Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Marissa Meyer: Cinder

Marissa Meyer takes the classic fairy tale of Cinderella and puts her own futuristic spin on it:

Cinder is a Cyborg and as a Cyborg she is seen as a second class citizen. She works as a mechanic to support her step-mother, step sisters and household. Cinder loves being a mechanic and has dreams of her own of fleeing from New Beijing and her circumstances, she just needs to find the right time. However, everything changes when her youngest step sister contracts the deadly plague that his haunting the Earth and Cinder's stepmother blames her for it. Cinder's life is her stepmother's to do with as she pleases and she wants Cinders to suffer and will do anything to see that happen. Cinder knows that she has to escape but everything changes when she meets Prince Kia and his quest to protect to Earth from the Lunar threat above. Cinder is going to have to make some hard choices and some of them are going to hit hard at home.

This book is a perfect read for readers who are of Young Adult age as it is not extremely heavy on romance aspects it is like a teenage crush and there is no violence in this book. Although this book and cover make it seem like this book is a retelling of Cinderella. I would say that it is very loosely based on that fairy tail and Meyer has given it a steam punk futuristic twist. I liked that it was only loosely based as we all know the Cinderella story and this allowed Meyer to do add some of her own elements to the story,especially when your main character is a cyborg and the addition of a plague that is haunting the Earth.

The Lunar angle was also interesting, that the people from the Moon have these mind control powers and want anyone killed who can resist them (insecure much). Although I do not think this part was explored fully in the book I think that this was done on purpose and more will come to light in the next books. I could just felt like there was more that the Lunar Queen and people were hiding. I mean why do they really need the Earth when they have the moon? I hope in one of the books in this series we actually get to go to the Moon.

I'm on the fence with Cinder. I loved that she was a Cyborg and a mechanic, such a cool idea, and that she is not really girly girly, though this seems to change as soon as a boy is introduced. I think that is one of my main problems with Cinder is that it feels like she changes (what she can) for the Prince, is ashamed of who she is as a cyborg because of the Prince and makes some not so smart decisions that not only affects her but others around her. I get that she is a teenager, I just wish she was a little stronger and a little more comfortable with who she is and not just want to change it for a boy.

Prince Kia annoyed me on many occasions but I guess the reasons that he annoyed me had to do with the fact that he was a spoiled prince and that was just in his character (he does grow a bit by the end but not enough for me to like him). For someone that was supposed to be groomed to be the new King (especially due to the circumstances in the book) I found that he was still just a whiny teenager on many occasions (I mean who misses meetings with other world leaders? That is your job) and mad because things are not going his way.

I have a big problem of where this story is set to take place in New Beijing. New Beijing???? There was nothing in this book that had any sort of Asian culture associated with it nor was it described in a way that would make me think that it was in Asia. It sounded like a European or Western place not something in Asia. I understand that this takes place why in the future or in a completely different world but if you are going to refer to place that is real I think it should have some of those aspects. I think the only Asian people referred to in the book were some of the people at the market. I don't even remember Kia being described as Asian and if he is the Prince you would think he would have some sort of Asian descent.

I know I list quite a few problems that I had with this book above but this book was a fun and easy read for me as you can tell that it was written for a more youth based audience. That said I did enjoy the book and Meyers interpretation of the Cinderella story and I would continue on in the series, even though the main characters were not to my liking. I look forward to see what other fairy tales Meyers chooses to interpret, expand upon and put her steam punk twist on.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mary Roach: Stiff - The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

I was drawn to this book for a few reasons. Firstly, if I could do university all over again I would work to becoming a forensic anthropologist which is career that I find extremely fascinating. Secondly, my grandpa passed away in 2013 and he elected to donate his body to science and recently we just received information that he was ready for cremation. My grandpa used to joke about how the student was in for a interesting shock when they got to his lungs (he smoked several packs a day for almost his entire life) and his liver (he drank almost as much as he smoked). As my family and I will never fully know the adventure that my grandpa's body went on after he passed, I thought it might be interesting to know a possible path that he took.

Mary Roach takes readers on an strange adventure with what happens when someone donates their body to science. She takes reader through some history from how they have been procured to what the have been used for and the advancements that have been made because of work on them. The scientific aspects of the books are mixed in with Roach's own thoughts, feelings and whit. 

Each chapter takes on a different aspect in science that could benefit from the use of cadavers to work on; Plastic surgery to Crash Test Dummies Roach has deemed to explore a wide range for the use of cadavers (and it is by no need an extensive list, but she did choose some interesting ones that I never thought of). This book also touches on at times the use of animals in experiments and some that are pretty disturbing and what I would think would be straight out of a horror novel. For example attaching a decapitated puppy head to a live dog to determine if the flesh can be reanimated or survive. And I guess that brings me to my next point if you have a squeamish stomach this book will not be for you, as Roach does go in to a fair amount of detail at times.

