Jennifer Word – The Society Book One: Genesis

The Society Book One: Genesis

Jennifer Word

Jessica Wembly is a normal human being as far as she knows. She’s got a typical life of a mid-twenties woman, and yet someone is suddenly interested in her. She is captured, and taken to a hidden facility – but isn’t brought down without a fight. Her reluctance to give up  forms the skeleton around which escape plans are made.

13611939This cover isn’t as pretty as the version I have (not to mention horrifically bad quality from GoodReads). These people don’t have anything to do with plants at all! But a plain, simple cover means that the inside can be all the more intriguing.

The novel cuts a fine line between evolution, science-fiction,  and faith. Creationism is in full force for some of the characters, and others try to think of things as just fate, or normal evolution that other people are coming up with.

I found the aliens a little hard to stomach, but in for a cent, in for a dollar? I had gone along with the rest of the novel, and the idea of the mutants having been created, so there was no point in disbelieving it. I’d be interested to see what comes out of the second novel.

I felt like that with more polishing this novel could have been very powerful. Some relationships that could have been more explored, and some language that made me a bit doubtful at times but all this was held up by a solid storyline and multiple intrigues for each character. Nothing like a little love side story, and some knowledge that is missing from everyone’s minds (including the mind-reader’s) to keep things interesting.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by the state of Jessica when in solitary confinement. What would I know though? I never felt like she was in real danger – someone with her abilities, even with PTSD, would still be useful to the government and wouldn’t be allowed to die. Whether they would escape or not, that was another thing, and it was definitely not certain.

Sadly, I was hit with poor research right from the beginning. A ‘special substance’ is added to the drinking water the moment inhabitants arrive at the facility. The only problem there is that the substance is ATP. Now, for those of you who aren’t science nerds like me, basically ATP is what makes your entire body function. Your body would actually just use it as normal fuel, no matter how much you tried to ingest. Every time the doctor mentioned it, the more frustrated I became. So basically, the background of the science is wrong – but it didn’t effect the rest of the story.

To be totally transparent, when Jennifer contacted me to ask me to review her novel, she was looking for an honest review after a spate of ‘glowing’ reviews, to find something she might improve on, and a bit of variety in her review ratings! That hasn’t actually made me want to give her any particular stars from me, so take it as my word that I think this novel is worth 3 to 4 stars, and isn’t a waste of your time. All those ‘negative points’ aren’t as much negative as helpful.

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Darren Simon – Guardian’s Nightmare

Guardian’s Nightmare

Darren Simon

Charlee Smelton has just moved to San Francisco. She hates the city, she hates her school, and she doesn’t fit in at all. To make things worse, her dad just dragged home the most un-cool bike she’s ever seen. That bike is going to make trouble… and then maybe save her from it?

22246835Charlee is an unlikely heroine that embodies all of the things that make school bullies nasty. She likes soda, she couldn’t care less what she wears, and she’s just a little bit ‘odd’. To me, she’s a convincing character that despite being scared, like we all are at times, she still confronts her fears, and tries to do the best thing she sees at the time – even if that gets her into trouble!

So the setup was a bit transparent, and the rate at which common people accepted the oddities happening in San Francisco was unrealistic, but the characters themselves felt like they had stepped right out of childhood. And that made their problems relatable, and their characters something that a reader could empathise with.

This is not a simple ‘good guy wins, bad guy loses’, ‘good triumphs over evil’ story. Charlee can still get hurt, real people can get hurt, people lie for the worst and best reason, and it’s all perfectly normal! Apart from that odd bike…

I did have a small problem with the artwork on the novel’s jacket. The sideways Pegasus didn’t do anything for me, and made me think that the book was produced at a low cost. Additionally, the blurb left me wanting something more – but didn’t make me want to read the book. Once I got into it though, it wasn’t so bad :)

Ugh. Some of the reviews by other reviewers do not give this novel enough justice! It’s a middle-grade novel, you shouldn’t be expecting something that is too lengthy or depthy (that should be a word!). Giving a novel a positive review, yet low stars, is what upsets me about GoodRead’s scoring system. I enjoyed this novel, and if I was in the target age group, I’d for sure give it a 3-4 star rating. So that’s what I’m giving it – an above standard middle-grade novel that was enjoyable, but not perfect. I would certainly recommend it to middle-grade readers.

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Cynthia Hand – The Last Time We Say Goodbye

The Last Time We Say Goodbye

Cynthia Hand

Lexi used to be a typical teenager – as typical as a very intelligent proclaimed math nerd can get. Now she’s just the girl who’s brother committed suicide. With a heavy dose of blame, and the beginning of panic attacks, her psychiatrist suggests that she writes a journal to get her thoughts out.

