The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy

This was a book that I had kept my eye on since I first heard about it. It’s premise has this merging of technology and horror and I thought it would be interesting to see where that would go. Here is my review:

The Dark Net is a real and dangerous place, existing in the far reaches of the Web. Some use it to manage Bitcoins, pirate movies, or traffic in drugs. Now, an ancient darkness has decided to use this platform for its own agenda. This force is threatening to spread virally into the real world unless it can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew: 12- year-old Hannah, who has just been given a visual prosthetic to combat her blindness, and is wondering why she can see shadows around certain people; Lela; a technophobic journalist who has found a story no one wants her to uncover; Mike Juniper who suffers from personal – and literal – demons; and Derek, a hacker with a streak of justice. They have no idea what the Dark Net really contains and what they are up against.

I really wanted to love this novel, and with its premise, it gave every indication that I would enjoy this story. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The story is told from multiple perspectives. In this case, I found none of the perspectives interesting. In fact, I didn’t really like any of the characters (especially Lela, who I found intolerable). Even though the author had ensured that he gave the backstory of the main characters, I had this constant feeling like the descriptions were just surface level; they didn’t have much emotional depth to them. Whenever I thought the author would get deeper into something, there would be a switch in perspective or scene that would throw me off. It also felt as if this book was trying to tie in all of these random aspects to make them come together and tell a cohesive tale; while it did all tie up, it just wasn’t done in an authentic way. Some things were put together in a way that was far too convenient to believe, and it made me fall out of the story. I wish there had been more depth to the entire story, not just random wikipedia facts to inform the readers about the Dark Net. In the end, this story just didn’t flow well and had characters that were hard to connect with on all levels. However, I did like the demonic aspects so I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

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The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I heard that this novel was being compared to Station Eleven, I knew I had to give it a shot. Station Eleven was a book I absolutely adored so I was hoping I would enjoy this one just as much. Here is my review:

England, 1853: William gave up on his research in order to be a seed merchant and provide for his family. What he didn’t account for was the melancholy that would take over him and prevent him from doing anything. But when he stumbles upon a book that rekindles his passion in biology, he decides to set out and build a new type of beehive, one that will bring fame and honour to him and his children.

United States, 2007: George is a beekeeper who loves his traditional farming methods, and is opposing the tide of modern farming. But he is getting older every day and knows he can’t keep up with modern innovation. His only hope is in his son, Tom.

China, 2098: Now that the bees have disappeared, hundreds of workers must hand-pollinate. Tao has been doing this arduous task for years, trying to save enough money so that she and her husband can have another child, while also trying to educate her young son so that he can aspire for more in his life. When Tao’s young son is taken away by authorities after a tragic accident, she sets off on a dangerous journey to find out what happened to him.

Going into this book, I knew that it was a slow-burner that would take time to develop intrigue. I actually knew nothing about bees or pollination or the vital role that they play in our world, so I thought that was extremely interesting. The author really takes this environmental issue and beautifully connects it across 3 different generations and 3 very different groups of people. Each story was unique but presented the same content: parent-child relationships and how they are affected by parents’ expectations or hopes for their child. I thought that the author did an amazing job in portraying this relationship in each of the stories. However, I found it hard to get into the story itself. This was mainly due to the fact that the characters didn’t invoke any emotion from me. I didn’t feel invested in them and found it hard to make a connection with them. I also found that while the topics that the novel addresses were important, the author never reached the core of anything; it just felt like some depth was missing. So while this is a very interesting story told from 3 very different perspectives, it didn’t give me the overall effect I was looking for, which is why I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a collection of short stories that all revolve around the idea of technology and the ways in which we use it to communicate and make our lives simpler. The stories in this book take place in the near future and show the good – and the bad – side of technology. I found the premise interesting enough to follow it up with a request, so thank you to the author, publishers and NetGalley for this ARC!

Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, immersive virtual reality games, and intuitive robots.
In “The Cartographers,” the main character works for a company that creates and sells virtual memories, but he soon begins to struggle differentiating what is real from his own creations. In “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” the robotic brother of an adopted Chinese child malfunctions, and it is only when he is gone that the family realizes how real of a son he was.  Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and our ever-growing dependence on new technologies.

The idea behind every story is brilliant. There are memories that you can order and implant, virtual worlds that you can live in, instant messages that you can send through technology implanted in your eye…. the possibilities are endless. But each story is disquieting in the way it peels back the layers and shows the flip side to the zealous use of technology. The author shows irony at its finest in this short story collection. However, while the concept and the ideas themselves are brilliant, the characters are not. In every story, it felt like there was just a lack of emotion. Every character fell flat and seemed lifeless. There was no connection between the reader and the characters, which resulted in apathy towards the fate of said characters. Most of my time was spent musing on the interesting scenarios that the author presented rather than focusing on the lives of these characters and the difficulties they faced as a result of technology. Overall, while the concept was interesting, the characters were not, and this is why I would give this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Dreams Before The Start of Time by Anne Charnock

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

As soon as I read about the premise of this novel, I was excited for it. Here is a sci-fi novel that is set in the near future and isn’t something post-apocalyptic. Instead it shows how people and society has changed due to technological advances in one particular field: birthing.

In a London not too far into the future, Millie Dack is resolute in her decision to be a single parent. Across town, her best friend Toni Munroe discovers a devastating medical diagnosis. As Millie and Toni try to embrace and adjust to this new change in their lives, they experience the aftershocks of human progress as new ways of making babies emerge. When infertility is no longer an issue, and each sex can create a child all on their own, what does it mean to be a parent, a child, a family?

I was expecting something spectacular. This book did not develop. I actually found the technological aspects to be really cool but that was the only positive thing about this novel. Based on the premise, I was expecting a very character-driven story that explores complex relationships and emotions between the different people involved in this story as they go from one generation to another. However, that did not happen. It felt like I was reading an interesting textbook rather than a fiction story. None of the characters were expressive enough and there was no emotional connection for me. I didn’t feel anything for anyone in the book and I couldn’t believe in the relationships that were established in the novel, either. In that sense, this novel made me really upset. I wanted it to be so interesting and different and there was so much potential for that to happen. Instead, I got a dry book with no feelings or emotion, except for a huge wave of disappointment from my end. In the end, this was not a good novel for me.

Happy reading ~

The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

When it comes to science fiction novels, it is either a hit or a miss. There is no in between for me. I’m always eager to get my hands on a sci-fi novel but my expectations are always very high. I want a story that is unique and that will excite me in a way I could never imagine. I find that many teen novels have really cool science fiction stories, so I tend to gravitate towards whatever is the latest book out there in this genre. This time, I picked out The Diabolic in the hopes that it would deliver on all fronts.

Nemesis isn’t human, she is a diabolic, created for the sole purpose of protecting Senator Impyrean’s daughter, Sidonia. Nemesis loves her to death; she would kill anyone to keep Sidonia safe. But when the Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, the only way Nemesis can keep Sidonia safe is to become her. In a court full of corruption, Nemesis must hide her true abilities. As the Empire begins to show signs of weakness and rumors or rebellion abound, Nemesis discovers that there is another side to her, one that is vastly different from her deadly strength: her humanity. And it might be the only thing that will save her and Sidonia.

