Monday, November 11, 2013

LIke Mind by James Wood

Twenty-something Corey volunteers in a drug trial at the local university for an extra $50, hoping to buy a meal nicer than his usual diet of frozen burritos. While watching the news the next day, Corey discovers that the doctor running the medical trial was arrested for felony manslaughter after several trial participants mysteriously died.

Uh oh.

Corey discovers that the drug tested on his fires up a certain part of his brain, allowing him to exactly copy something he's seen another person do -- like a sweet Chuck Norris roundhouse kick or some Matrix-style kung-fu. But time is running out. With each minute that passes, Corey's brain is one step closer to becoming Jello pudding. Corey must race against time to track down the mysterious doctor and fix what's going on in his head.

What I liked about this book:
A fast paced plot and a humorous twist on the medical/conspiracy thriller, 'Like Mind' will keep readers flipping through to the very end. Corey is both fascinated and frightened by his gift, and doesn't pass up a single opportunity to try out all the cool moves he's seen in the movies.

The book is well written and flows naturally, and Corey is the type of 'adorkable' protag readers will root for.

What I didn't like about this book:
The humor is too referential, in my opinion. Wood relies on pop-culture jokes and celebrity references, which will definitely age this story.

This next critique is a personal pet peeve: the dorky, average guy snagging the super hot chick (see: Chuck). It's an overworked trope, and usually unnecessary (as it is in this story).

Final verdict:
If you're into action and pop-culture humor, give this one a try. If you're looking for something a bit deeper, this might not fit the bill.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Legend Trippers by Micahel Cahill

I like monsters, conspiracy theories, things that go bump in the night, and EXPLOSIONS. When Micahel Cahill requested a review for Legend Trippers, I was excited to find a book that put together all of my favorite things.


15-year old Zachary Larkin is a bit of an odd-ball. He's the type of tin-foil hat, conspiracy theory loving teen that the rest of his high school wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. His hobby? Studying and tracking cryptids, legendary animals yet to be recognized by science.

Zachary persuades his school's principal to allow him to create a Legend Tripper club. He and his band of misfit friends -- plus the club's reluctant faculty advisor, Mrs. Stafford -- plan to investigate reported sightings of chupacabras. But when their investigation turns up concrete evidence, Zachary and his friends must put their legend tripping skills to the test and fight for their survival.

What I liked about this book:
I LOVED the characters here. In books with this much action and monster madness, it's easy for writers to lose sight of their characters and dive head-first into plotting. Cahill stays true to his characters and allows each of them to shine. While each of the kids in the story is unique, I found myself most identifying with Mrs. Stafford, the teacher sponsor of the club (Gasp!! Sign #1 that I'm now an old person). So many YA novels paint adults as obnoxious or stupid, but Cahill does a great job with Mrs. Stafford's character, showing her as a skeptic who still appreciates and respects even the wackiest of her students.

What I didn't like about this book:
I felt like there was a bit of a disconnect between the protagonists, who were very realistically drawn  (I went to high school with some Zachary's and Aidan's!) and the antagonist, who is cartoonishly evil. When their story lines converge, I had a hard time imagining all of those characters existing in the same world.

Final verdict:
If you're looking for a book for a boy YA or MG reader, this would be a great choice. There's tons of action (some gore, but nothing too awful), and of course, MONSTERS. I know a few kids who would love this story, but adult readers might find this a bit too 'fluffy'.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Perfectible Animals by Thomas Norwood

I've been reading a lot of YA and NA fiction lately, so when Thomas Norwood sent a review request for this adult sci-fi novel Perfectible Animals, I was ready for a break from the YA world. Plus, it's sci-fi! How can I say no to that?

Geneticist Michael Khan lives in a future version of Australia where the economy has been ravaged by environmental disasters. The 'haves' live safe, secure lives within the government secured borders of the cities. The 'have-nots' eke out an existence in an inhospitable world controlled by cartels and gang violence.

