Book Review: Animal Graft

Animal Graph by M Black  (Graph World Book 1)

3 star read

Why I read:   I couldn’t resist the concept of animal grafting combined with dystopia.

Book blurb: “Never-Before-Seen-Concepts

Hunted in the Amazonian jungles 42 years after a nuclear war, Jin and Adan fight to survive in a dystopia gone very wrong. Grafted to Amazon animals, such as blue dart frog or bullet ants, against their will, Jin and Adan will have to learn the secrets of the Graph if they are ever going to win this war. 

With Graphed Borran soldiers on their tail, this will be a hard war to win, especially when King Borran Khan doesn’t fight fair. With Jin’s madre kidnapped and a secret hidden in Jin’s own DNA, will she find the truth before it’s too late? Will Jin and Adan survive, and can the Earth survive against the mad dictatorship of the current ruler of the Americas? 

Find out in this page-turning, edge of your seat, YA Amazonian Eco-Fic Dystopia!”

 

My review

Jin escapes from a prison where she was experimented on to have animal cells and neural tissue grafted into her.  This gives her a range of   unique abilities including a connection by brain waves to a chosen animal.  She has to try and survive out in the Amazonian jungle of an eradicated world whilst being tracked by Graft Soldiers.  The book follows her escape as she learns more about the world and herself.

I don’t read many YA books as I find the style a bit too simplistic for my normal tastes but I was drawn to this one by the fun premise of animal grafting.  Before getting the book I read a review that said it was like the Hunger Games meets X-men and I wholeheartedly agree with this description. Its fun escapism fantasy. The characters have extraordinary abilities from their animal Graphs but these also come with weaknesses. Its a really good balance. The science in the book such as the grafting with animals is glossed over but this just adds to the easy read factor along with the simplistic language used.  The science wasn’t detailed enough for me but I still really enjoyed the book and think it works well for teen fiction.  There’s lots of fun fight scenes where the characters use their awesome abilities with interesting effects.  The book ends mid-air which to me left it feeling very unfinished. I like most ends tied up in a story and I felt that this was just setting up for a sequel.

The main character Jin is likeable and I got behind her, egging her on to defeat the next obstacle in her escape. Adan fits into the stero-typical dreamy supporting character/love interest for the heroine to fall for that I’ve seen previously in young adult books.

A really fun, quick and easy read but if you want to know how things end you would also need to read the next book in the series.

I’d recommend if you like: young adult fiction, super-hero abilities, eco-sci-fi, young adult dystopia.

***

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

 Paperback  (I read PDF ARC)
Published May 23rd 2017 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN1546895841

Book Review : The Growing Season – thought provoking dystopia

The Growing Season – by Helen Sedgwick

4 star read

Why I read:  Science fiction and dystopia with strong feminist themes

Book blurb: “Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent”

 

 

My review

A beautiful, thought provoking book.  Exquisitely layered with hope, sadness, heart-break, love, family, science-fiction and dystopia.  Set in the near future where a  bio-tech baby pouch has been invented and is owned by a private-for profit FullLife Company who have exclusive rights to the pouches. This pouch is marketed to allow anyone to experience pregnancy and as an end to female equality issues.   A journalist discovers that there are problems with some of the babies being born from the pouches which is being covered up by the FullLife Company.   A mix of characters try to figure out what is happening and causing babies to die in the pouches, as there is a lot at stake both financial and society wide.

This book explores many ethical dilemmas around women’s roles, equality,  family, life and death.  This is done in a wonderfully thought out and caring way that forms part of the book and the characters views.    The pros and cons of the science and how this impacts on society are explored which I enjoyed as science ethics really interests me.  Earlier parts of the book run a little slow but the last section makes up for this.  The thriller part of the novel runs slim, a lot of pages are devoted to backstories of the characters and their views, and exploring the ethics around the technology.  To me this added to the book,  giving emotion and making it a really thought-provoking read.  Some themes reminded me of the Handmaiden’s Tale with its look at how conceiving babies is a woman’s role but how the pouch could transform that.  But The Growing Season is a wonderfully original novel that deserves a place amongst the must-reads of dystopian fiction.

Sedgewich writes in a passionate, evocative prose that is very captivating.  The characters are all human, fleshed out with flaws and strengths, errors and achievements that allow you to connect with them.  At times I got a little confused with who’s story I was reading as characters would switch around within chapters so you do need to pay attention.

