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review 2019-12-04 19:28
Body Tourists
Body Tourists - Jane Rogers

[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Interesting theme here: dead, wealthy people being brought to life for a couple of weeks in the bodies of fit, but poor youth for whom this is the only hope of making some kind of money.

There’s a lot to be said here in terms of morals and ethics, some on the religious front, and some not. In itself, this is ground for deeper discussion, from the value of money vs. one’s body to whether a human being suddenly “reanimated” in a younger body can be trusted with it or will just do whatever, and not care about their “host”, since they go back to being dead after that anyway. One could even argue that the rich are robbing (shall I say “once again”?) other people of something precious, in this case their time and their youth, and potentially more (this is a bit spoiler-ish, but it happens early enough in the novel anyway). Especially since, in the novel’s near future, the discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots has grown even bigger, with “estates” now being entire towns from which their inhabitants just never escape.

The story explores several of these “body tourists”, from different points of view. There’s Octavia, one of the tourists herself; Luke, the scientist in charge of the project; Paula, a host who then has to go back to her life and the aftermath of this experiment; Rick, who wants to bring back his father; and Elsa, a woman whose partner died after a particularly harrowing event in their lives, leaving so much unsaid. Each narrative highlights a different take on the matter when it comes to reflecting on the whole body swapping angle—whether it’s a valid option, or should be banned altogether, or could work but only within a specific framework.

That said, I had a hard time getting into the story itself, in that these narratives don’t seamlessly join each other. Most of the time, I got the feeling that I was reading a collection of short stories forcefully brought together, rather than a complete story. (And for what it’s worth, perhaps it’s actually how it started, before being turned into a novel.) It doesn’t detract from the philosophical aspect, the concept of body tourism itself, but in terms of storytelling, it was jarring in several places, and because of this, a few parts of the various characters’ stories were also glossed over, when they could’ve been interesting to explore as well.

Conclusion: 2.5 stars. I liked the theme, but the story itself fell flat for me.

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review 2019-12-03 15:53
Recommended to fans of conspiracy theory novels and spy thrillers
Collateral Carnage: Money. Politics. Big Pharma. What could go wrong? - Chris Saper

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, and thank her and the author for the ARC copy of the book, which I freely chose to review.

Having worked in the health services (although in the UK) for a number of years, and having treated some patients suffering from PTSD (although I’m no specialist), I was intrigued by this debut novel. I was even more interested when I read the author’s biography and learned of her first-hand experience as a healthcare administrator, as that promised to bring an insider’s perspective into the topic and add complexity to the plot.

This novel is perfect for readers who love conspiracy theory plots and also spy novels. I must confess that I am not much of a reader of spy novels, because I tend to get lost in the huge number of names, where characters often swap identities, and sometimes find it difficult to tell the different players apart. There is some of that here, because we are thrown at the deep end from the beginning. There’s no gentle easing into the subject or much background information provided before we get into the nitty gritty of the story, and the fact that we don’t know what’s happening parallels the experience of the main character, Claire Wilheit.

The story is narrated in the third person, but from a variety of points of view (I’d say almost as many as characters, or at least as many as characters that have some bearing into the outcome of the novel), and although some characters appear often and we become somewhat familiar with them, there are others that only make a fleeting appearance. The point of view, although clearly signalled, can change even within a chapter, and not all readers feel comfortable with so many changes. Chapters are short, the story moves at a quick pace, and although the language is straightforward, and there are no unnecessarily long descriptions, readers need to remain alert and attentive. This is not an easy and relaxed read; the plot has many strands that might appear quite entangled and confusing at first, but if one keeps reading, the story becomes clearer and the subject is both compelling and gripping.

Personally, I felt that this is a story heavier on plot than on characters. There are quite a number of characters I liked (mostly on the “good” side, although I felt some sympathy for the motives of some of the characters on the “bad” side as well), especially Claire, who is determined, intelligent, resourceful, and has managed to overcome pretty difficult circumstances, but because there are so many characters, and they all take their turn, it is difficult to get to know most of them in depth. I think that was in part the reason why, at times, I felt like an observer of the plot and the story, rather than being fully involved and sharing in the experiences of the characters. The end of the novel hinted at the possibility of further adventures involving Claire and some of the other characters (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here), so readers might learn much more about them.

I “enjoyed” (well, it worried me, but you know what I mean), the insight into the pharmaceutical industry, the way the novel spells out the relationship between Big Pharma and politics, and the reflections on how the healthcare system works (or rather, might end up working) in the USA. One of the aspects of the novel that I found captivating was the dystopian edge of the story. I haven’t seen it listed as a dystopia, but it is set in the very near future, with a social order very similar to the current one, but with subtle differences, or perhaps one could call them “developments” that, unfortunately, fit in well with recent events and with the way things are progressing. In the book, the efforts to control costs have resulted in the privatization of ever more services —the police force in Phoenix, for instance, deals with certain kinds of crimes, but at night there is a Militia in charge, and there is a curfew in place—, including the healthcare of the veterans of the many wars that the American military has participated in, and there are large interests involved in all these services. And, of course, those can be manipulated by less than scrupulous people. The most worrying part of the story is that it feels very realistic. It does not take a big stretch of the imagination to see something like this happening, and perhaps with an end far less satisfying than that of the novel (which I liked).

In summary, this is a novel for lovers of conspiracy theories and/or fairly realistic spy thrillers, that like puzzles and complex plots and don’t shy away from hard topics. The author injects her knowledge into the story without overwhelming it and the research is well integrated into the plot. There is no graphic violence and no romance here but a dire warning of how things could end up if money continues to be the governments’ (not only that of the USA) only consideration when dealing with people’s wellbeing. The characters are not as important as the story, but I think there is room for their development in future instalments. As a note to the author, I wonder if a list of characters might help people not to get lost, especially at the beginning of the book. I know that because of the nature of the plot, it might be difficult to do that without spoiling some of the surprises, although there might be ways around it. I will keep a close watch on the author’s writing career.

 

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review 2019-11-19 10:36
Grenzenlos enttäuschend
Tarnished - Kate Jarvik Birch

Auf ihrer Website erklärt Kate Jarvik Birch, ihre Liebe zum Schreiben sei in ihrer Kindheit erblüht. Was sie nicht erwähnt, ist, dass diese Leidenschaft in der Familie liegt. Ihre Mutter, Elaine Birch, arbeitete 30 Jahre als Journalistin, bevor sie eine Karriere als Bühnenautorin einschlug. 2011 wurde das erste gemeinsame Stück von Mutter und Tochter, „(a man enters)“, in ihrer Heimat Salt Lake City uraufgeführt. Die Kritiken nahmen es überwiegend positiv auf. Ihren Debütroman veröffentlichte Kate Jarvik Birch erst Jahre später, aber ich glaube, der Erfolg des Stückes verlieh ihr das nötige Selbstbewusstsein, ohne das ich „Tarnished“, den zweiten Band der „Perfected“-Trilogie, heute vielleicht nicht für euch besprechen würde.

 

Ella wurde als Sklavin geboren. Sie ist ein im Labor perfektioniertes Haustier, gezüchtet, um reichen Familien Freude zu bereiten. Doch ihren freien Willen konnten ihr weder die Genetik noch ihr Besitzer nehmen. Die verbotene Liebe zu seinem Sohn Penn verlieh ihr den Mut, ihre Ketten zu sprengen und gemeinsam mit ihm nach Kanada zu fliehen. Leider wurde das Paar an der Grenze getrennt; nun befindet sich Ella in einem Flüchtlingslager für entlaufene Haustiere in Kanada, während Penn in den USA dem Zorn seines Vaters ausgeliefert ist. Ellas spektakuläre Flucht hatte allerdings viel dramatischere Konsequenzen, als die beiden jemals vermuteten: eine grausame Mordserie erschüttert das Land. Die Opfer sind Haustiere. Wenn ihretwegen junge Mädchen wie sie selbst getötet werden, kann Ella nicht tatenlos zusehen. Unterstützt von der ruppigen Missy nimmt sie den gefährlichen Weg zurück in die USA auf sich und wagt sich in die zwielichtige Welt der Schwarzmärkte, um Penn zu retten und ihren Leidensgenossinnen zu helfen. Sie wird nicht zulassen, dass andere den Preis für ihre Freiheit zahlen.