This book has quite a bit of humour in it for the topic but you need to have a similar type of humour or not get offended easily in order to enjoy this book. Roach often gives her own personal observations or thoughts during the moment when researching or interviewing scientist about the "lives" of cadavers, and most of the time her thoughts could boarder on offensive to some people at the jokes or thoughts that just seem to pop in to her mind. I think that this is the part that people will either love or hate, however, this is what makes the book truly unique in voice instead of just stating scientific or history facts.

I liked learning about some of the curious lives that human cadavers can have now and in history and I am sure that there are many more adventures for them to have. Although Roach is not a medical professional (as you can tell from her personal comments) I think she did a great job in presenting the science as well as making it interesting. I would read another book by Roach and I seriously would consider donating my body to science even though I wouldn't want it to end up in some of the places the cadavers in this story did.


I don't have something too similar to this book, but these are some fiction reads that I think will be a good segway from this book.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ernest Cline: Ready Player One

Ernest Cline takes readers to 2044 and introduces readers to the OASIS where people live their lives in a virtual world and the greatest treasure hunt is about to begin:

Wade Wilson is a gunther, which means he devotes all of his spare time in The OASIS (most people do trying to escape the poverty) and trying to find James Halliday Easter Egg, which would unlock the mass fortune that he has accumulated. Five years have done by since Halliday passed away and the first clue was give and it appeared that no one was closer to finding the first key. Until one day an teenage boy's name appears at the top of the scoreboard as having found the copper key. The race is on as Wade and other gunthers struggles to find the next keys to the Easter Egg, but there are those that will make the game deadly not only in the virtual world but in real life as well.

I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. I found I devoured it and was reading it every chance  I could. I think what I liked the most about this book is that it is a reality that I could see for our future. Not only this generation in a great recession but people live basically their entire lives online as an escape from it. There are already so many online games and worlds that people are a part of that, at times, consume their life and who they are. Online you can be whoever you want, look how ever you want and be a completely different person. The going to school in the online universe was also a cool aspect as it would allow those who do not live close to a school or have the inability to go to school to still learn and interact in that type of an environment.

Wade is an interesting character and he is ever devoted to his goal of finding the keys to Halliday's Easter Egg, so that he can change his own . He has this funny habit of siting all the 80s information that he states or talks about in the book, which I got used to the farther into the book and found it quite interesting.  Although Wade is a teenager in the novel and some of his life choices and decisions reflect this, I think it was his obsession with the 80s culture that made him seem older than he actually was. However, other than Wade being the narrator of this book, I never really felt much connection to him and I cannot pin point why (maybe it was due tot he fact he was the narrator which took some of the suspense away?).

This book is pure geek (which is awesome) at its best especially if you have a things for 80s pop culture or are a gamer with a love of older video games. The information that Cline has amassed in order to create not only the clue that Wade has to decode but the language that Wade uses as he tends to reference everything is outstanding. This created a unique voice and path for Wade to take throughout the book and you can tell that Cline had to do a lot of planning and researching to get it right as he probably knew there would be people out there that would let me know if he got is wrong. I think this was the one place where Cline lost me at times, as I was trying to figure out the clues as well, there was no way I had the knowledge to figure them out (other than the first clue which I found pretty obvious).

Ready Player One is one of my favourite reads so far this year. I loved the concept of this book and how true it could be in our future. I look forward to seeking out other books by Cline.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Eric Rickstand: The Silent Girls

Eric Rickstand takes readers on a journey of missing teenage girls that will take the readers to a place that they least expect:

Frank Rath thought that he was done investigating murders when he handed in his detective badge after the murder of his sister and her husband by a serial killer many years ago. He has since focused on raising his daughter. When the police find an abandoned vehicle that belonged to a teenage girl who seems to have disappeared without a trace, Rath is brought in to help, as one of the detectives believes that there is more than one missing girl across the counties. Rath embarks on an investigation that takes him along a path he never thought he would encounter again and the missing teenage girl may not be at the end of it alive.

I struggled to finish this book as it was not able to really intrigue me, therefore it could not hold my attention and for the most part just fell flat. I found there were too many side stories that the main mystery suffers. I also think that there should have been a book before this one that has Rath chasing The Preacher who was responsible for killing his sister and her husband. I not only think that would have been an interesting read but it possibly could have set things up for this book better.

The second half of this book better than the first, as things finally started to unfold. In the second half of the book Rickstand was able to find his stride as he started to really focus more on the mystery of the missing girls and not Rath's personal life. That said I found the police and private investigator work really ho-hum; I guess I'll look over here for evidence/information, oh nothing there, oh maybe I'll look over here; Oh I feel like I am no longer close to my daughter so I'll tell her the details of the case to see if she can think of anything. I know that the police and Rath are supposed to work together on this case but they never do and keep information from each other which hinders everything, which is funny because Rath is a former police officer and on good terms with the force. It actually seemed that the police were more forthcoming with information than he was. I will say that I was surprised who the bad guy was in this book, and that does give this book some bonus points but not really enough for me to enjoy the book overall.

