Review: Parasite – Mira Grant

Grant_Mira-ParasiteTitle: Parasite
Author: Mira Grant
Series: Parasitology #1
Orbit
Rating: 5 / 5

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives…and will do anything to get them.

I decided to do something a little different with this review; instead of reviewing the whole thing at the end, I’d do little progress reports, because, while I am, at the time of this writing, around 100 pages in, I’m having a lot of fun with it and am looking forward to finishing it. I’m planning to do three sections to this review, so without further ado:

Part the first

My initial reaction was that I was unsure of reading this book. I’d heard both good and bad things about Mira Grant’s writing, some say her writing is too involved, and some really enjoy the level of detail and research that goes into her books. Some people had a problem with the format, some didn’t.

So far, I’ve not had a problem with either. I really enjoy when writers don’t feel the need to dumb every little thing down to the readers–they assume their readers are at least intelligent enough to use context clues to figure out what they’re talking about (or, at the very least, the reader knows how to use a dictionary). When Grant feels the need to explain something, it’s done in a way that feels less like an explanation and more like part of the story.

Then there are the articles, transcripts from interviews, excerpts from autobiographies, etc. These little bits are dropped here and there in between the narrative from Sal, our main character, and leave a slightly unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Speaking of Sal, her experience alone is wildly unnerving. When we first meet her, she is waking from a coma, a result of a car crash that left her brain dead. She has no memory of who she was before waking up, and she has to relearn everything it means to be human and to be able to function in society.

At this point in the book, I have my theories about Sal and her thoughts and experiences, but I’ll keep them to myself, as I’m trying to write this review without spoilers.

Part the second

I finished the book in what amounted to one large reading session. The book picks up speed, in a way, after about 100 pages (which, by the way, is usually where I say, “forget it” if the book isn’t holding my attention, but in this case I made an exception). Everything develops slowly, but it feels like it happens fairly quickly, Grant’s writing is that well-done.

Grant makes us want to care about the characters. I felt absolute anger towards Sal’s parents, who are overprotective to the point of treating her like a young child, instead of a fully capable adult. I felt devastated at some of the losses Sal experiences. It’s been such a long time since I’ve cared so deeply about characters, and it was so refreshing.

The last thing I want to touch on is that the book eventually starts developing multiple storylines. There’s the story with SymboGen, the company who developed the tapeworm, there’s the storyline with the military, and finally the “sleepwalkers”, which is coming across as a zombie-like story. Grant previously did a zombie trilogy, the Feed series, and I am now curious whether Grant is going to go in the same general direction (a zombie story). I was actually hoping for something different, because of this. By “different”, I mean not a zombie-esque story.

There are still more books to come in the series, so I guess we’ll find out if it continues, but it also looks like a “human versus human” scenario in the middle of a possible apocalypse, which is very, very interesting to me.

As a quick mention, the theories I had about Sal were correct, and I very much am looking forward to Parasitology #2.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. This has not influenced my opinion in any way.

BFTA Review: Jeff Lindsay – Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Lindsay_Jeff-DarklyDreamingDexter
Title: Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Series: Dexter #1
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Doubleday


Rating: 4/5


Meet Dexter Morgan, a polite wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules. He’s a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. And his job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened — of himself or some other fiend. (goodreads.com)

Please forgive me — this review got away from me a bit.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the first in a series of books about a sociopath who occasionally helps his cop sister and kills bad people. Oh, and we, as readers, are in his head.

Dexter is short–at only 288 pages, it’s one of the shortest novels I’ve read this year, and it’s a quick read. Dexter is pretty fun, for someone who doesn’t understand or experience emotion. He’s practiced at “being human”, his way of saying he fools people into thinking there’s nothing wrong with him. Even his sister doesn’t really suspect. He is clever and witty, and has no trouble at all telling people how it really is, and even calling people out on their stupidity.

Although the book is really a who-dun-it mystery, Dexter really makes the book. He is entertained by odd things, like a Barbie head hanging from his freezer:

Whee. I had a new hobby. (p. 128)

I will say, however, that the introduction to this character is incredibly unpleasant, and as the book progresses, Dexter’s mind becomes more and more weird. He is fascinated by the moon, and it seems like his “hunting” cycle is dictated by it. He seems to only kill when the moon is full.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes and this question: refrigerated trucks have rear-view mirrors?