Michael's genetic research begins as an effort to cure HIV-4, a mosquito-born variant of HIV that's affect thousands, including his wife. However, his research for a cure has lead to a puzzling side effect-- animals medicated with his treatment become placid, cooperative, and friendly.

Michael's hopes for curing HIV-4 seem to be crushed when the military buys his research company, but he remains determined to search for a treatment for his wife. When Michael discovers that the government may have immoral uses for his vaccination, he must decide between trying to save his wife and protecting his countrymen from themselves.

What I liked about this book:
While the blurb got me interested in the story, Norwood's writing is what sucked me in. Norwood does an excellent job balancing suspense, action, intrigue, and science fiction. The technology introduced in the book is far away enough from what we have today to be intriguing, but close enough to our lives to be believable. 

I also enjoyed reading Norwood's take on how environmental disasters could shape the future (which seems to be a trend in newer sci-fi novels). He tackles questions of class-ism head on, and throws the main character into difficult moral dilemmas.

Without including any spoilers, I loved the ending -- Michael stays true to his beliefs, and I can't imagine the story concluding in any other way.

What I didn't like about this book:
The book is  narrated from Michael's point of view, so the reader is constantly given Michael's line of reasoning and justifications for his actions. (SLIGHT SPOILER) However, in his quest to find a cure for his wife's illness, Michael engages in some dubious experiments but is always able to explain away his actions. I think Michael was intended to be a reliable narrator, but by the end of the book I found myself questioning his motives and actions. I would have loved to see another perspective woven into the story to allow the reader a glimpse of Michael as the world sees him instead of experiencing Michael through his own thoughts.

Final verdict:
If you're a fan of genetic engineering/sci-fi books, this is a fun read. There's some implied sex, a little bit of language, and some violence, which skew this book more toward adult and NA readers.

Your turn!
What's your favorite sci-fi subgenre? I love the genetic research explored in this novel, but I'm also a big fan of mind-bending time-travel plots. Share in the comments!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ratpaths by Angelika Rust

I've been off of my blog for a while. For a really, really, long while. My husband and I have been neck deep in house renovations, and the few books I did manage to read over the summer inevitably had love triangles.

But I missed reviewing Indie books, dang it! And I knew I just needed to find the right one. After looking through some of my review requests, I came across Angelika Rust's 'Ratpaths'.

I'm not crazy about the cover, but I am crazy about the book. 'Ratpaths' is a fiction/fantasy novel that takes it's cues from a Renaissance Europe. The city-state Istonnia has been in turmoil since Ravires murdered his brother and nephew nearly fourteen years earlier. With clear succession to the throne, Ravires became a tyrant, using violence to maintain control of the city.

Nivvo, a young thief, overhears a conversation while running an 'errand' for a dear friend. Ravires had left his work incomplete so many years ago, and the rightful heir to Istonnia is still alive. Nivvo must make a decision -- cling to his life as a thief, or help overthrow Ravires.

What I liked about this book:
'Ratpaths' doesn't read so much as fantasy as it does historical fiction. Rust has created a rich, believable world and culture. There's no magic wands, sorcerers, or dragons, but there is a deep understanding of life, of politics, of human nature.

I almost didn't read this book because the writing felt foreign and the manner of speaking so different from modern usage. But in the end, this was my favorite part of the story. Rust does a fantastic job of using the language itself as part of the setting -- the unusual expressions and usage are Istonnian through and through.

Finally, while there are plenty of fantasy books out there with a political edge, 'Ratpaths' never felt derivative. The characters remain fresh, lively, and well-rounded.

What I didn't like about the book:
There were a few things that really threw me off, like Reka, Nivvo's sister. She is portrayed as much older than her thirteen years, and I had a hard time remembering that character was in fact a child. A bit more vulnerability and uncertainty in Reka's character might have been more in line with her age.

Final verdict:
Definitely worth checking out. If you're a fan of light fantasy/historical fiction, this should be right up your alley. There's some violence, but minimal language/sex, making this appropriate for younger pre-teen readers.