 

Oh man. Diese Fortsetzung hätte nicht sein müssen. Es wäre besser gewesen, hätte „Tarnished“ nie das Licht der Welt erblickt. Ich war am Ende von „Perfected“ bereits skeptisch, ob ein zweiter Band der Geschichte eventuell eher schadet als sie zu bereichern – ich bedauere, dass ich Recht hatte. Was mir an dem Trilogieauftakt besonders gefiel, war die sanfte, zerbrechliche Note der Erzählung aus der Ich-Perspektive der Protagonistin Ella. Da Ella im Genetiklabor der Firma NuPet mit dem ausdrücklichen Ziel gezüchtet wurde, als gehorsames, graziles Haustier in eine reiche Familie aufgenommen zu werden, ist sie ein unschuldiger, naiver Charakter ohne jegliche Lebenserfahrung. Mit der Handlung des ersten Bandes harmonierte dieses Profil hervorragend. In „Tarnished“ hingegen beißt sich Ellas zarte Charakterisierung mit den actionreichen Ereignissen. Sie passt nicht in diese Handlung und ist keine glaubhafte Heldin, weil sie viel zu schwach ist, um überzeugend die Initiative zu ergreifen. Um ihre Schwäche zu überspielen stellt ihr Kate Jarvik Birch die resolute Missy zur Seite, die sie ganz praktisch aus dem Hut zaubert, sobald Ella an ihre eng gesteckten Grenzen stößt – also innerhalb des ersten Kapitels. Zu Beginn des Buches befindet sich Ella in einem Flüchtlingslager in Kanada, aus dem sie zu entkommen versucht, weil sie meint, ihre große Liebe Penn aus den Fängen seines sadistischen Vaters befreien zu müssen. Dass sie ihn durch ihre Anwesenheit möglicherweise zusätzlich gefährdet, kommt ihr nicht in den Sinn und wohin sie mit ihm fliehen möchte, will sie offensichtlich spontan entscheiden. Es ist dieser Egoismus, getarnt als unsterbliche Liebe, der mich in Young Adult – Romanen immer wieder aufregt. Dummerweise ist Ella nicht einmal in der Lage, sich allein unentdeckt vom Gelände des Lagers zu schleichen. Auftritt Missy. Woher sie kam, Kilometer entfernt von ihrer Heimat in den USA, wird nie geklärt und wieso sie Ella hilft, obwohl die beiden kaum als Freundinnen bezeichnet werden können, ist ebenso ungewiss. Sie ist da, weil Birch sie brauchte, um die weitere Handlung von „Tarnished“ anzustoßen. Auf sich selbst gestellt hätte Ella es nämlich niemals zurück in die USA geschafft. Missy führt Ella in die zwielichtige Welt der Schwarzmärkte ein, die einzige Möglichkeit für entlaufene oder ausrangierte Haustiere, zu überleben. In diesem Rahmen nervte mich Ellas Naivität maßlos, weil sie nicht erkennt, was die Mädels hinter verschlossenen Türen tun müssen, um nicht auf der Straße zu enden. Von dort aus machen sie sich auf den Weg zu Penn – der Startschuss für einen Handlungsverlauf, der an mangelnder Logik und Plausibilität kaum zu unterbieten ist. Die Hintergründe für und die Reaktion der Bevölkerung auf die Mordserie an Haustieren sind meiner Meinung nach vollkommener Unsinn. Birchs Szenario ist dermaßen unrealistisch, dass es mich ärgerte. Als ob ich wirklich jeden Quatsch glauben würde, nur weil er gedruckt wurde.

 

Ich fand „Tarnished“ grenzenlos enttäuschend. Mit dieser Fortsetzung nötigt Kate Jarvik Birch die Geschichte in eine Richtung, die sowohl ihrem Wesen als auch dem Charakter der Protagonistin und Ich-Erzählerin völlig widerspricht. Man kann ein verletzliches, sensibles Mädchen wie Ella nicht zwingen, im Eiltempo ihre Kämpfernatur zu entdecken. Genau das erwartet Birch jedoch von ihr und deshalb wirkt sie fehl am Platz und kann den Entwicklungen allein nicht gerecht werden. Der zweite Band verlangt eine Heldin, die Ella nicht sein kann. Diese Fehleinschätzung der Autorin erweckt mein Mitleid für Ellas Figur, weil es unfair ist, ihr eine Handlung zuzumuten, die ihren Horizont weit übersteigt und der sie nicht gewachsen ist. Darüber hinaus tat sich Birch auch selbst keinen Gefallen mit „Tarnished“, denn sie präsentiert ein äußerst abwegiges Handlungskonstrukt, das den positiven Eindruck, den ich nach „Perfected“ von ihr hatte, beinahe komplett entwertete. Ich werde das (mutmaßliche) Finale „Unraveled“ nicht mehr lesen. Ich möchte nicht erleben, durch welche unmöglichen brennenden Reifen Birch die arme Ella noch springen lassen will.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/19/kate-jarvik-birch-tarnished
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text 2019-11-11 19:00
COVER REVEAL: LAST GIRLS by Demetra Brodsky (Release Date 5.20.20)
Last Girls - Demetra Brodsky