It is a book I will read again, for the hope contained within the pages for a better future and the beautiful tale of love and heartbreak.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Strong female characters, science fiction, dystopia, feminism, science ethics.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

ebook
Expected publication: September 7th 2017 by Vintage Digital
ISBN 1473548756 (ISBN13: 9781473548756)

Book Review Killing Is My Business – Robot Crime Noir

Killing Is My Business A Novel by Adam Christopher (Ray Electromatic Mysteries #2)

Why I read: Robots!!!! Crime noir.

Book blurb: “A blend of science fiction and stylish mystery noir featuring a robot detective: the stand alone sequel to Made to Kill

Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape for intrepid PI-turned-hitman–and last robot left in working order– Raymond Electromatic. When his comrade-in-electronic-arms, Ada, assigns a new morning roster of clientele, Ray heads out into the LA sun, only to find that his skills might be a bit rustier than he expected….Killing is My Business is the latest in Christopher’s noir oeuvre, hot on the heels of the acclaimed Made to Kill.

“Robot noir in 60s Los Angeles? You had me at ‘Hello.'” —John Scalzi, New York Times bestselling novelist on Made to Kill”?”

My review

Ray Electromatic, is the last robot. He works as as a Private Investigator but as the pay is better he sidelines as a hitman under the guidance of a supercomputer, Ada.  Every 24 hours his memory tape run out and he has to be reset by Ada with data for his current assignment.   Here the action packed novel begins as we follow Ray as he begins his current task  to infiltrate a gang and kill the boss.

This book is great robotic fun.   A quick and easy read with plenty of laughs. Filled with robots, explosions, car chases, gangsters, murder and a huge dollop of noir.  A  crime mystery with little twists alongside the main plot line that keeps everything entertaining.  There’s even a touch of “what does it mean to be human” philosophy thrown in.  It doesn’t take itself seriously and there is a lot of tongue in cheek humour.  Ray is a brilliantly lovable character, fun, witty and  endearing as he overcomes everything the world throws at him.

I haven’t read the first novel in the series but this did not seem to matter at all I enjoyed it as a standalone book.

I’d recommend it to:  fans of robots, crime noir, and anyone who wants a  fun read to brighten their day.

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

****

Hardcover, 288 pages   (I read ARC on PDF)
Published July 25th 2017 by Tor Books
ISBN  0765379201 (ISBN13: 9780765379207)

 

Book Review: Stillhouse Lake = Psychological Thriller

Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine

Why I read: Wife of a Serial Killer, Psychological Thriller.  Kindle First Choice.

Book blurb: “Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.”

My review

A fast-paced psychological thriller that had many twists and turns.  It has a gory plot as Gina is the wife of a serial killer, on the run from her past and the people that would hurt her family.

Gina is a brilliantly written character, a true warrior.   I enjoyed the self-analysis that Gina does as to how she did not spot her husband Melvin’s crimes.  What she realised looking back afterwards was not “normal” which would ring a bell with anyone who has been in a controlling relationship before.  But from her past she grows strength, she fights to protect her family and to outsmart those who wish them harm.  Although the book lacked some realism I totally enjoyed seeing how she tackled every obstacle.

One downside was the cliffhanger ending.  It felt far too much like an attempt to get me to read the next book which really wasn’t needed.   The main story however was nicely tied up, with many twists to keep you guessing along the way.

I’d recommend to: fans of serial killer thrillers, psychological thrillers,  strong female characters

****

Kindle Edition, 302 pages
Published July 1st 2017 by Thomas & Mercer
Original Title
Stillhouse Lake
ASIN
B01MFGX5GI

 

Book Review: Let’s Get Monster Smashed Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time

Let’s Get Monster Smashed Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time by Jon Chaiet & Marc Chaiet

Why I read: Gory cocktail recipes based on horror films.

Book blurb: “A horror movie-inspired cocktail book with gross-looking but delicious party drinks, all wrapped up in an awesome ’80s VHS package. There are 55 recipes spread across 5 chapters (shots, gelatin, punches, special fx, and non-alcoholic) inspired by classic pulp horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with viewing recommendations. The movies may be weird, the drinks may look gross, but the elevated drink making techniques and unusually tasty recipes keep readers and their guests interested and coming back for more. Great for theme parties, Halloween festivals, movie fans, and retro enthusiasts.”

My review

This is a fun book for every horror enthusiasts bookshelf. The graphics are bright, gory and nostalgic. Reminding me of 80’s ghoulish artwork. There’s drinks in here for every taste from shots to punches and none-alcoholic concoctions. Some are adaptations from classic recipes and other seem newly made up. What makes this book stand out is the links to classic horror films. Its a delight to see old favourites such as Gremlins, Hellraiser, Beetlejuice and Seven transformed into cocktail inspiration.

