Book Review: Replica by Jenna Black

replica

Replica by Jenna Black

Genre: YA Sci-fi

Publisher: Tor Teen

Pages: 368

Published: July 16th, 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter

Breathtaking new YA SF from the author of the Faeriewalker series

Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake comes from a high-class Executive family in the Corporate States. Her marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in her state, which means she lives a life of privilege but also of public scrutiny, followed everywhere by photographers, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image — no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.

Nathan Hayes is the heir of Paxco — controller of the former state of New York, and creator of human replication technology, science that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Though Nadia and Nate aren’t in love, they’ve grown up close, and they (and the world) are happy enough with their match.

Until Nate turns up dead, and as far as everyone knows, Nadia was the last person to see him alive.

When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory backup, he doesn’t know what killed him. Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.

REPLICA tries to break the YA mold by adding a twist to the relationship between the main female and male characters.  Nadia and Nathan are engaged, but one of them (very minor spoiler – find out in first chapter) is gay and in love with someone else.  In order to maintain her social status, Nadia pretends like she is in love with Nathan.  Their superficial relationship is tested when Nathan is killed, supposedly by the third wheel in their love affair.

The most obvious (for me) person behind the killing ended up being the person to do the deed, which is the main reason I scored this book so low.  I don’t like books that I can predict the end within the first chapter or two.

The other shortfall for this novel is the lack of scientific terms and technology.  The only evidence that this book takes place in the future is the cover and the concept of human cloning.  There is very minimal world building.  There is no science involved, which makes me very wary to even call this a science-fiction novel.   I don’t think of it as a dystopian novel either, though it’s class system could allude to the genre.

Nadia’s motivations in this book appear to be one-dimensional.  I was hoping that she’d develop more over the course of the story, but it didn’t happen.  The story was linear, like in a MG novel.  The entire book felt flat and in my mind I was looking too much into the little things that happened and hoping that there would be something beyond the obvious.  I had hope that there would be some kind of unexpected twist at the end.

But no.   I think tween readers might appreciate the simplistic story, but this book fails in comparison to other books on the YA level.

D rating minus rating  

(I received a copy of this book from the ARCycling in exchange for my honest review.)

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Book Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

these broken stars

 

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Publisher: Disney – Hyperion

Pages: 374

Published: December 10th, 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  

Amie Kaufman:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter

Meagan Spooner:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter

It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

THESE BROKEN STARS made me think twice about my aversion to a romance centered plot.  I’m also starting to become quite fond of books written by multiple authors.  It’s ironic that despite the instant attraction between Lily and Tarver, they spend the majority of the book fighting with each other.  Like the Borg say, “Resistance is futile.”

Tarver’s post-adventure military interview mixed into the narrative not only provides insight on the setting/universe, but also plants clues that will purposely mislead the reader.  It’s also a well-needed break in the narrative, as Lily and Tarver’s love/hate relationship is center stage for much of the novel.  It’s perfectly executed so even non-romance fans like me will be entertained.  It’s amazing how different their exterior actions are to their interior feelings.  I loved it.  But I also like a plot, and if it wasn’t for the constant clashes between Lily and Tarver, then this would be a very boring book.

However, this only enforced how well written and designed THESE BROKEN STARS was.  Despite the lack of action, the characters made this a page-turning novel.

The difference between a book based on magic and one based on science is that the former needs to be consistent, while the latter needs to be plausible.  With magic, you can turn a tulip into a turnip without explanation.  With science fiction, you better have a basic understanding of some scientific theory that will convince a layman that it could happen in our universe.  THESE BROKEN STARS convinced me of the plausibility of the technology on the ship, the way that Lilac and Tarver survive the crash, but not how the planet’s technology functions.  It was too inconsistent and my mind formed too many questions.

In the final chapters, there is a completely unexpected turn of events.  I missed it.  I didn’t realize what happened until the next chapter.  I had to re-read it to catch it.  I’m just saying that something that crazy should have been more clear in the narrative.  Freaking bold it if you have to.  There should have been more of a climax.  Period.

Overall, I think that THESE BROKEN STARS will unite romance and science fiction fans, at least until the last page is read.

B rating

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.)

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Book Review: Memories with Maya by Clyde Dsouza

memories with maya

 

Memories with Maya by Cylde Dsouza

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Self-published

Pages: 216

Published: March 16, 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads

A story of one man’s determination to HACK his destiny, even if it meant challenging Divine Providence…

The story looks at how augmentation technology will affect emotions, intimate human relationships, and our very evolution as a species.

“EMOTIONS ARE LIKE A VIRUS, a common cold…disrupting the flow of logic in the mind.” Daniel reminds himself.

Dan’s work involves creating commercially viable AR solutions. The recession and an explosion of data-cops is drying out his streams of income.
He turns to close friend, Krish, a researcher in Artificial Intelligence, in the hope that they can come up with ideas for the Entertainment market. His girlfriend, Maya, and her family return to their homeland after her father passes away.

Dan and Maya continue their relationship via Dirrogates (Digital Surrogates), experiencing human touch through haptics. Krish gets a job at the prestigious A.I.R.I. Using AIRI’s lab, Krish and Dan, create an advanced visor with Augmented Intelligence built in.
They dub it “Wizer”.
A Board member at AIRI sees potential in the Wizer other than what Dan and Krish have in mind.

At a test in a nightclub, things go wrong…

The most interesting part of MEMORIES WITH MAYA was the science.  It’s like I was watching a movie and the highlight of the movie was when the characters in the movie watched a completely different movie.  The thrilling part of this novel encompasses exactly one scene.  Everything up to this scene involved a very anti-commitment guy.  Everything after this scene involved a character who couldn’t let go.

Dan is such an asshole in the beginning of the story that I had no sympathy for him later on.  I liked the parts where he explained how his new invention worked.  I couldn’t relate to any other character, especially since Dan had anti-social tendencies and didn’t let people get close to him.

I decided not to DNF around 70% and force myself page by page, since I was almost done with the book.  If I had known in the first couple chapters that almost NOTHING would happen for the entire span of a book, then I would have DNF it once I found out that Dan was an asshole.  I had high hopes for this sci-fi, since the premise sounds entertaining.  It’s unfortunate that this would have made a better documentary special on Discovery.  Somehow, the author managed to make even virtual reality sex scenes boring.

F rating

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.)

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Book Review: Gently Down by Michael Walterich

gently down

 

Gently Down by Michael Walterich

Genre: Sci-fi, dystopian?  (I don’t even know how to classify this one)

Publisher: Self Published

Pages: 274

Published: May 24th, 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website

Row, row, row…

Gently down…

The Stream. It flows. It connects the mind to others, provides it access to information, saturates it with entertainment. But can the Stream, as Jadon believes, become self-aware? Can it become God?

Killian’s clients are stabbing themselves in the head. As their Stream psychiatrist, he’s supposed to adjust their filters so they don’t lose their mind in the flood of data. The priests blame Killian’s defiance of Jadonism for these deaths. To stop them from further seizing power, Killian needs to find the real cause of the suicides. But each time he revisits one, he stabs holes in his own sanity.

When Killian glimpses Ophelia, he realizes he can’t remember his life before the Stream. He knows she tried to destroy it, but he can’t imagine why he betrayed her. Before he can decide if he’ll help her this time or submit to the priests, he’ll have to unlock his memories. Even if it means braving the world outside the Stream.

(I tried not to include spoilers.  The problem is that after reading this book, I’m so confused with what happened that I can’t figure out what would classify a spoiler for the story.  I’m baffled by this entire book.)

It breaks me to have to give GENTLY DOWN only one star.  It had promise.  For the first half of the book, it had more of a three star feel.  The scenes were shaky and a bit confusing for a paragraph or two at a time, but the story was a diamond in the rough.  The jumps between POVs often come without warning and its only in retrospect that I realize the shift.  Yet, the premise and characters of the book have a realness to them that was quite compelling to witness.

Then it all fell apart.  There’s scenes like this one (all quotes taken from page 144):

A few discrete meetings left her pregnant.

Three years later, Penelope Redenbacher tracked Bates down after not hearing from him for five months.

He had no interest in physical pleasures anymore.  He didn’t even notice how very pregnant Penelope had become until she insisted she would go to the press if he didn’t marry her.

Was she pregnant once or twice?  Had she not seen him for three years or had she not seen him for five months?  How did he get her pregnant if he had no interest in sex?

As the book progresses, the story becomes less coherent and the typos are enough to distract me from reading.  For example, on page 184, the sentence opens with a bracket, which is what is being used to illustrate thought; however, the punctuation ends with a quotation mark, which is what is used to demonstrate spoken words.  I don’t know if Killian physically spoke the words to his companion or he sent a thought via mind reading.

It’s impossible to keep track of what is going on.  One second Killian is with a character and then he’s transported to a memory and then back to the present in a completely different setting.  I could only figure out what was going on by piecing together dialog.  For example, one of the characters is kidnapped (I didn’t know until he talks about rescuing her) and then a scene or two later that same character is dead according to dialog (I just found out she was missing!).

