Book Watch

Book Watch: Partials by Dan Wells

by on Jul.09, 2012, under Book Watch, Books, Reviews

Partials (Partials, #1)Partials by Dan Wells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to Partials as an audio book during the trip to and from a summer vacation. The drive was eight hours to and from, and the book itself was around ten hours. When I got home from the trip and unpacked, I found I needed to listen to the last two hours of the book right there and then, rather than wait to finish it during my daily commutes like I normally do.

This happens rarely for me.

Partials is a story about a teenager who has grown up in a world where humans are an endangered species and tries everything in her power to change that. An engineered plague killed over 99% of the world’s population. A little girl at the time, our heroine, Kira has grown up only knowing stories of the decadent world full of working cars, electricity, and babies. The virus has effectively made the human race sterile. No baby born lives past two days thanks to it and the provisional government that rules the survivors of the plague don’t know how to fix it, except to keep having more babies, hoping that one of them will be born immune.

To make things worse, the creators of the plague, Partials, are still out there in the world. Partials were weapons, genetically engineered super-soldiers used by the former US to fight a war, until those weapons turned on humanity. To make things even worse, the society of some forty thousand human survivors is slowly starting to implode, threatening to break out into a civil war.

And Kira needs to stop it all.

What I love about this series is that it is a young adult series where there are consequences. Our main character is a teenager, certainly an exceptional one, but a teenager without the wisdom to see the full consequences of her actions. While readers will be able to agree with her intentions, and know how rash and unprepared her actions are, readers will not have to suspend their disbelief when the characters experience the fallout of their decisions.

Too many times have I read young adult series where the children are effectively smarter and more capable of the adults simply because the adults are too stubborn, too short-sighted, or because of some other contrived notion. That the children take risks and ultimately those risks pay out simply by virtue of the characters being the heroes of the story. That is not to say this is a tragedy or that Kira is in any way incapable but instead Kira both succeeds and fails in a realistic manner given the situation.

The second thing I enjoyed about this novel were the questions it is raised. Say you were in charge of the lively-hood of the last 40,000 humans on earth. A virus is killing off every baby born within two days and researchers just don’t have access to the medical technology needed to fix the problem. What would you do? Institute mandatory pregnancies in a hopes of creating a baby that is immune? What about civil rights and liberty? When does the needs of the specie out-weight the needs of the individual?

Science fiction. Post-Apocolyptic. Young Adult. Thought Provoking Themes. Add onto that interesting and mostly realistic action sequences and a healthy dose of politics, conspiracy, and science, and you’ll think you’ve accidentally started reading a Mira Grant novel.

Dan Wells has created both an interesting cast of characters as well as the beginning of a hopefully entertaining series. The first novel leaves tantalizing story hooks that will likely leave the reader wishing the second book was already available (and if you’re reading this review and the second book is, count yourself lucky!)

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Book Watch: Changeless

by on Jan.31, 2012, under Book Watch, Books, Reviews

Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, #2)Changeless by Gail Carriger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I liked this book better than the first I’m still not sure how I feel about the series overall. I’m not an avid romance reader but I’ve read series like this before and it strikes me as the type of series that likes to hopscotch between the romance genre and, in this case, the steampunk genre. Because it its constant jumping, I feel I’m not getting the enjoyment that I want out of the book.

I don’t want to say the book is bad. It isn’t. In this case I believe the problem is with the reader and his expectations rather than he book itself. I want a slightly more in-depth steampunk novel and instead I’m reading a Victorian science fiction romance adventure novel.

That being said I will read the third book because I both already own it and the ending to this book was a bit of an emotional cliffhanger which I’m curious to see how it is resolved. We’ll see if I continue reading after that.

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Book Watch: Ready Player One

by on Jan.25, 2012, under Book Watch, Books, Culture, Reviews

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An amazing combination of adventure and intrigue slathered heavily with 80s pop culture and video game references, Ready Player one is a must read book for fans of video games of any age, as well as the movies and music of the 1980s.

Ready Player One is set is a dystopian future where most of humanity has retreated into a virtual reality world called The Oasis. When the world’s eccentric creator dies, he wills his fortune, and The Oasis, to the first person to find his easter egg hidden somewhere in the virtual world. The creator was well-known for being obsessed with video games and eighties pop culture and the clues he left suggested that knowing such things would make the egg easier to find but after years of searching, nobody had even found a definite clue. Enter our teenage protagonist, a poor child of The Oasis, who dedicated his life to studying the egg and through a small amount of luck, begins the hero’s journey to discover the secrets of The Oasis.