While I like the main character I felt like I never really got to know him, other than he is a really good family man as an over protective father of his grown daughter, but I think there are a lot of Dads who are especially when they leave for collage. He is a very closed off character because of the events from the past that have happened to him, but he also felt closed off to the reader as well. As I said before I felt like there was a book before this one that shaped Rath as a character and he would have made more sense in this book because of it (I have checked and there is not a book before this one).

If you would have asked me part way through this book if I would read another book by Rickstand I probably would have said No; however, the ending of this book had me really intrigued as it was events outside of the missing girls that it pertains to.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Jesse Peterson: Flip This Zombie

The first book in this series, Married with Zombies, is a cute and funny read with some zombie killing action, plus it sets up this book, so you'll want to read it first book before this one.

In the second book in Jesse Petersen's Living With the Dead series, there is a glimmer of hope that they may be able to help save the world:

The Zombie Apocalypse has been really good for Sarah and David as it literally saved their marriage and they are now closer than ever. Not only is their relationship surviving this new world but they are prospering with a new business of Zombie extermination. Well as there are lots of Zombies out there, there are a lot of business opportunities for them to bargain for supplies and survival gear. However, normally Zombie extermination involves killing the Zombies but when a scientist asks them to bring him live zombies to test the cure that he has developed, things take on a whole new aspect of danger. Sarah is excited to have some hope that they could be part of saving the world, while David gets more of a Mad scientist feel from him. Can Sarah and David survive the Zombie extermination business as now they are looking for trouble instead of avoiding it.

Once again this book was a cute and funny read with zombie killing (I know those word do not normally go together) and some fun ides thrown in. Why not start a business of Zombie extermination when the world has gone to the zombies, seems like a smart business decision as you would never be out of business. I like that Peterson took this fun idea in this book, and it makes me think why more people haven't offered their services up this way in other zombie books. Seems like a smart way to barter for supplies and killing zombies seems to be the only skills that David and Sarah have in this new world. I also liked that Peterson introduced the concept of a cure for "zombieism" and with this the concept of hope, as in most of the zombie books I have read, hope is never really encountered in the form of a cure. Additionally, I enjoyed the concept ofbionic zombies, which are a different type of zombies that appear to have the ability to think and work in teams. This makes zombie busting a lot more dangerous as these zombies put up more of challenge.

I like that the zombie apocalypse is not able to save everything in Sarah and David's relationship. You really do start to see some of the cracks in their relationship as they challenge each others beliefs, so I guess the zombie apocalypse does not fix everything. We also get to see a big difference between the two when it comes to hope. Sarah really wants to think that life can go back to normal and will do anything to help make it happen, while David does not believe in hope, more just wants to take everything a day at a time and just focus on surviving. Still the banter between the two of them is always funny as the dry humour they have needed to develop.

This is a good addition to the series and I like the ideas that Peterson presented in this book. This series is for those who want a fun and easy read set in the zombie apocalypses but not skimping on the zombie killing. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Matthew Quirk: The Directive

You need to read the first book in this series, The 500, to understand who Michael Ford is, his past and the relationships that he has in this book. The 500 is a great read and I highly recommend it (especially if you like the TV show Suits).

Mike Ford is about to get married to the love of his life, even though her family does not approve, but she has seen him as his best and worst and no one can break them apart (even though her father tries several times). Along with getting married you need a Best Man and Mike has decided to ask his brother, Jack, who has also gone straight, to stand up with him as a little salute to how far the family has come. However, all good intentions come to an end when Mike discovers that Jack is in way over his head in a powerful conspiracy to steal a billion dollar secret. In an effort to help him get out of the situation, Mike finds himself trapped by some dangerous men, who are holding all the cards. Mike and his brother now have to achieve the impossible and they are going to need all the skills they left behind in order to even attempt to stay alive.

The main aspect that makes this series such a success for me is the main character Michael Ford. I love that he has moved on from his life of crime growing up to become a lawyer but uses the tricks that he learned as a con man to find and get the information that he needs. Mike is not afraid to use manipulation and social niceties to show the vulnerabilities in how to gain access to building and gain trust or really any information required. The way that Mike's mind works as he processes through all the information and scenarios is amazing, and really genius and you as the reader get to see how his mind works (for the most part, as the book is told in third person point of view, so some things are left in Mike's mind). Like I said Mike is what makes this book for me, I just love him as a character overall.

The mystery in this book was okay, I personally was able to figure quite a few things out before the big reveals, but it was still a fun roller coaster ride as Mike tries to figure out how to steal one of the most trusted and important piece of information in the USA. I liked that Mike was not asked to steal money directly in this book but more information. The process and planning that goes into stealing the information is impressive and with details that make it seem possible for it to happen. Quirk must have done some interesting research in his time to get all the aspects right and feel real for this book.I know I compared the first book in this series to the TV show Suits, this book is far from that TV show and what is expected of Mike. I'm glad that Quirk moved away from this similarity and has created something that is more of his own.

I like that the ending was not so cookie cutter and Quirk realized that in this type of crime things gets quite grey in the end in the real world, so this book may not end as you expect. Really a great installment to this series and I look forward to the next installment in this series and what Quirk can come up with next.

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