Genre: Science Fiction, Horror
Series: Book 1 of Parasitology
Date of Publication: October 29, 2013
Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire has wowed me before with her work, more specifically, with the book Feed in her Newsflesh Trilogy. I confess my deep love for zombie goodness, which is why I was so excited when I got my hands on Parasite, her new novel that appears to contain similar horror/thriller themes. Due to several factors, though, it turned out that wasn’t able to get on board with this one as much as I’d hoped, but I did very much like the subject. Tapeworms, how deliciously creepy!
The book takes place about a decade into the future, where medical science has taken a great leap forward with the development of a genetically engineered tapeworm. Brilliant scientists at SymboGen Corporation have figured out a way to modify this parasite so that it would live in mutualistic symbiosis with humans. Our bodies give the tapeworm a place to live, and in turn it boosts our immune systems, secretes drugs and medications, protects us from illnesses, allergies, and all that good stuff. Within years, almost everyone on earth has one of these implants living within them.
We are then introduced to Sally Mitchell, our main character who woke up six years ago after being diagnosed as brain dead following a horrific car accident. Her recovery has not been complete, however. Despite being a young woman on the outside, Sally/Sal has in essence only been alive for six years because she cannot remember anything of her life prior to her accident. She woke up a complete blank slate, and had to relearn everything like language, social behaviors, and even basic things like how to eat. Nevertheless, SymboGen touts her as a miracle, crediting their tapeworm implant for preserving her life.
Sticking things into our bodies that don’t belong there has never turned out well in these kinds of stories though, especially when they’re parasites that scientists have tinkered with. Which brings me to my first thought — that this book would have been better and more suspenseful if the science aspect had been stepped up a bit. On the one hand, being an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy means that I am no stranger to suspending my disbelief; pretty much anything can go in this genre, as far as I’m concerned. However, there’s also much to be said about authors who can use science to create nightmare scenarios that are so realistic that even their most outlandish ideas can seem convincing. Books like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park or Timeline, for example, are fun to read for this reason. The research in them are at a level where I can actually entertain the thought of their stories being possible.
This wasn’t something I could do with Parasite. Admittedly, I may have been a little over-critical of its premise because of my background in biology, but I think most readers with a basic knowledge of microbiology or genetics will also find some issues with this book. There are not a lot of explanations when it comes to the tapeworm, you just have to accept that things are the way they are. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker, but not being able to picture this story as a realistic situation does lessen the suspense somewhat. But not unlike those crazy made-for-TV disaster movies you see on SyFy, Parasite is still a lot of fun.
Sal’s character, however, was a whole other matter. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: main protagonists are so important for me, and not being able to like them or connect with them makes it harder for me to enjoy a book. First of all, I found it hard to believe that Sal is at such a high level of proficiency when it comes to social behavior and language, considering she started from scratch only six years ago. Beyond that, her personality is also like that of a spoiled brat who thinks she knows everything.
In some ways, I understand that Sal is supposed to be a little naive, being technically just six years old and all. But I’ve lived almost five times that and I’ll still be the first to admit there’s just so much I have yet to learn, and Sal’s self-centered attitude really got on my nerves, along with her apparent disdain for authority figures. Sometimes, I wondered if I would have enjoyed this book more as a Young Adult novel, because then the premise and the main character’s attitude would not have felt so out of place.
I suppose Sal’s history also excuses her for not being all that discerning, or for not having the best judgment of people and situations. I don’t think it’ll take long for most readers to guess the ending to this book; personally, I was able to predict the “twist” by the halfway point (and I don’t think I’m the most perceptive of readers either) but it’s something Sal only manages to figure out in the final few pages, significantly lessening the effect of the cliffhanger. If any suspense still remained for me at this point, the conclusion pretty much negated it and made me realize that perhaps this book just isn’t for me. For a future Mira Grant fix, I will probably pick up Deadline and return to the Newsflesh Trilogy. Tapeworms are interesting, but I think I like her zombies a lot better.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date of Publication: September 27, 2011
Let me just start this review by saying how glad I am to have finally picked up this book! Now that I’ve finished reading it, I can’t help but wonder just what on earth had kept me waiting so long. It also just occurred to me that 2013 has been a great year for me when it comes to Young Adult paranormal fantasy novels featuring angels.
The interesting thing I found about Daughter of Smoke and Bone is that it really reads like a book with two distinct parts. The first part introduces us to our main protagonist and narrator Karou, a blue-haired young woman studying at an art school in Prague. Her sketchbooks are filled with drawings of chimeric monsters and other fantastical beings, which all her friends think are the products of an excessively-active imagination. None of them know the truth, that the strange creatures are in fact all very real, and Karou is a very special girl. In her secret life she runs mysterious errands for her foster family, led by the demonic looking Brimstone, the chimaera whose shop opens a portal between two worlds.
