectful enough, but it just feels wrong.

Action takes place in former London but American spelling is used everywhere.

Why would Reece saying that he is genetically incapable of lying be enough for Willow? He could totally be playing her this whole time! Why did she not even consider double checking this information??

I wanted to know the secondary characters better. Several people, not least of them Willow’s parents, had who they thought for sixteen years was their daughter suddenly taken away and I could not get a glimpse of how this affected any of them, least of all big-hearted Fenn.

I was sorry to see so much was left unexplained at the end of the book. I at least wanted to know what secret Reece was keeping.

All in all, Gambit was a fast-paced adventure that is sure to keep you entertained and there is enough tension that will keep you wanting to know what comes next. Personally, I needed more character and world development and a few clichés eliminated from the narrative to feel fully satisfied but I believe YA fans will enjoy it very much and do recommend it.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author of the book and the author of the blog that held this giveaway.

Read from Apt 8th to Apr 9th, 2017
GR Review

City of Endless Night

Title: City of Endless Night

Author: Milo Hastings

Genres: Dystopia | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 256 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

After the first world war, Germany evolves to an underground, impenetrable city that the world outside keeps trying to defeat. One young man does not understand why such a war as gone on for over a century and will do anything in his power to change it. Going on this adventure will allow him more insight on such a society than anyone thought possible.

Review:

I have to admit I struggled with the writing on this one. This is completely different from anything I have read. The book was written in 1919 and I found the prose difficult to understand at times (English is not my native language), quite contained and very matter of fact. Yet, I still felt engaged. The book has strong politic and socialist components but it leaves room for more humane assessing as well. There is a bit of romance and enough tension of all sorts to want to keep reading.

However, right from the beginning there were things that irked me, namely how everything came together for our main character. As the narrative initially developed, things seemed to fall into place much too easily for him. He enters this world by taking the place of a dead guy who looks just like him and who happens to have his own personal biography in his pocket, after having had a life experience that would allow him to succeed brilliantly at his new persona. And everyone just assumes his lack of memory is due to gas poisoning. I don’t understand, was no testing done at the hospital to see he had indeed not been poisoned by gas? What about his tanned complexion? And he had to have an accent, even if he learned German from the age of 7. The guy admitted his vocabulary was more technical than anything! And then the right people seem to come across his path so easily as well, just the ones he needs, and who just spill their true thoughts to such a stranger, even though no thoughts are really allowed there.
All these questions and others bothered me throughout the story.

But the fact is it is a very disturbing one. The Germany described here is nightmarish in its potential to become real at that time. This book is astoundingly futuristic, in a way that I could not help but think how it all must have inspired Hitler. I mean, I was never much of a fan of History, but it seemed like the guy tried to replicate much of what went on here. That is so terrifying.

Although there were quite a few plot holes and I found the development of the story too easy for our main character, this is an amazing classic that everyone should definitely read at least once in their lifetime. Having just finished it, I am still chilled.

Read from Aug 28th to Sep 4th, 2016

GR Review

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
In a Fascist future where all forms of feeling are illegal, a man in charge of enforcing the law rises to overthrow the system.

Review:

By now, dystopian societies where people are not allowed to feel for the greater good is no longer a new concept. This movie came out 14 years ago though, so I can only assume it was pretty new back then.

Still, having that in mind, it was not very entertaining. Some plot twists made no sense while others were predictable, and there were situations where the main character put himself that there is absolutely no chance he could not get caught in such a society. He was allowed to do those things for much too long, for the sake of the narrative evolving to where it did. Even the new sort of martial art of fighting/shooting was quite beautiful and yet there is no way trained soldiers would just wait in line to be shot like that.

Equilibrium presents itself as a blend of Fahrenheit 451 and The Matrix and if you are big on action movies you will probably enjoy it. As I mentioned, some scenes really are capable of dazzling you. However, I do felt the plot could have been polished much, much more and in the end it was just another cool sci-fi, action movie. Extra points for the newness of the concept at the time and Bale’s performance, but that’s about it.