This novel started off great. There was action, there was violence, there was a main character who is cold-blooded to the core. Everything was believable and the emotions (or lack thereof) all tied in to create a cohesive character and plot. But then things changed and I stopped liking the story. It became a romance. Now, there is nothing wrong with romance novels. But if the author is going to start off with a really cool action/sci-fi premise, there is an expectation that this will carry forward until the end of the book. That did not happen. Instead, Nemesis becomes a wishy-washy heroine who is weak-willed and no longer fights and acts like a complete badass. That ruined the story for me. Yes, it was fast-paced and there was interesting political intrigue. But I wasn’t looking for any of that. I wanted violence, and crazy fighting scenes, and to see the rage and destruction that comes from being a Diabolic. The story was well-written, and the plot had good pacing, but the novel just disappointed me because it didn’t live up to its premise. This was supposed to be a standalone but the author has just announced that she plans to make it a trilogy. However, I don’t think I’m going to be giving this series a chance.

Happy reading ~

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

I like science fiction, but it has been a while since I’ve read anything in this genre. I’ve also never heard of Connie Willis, who is apparently quite well known in the science fiction world. This novel has been getting a lot of hype so I decided to check it out!

In the not-so-distant future, everyone is eager to increase and enhance communication with those around them. There are multiple apps and phones promising to improve your ability to connect with those around you. But the biggest breakthrough is the development of a simple outpatient surgery that will increase romantic partners’ ability to emotionally connect. And Briddey is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing this procedure before getting engaged. He wants to be able to truly show her how much he loves her, and what better way to do that than through a procedure that makes you open to your partner? But the operation doesn’t go quite as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to a completely different person in a way far beyond anything she could ever imagine. With her life already so complicated, what with the stress of her job and her overly-eager-to-communicate-always family, Briddey is on the brink of mental collapse. But this is just the beginning. As things go from bad to worse, Briddey is soon going to find out the dark side of having too much communication.

When I first heard the premise of this story, I had expected it to be a lot more sinister. Maybe it’s because of all the mysteries and thrillers I’ve been reading. What I found instead was a comical novel that explores the dangers of communication, with a fast pace and a romance that is both cute and creepy all at the same time.

The author begins by showing the reader a glimpse of Briddey’s daily life. And it is hectic. To be honest, I never really figured out what exactly Briddey’s job was but after reading about a “normal day at the office”, I myself was mentally drained. In that sense, the author did a good job of portraying the obsession society has with communication and technology. Briddey was barraged by phone calls, texts, emails, and messages from all sorts of other apps. Reading about the craziness of her life made me really glad that I stick to the bare minimum when it comes to apps.

Briddey herself was the most annoying and ignorant character I have ever read about. I’m serious, she actually pissed me off. She can’t do anything on her own, she constantly jumps to conclusions, she acts irrationally and does stupid things that cause her more problems, and she is a pushover. These characteristics remained throughout the novel and so I never really had much sympathy for her. She sort-of wizened up towards the end but I still never liked her.

Most of the other characters also felt underdeveloped. There were only a couple of characters that I actually liked and they were mostly the reason that I continued to read the story. The characters could definitely have had a stronger personality and more nuances; if you have read any of my other posts, you will know that one of the things I truly don’t like are one-dimensional characters. If this had been different, I think I would have liked the novel more.

The story itself was quite funny. It didn’t have as much depth as I would have liked; most of the plot was a bit on the shallow side in the way that it dealt (or didn’t deal) with issues. I also feel like the story didn’t really show me anything that I wasn’t already aware. Yes, too much of something can be a bad thing. Yes, there are positives and negatives to everything. And the pros and cons that the author talks about were ones that I already knew. However, despite that, I had a fun time reading this story and enjoying the comical scenes involving Briddey. There were some science aspects of the story that were interesting, like the mention of genes and feedback loops. However, I got lost in the explanations that the author gave near the end of the book. It felt like a whole bunch of information was just thrown at me and I wish the delivery of it had been smoother.

My verdict is on the fence for this novel. The characters were not as well-developed as I would have liked and the concept itself was a bit simplistic when it came down to it. However, I liked the lightheartedness of the story as well as the fast pace. I finished this book in just a few hours and found myself laughing and enjoying the overall flow of the story, but there definitely things that disappointed me. If you are looking for something funny with romance and a bit of science fiction, then give this novel a shot. But this is definitely not going to win any praise from die-hard science fiction fans!