If you can’t get me my newspaper on time, how can you expect me to refrain from killing people? (p. 170)

Because, the paper carefully pointed out, how could we believe that two such killers could possibly be on the loose at the same time? (p. 171)

Mutilated corpses with a chance of afternoon showers. (p. 173)

Originally posted 08 April 2011.

BFTA Review: Jack Kilborn – Afraid

Kilborn_Jack-Afraid

Title: Afraid
Author: Jack Kilborn
Grand Central Publishing
Rating: 3/5

Welcome to Safe Haven, miles from everything, with one road in and out, this peaceful town has never needed a full-time police force. Until now…
A helicopter has crashed near Safe Haven and unleashed something horrifying. Now this merciless force is about to do what it does best. Isolate. Terrorize. Annihilate. As residents begin dying in a storm of gory violence, Safe Haven’s only chance for survival will rest with an aging county sheriff, a firefighter, and a single mom. And each will have this harrowing thought: Maybe death hasn’t come to their town by accident… (goodreads.com)

It’s really rare for me to have to put a book down because it’s really creeping me out. I’ve heard a lot of hype about how gore-y this book is, and it definitely delivered. It’s done in such a subtle way sometimes, at first leaving what happens up to the imagination of the reader before slamming what actually happens in your face. At the same time, the book isn’t so full of gore that the reader would want to put the book down due to a gross-out factor.
There’s a lot of talk about panic, whether it’s a panicked reaction or how panic affects the body. I loved how each character had their own reactions, their own reason for doing things specifically the way they did them.
I was torn between liking the fact that you don’t really get to know the characters, and disliking the book for the same reason. It’s good, because you’re not so invested in the characters that it’s a huge let-down when they die, but at the same time I felt like I wasn’t connecting with any of the characters enough for me to really care about them dying.
After a while, the book started to become a little convoluted to me. The team’s entire objective is to find Warren Streng, and there’s so much going on between the characters that I found it hard to keep track of what was going on, and who was doing what. The book kind of redeemed itself at the end, though, when the main characters finally come together.
While I liked the book, I did pick it up for its gross factor, which kind of failed to deliver. I felt like a lot of it was mediocre, every-day torture, and I was really looking for something new.
I also felt like the book had a little bit of a political agenda, which turned me off a little to the book because I’m just not into that.
Overall, though, I liked the book. I’m just not sure whether it would be worth a re-read or not.

Originally posted 31 March 2011.

BFTA Review: Karen Marie Moning – Darkfever

Moning_Karen_Marie-Darkfever

Title: Darkfever
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Series: Fever #1
Dell (Random House)
Rating: 4/5
Read for: 2011 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge // 2011 Urban Fantasy Challenge

MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks…until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae….

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane–an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book–because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands…

There’s been a lot of raving about the Fever series around the blogosphere, and for good reason. I can’t say enough about how much I loved this book, and I have to get my hands on books 2 and 3 immediately.
Okay, so I did have one slight problem, and that was how Mac kept talking about the past, in Georgia, and how different it was. It was frustrating sometimes, and I really just wanted her to get over it, but…
It’s a whole new ball-game, at least for me in terms of subject. I’m very used to reading vampires and werewolves, so it was a really nice change of pace for me with the fae, and especially the lore behind them.
I also found both Jericho and V’lane intriguing, and I look forward to seeing more of them in the upcoming books.

Originally posted 26 March 2011.

BFTA Review: Lou Aronica – Blue

Aronica_Lou-Blue

Title: Blue
Author: Lou Aronica
The Fiction Studio
Rating: 5/5

Chris Astor is a man in his early forties who is going through the toughest stretch of his life. Becky is Chris’s fourteen-year-old daughter, a girl who overcame enormous challenges to become a vibrant, vital young woman – and now faces her greatest obstacle yet. Miea is the young queen of a fantasy land that Becky and Chris created when Becky was little, a fantasy land that has developed a life of its own and now finds itself in terrible, maybe fatal trouble. Together, Chris, Becky, and Miea need to uncover a secret. The secret to why their worlds have joined at this moment. The secret to their purpose. The secret to the future. It is a secret that, when discovered, will redefine imagination for all of them. Blue is a novel of trial and hope, invention and rediscovery. It might very well take you someplace you never knew existed. (goodreads.com)

Once I got started with this book, I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what would happen to Becky, and Tamarisk, and after a while I started really getting the gist of the outcome, but I still kept hoping for something else.