But then around the world, burned and blackened hand prints begin appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged figures that witnesses can only describe as angels. Thus we meet Akiva, one of these beautiful, angelic strangers, who happens to catch sight of Karou while she was on one of Brimstone’s errands. In my eyes, the moment they clashed heralded the beginning of the second part of the story, told mostly in flashbacks and memories. It’s a shame that I can’t really say more, because this to me was where things started getting really good. I won’t spoil the book, but I will bring attention to the opening lines, which I think sums things up nicely:
Two words: forbidden love. I’ll admit I have a weakness for it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always appreciated having a little romance in my reading, but I generally don’t go all sentimental and lose my head over mushy stories of star-crossed love. But Forbidden Love will do it. Every. Single. Time. I am such a sucker for all that comes with it, the ache and longing, the clandestine meetings and the inevitable tragedies. I swear it should be like a genre in itself! Something about books like this make me get all tingly inside, and then everything else just fades away as I become inexorably hooked.
The second half of Daughter of Smoke and Bone did just that to me. The first half was pleasant enough, but I did not feel the connection to this book until Karou and Akiva finally meet and their relationship is explained, the intricacies of their story peeling away gradually, layer by delicious layer. Normally I think I would be repelled by this style of story-telling with all the time jumping and perspective switching, but somehow the author makes it work.
It helps of course that Laini Taylor writes oh so beautifully. The intensity and passion in the romance is almost palpable, due in part to her wonderful prose. Also, when she’s not enchanting me with her rich and detailed descriptions of the city, she is making me smile with the bright and spirited personality of Karou. As to the former, I loved that this book takes place in Prague, the perfect setting for a story like this about myth and magic. Everything comes together to create a mood that is all at once sensual, dark and bewitching.
This book, especially with the revelations contained in its final chapters, completely captivated me. Yes, my penchant for this kind of love story may have a lot to do with it, but at the same time, the beauty of the writing as well as the sheer amount of creativity and inventiveness behind the book’s premise cannot be denied. I don’t often feel the urge to jump right into the next installment of a series, even for books I’ve really enjoyed, preferring to take breaks in between. But I didn’t want to wait for this one. Even as I write this, a copy of Days of Blood and Starlight is now in my possession and waiting to be read, and I am very much looking forward to starting it next.
Genre: Pulp, Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of Dinocalypse Trilogy
Publisher: Evil Hat
Date of Publication: May 2012
This book went straight onto my to-read pile earlier this year, for two main reasons: first, because I love Chuck Wendig, and second because…well, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with any book with a title like Dinocalypse Now!
It wasn’t until I was halfway through reading this book that I started to do some research and found out a little more about its background. Crowd-funded through Kickstarter in 2012, Dinocalypse now is based on Evil Hat Productions’ Spirit of the Century role-playing game, which is set in a 1920s/30s-era pulp adventure world. With this information in mind, dare I say, this wild ride featuring jetpacks, talking gorillas, psychic dinosaurs, and ancient Atlanteans finally all came together for me!
It begins when a group of heroes calling themselves the Century Club are brought in to prevent the assassination of FDR, only to find that the president isn’t the target — they are! Though, what comes next is actually a threat to the entire planet as King Khan the ape conqueror storms this world through a dimensional portal, leading his vast army of primates and dinosaurs. Now it’s up to the Centurions to stop him and save the world!
I won’t lie, I was very much entertained by this book. It is escapist fiction that captures the pure, unadulterated spirit of pulp. Given how characteristics like bigger-than-life heroes, beautiful women, high adventure/action in exotic places, and evil diabolical villains are the hallmarks of this genre, it wouldn’t be wrong to say Dinocalypse Now is all about sensationalism over substance, but I still can’t deny I had a lot of fun.
Picture a kid with an overactive imagination in a toy store, and the stories he can come up with in his head if he played an elaborate game of make-believe while surrounded by miniature buildings, animal plushies, plastic dinosaurs, action figures and toy weapons. You’ll probably get something like this book. Chuck Wendig probably had a blast writing this.
In a sense, it’s likely that the sheer absurdity of this book will also be its greatest appeal. I am completely aghast but also delighted by this its craziness and eccentricity. There is a place in my heart for books that are just completely out there and don’t take themselves seriously, and while I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Chuck Wendig’s other novels, this was still a good one to pick up to pass the time.
Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Date of Publication: September 17, 2013
Douglas E. Richards is known for his mind-bending science fiction thrillers that are a touch different from the mainstream variety, not to mention a penchant for throwing in unexpected twists that will leave you reeling. I finally got the chance to experience Richards’ work for myself with his newest techno-thriller The Cure, and it appears that his knack for storytelling has not been exaggerated.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The god wars effected Max Gladstone’s incredibly rich world in many ways. In the first book in The Craft Sequence, Three Parts Dead, we learned about the death of a warrior goddess and what the hollow form that remained after her resurrection meant to those who loved and worshiped her in Alt Coloumb. Two Serpents Rise takes us over to the desert city of Dresediel Lex, where the storm god was defeated, and water is now supplied by Red King Consolidated.