Equals

Equals

Rating: 2.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
In an emotionless utopia, two people fall in love when they regain their feelings from a mysterious disease, causing tensions between them and their society.

Review:

The premise to this movie, although not new, was quite promising. A society where emotions are viewed as a disease and people actually do not question it throughout almost the entire movie made me curious enough to watch it.

However, it got overpowered by a romance where I could not even feel the chemistry. Kirsten’s face works well for the robotic layer of her character but when trying to convey emotion, let alone chemistry with her co-star, it just didn’t work.
Also, her excessive thinness and bags under her eyes truly annoyed me. Aren’t these people supposed to look healthy because they are free of pretty much all diseases?

Also, I have to admit, I dozed off from time to time. Granted, a restless night of sleep didn’t help but boy was this movie slow. There wasn’t even a climax, not really, no matter how high the director pumped the soundtrack’s volume up.

The first contact between those two should have been much more intense. Their reactions were pretty muted considering that supposedly they had never even touched anyone up to that point. Just holding hands should have sent sparks all over their bodies, being confined in such a small space and that close and all. Instead there was just a lot of eye, lips and hands close-ups and some panting but no actual emotion or passion that came across.

The development after the plot twist made me bat-crazy. I could not understand why the guy was running around, it just seemed ridiculous.

The ending was a major cliffhanger and did not satisfy me in the least.

I wish I had seen more of the dystopia, the world building, than such a major focus on romance.

It was okay but really, really slow and honestly not that interesting.

Blood, Ink & Fire

Title: Blood, Ink & Fire

Author: Ashley Mansour

Genres: Dystopia | Fantasy | Romance | Science Fiction

Length: 464 pages | 6224 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 1.25/5

Premise:

Noelle is different from everyone else in Fell. In a place where words are forbidden and no one even seeks them anymore, Noelle feels an urge towards them.
When she makes the decision of following that calling, can the ones she loves be safe? What will she find? About herself, about the world?

Review:

I understand many people loved this book so I will try to keep my review as objective as possible.

Blood, Ink & Fire starts out as your average dystopia: a society where individuals are deprived of freedom and has this incredible AI whose purpose is more than meets the eye. Quickly you get the feeling that this is an ode to Fahrenheit and Shakespear and book loving in general.

However, as a work of fiction, to me, it failed to deliver. Suspension of disbelief is taken to an extreme, dialogues and monologues are cringe-worthy and the narrative just doesn’t flow, being obvious at time and not delivering resolution at others.

For example, we don’t even know why people are ‘immersed’ on their 17th birthday. Why 17? Because it is convenient that our main character is that old when all the juicy stuff starts happening?

And the bad guys. They are supposed to be almighty and have full control and all imaginable resources to be anywhere, anytime they want and yet they only show up at convenient times?

Even the names are ridiculous. Why Fell? Other than it is one letter apart from Hell? Obvious much?
And Boolos as short for book lovers? Really?
Forgetsum?
Need I go on?

There is a lot of info dumping and yet no actual world setting. When do these people eat? How can Noelle drive? How can she run for ages, did she get any exercise in her previous life that would justify it? And it goes on and on.

Also, once again, romance completely overpowers the story from a point on. And it doesn’t even make sense. This Ledger guy sounds much too human from the getgo, for someone or something who is not supposed to be one of us. I didn’t even get what he was supposed to be.
There’s a lot of feels and yet I go through the book completely unable to connect to any of the characters, least of all the main one, who everyone seems to love, Lord knows why.

The book had potential. I thought the relationship between Noelle and John was cute, different, and not just because he was blind or they didn’t make romantic moves. Although the fact that they called each other by their initials never made any sense to me but I guess it was supposed to make their relationship more special. Then it just went downhill for me. Things started happening for the sake of happening and I was, quite honestly, bored.

