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review 2018-12-28 16:38
Game Slaves by Gard Skinner
Game Slaves - Gard Skinner

My copy of this is an ARC that I picked up at a conference four years ago. Yes, it took me this long to finally read it. Because it's an ARC, I won't be quoting from it.

Phoenix and his team spend their work days fighting battle after battle. Each time they die, they're regenerated. That's because they aren't people - they're the NPC enemies that human gamers try to defeat. The only difference between one day and the next is what game they're in. When Dakota, a new member, is added to Phoenix's team, things gradually start to fall apart.

Dakota won't stop asking questions. She has what she thinks are memories of a life prior to being in the game. Doesn't that mean she, and all of them, are really human? Doesn't that mean there's a life she could get back to? Phoenix tries to ignore her and concentrate on being the biggest, baddest opponent gamers have ever fought against, but then things start happening that even he can't explain away.

I went into this thinking it'd work reasonably well for me. I like "stuck in a video game" stories, and this seemed somewhat in the same vein. Unfortunately, I disliked Phoenix, who I assume was written to primarily appeal to male gamers. His idea of a good life was battles, good weapons, and Mi, his only female teammate prior to Dakota's arrival, tucked under his arm when she wasn't pulling off an impressive number of headshots. Although Dakota annoyed him, he gave her living quarters closer to his because he thought she was hot...which was weird since he acknowledged that all women in his game world were hot.

I spent a good chunk of the book thinking Dakota would have made a better POV character, but I doubt that would have made me like this book any better. She annoyed me almost as much as she annoyed Phoenix. But at least she was less passive than Phoenix, who was aware that things were going on around him that he knew nothing about but who did nothing to learn more about those things.

For a book that contained cannibals and a Mad Max-style dystopian wasteland, this was surprisingly boring. The pacing was really bad, and none of the characters felt like actual people. Part of the latter could have been due to Phoenix's POV. Mi, for example, came across as his token girlfriend. Why were the two of them together? She seemed more inclined to question things than him, and there were hints that she had thoughts and emotions he hadn't even tried to find out about. And yet the two of them stayed together. The only explanation I could think of was that Phoenix was team leader, and as team leader he was required to have a girlfriend. Which was...depressing.

The book's ending was garbage, a last-ditch effort to mess with readers. The result was hugely unsatisfying. Phoenix's shock and horror didn't exactly do much for my opinion of his intelligence, either. The ending he'd been about to have was filled with great big gaping plot holes (not to mention a stunning display of selfishness and wastefulness, but that's a whole other issue). It shouldn't have required dragging him over and rubbing his nose in them for him to see them.

Extras:

I don't know if these made it into the final book, but the ARC came with a few illustrations and stats for Phoenix and his teammates.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2018-10-07 22:17
Possible Halloween Bingo read
The Sandman's Eyes - Patricia Windsor

I'm doing this massive work project to add subject headings to records that don't have any, concentrating on our children's and young adult stuff (1,315 to go!), since the most knowledgeable staff member in that area is planning on retiring in a year.

 

As a result, I keep stumbling across things that look interesting. This might become one of my Halloween Bingo reads - a book about an 17 or 18-year-old who was sent to a mental institution ("school for disturbed juveniles"?) after a girl's murder. It sounds like most of his small town believes he committed the murder, and only his grandfather believes him when he says he witnessed it.

 

The 1985 Kirkus review for this says the ending is melodramatic, but I feel like a lot of 1980s and 1990s YA thrillers and mysteries had at least a little melodrama. Look at Killing Mr. Griffin (okay, it was published in 1978), which ended with a maniacal villain attempting to burn the heroine alive in her own home. And, like, all of Christopher Pike's earlier works. (Now I kind of wish I had another Christopher Pike book on hand. I don't know that an ILL request would get me one fast enough to read it before the end of Halloween Bingo, though.)

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review 2018-07-17 12:01
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith

This is a nice little book that covers the space of a day. (American) heroine and (English) hero end up sitting together on a flight from the United States to England, both ducking across the pond for family events.

 

Heroine Hadley’s family was torn to pieces when her father fell in love with an Englishwoman and abandoned them, and now she’s expected to attend the London wedding. This story is as much about family as romance.

 

As for the romance, I think the author managed the culture clash aspects well, and didn’t push things too far over such a short timeframe.

 

A sweet little book overall, though I’m not sure the father deserved to be so easily forgiven!

Source: nataliaheaney.wordpress.com/2018/06/22/the-statistical-probability-of-love-at-first-sight-by-jennifer-e-smith
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text 2018-05-10 10:31
It seems...
The Tribe: Birth Of The Mall Rats - Harry Duffin I'm going to be marked as reading this forever more. I cannot mark it as "read" no matter what I do!
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review 2018-04-26 16:38
Cute Book
The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back - Sariah Wilson

This is a very cute high school romance that used all the common themes from the genre… and then turned them on their heads.

 

The pretty, popular blonde is nice and smart and a good friend.

 

The popular guy doesn’t turn out to be horrible.

 

The high school stereotypes are there, but people have more layers than clichéd personality traits.

 

The high school experience in America is so completely different to here in Australia that it’s like learning a foreign culture, but I think the author painted her setting really well.

 

I really, really liked pretty much everything about this story. The dramas weren’t over the top, and the inevitable trust issues and betrayal worked realistically.

 

One thing that bugged me at the start was how much the protagonist – Matilda – complained about how stupid and embarrassing her name was. There’re going to be a lot of young readers offended by that; ‘Matilda’ might not be a popular name in America, but it regularly makes it onto top names lists in other countries. It is enormously popular in Australia. I have a young cousin in Europe with the name.

 

But that’s about it for complaints. This book has a lot of very familiar YA themes, and yet it felt fresh and new. I loved it.

Source: nataliaheaney.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/the-ugly-stepsister-strikes-back-by-sariah-wilson
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