The start of the book includes a humorous description of the supplies you need for cocktail making, the various alcohols that make up the base of most cocktails and techniques used. The recipes themselves seem easy enough to follow and range from simple spirit and mixer to advanced cocktails with all the frills. Some of the cocktails need advance planning as they require several days to produce such as stepping vodka with green tea for a few days beforehand or rarer ingredients. Truly gory inspiration material. Perfect for horror themed nights.

I’d recommend to: horror movie fans, Halloween party inspiration, cocktail lovers.

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

****

 Hardcover: 144 pages ( I read an ARC on pdf of this book.)
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd (3 July 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764353705

Book Review – Borne by Jeff VanderMeer – Weirdly delightful fiction

Borne  by Jeff VanderMeer

Why I read: Weird fiction and I enjoyed  the Southern Reach trilogy by this author.

Select Sentence “.”

Book blurb: “”Am I a person?” Borne asked me.

“Yes, you are a person,” I told him. “But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.”

In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.

One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts—and definitely against Wick’s wishes—Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford.

“He was born, but I had borne him.”

But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same. “

My review

Borne is set in a wonderfully weird and creepy dystopian future.   Rachel lives in an abandoned apartment with her lover Wick.  Here she survives in a surreal city filled with strange biotech, alien creatures, giant flying bears and scavengers.  During a scavenging mission Rachel finds Borne,  a strange green lump, and takes him home.  Rachel teaches Borne what she can and this relationship is the heart of the book.   The world building is dark and amazing.  I loved the relationship between Rachel and Borne, the exploration of motherhood and teacher that is described.  Rachel is a well written character, strong, capable and complex.  Borne is totally fascinating, weirdly complex yet still a believable alien.

This book is disorientating, Vandermeer does not explain but rather paints a picture for you to imagine.  And that picture is a vivid complex otherworldness, dark and frightening, filled with destruction but also love.   If you like plots to be all nicely tied up give this one a miss.  But if like me you love to explore strange new worlds, unique concepts and don’t mind being left with some mystery you will find this a satisfying read.

I’d recommend to fans of weird fiction, X-files, strong women and sci-fi.

****

I read an ARC in exchange for an honest review

EDITION Hardcover  325 pages

ISBN 9780008159177

PRICE£12.99 (GBP)

 

 

Book Review: Shattered Minds – Futuristic cyber-punk thriller

Shattered Minds  by Laura Lam

Why I read: Near-future technological thriller staring a female “Dexter”.  I was intrigued by the “brain-mapping” ideas and cyberpunk themes.

Book blurb: “She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons.

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever. “

The book is a stand-alone novel set in the same world as False Hearts.  (I haven’t read False Hearts so I don’t know if there are any spoilers for that book within this one).

My review

In a dark and malevolent futuristic world, a drug-addicted ex-neuroscientist Carina satisfies her urges to kill within drug-fueled dreams.   Within her mind sections of data are planted which she can only unlock by recalling her early memories.  So she bands together with a group of hackers in order to take down an evil corporation.   The writing is fluid and vivid, often darkly violent and brilliantly portrays a frightening high technology near-future. I loved the blend of crime, psychology, sci-fi and futurism.  The world-building and technology are awesome.

Carina was an interesting character, she had a hard edge with violent compulsions she struggles to control but also a softer more likeable human side.  She fights against her addictions and her past so she can expose Sudice Inc.  These many facets to her personality made her a believable “bad girl”. Its certainly a book for people who enjoy complex female leads.  Dax (her love interest) is a trans-male hacker and another fascinating well -written character.   I enjoyed how their story played out.

The narrative jumped around between different people, past and present to unfold the complicated story.   I had to pay attention to the heading at the start of each chapter to ensure I knew whose perspective it was written from and where on the timeline it was occurring.  So  it took a bit longer for me to read.  But don’t let you put this off.  Its well worth the attention.

Recommended if you enjoy: strong female characters, technological sci-fi, futuristic crime fiction, cyber-punk elements.

****

I received an ARC from Netgallery in return for my honest review.

ISBN: 9781447286905

Hardcover, 384 pages   (NB I read a pre-release PDF version)
Expected publication: June 15th 2017 by Pan Macmillan

You can read an extract of the book on the publishers website  

My little Jackshund dog decided I needed a reading break in the middle of this book: