Sunday, August 18, 2013

Perfect People....You can't always get what you want

Perfect PeoplePerfect People by Peter James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Perfect People…You can’t always get what you want


THE Low Down

If you could guarantee that your child would never have to suffer from incurable illness, or die at too young an age, would you do it? What if you could go ever further and guarantee them intelligence, ambition, athletic prowess and the looks of a supermodel? What about then? Those are the questions that face John and Naomi as they come to terms with the loss of their 4-year old son to a genetic disorder that they have a 1-in-4 chance of passing along to any future children. Unable to accept the possibility of losing another child, they reach out to Dr. Leo Dettore, a renowned and often ostracized former child prodigy, who is pushing the boundaries of human genetics and promises the possibility of a healthy child, completely free of the feared genetic ailments that cost them their firstborn. While John and Naomi go into the process simply wanting a healthy child, Dettore opens their eyes to genetic possibilities far beyond what they could have ever imagined, putting them at odds with their beliefs and questioning the very thing that brought them there. After making a few small “adjustments”, they go forward with the process. Unbeknownst to them though, there are other factors at play that go farther beyond what they thought they were getting themselves into.

MY Low Down

You CANNOT read this book without getting lost in thought, as well as questioning those thoughts and those of the characters. The concept of “designer” babies has, and likely always will be, a hot button and controversial subject, and Peter James excels at bringing up multiple viewpoints, along with the many positive and negative aspects of them all. You do not get a feeling of his opinion, which allows your imagination to run wild. What would I do if I were John and Naomi? Would I take the chance to give my child a life of guaranteed help? Some say it is playing God, but for those who believe in God, wasn’t it he/she who gave us the ability to do this in the first place? These are all thoughts either outright discussed or elicited from this story that keep your mind moving in every direction at every moment.

Told primarily from the perspective of John and Naomi, with a few others thrown in for good measure, the story flows and keeps your attention throughout. I was poised to LOVE this book until near the very end, when I watched the loose ends flap in the breeze without so much as a twist together, let alone a good tie. First, the thriller aspect was never present at all for me – sure there was some tension interspersed about, but quite frankly the lurking threats seemed as though they were thrown in with the thought of making it a thriller but never really materialized to feel as though they melded with the story. They were a side plot that just never lived up. Second, the culmination of the story was a seemingly random offshoot of the entire thriller aspect that had no foreshadowing and no tie to the thriller portion of the story up to that point. While I appreciate the route the story took, it was not tied well to the earlier storyline and felt disconnected and incomplete. Sadly, the last quarter took it from a LOVE to a LIKE. Still a strong LIKE, but a LIKE nonetheless…..

*NetGalley ebook edition*

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Pentrals - Look deeper than the smoke and mirrors.....

The Pentrals (The Pentrals, #1)The Pentrals by Crystal Mack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*NetGalley ARC*

THE Low Down...
Do you ever get that feeling that someone or something is watching you, even when you know you are completely alone? What if someone were to tell you that aren't actually alone? That someone really IS always watching you? Though most do not know it, that is the reality of life for the residents to Talline, a city built of glass and mirrors surrounded by towering red rock canyon walls, where every shadow and reflection is in fact it's own sentient being. These "Pentrals" are former People, who have sworn themselves to a "life" of observation without interaction in hopes of gaining redemption for past crimes and indiscretions. May it be as vibrant reflection or a gray scale shadow, they must focus their energy on remaining true to their person's essence. Antares is one such Shadow, having spent the past 17 years serving as Violet's shadow since the day she was born. Once a vibrant, loving and creative young girl, Violet's 17th birthday and a tragic life-changing event have sent her spiraling into herself, cutting herself off from those she loves and making drastic choices that leave Antares at a loss for what is to become of Violet's once seemingly bright future. In an act of fury Antares did not know she was even capable of, or does not understand how she even accomplished it, she turns both of their worlds upside down. Despite the heavy consequences that she thinks must be impending though, Antares' love for Violet and duty to serve her Person compel her to help Violet get back on track. Unbeknownst to both of them though, their separate paths to redemption to will uncover more layers of their world than either of them thought possible.

MY Low Down...

I will be the first to admit that anything in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy realm needs to grab me right away or I will probably never finish. This one toed the line, but caught me just in time and did not let go. Using the unique perspective of a person's shadow rather than that of the actual person, the perception of the world is thrown askew, essentially forcing one to paint their own picture of the story from a perspective they are not used to. From there, the city of mirrors creates a world where one cannot escape their own reflection, a constant reminder of their outward appearance. Through these mediums, Violet, Antares and others are forced to face the role that appearances play in one's feelings of self-worth, and how those feelings can be manipulated. How do you know that what you see in the mirror is what others see? Will you ever be able to know the difference? Who has the power to control such things? These are questions that can and should come up in the "real" world, and Crystal Mack uses a unique and very creative approach to bring them to light.