17285330Since I listened to this as an audiobook, I’m not actually sure which parts were the journal, and which parts were actually happening as time went on. It didn’t matter to me though. The audio-reader did a fantastic job of differentiating between the different voices of the characters, and I felt that the author’s intentions underlying her different storytelling techniques were not lost.

At times the novel tried to set me crying. I listened to it while doing some craft-work and I had to stop and put my things down! I listened to it with my partner in some places, and she was just as invested in the story as I was, even though it seemed to be very long!

That damn letter! Arg! The whole middle section of the novel had me wishing she would just open the damn thing already, and damn her morals! She feels so conflicted about everything, and surely simplifying just one or two things would be good. At least then she would know why Ty left.

Lex blames herself for Ty’s death, because she feels that she wasn’t there for him. The ending satisfactorily wraps this up, and gives the reader important points to take away. This, along with all the repercussions of his death, really highlights to the reader that suicide is not a ‘weak’ choice.

The secondary characters seem unimportant for the majority of the novel, but at least some of them gradually develop. Mainly we don’t see any action from them because Lex is too caught up in her own problems and spirit-filled world. Stephen could have had a bit more of a showing, and I would have loved to see inside his head sometimes. But that’s the problem with first-person novels! I’ll never know!

Overall, this novel gets my whole-hearted thumbs up. 5 stars from me – I only wish I had the time to reread it though.

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Robert Uttaro – To the Survivors

To the Survivors
Robert Uttaro

This novel is written by a rape crisis counselor, who has dealt with rape survivors for the last 7 years. He has done events to increase the awareness of rape, and supported the survivor speakers at those events. And now he has written a novel, exposing some of the day-to-day realities of how survivors deal with the world, and how the world can be more sensitive towards them.

The horrifying statistics of rape, for 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 6 men, at least in the USA, should pinprick a readers heart, and then the stories from the survivors themselves will stop your heart from beating. Depending on how sensitive you are feeling that day, you might even find yourself in tears.
This novel is written by a man. Why would you want a book about rape written by a man? All men are rapist, right? Not so. Uttaro makes it abundantly clear that rape is not just for women, or that only women are affected. Men who are raped are less common, but that doesn’t mean they don’t go through the same healing process.
The quality of this novel is in its storytelling within the chapters closer to the end. While the background information on the author is interesting, it is not as keenly occupying as the stories. The text is usually well written and expressed, although there are some sections where I didn’t mind putting the book down. It is not fiction however, and therefore please don’t expect a linear ‘narrative’.
Why might I want to read a novel about rape, of all things? The author himself asked me this question, because my usual reading of things is fiction or fantasy, and this novel is certainly not either of those. It’s about the human story. I love hearing about extremes of the ‘human condition’ – rape, suicide, murder, violence – because I like to know the motives of it, I want to know what it really is like. This novel gets inside the minds of rape survivors and makes it possible for the reader to empathize.
I’d strongly recommend this novel to ALL readers. It’s certainly intended as an adult novel, but I think that mature teenagers should be allowed access to it. Nay, even encouraged to read it. Potentially excerpts could be used in high schools, such as in health and development days. The only way to stigmatize rape and decrease it’s incidence is to TALK ABOUT IT. This novel provides a good starting point for that discussion.
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Ilka Tampke – Skin

Skin
Ilka Tampke
Ailia has no Skin. She doesn’t know who her parents were, and so she cannot learn or do anything in society. Like any other untutored woman, she wants to learn more of the world – and in learning more of the world she will either save or destroy it.
I could accuse this book of taking a slow pace of progression, and spending too much time on the details. But I wouldn’t, because it’s deftly crafted in that I didn’t feel the passage of time (just as Ailia does in the Mothers’ world) and I slipped fluidly from scene to scene. The world building, while it has the support of being crafted on a real-world geography, felt nicely fleshed out, despite focusing on such a small part of a landscape.
Ailia is all you could want in a gritty heroine. Like others of her kind, she is different from the rest of the community. But she is able to reach out past that – she isn’t always lonely, other people still see some good in her. Despite not being able to completely be treated like a true member of society, she has friends, she’s protected to some extent, and for what she is, she has a good place in life. She doesn’t mean to go off-track, it just happens!
It’s amazing how often I am drawn to historical fantasies without realizing it. This novel takes fact and fiction and intertwines them in a manner that means you can’t see how history could have happened without magic.
While I could predict some of what Ailia’s journey would be, other parts of the novel surprised me. I didn’t see a number of twists coming (although many of them appeared to happen from the same instance), but they were nicely woven into the rest of the storyline, and there wasn’t anything that came completely out of nowhere.
What frustrated me was the comment from Isobelle Carmody on the back, saying this novel had something to do with human yearning. No! This novel is so much more than that! While Ailia wants to learn things, that doesn’t mean she’s a love-sick idiot. She knows exactly what she should expect from life, and instead of yearning after it, she goes and does it.
I finished this novel on a very satisfied note. No, not everything turned out the way the reader might expect, but at the same time it was so so satisfying. I didn’t feel like the author had set it up to be a cash cow and write more sequels, I felt like she had reached the end of that saga, sat back, and been pleased with her work.
This novel suckered me in. I should have been doing some housework, and instead I sat down with a doona and a cup of tea to read this novel. 4.5 stars from me, simply because I’m not sure it’s good enough for a reread. Otherwise, highly recommended.
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Stephen Merlino – The Jack of Souls