Caleb Altemoc works for RKC. His first task in the book is to investigate the poisoning of that water supply. And by poisoning, I mean someone infested it with sharp, pointy demons. Aside from that inconvenience, he has to deal with the fact that the number one suspect is his own father, a former high priest of the deposed gods, now a terrorist. And Mal, an enigmatic and beautiful cliff runner who is almost impossible for Caleb to catch. Oh and the giant hungry serpent gods who are threatening to wake up.
You don’t necessarily have to read 3PD, but it does help establish the world and the way gods and worship work, which is what I fell in love with about this series. Gladstone’s gods serve an actual purpose, as in, a storm god keeps the reservoirs filled, while a god of fire heats a city and a goddess of war defends it. Their power is not limitless, though. They require worship and faith, and in the case of the old gods of DL, they required sacrifice. RKC brought an end to this, but if you’re going to depose a god that waters the desert, then you better know how to bring the rain.
I never thought I’d love books where lawyers and big corporations are the (sort of) good guys. 3PD followed a lawyer’s investigations into the death of a god, while Caleb is a risk assessment manager with a penchant for gambling. I love the way Gladstone works in the intricate details of business plans, mergers and contracts literally signed in blood, combining it all with his unique form of magic, the Craft. The use of Craft takes an interesting twist through Caleb, who is no Craftsman, but thanks to his dear old dad, is not without ways to defend himself.
I love the world of the Craft Sequence. It is so thrilling and unique that I simply refuse to try to categorize it into the many fantasy sub-genres others try to poke it into. I love that, thus far, the stories are separate enough from each other than I can hope for many more adventures from different aspects of this world, including points of view from the gods themselves.
On the downside, I listened to this as a very disappointing audiobook. I love the Craft Sequence enough to tolerate it, but the narrator was not particularly good with pacing and inflection at the right times. He often sounded like he was whining when the character just wanted to make a point. And worst of all, many of the characters, particularly the females with whom Caleb often had lengthy conversations, sounded much like Caleb, making things very confusing. For this reason, the characters weren’t as compelling and endearing as they should have been.
“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!
“Half-vampire, half-werewolf Siobhan Quinn survived her initiation into the world of demons and monsters. But staying alive as she becomes entangled in underworld politics might prove to be more difficult. When the daughter of a prominent necromancer vanishes, it’s up to Quinn to find the girl. But her search will land her directly in the middle of a struggle between competing forces searching for an ancient artifact of almost unimaginable power…”
After successfully getting my profile up to a comfortable 87% with NetGalley, I said I would not get any more ARCs for the year, but further to my book haul of denial, I’m clearly not good with my personal promises and resolutions. These two books from Angry Robot popped right out at me because, well, just look at them. Look at them! I try to resist, but sometimes, I’m a sucker for a gorgeous cover and a pretty face. Fortunately, so far, I’ve not been disappointed.
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of The Falconer
Date of Publication: September 26, 2013
I was initially drawn to The Falconer thanks to that striking cover. Just absolutely gorgeous! And then I read the book’s description and saw that the story was no slouch either. A mix of paranormal fantasy and historical fiction, the Fae, and a spirited heroine made this one sound very inviting.
I received a copy of this book via a giveaway hosted by the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.
I recently made some silly statement about new year’s resolutions and how I was not going to buy any more books in 2014. My TBR pile is too high and I must get through those first before I succumb to further flirtations from BookOutlet and Amazon. Apparently, my resolution plans do not take into account all the goodies I’ll end up scoring between now and year’s end….
I ended up at BookOutlet after Mogsy’s five star review of Starhawk, but sadly, they did not have any other books in Jack McDevitt’s Academy series. But I couldn’t very well leave the site without checking my wish list and oh look at all the books available: Shade’s Children, Path of Beasts, In the Night Garden and King of Thorns in hardcover are now miiiine.
…Saving $47 on books I didn’t intend to buy? Priceless (well, maybe not…)
Then, less than an hour after placing that order, a belated birthday present arrived – a gift certificate for Chapters. I pre-ordered Words of Radiance, which felt right after my The Way of Kings bookflail and then went all in on making 2014 the year of The Witcher.
Series: Book 2 of The Tower and Knife Trilogy
Publisher: Jo Fletcher
Date of Publication: October 25, 2012
The Tower and Knife series continues with Knife Sworn, and the second book is as full of magic, intrigue and beauty as the first — if not even more so! One might be tempted to stop with The Emperor’s Knife, its story having wrapped up so nicely at the end after all, with Sarmin coming into his own and the Pattern Master vanquished forever. But trust me, you won’t want to miss this.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.