I found myself relating both to Becky, as a child of divorced parents who can’t get along all that well, and to Chris and Polly, as well. It’s really hard to lose someone you love, and it’s especially hard to watch someone die from cancer, because it can be a really slow process.

There were times when I really disliked Polly, mostly because of her poison towards Chris; she dislikes him so much she goes so far as to believe that Chris is trying to take Becky away from her when Becky decides she wants to spend more time at Chris’s. There were times that I disliked her so much that I found her to be unsympathetic. It was Chris’s sadness that tugged my heart strings more, partly because he had lost so much time with Becky, and partly because, just when he was starting to spend more time with her, he loses that time.

I kept hoping for a better ending for Miea, romantically at least. I really wanted her to get back with Dyson, but I know that lives change and Miea had a lot to do, but she at least became friends with Dyson again, and it was a start. But I was also glad they were able to find a cure for the blight.
Even if you don’t read fantasy, or general fiction, I’d recommend you pick this book up and read it. It’s a very touching story, and you won’t regret it.

This book was read and reviewed as part of a virtual tour hosted by Pump Up Your Book. For more information on Lou Aronica or his book, Blue, please visit The Fiction Studio.

Originally posted 11 March 2011.

BFTA Review: Emma Donoghue – Room

Donoghue_Emma-Room

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown and Company
Rating: 3.5/5
Read for: Amazon Best of 2010 Challenge

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another. (goodreads.com)

I both liked and disliked this book. I disliked it because I had a hard time relating to a five-year-old’s mentality. Sometimes it was difficult for me to figure out what Jack was talking about when he described something.
But I liked it because, at least for me, it was something new. Despite my difficulty figuring some things out, this was a fast read because it was, simply, interesting. There are probably a bunch of stories out there about survival from kidnappings, hostage situations, and the like, but how many of them are from the perspective of a kid who’s never seen the outside world?

Originally posted 05 March 2011.

BFTA Review: Vicki Pettersson – The Scent of Shadows

Pettersson_Vicki-TheScentOfShadows

Title: The Scent of Shadows
Author: Vicki Pettersson
Simon & Schuster
Rating: 3/5
Read for: 2011 Urban Fantasy Challenge

When she was sixteen, Joanna Archer was brutally assaulted and left to die in the Nevada desert. By rights, she should be dead.
Now a photographer by day, she prowls a different Las Vegas after sunset–a grim, secret Sin City where Light battles Shadow–seeking answers to whom or what she really is…and revenge for the horrors she was forced to endure.
But the nightmare is just beginning–for the demons are hunting Joanna, and the powerful shadows want her for their own… (goodreads.com)

If it’s set in Vegas, I’m going to read it. I was really pleased that I recognized a lot of the places that Ms. Pettersson mentions in her novel. I know how dirty Charleston Boulevard can be, and the further north from the strip you go, the dirtier it gets. Each time a place was mentioned, either an eatery, a shop, or just an intersection, I went, “I know where that’s at!”
I almost expected the book to open with a little of Joanna’s photography and take a while to build into the meat of the book, so I was really surprised when the book just took the plunge, and I was immersed in Joanna’s world a lot faster than I expected.
The action is fast-paced and doesn’t recede for very long for an actual plot to take place. And, truth be told, I like the action. It’s quick, sometimes it’s brutal, and it leaves a taste for wanting more.
But here’s what I had an issue with: Joanna. Joanna has gone through something brutal, and goes about making herself strong again… by hunting down the man who attacked her? It’s always a weird prospect, and an unlikely one, and it makes Joanna’s character a little unbelievable from the start. Not to mention her very quick reintroduction with her ex-boyfriend, Ben, which quickly moves into a physical relationship that Joanna can’t continue with her new life.
Even more unbelievable, the Zodiac’s storylines are turned into comic books, written by a comic book store owner and illustrated by one of his patrons, not to mention the trading cards. It turned their lives as superheroes from something like Spiderman into something absolutely surreal, and I had to block that part out in my mind to continue with the story.
Every now and then, Joanna comes across as a Mary Sue, and it gets a little distracting. Fortunately, the action scenes make up for the lack of Joanna’s personality, although it couldn’t do anything for the comic books and trading cards.

Originally posted 03 March 2011.