There were, as I said, things left unexplained and others that made no sense like what happened to the twin who deserted the Risers, or Noelle finding herself in a room, alone, with a note explaining that the room only locks from the inside and she can use the key to let herself out. Wha…? Is this a whodunnit book? Nope, it goes completely unnoticed.

There were several interesting concepts, especially the importance of books and the dangers of this new age where people no longer seem to resort to them to obtain information or pleasure – supported by quotes of books at the beginning of the novel whose authors have studied this phenomenon and sadly I have to say that was about my favourite part, the inspiration. The development of the premise just left me disappointed beyond words.

Disappointing does not even begin to describe the ridiculous ending. Is it supposed to be surprising or shocking? It’s not. It’s just ridiculous.
If you are going to introduce a different concept you need to make it work, not just be lazy in the end. You have this guy who isn’t a guy but sort of the memory of books. He has a mission. She has a mission. Find 9 books which will somehow lead to the location of this special, amazing place, although it is never clear what is supposed to be done when it is found. HOW?? How on Earth was that supposed to happen? How does it work? She reads all 9 volumes and something clicks? Are there hidden clues in each of the volume? How??
Also, for a thing that is supposed to be special, there were numerous opportunities to shake the reader with the wonderful act of reading and yet I only even remotely felt it once that I recall and even that lacked a good amount of emotion.

So even though most of this book waived between a 2 and a 3, by the end it just went down to 1. What a total waste of time.

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 Jun 19 to Jun 24, 2016
GR Review

Broken Skies (Broken Skies #1)

Title: Broken Skies (Broken Skies #1)

Author: Theresa Kay

Genres: Adventure | Dystopia | Post-apocalyptic | Romance | Science Fiction

Length: 276 pages | 3823 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

Jax is not going to be Promised to any man. She has a plan. She is going to escape with her brother Jace.
Just when she is about to break the news to him, Jace gets kidnapped by alien fiends. Now Jax has got to do everything in her power to get him back and, for that, she will count on the help of an unlikely ally. In the process, she will learn things about herself she never dreamed of.

Review:

My first impression of this novel was not positive at all. Within the first few lines I asked myself what I had gotten myself into and that feeling increased as I read the first couple of paragraphs/chapters.
I immediately disliked the main character because she struck me as intensely immature. Demanding people to call her by her nickname, the rants, the tantrums, good grief…
Then there was all the flushing and the letting out of breaths she didn’t know she was holding and the stopping what she was about to do because she hadn’t realized what she was doing, etc, etc.

An awkward love triangle forms almost immediately and although its development was out of the ordinary it still felt clichée.
As I was reading, I guessed I was supposed to be moved by the relationship between Jasmine aka Jax and her brother, but the fact is I felt he was just a prop to make the plot advance. Jax was supposed to go on a trip with a mysterious, beautiful looking alien, so let’s make the purpose of said trip saving Jax’s brother, shall we? For the preparation and the journey itself, Jax will feel maddeningly drawn to the alien, but obviously constantly denies her feelings because he is an alien and just so damn rude and obnoxious. Or is he? No… No, he isn’t. She is, though.

As the story develops, Jax remains annoying though there is some growth. For the most part though, her mood switches between hot anger and icy fear – expressions, or variations thereof, which were repeated to exhaustion throughout the book.
Some revelations surprised me, others not at all. The book didn’t get exciting for me up to the last 15 or 20%.
However, the fact is the writing does not give pause for break. It is a fast paced book and although a lot was left unexplained (Why are children, both human and alien, sick? Why was Lir on the clearing? Why did his kitu stop working? Why didn’t the other aliens wait for him before returning to the city? And so much more) or did not make sense (example: if the aliens’ blood was green, why did they blush red and their infected wounds were red instead of dark green?), the fact is I was not bored I got through it pretty quickly.

I realize I am not the right audience for this book and that what I found annoying others may find exciting. Therefore, I recommend it to teens/young adults who enjoy sci-fi and romance; I believe they will find it very entertaining and difficult to put down.

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 Jun 03 to Jun 05, 2016
GR Review