The Jack of Souls
Stephen Merlino
Trickster Harric has a curse he needs to break, set by his loving mother. Caris longs to be a knight, but is hindered by her horse-sense. Willard carries an ambassador and gift towards the Queen. As their lives intertwine through a series of accidents, each must fight for what they want.
The blurb on the back of the book suggests a lot more action than what actually occurs in the novel. To me, it felt like the action dragged, and I hardly brought myself to finish the last chapter. I didn’t spend very much time thinking about the novel while I wasn’t reading.
I didn’t really realize or like Willard as a character.  He felt like a ‘classic’ downtrodden knight. He was a grumpy, irritable old man who didn’t deserve any kind of sympathy or care. Or maybe that was the point? None of the characters really made me worry for their welfare. Except perhaps Kogan, who provided some light hearted relief to the storyline.
I did like the way that Harric and Caris’ relationship developed, and the factors influencing that. One wonders what will happen in the next novel. Will they remove the rings? Will Caris still want to kill Harric?
I felt conflicted about Harric’s story and his mother. Yes, she’s doomed him, but I also don’t understand why the magic he is fighting with is so horrible. In this way, the author positions the reader to feel the same way about magic as the general populace. It’s frustrating and confusing though! The same way that Harric must feel…
Sadly, I wouldn’t call this an ‘Epic Fantasy’ novel. A fantasy novel yes, but it’s not nearly long enough to be considered epic in my book. I didn’t feel like the story had enough content in it to make the book the length it was, and I would have coped with it being condensed down into a snappy narrative.
Fascinating! I discovered when I googled for the cover art to put here, that this book was funded by a KickStarter. I didn’t know that that was even a ‘thing’ for authors. I’ll have to keep an eye out for novels on there.
I wouldn’t consider this novel an outstanding example of its kind. If you see a copy at the library, or perhaps an ebook of it, then it could be for you. For me, I wanted more action and less character repeats. It is possible that the next two books in the trilogy will prove me wrong, and make reading this first one worthwhile. 3 stars from me.
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Julie Anne Peters – Grl2Grl

Grl2Grl
Julie Anne Peters

This is a collection of 10 short stories by Julie Anne Peters, one of my favourite queer authors. It covers a range of ‘first-date’ situations and getting over breakups of young lesbians.

Normally for a book of short stories I would be reviewing each one individually. But I don’t have the book here, and all of the stories are by the same author, so I’d pretty much be just giving you a synopsis of each one, and you can do that elsewhere on the internet.

I gave this book to my partner to read while we were on vacation. She didn’t get past the first story! And she suggested that since I hadn’t reviewed it yet, I should reread it. When I finally got down to reading it, one night when I just wanted something light to read, I opened it and was instantly disappointed.

The writing seemed stilted, I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, and there seemed to be too many extremes. Teen drama novels often go that way, but this wasn’t what I had expected from Peters. The first time I read it, I might have been a bit forgiving, but now that I’ve read a wider variety of queer fiction, this one isn’t anything special.

Am I just up to reading big girl lesbian fiction now? Will I never find another queer teenage fiction book to fall in love with? I don’t think so. I just think that the combination of short stories which I don’t like in the first place, and unfinished endings, which I like even less. Line me up for more ‘proper’ fiction please!

I’ll give this 3 stars, because it’s not awful, but it’s not anything particularly special either. Well worth stocking in a public or high school library.