Happy reading ~

Wool by Hugh Howey

Before I read a book, I like to read reviews on Goodreads. It’s interesting to see other people’s opinions on the same book that I just read. When I read the reviews this time, I became confused with everyone talking about sequels and an omnibus and short stories. So far all of those reading this review, I just want to clarify that the version I am reading is the full version of Wool that is about 500 pages long. I guess it is what is being referred to as an Omnibus. Hopefully that will clarify things for future readers.

In a toxic world, a community exists in a giant silo underground. It is hundreds of stories deep, with each level serving a purpose. The men and women living in this society follow the regulations strictly, counting on the rules to protect them. But one day, Sheriff Holston, an unwavering rule-abider, decides to break one of the greatest taboos of the silo: he asks to go outside. His fateful decision unleashes a series of events that leads to the appointment of an unlikely candidate for sheriff: Juliette, a mechanic who lives all the way at the bottom-most level. Now, it is up to Juliette to fix the silo and keep the peace – but she will soon learn the cost. The silo is about to face an event that has only ever been hinted about: an uprising.

I knew this novel would be a long read. And it was. It took me several days to get through it all, and that was with me abandoning all other books to focus on it. But it was worth the effort. This novel takes dystopia to a whole new level. This story is so deep, and involves so many characters, that you can’t help but be sucked into it. I really liked Juliette, with her brash attitude and her stubborn streak. I liked all of the people in Mechanical. There was a backstory that worked for almost all of the characters, and the interactions between them were very realistic. The author did a great job in showing how, instead of banding together during times of crises, living in this community with different levels set people apart. It showed  the discord that can be sown through distrust. I loved the route that the author took with this story; it was very unique and it left me wanting more. While some parts were overly descriptive, I didn’t really mind because the story was just so good! I think there is a sequel to this novel, so I am quite excited what happens next in this story! This book is definitely a heavy read but it is well worth the time!

Happy reading ~

The Blood Key by Vaun Murphrey – The Wander #1

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Based on the books that I review on this blog, it’s obvious that I love science fiction. I’m always looking for something new, a story that doesn’t resemble everything that is out there. Well, this author definitely gave me that!

Zena Skala has just been released from an asylum at the age of 18 for a crime that she didn’t commit – murdering her older brother. While the unwanted attention from the police and media hounds Zena, she escapes to the deserted Skala Estate, where memories from her odd past await her. Secrets await in her family home, with some threatening to destroy everything she has ever known.

The premise of this story is very interesting, especially the way it began. A girl with a spunky attitude who was locked away for something she never did? My kind of heroine. I like her best friend, who has a very funny personality but plays the role of a stereotypical Latina … which I wish hadn’t happened. There is a love interest in this story, and for once it isn’t a love triangle, so that was quite nice. However, the plot itself seemed disjointed; so many things were happening and nothing was fully explained. I like having details in my novels, not just action, so that definitely made this novel suffer for me. I also found the dialogue to be awkward and stilted between the different characters, especially between Zena and her father. So while this novel had an interesting premise, its execution was lacking. If you like fast-paced stories with a lot of action, then give this book a go!

Happy reading ~

Crescent Moon by James Fahy – Phoebe Harkness #2

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I loved the first novel in this series so much, and I am so excited to have had the chance to review this novel as well. With such an interesting protagonist, and such a unique storyline, it was all I could do to finish off my work at the lab and curl up with this book!

In a world where Genetic Others like vampires and werewolves try to coexist with humans, life can be … complicated. Phoebe Harkness, a scientist, tries to stay neutral in the ongoing fights between all of the different factions, especially once she is named as liaison between the Genetic Others and the Cabal, the ruling institution of New Oxford. Her first mission? To negotiate with the Tribals, a group of werewolves that live like nomads. But before she can make any headway, she learns of a series of murders, with signs showing that it was the handiwork of Tribals. The Tribal leader, Kane, insists that his people are not a part of this… and Phoebe believes him. Phoebe, along with her friends, must get to the bottom of these horrific killings – before all hell breaks loose and another war begins.