 

In 2018, I totally fell for a YA thriller called 'DIVE SMACK' by debut Greek-American author Demetra Brodsky, and eagerly wrote a blog tour post featuring a 5-star review for the book. The book has a male teen protagonist who shows emotional vulnerability, is on the school dive team, and is experiencing profound grief and loss, bold choices for a lead character, plus he's within a whole cast of unique characters. It's dark, twisty, and even funny, I can't recommend it enough.

 

SO, I'm very excited about Demetra's next upcoming book, 'LAST GIRLS' due to be released May 20th, 2020 by Tor Teen! It's a book about the end of the world, a YA dystopian novel, but the author describes it as a book about survival and sisterhood.

Here is the first look at the amazing cover!

 

 

Cover Artist Credit

 

Dana Lédlová Instagram / Website

 

BOOK SYNOPSIS

 

 No one knows how the world will end.

 

On a secret compound in the Washington wilderness, Honey Juniper and her sisters are training to hunt, homestead, and protect their own. 

 

Train for every situation.

 

But when danger strikes from within, putting her sisters at risk, training becomes real life, and only one thing is certain: 

 

Nowhere is safe.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, DEMETRA BRODSKY

 

 

 

DEMETRA BRODSKY loves to write twisty thrillers about dark family secrets. She is an award-winning graphic designer & art director turned full-time. A first-generation Greek American and native of Massachusetts with a B.F.A from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Demetra now lives in Southern California where she's always exploring and researching, hunting for clues that might feed into her next book. Dive Smack, her debut YA Thriller, was a 2018 Junior Library Guild Selection, and an (ALAN) Pick (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE).

 

Website: /  Twitter Instagram 

 

LINKS TO PREORDER THE BOOK!

 

Signed copies @ Mysterious Galaxy

Amazon

Indiebound 

Barnes & Noble

Book Depository

Add on Goodreads

 

 

I expect I'll have a review up before the book release; lookout for this exciting apocalyptic thriller, and preorder! Preorders really help authors!!

 

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review 2019-11-09 17:14
The Nobody People
The Nobody People - Bob Proehl

[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

It took me a while to get through this one. I’m not exactly sure why I wasn’t thrilled and not in the mood, but part of it probably had to do with the fact several characters have their arcs develop throughout the book, without enough screen time for each. When this happens Moreover, while there will be a second volume, and I didn’t expect everything to be solved here, some of these arcs were also cut short, without any proper ‘aftermath’ time being given. It’s akin to someone being deemed as super important because they will save us all, then that person suddenly refuses to do it, or dies, or is out of the picture for any other reason, and… that’s all. It’s supposed to be bad, but no one really dwells on it. It felt very strange.

I also struggled to get through and not skim. Not sure if it was the style (present-tense narrative is fine with me in small doses, but not for hundreds of pages). Or the apparent ‘main character’ who turns out to be sidelined pretty quickly, and wasn’t super pleasant to read about anyway. Or the plot jumping between characters but without really giving a feeling of cohesion. Probably a mix of all. In the end, the story deals with heavy themes (acceptance & rejection, internment for people with powers instead of trying to integrate everyone in a new society, being killed just for being different…), that affect the characters a lot, but… I didn’t really care about the characters. In fact, to the risk of sounding awful, the one character I enjoyed reading about the most was Owen Curry. Yes, that one. Also the circus/freakshow subplot. I guess that’s quite telling.

It wasn’t a bad story in itself. Depressing in parts, sure, because we already have enough of that intolerance crap in our real world out there. But that doesn’t make a story bad. As far as I’m concerned, though, the above made it a slog for me, so it was okay-ish in the end, but I can’t say I absolutely liked it.

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