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C. Robert Cales – The Bookseller

The Bookseller
C. Robert Cales

John is going to be responsible for releasing evil. Carlos is an evil dictator. The Booksellers are both the captain and the slave of otherworldly disasters. When their lives come together, it is payback time on evil.
Half-way through the novel, the three sets of stories being told still hadn’t interacted. I had pretty much no interest in John and Sally’s storyline, Carlos’ one was just brutal and not all together manageable, and the only one I did have interest in, the one of the booksellers, seemed so plain and wrapped up in love that I felt vaguely sick.
Why did I keep reading this novel? I can’t say for sure. I wasn’t particularly interested in the characters, but I did want to see how things turned out. Surely it would improve? I’d read one or two pages at a time, while waiting for the rest of my work to finish, then drift away again with no regrets.
I felt sometimes like I was just floating outside the world. I looked in on the novel, observed the painstakingly slow progress of its characters through a too-familiar landscape, and looked away again without having felt any richer for the attempt.
I was just so disappointed in the style of the novel. I think I found it online through one of the traditional/mainstream publishers, and I expected it to be polished and to be completely spellbound by it. Instead I got a novel that wanted to tell me things, had an incredibly annoying style of dialogue and a frustrating, ever changing world view.
So, let’s talk about the characters. Each of the roughs in Carlos’ gang were pretty much identical. They all had the same motivations of money, and they were all evil bastards. The author tried to give them distinguishing characteristics, continually referring to tattoos and hairstyles, but I would have remember those myself had they had been introduced to me in a memorable way, with names that didn’t all end with ‘o’. I can appreciate the cultural setting, but ugh, it just wasn’t enough.
The blurb of the novel gave away what was happening too soon. I spent most of the novel waiting for things to happen, and then when they did happen, the storyline, which so far had been quite believable, took a turn for the worse.
This is one of the most promising storylines I have read in a book I would rate 2 stars. If you have a ‘thing’ for good vs evil novels, then this could be for you. But for me, the glacial pace of the novel, combined with the poor storytelling style had me waiting for the novel to finish, rather than enjoying reading it.
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Aimee Carter – Pawn

Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1)
Aimee Carter

Kitty Doe has just been tested and found wanting. In a society where worth is dependant on one test, the number of stars you have makes a huge difference to your quality of like. Kitty has been given a three, and rather than resign herself to cleaning sewers, she chooses prostitution instead. Little does she know that she is going to become the next Lila Hart.

I picked this novel out to listen to, because the idea of complete face-lifts fascinated me. Then I kept listening because Kitty wanted to make me like her because she was ‘spunky’. Then I was half-way through the novel, and I’d become invested in her. But then the novel neared the end and the author lost me for the sheer repetitiveness of Kitty’s actions and issues.

I didn’t understand the picture on the front of the novel. Not that I spent too much time looking at it since it was an audio book. For a long while, until Kitty discovers that someone else has been masked, I didn’t even realise that the three marks on the back of her neck were Roman Numerals (there we go, I gave you a heads-up).

The exposure of the class system seems obvious to me, even as Kitty protests that ‘everyone is equal’. Breaking down the system that holds everyone in place seems dangerous, and it is dangerous. But Kitty is always consoled by the fact that she just has to protect Benji.

Oh Benji. You are so one-dimensional. And your relationship with Kitty is just as simple. You love her, she loves you, we kiss, we never do anything wrong. Ugh. Sickening. It’s all about them! Not anything else. Kitty seems selfish and entirely too self-reliant to ‘deserve’ someone as ‘pure’ as Benji.

At the beginning when I realised this was a series, I was quite excited that the adventures would continue after this novel. But at the conclusion, I was quite set on the idea that I didn’t want to read the next ones. Three stars – it’s readable, but you need to be tolerant of Romeo and Juliet love stories combined with a somewhat repetitive inner dialogue.

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B.R. Collins – Gamerunner

Gamerunner
B.R. Collins

Rick is a Gamerunner – he tests The Maze to check if there are any glitches or bugs. Sent on a midnight errand by the man he things of as his father, Rick is going to suffer as he never has before.

I picked this novel up because I hoped it would be like The Maze Runner or Gillian Rubinstein’s Space Demons. Much to my horror, it wasn’t in any sense of the word. Yes, they are similar – outside the Game/Maze is a disaster zone, and there is an overarching mind coordinating it all. But the anticipation of The Maze Runner is completely missing from Gamerunner.

This is an apocalyptic  novel of what happens when the world falls apart and there are only video games left to immerse yourself in, and hope to find something to make your miserable life better.  If anything, I can see it as a highly suitable primary school novel that would be kicked off as soon as possible from the list, because it might place gaming in a too positive light.

Two stars. I’d give it 1 star, but I didn’t finish it. Maybe it would have improved later in the novel? I tend to be a lot less tolerant of talking books that fail me in the first couple of chapters, because the reader doesn’t grab me and I can’t bear to listen any longer. Has someone else read this and enjoyed it? The Goodreads stars don’t look all that positive to me.

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