Evil corporations, intrigue, drama, romance, adventure, and tons of eights pop culture references, this book is a must read for any self-styled geek. I listened to the audio book version which had the extra bonus of being read by Wil Wheaton who adds a significant amount of inflection and emotion into the story. Overall I really enjoyed the book. I listened to it over the holidays including listening to it while falling asleep.

I highly recommend this book.

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Book Watch: Mr. Monster and I Don’t Want to Kill You

by on Jan.10, 2012, under Book Watch, Books, Reviews

Mr. Monster (John Cleaver, #2)Mr. Monster by Dan Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second in a trilogy, Mr. Monster exceeds its predecessor in many ways.

Picking up almost immediately where the first book left off, our protagonist is attempting to come to terms that he has unleashed a monster inside himself by killing off a demon. Which is when the murders start happening again and John Cleaver struggles with his inner self, Mr. Monster, over if, or how, he should hunt and kill this new serial killer in town.

My biggest problem with the last book was the introspective rationalization parts where the hero argues with himself over what he should do. In this book I found I had no problems with these parts and I think it is because the clash between the protagonist’s urges seems far more prominent. One area that the story did not excel at for me when compared to the first book was sickening/horrifying me. There was one scene in the first book towards the end that this novel just failed to replicate, although the story did manage to make me worry and feel for the protagonist (or those around him). I was just never intensely horrified.

Again, if you’re fascinated by sociopaths, serial killers, and don’t mind a bit of the supernatural, then I do suggest you read this book.

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I Don't Want to Kill You (John Cleaver, #3)I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this was my favorite of the John Cleaver series. It changes up the formula somewhat and we see more character growth overall. The finale has some rather sickening parts that was very reminiscent of the first book for me which helped me enjoy the book more.

I Don’t Want to Kill You is the third book in the John Cleaver series about a young man who deals with a growing urge to become a serial killer by hunting and killing supernatural begins that are killing off people in his home town. The third book picks up almost right where the second leaves off and changes up the formula enough to be new and interesting.

I’d recommend this book for fans of the series and people who like antiheroes or serial killers.

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Book Watch: I Am Not A Serial Killer

by on Oct.31, 2011, under Book Watch, Books

I Am Not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver, #1)I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listen to Dan Wells’ writing advice on his podcast Writing Excuses regularly and went a head and decided to listen to his novel by audio book. Because I had been listening to Dan for so long, I already had a few minor spoilers regarding the plot of the story which likely affected my reading of it. I am happy to say I enjoyed the story and would even recommend it to fans of psychological horror. There were a few aspects that kept me from loving it however.

My personal problem with the novel was there were times when I was not that interested in the main character’s welfare. The story has a lot of introspective moments which sometimes fell flat for me, although I am not sure why. There was, however, one particular scene at the start of the climax of the story that really got to me. It gave me chills, which is what a good horror novel should do.

If you’re fascinated by sociopaths, serial killers, and don’t mind a bit of the supernatural, then I do suggest you read this book.

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Book Watch: Bakuman

by on Sep.06, 2011, under Art, Book Watch, Books, Entertainment

Bakuman, Vol. 1Bakuman, Vol. 1-6 by Tsugumi Ohba

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Date Started: Sept 1st, 2011
Date Ended: Sept 6th, 2011

I caught the first few chapters of this manga in Shonen Jump, and was rather hooked from the beginning. It balances a slow-paced drama and romance with insider technical knowledge of how manga is produced in Japan and remains interesting despite a premise that does not lend itself easily to being described. Since it is a manga about manga, they don’t go into a lot of detail regarding the fictional manga being created but instead focus on interactions between the fictional manga’s creators, friends, and colleagues.

Mostly what I find inspiring about the series is the idea of two people pursing their dream job, regardless of the consequences. The series is still being published in America.

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Book Watch: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

by on Jul.05, 2011, under Book Watch, Books, Entertainment, Television

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Date Started: March 17th, 2011
Date Finished: July 4th, 2011

I liked it. I had one friend who informed me I should read it several months before the television show was released. Sadly I didn’t manage to finish the book before the first season of the television show finished, which meant that two key plot points of the climax of the book were spoiled for me. Being such a relatively old book most say it should be well past spoiler period but I digress.

As a book it was a good read but it didn’t inspire me to read it very much. It dragged in the middle, causing me to put it down as much as read it and I even paused to read another book in the middle of this one. Only one or two of the characters out of a rather large cast really kept my attention. I’ll be pausing before picking up the next book but I’ll eventually get to it.