Pages 209-213 is a philosophical ramble about God and human evolution.  I have no idea what was the point of it.  I technically finished the book, but the last chapters were so disorienting.  The plot much have taken a suicidal jump from an open window after Killian left the stream for the first time.  I read words…the characters kept changing…there was no logical connection between the pages.  Nothing made sense.

Things like this:

So, after zero training and a lifetime of avoiding conflict, what was it inside of him that had snapped back there, allowing him to break a man’s rib with his elbow? (page 245)

He allowed it to happen.  And, it just so happened, he was pretty damn good at breaking ribs.  Two ribs, on his first try. (page 246)

What?  Killian just went kung fu on someone?  WHAT?

Page 250 – Killian finds out that his beloved Kathryn is dead.  KATHRYN IS NEVER MENTIONED BEFORE THIS HAPPENS.  Who the hell is Kathryn and where has she been for the past 250 pages?  I THINK that this was a name typo and the person that actually died was one of the other female characters…who, well you have to read the last page to find out all the characters that die.  Then use that list of dead characters and cross out the names that you actually witness die.  The name that’s left must be Kathryn.  There may have been a love triangle (or love square if Kathryn is a completely separate person).

This truly feels like I read the first draft of a good story.  It’s a good NaNoWriMo novel.  However, it is NOWHERE near ready for publication.  Books like this one are the reason why it’s not a good idea to self-publish without the thumbs up from a handful of beta-readers.  They will fix the flow and cohesiveness of the story.  They will point our discrepancies.  They will save you from one star reviews like this one.

I haven’t been this sad and disappointed in a book in a long time.  It’s not that the author is a bad writer; he rushed publishing this book.  It’s just not ready.  Read this book only if you want to practice your editing skills as a beta reader.

F rating minus rating

(I received a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway.  This is my honest review.)

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Book Review: Portal by Imogen Rose

portal by imogen rose

 

Portal by Imogen Rose

Genre: Science Fiction, Alternate Reality

Publisher: Self-published

Pages: 354

Published: January 23rd, 2010

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

Come Find Me Two Years Ago…

Six words that propelled ice hockey playing tomboy, Arizona, into an alternate dimension.

She suddenly found herself in the past. In one moment she went from being an ice hockey playing teenager in New Jersey to a glamorous cheerleader in California. She found herself transported from a happy life with her dad, Dillard, to a new, strange one living with her mother whom she hates. Apparently it’s a life she’s always lived in.

Everyone knows her as Arizona Darley, but she isn’t. She is Arizona Stevens.

As she struggles to find answers she is certain of one thing- that her mother Olivia, a brilliant physicist, is somehow responsible. .

PORTAL is the story of the repercussions of Olivia Darley’s attempt at creating a perfect world for herself and her children. Arizona’s quest for answers threatens to undermine the seemingly perfect world that her mother has so carefully constructed.

PORTAL is the first book of the Portal Chronicles. Fans of time travel, romance, and the supernatural will enjoy Arizona’s quest for answers.

PORTAL is one of those books where its enjoyment level is linked severely with the age of the reader.  Although it is marketed towards YA, it would be most love by Tweens or MG readers.  Adult readers might find that the lack of science behind this science-fiction novel hard to swallow.  Not even the scientists in the book understand exactly why some characters have memories from their previous reality and others have none.  That’s where science fiction differs from fantasy.  Fantasy can use the excuse ‘magic’, while Science Fiction…well, someone better know why the hell things work the way they do.

PORTAL is an easy and entertaining story, however, and I planned on rating it much higher until the final couple of chapters.  It annoyed me that for every question answered by the ending scenes, two more questions popped up.

Despite the low marks on other reviews for editing, I only found one typo — a missing quotation mark on page 237 — and overall it was very polished.  The author’s writing style felt extremely familiar to me, though I know this is the first book I’ve ever read by Imogen Rose.  I think her style reminds me of Caroline B. Cooney, who writes for a similar age level.

The characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been, yet they diverged from the stereotypes and didn’t make predictable decisions.  I like how Arizona’s love interest and her best friend clashed, especially towards the end.  I liked the conflict between what Arizona expected the characters to act like from her old life and the way they act like in her new one.  The villain was especially well-fleshed out and I appreciated the fact that I could sympathize with many of the decisions that character made, even if they were selfish.

I’m fairly certain I’ll continue reading this series, since it did hold my interest from the first page to the last.  I hope that in future books some of the questions I have are finally answered.

rating C

(I received a copy of this book from ARCycling in exchange for my honest review.)

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