Just as with the first novel in this series, I fell in love with the story line and the main character. Phoebe continues to be my favorite character of all time, with her witty, humorous remarks, and her penchant for danger. All of the other characters stay stable, keeping the same dynamics as with the first novel. I liked that this story introduced werewolves while still sticking to the main overarching story from the first book. However, there were parts of the story that left me wanting more. I wanted more of a buildup of the backstory, I wanted more depth to the evil characters, I wanted Phoebe to probe deeper into the mysteries and ask more questions. I felt like there were a lot of things that were left loose-ended, and I have no idea if the author will be addressing any of them in the next book. While I still laughed and was drawn to my seat, the story didn’t feel complete and I was just a tad bit disappointed with how some things were just written off. The antagonist continues to have really cheesy dialogue, which makes it hard for me to take the plot seriously. Hopefully that will be improved in the next novel. I enjoyed the science aspects, and there was definitely more biology in this book than in the previous one – and it was ACCURATE!!!! All in all, this was a good sequel that got me pumped, and I am eager to read the next installment!

Happy reading ~

 

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig – The Fire Sermon #1

Oftentimes, when I am asked to review an advanced copy of a book that is in a series, I read it as it is without reading the preceding novel. With this series, however, I knew it wouldn’t be possible to skip the first book. I was able to get my lovely boyfriend to buy it for me when we were passing by an Indigo Bookstore and I read the whole book in one sitting! So without further ado, here is my review:

It has been 400 years since the Blast, a nuclear apocalypse that has led to all humans being born in pairs: one twin is a deformed Omega, while the other is a healthy Alpha. Society has shunned the Omegas, sending them to live in rural settlements while the Alphas inherit the Earth. If the Alphas could, they would just kill all Omegas as soon as they have been identified. But they cannot do so for one reason: when one twin dies, so does the other.

Cass is a rare Omega in that she has no physical deformities; her mutation is her psychic foresight. However, even with her gift as a seer, she could not have predicted how powerful – and ruthless – her twin, Zach, would become in the ranks of the ruling Alpha Council. Zach has a plan to destroy the lives of all Omegas forever. And an Omega resistance is brewing, ready to fight back against the Alphas who have dominated them for all of these years. But will Cass’s visions of a united world cause her to be hunted by both Alphas and Omegas?

I quite enjoyed this novel and the unique take it took on the relationship between twins. Everyone always mentions how twins seem to be bonded and connected and “in sync” with each other; it was an intriguing concept to take it to this extreme level. The author did a great job painting the tension and discord between the twins; the Omegas hated their Alpha twins for subjecting them to cruelty and the Alpha twins hated their Omega counterparts for making life difficult. I had never thought of the twin bond as being anything other than positive so having this negative viewpoint was really interesting!

The story had a rapid pace and lots of action so it definitely wasn’t a boring read. I like my dystopian novels to be packed with adventure and this book definitely delivered. The one thing I did not enjoy about this novel was the depiction of Cass as a character. To me, she seemed quite simply-minded in her view of people and the world; for someone who has faced discrimination and torture, she has a VERY open-minded approach to unifying everyone that seems just a bit…. far-fetched. I also found her to be very passive. She didn’t have a fighter personality and just came off as extremely needy. I like my female heroines to be strong and bold (with flaws, of course) but Cass was quite timid and helpless in comparison. Hopefully, this improves in the next novel in the trilogy!

Overall, this book was a decent dystopian teen fiction but it was a tad bit predictable and the main character wasn’t as personable or interesting as I would have liked. I would give this novel a solid 3 out of 5 stars and am eager to see how this story develops in the next novel!

Happy reading!