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Book Watch: FEED and DEADLINE by Mira Grant

by on Jun.06, 2011, under Book Watch, Books, Entertainment, Flash Fiction, Novels, Reviews, Short Stories

Double feature today. I was going through my Book Watch posts and realized I hadn’t posted my review of FEED by Mira Grant. Considering how much I raved about this book to my offline friends, I feel I’ve done a disservice not at least mention it here. The reviews below are non-spoiler reviews covering both FEED and the newest book in the Newsflesh series, DEADLINE. I highly recommend both.

Feed (Newsflesh, #1)Feed by Mira Grant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Easily one of the most entertaining books I have ever read.

The tag line is fun and confusing at the exact same time: A book about blogging, politics, and zombies. Of course it is much more than that. Mira Grant gives us a glimpse into a future where blogging has become a legitimate journalistic endeavor and threat of a biological plague which reduces people to mindless zombies keeps everybody well cloistered behind bio-hazard sealed doors and finger pricking locks. Yet in this future, America still lives, and it still needs a President, so campaigning must continue.

I waited to read this book because the premise sounded so far-fetched until a friend loaned me a copy. It is a stark reminder that any premise, no matter how odd or ridiculous sounding, can be made into a good story.

Deadline (Newsflesh, #2)Deadline by Mira Grant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Date Started: June 1s, 2011
Date Ended: June 4th, 2011

DEADLINE is the sequel to FEED, the book about Politics, Blogging, and Zombies. DEADLINE is not about Politics, Blogging, and Zombies. It is about Conspiracies, Zombies, and Blogging. The second novel in a trilogy, DEADLINE once again introduces us to a post-apocalyptic future where humanity survives, in fear, of a zombie plague. Where FEED introduced us to the world and it’s politics, giving us a glimpse into conspiracies that run a zombie infested America, DEADLINE jumps right into the conspiracy and hauls the reading along for the ride.

Where DEADLINE suffers, its suffers in being both the sequel to FEED and the second novel in a trilogy. The novelty of the world has worn off and we’re left with the characters and plot to drive the story. The plot is somewhat ham-stringed by the book’s status and the fact that the slow reveals of parts of the conspiracy were not as compelling as the further questions they raised. However, the characters, their insight, dialog, and interaction, manage to keep DEADLINE sailing smoothly in the compelling read sea.

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Interested in the books but not quiet sure if it is for you? Mira Grant, otherwise known as Seanan McGuire, keeps a live journal. During the month leading up to the release of DEADLINE, she posted a series of flash/short fiction set in the Newsflesh world. It is intended to be read after FEED but there are no actual spoilers. You can follow this tag to find them all but you have to scroll down to the first post, titled T-minus 29 Days to DEADLINE.

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Book Watch: Fables

by on May.13, 2011, under Book Watch, Books, Comic Suggestions, Comics, Reviews

Fables: Witches (Fables, #14)Fables: Witches by Bill Willingham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent story and well deserving of the Hugo nomination it is up for. I was particularly pleased to see more focus on the witches/magical characters of the regular Fable cast as that group has always interested me.

Fables: Rose Red (Fables, #15)Fables: Rose Red by Bill Willingham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fun read. I devoured it quickly. After the 11th graphic novel, I was worried Fables wouldn’t be able to recover the grand stories it had managed to tell under its original premise but this, combined with the prior graphic novel, proves the Fables story has plenty yet to tell.


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Book Watch: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

by on Mar.08, 2011, under Articles, Book Watch, Books, Entertainment, Reviews

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Date Started: Mar 5, 2011
Date Finished: Mar 7, 2011

A powerful trilogy was written here and I fear that its classification as young adult might keep it’s depth and story hidden from the world. I know this isn’t true as this series’ name is on everybody’s lips but my first reaction after finishing this novel was how I needed to shout its worth to the world. Sadly I was trapped on a plane so I began to write a full review of the series, which will be available at this address in the near future, containing spoilers.

It should say something that I finished this book in two days. Yes it is a young adult novel and somewhat short but I ate up every word whenever I could sneak in some time. The only novels I have read this voraciously in awhile have been Feed, The Dresden Files, the Legacy of the Aldenata, and the Harry Potter series and I will now be quick to add this series to the list.

This book picks up right where it’s predecessor leaves off, and weaves the wild and believable adventure of our sixteen year old heroine during a revolution of the remaining humans on earth. The book is an emotional roller coaster but I mean that in the best possible way.

Real.

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