There were a few areas that were a bit lacking such as general character development and a bit of a cliche in the villain-figure department, but the overall story construction, writing and creativity were deserving of praise. While I certainly would have liked to feel at least a little more connected to the characters, I was connected to their story and as the first in a series, there is plenty of room for growth as the story progresses.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Poor Little Dead Girls - Poor little not-so-thriller

Poor Little Dead GirlsPoor Little Dead Girls by Lizzie Friend
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

NetGalley ARC.... Sadie Marlowe is an ace lacrosse player from "small town" Oregon who is thrown into the world of the American elite when she is recruited to play for Keating Hall, one of the most exclusive prep schools on the East coast. As Sadie's late mother also attended Keating, she innocently believes that her athletic skilled combined with her mother's alumni status paved the way to her scholarship, but throughout the course of being "kidnapped", drugged, waking with strange bruises and even stranger memories, she learns a whole different side of the story. Billed as both a thriller and YA, I unfortunately would say this novel does not meet either category.

Don't get me wrong, there were some positive aspects of this book: SOME of the characters had a reality to them that was refreshing, the overall plot was well thought out and interesting. Unfortunately for me though, the negatives clung on and I never could quite get over them.

First, foremost and utterly annoying was the "naive small town girl meets the new world of the rich and powerful east coast elite". This concept in itself makes perfect sense; my issue with this is that our supposed small town "hick" is from Portland, Oregon. I admit that I of course take the absurdity of how her hometown was portrayed more personally as a native Portlander myself, but that shouldn't decrease the clear lack of knowledge or research that went into the decision to frame this as her hometown. Throughout the book, references are constantly made to her small town upbringing, her lack of social knowledge through comments like "you really are small town, aren't you", Sadie's assertion that she wore jean shorts to her last school dance, and the reaction Sadie got from "people in Portland" regarding her mom's drug abuse. Sure, Portland is definitely a far cry from suburban Virginia and money means different things in different places, but if you want to portray someone as being "small town" and naive, you should probably pick someplace that is actually small and off the beaten path, rather than a relatively sized city that is by no stretch "cut off" from normal society. Sure, this may be somewhat trivial and your average reader may not know enough to see the incorrect representation, but inaccuracies that are not necessary or justified are a one way ticket to frustration in my reading world.

Aside from the Portland snaffu, there were also other weaknesses that brought this one a bit down for me. First of all, the storyline itself was interesting and well thought out, but the actual construction left much to be desired. Situations were not built enough to cause any suspense, clues were blatant and left nothing to the imagination, and characters were for the most part allowed to develop only to the minimum point needed to make them useful. When finished reading, I unfortunately did not really care much what became of them, as I was never allowed to truly care about them.

Lastly, this novel seriously toed the line on being the YA it claims to be. Sure, the characters were young adults, but the novel is definitely more appropriate for a slightly older audience. I read something previously from the author about this, and she stated she feels like the situations presented in the novel are what normal teens are dealing with and want to read about. While it may be true that it is what they "want" to read about, I don't know if it is necessarily what they "should" be reading about - I personally would not want any mid-teen of mine reading about rich prep school girls having their personal hairdressers sneak booze into their dorm rooms or the "cool" senior boys getting drunk at every dance, all with no consequences.

Overall, an OK read for a rainy weekend afternoon but nothing I would write home about.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling....Harry Potter it is NOT!

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first non-HP I have read, and I really didn't know what to expect after 10+ years of reading and loving them. Despite my initial questioning, I ended up loving it, and I now definitely believe the JK Rowling is diverse author capable of writing to any audience or genre.

The "just enough info" intro did it's job perfectly in hooking me in and it mostly got better the further I got. The 2 main characters, Strike and Robin, have a great chemistry that's not really a chemistry, if you follow my random drift there, that makes you love them more and more as things progress. I feel like I got to know both of them very well without feeling like it had required reading too many long-winded, not action monologues of personal details to get there. Don't get me wrong, the details were there but interspersed throughout at timely moments to both add to the current storyline and teach you more about the characters, Overall, the superb characters were the resounding highlights.

As an overall fan of mystery/crime, this already had a point it it's favor for the genre. Overall, I did enjoy this one, but the way the storyline progressed is the one negative point I really noticed. When reading a mystery novel, one of my favorite parts is that "Aha!" moment when the trail of clues start coming together (or so you think) and you know whodunit (or so you think again...), and the following build-up of excitement to when you find out that you had it all wrong after all :) Unfortunately though, I didn't get that feeling all with this one. With the number of characters involved and their varying stages of being suspected, I felt like a little too much was put into "trying" to point you in the wrong direction that it ended up being too many different directions. Once I learned whodunit and started hearing the backstory of how it happened, I was easily able to go "Oh yeah!! I do remember that!" or "Oh duh. How did I not get that?" but before that I never felt like I had any solid idea. While the story was still great overall, one of the best parts of a mystery is feeling like you figured it out - while all of the points were there to where I could technically have figured it out, there were just too many diversions in there without enough "outs" for the possible suspects to really do all that much actual figuring.

An excellent read that I would definitely recommend, and I would also love to see these characters continued!

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