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review 2019-02-03 10:50
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
The Double Bind - Chris Bohjalian

When Laurel Estabrook is attacked while riding her bicycle through Vermont’s back roads, her life is forever changed. Formerly outgoing, Laurel withdraws into her photography, spending all her free time at a homeless shelter. There she meets Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box of photographs that he won’t let anyone see. When Bobbie dies, Laurel discovers a deeply hidden secret–a story that leads her far from her old life, and into a cat-and-mouse game with pursuers who claim they want to save her.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Laurel Estabrook is just nineteen when she is attacked while riding her bike in a local park in Vermont. Her unidentified assailants jump out of a dark colored late model van, intent on causing her serious harm. Laurel fights for her life and manages to escape but not without scratches, bruises, one broken finger and plenty of emotional trauma. Somehow in the middle of the scuffle she also manages to memorize the van's license plate, so it's not long before her attackers are in custody. It turns out one guy has a job as a personal trainer and owns a gym marketed toward professional body builders. This guy also has been tied to other assault and rape cases, something his partner had no idea about. 

 

Laurel gradually comes back from her trauma, does her best to rejoin society but her experience unfortunately did scar her with PTSD and agorophobia. She decides to give up biking, taking up swimming instead. During one of her outings, Laurel meets Katherine Maguire, the founder / director of the local homeless shelter, decides to start volunteering there. Through her volunteer work she meets Bobbie Crocker, a former professional photographer, now homeless and schizophrenic, working to get into subsidized housing. When Laurel looks through some of his photography work, the novel's big mystery begins to kick in. She notices that of all the celebrity photos in his collection, not one seems to directly credit Crocker's name. Laurel starts working through this mystery to distract her from the days when her PTSD symptoms are at their worst. But then there is one surprising photo that shakes her to her core --- a photo of the house where Laurel grew up. She begins to develop a theory about Crocker, something that may surprise readers in the way it links him to a famous couple within classic literature (in a unique but confusing way). 

 

Note: "Double Bind", in simplistic terms, is a psychology reference that notes damaging effects of contradictory information / explanation / instruction. In the case of parenting, if bad enough, it's theorized that the child on the receiving end can potentially develop schizophrenia in such an environment. Double Bind the novel uses this idea to play with the idea of "nature vs. nuture".

 

It's not a perfect novel, but it got some things right enough to keep me reading. As far as the mystery end goes, much of Laurel's line of thinking I found to be pretty reaching. What captured me as a reader were the themes of mental illness / PTSD & the effect on normal life routines, and the topic of homelessness. Being someone who both battles mental illness of my own and has been on staff of homeless shelters, comparing my own experiences to those posed here at least held me to the story that much ... but in general, I was struggling to remain invested through the second half of the book. 

 

A couple of the things that did stand out to me, though:

 

* Having the character of Crocker be inspired by a real photographer and then incorporating the real photographer's work (photos) throughout the novel was a cool touch that brought a more personal level to the story. 

 

* I loved Marissa and Cindy, David's small daughters  -- can't help but cheer for young Marissa's already established pronounced empathy as well as her BS detector ... but David's quiet but pervasive, almost martyr-ish "she's lucky to have me" attitude toward his relationship with Laurel low-key bugged me. 

 

I keep trying with Bohjalian... and while I did certainly like this one at times... I've yet to be really wowed by one of his novels. 

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review 2019-01-26 18:31
Freedom's Light by Colleen Coble
Freedom's Light - Colleen Coble

Hannah Thomas left the South and all that was familiar to marry her beloved John. But the fact that she’s never been quite accepted by his mother and sister and that she doesn’t quite fit the strict Massachusetts Puritan community only becomes more difficult when John is killed in one of the first battles in the war for freedom. Hannah is allowed to continue to serve as lightkeeper for the twin tower lighthouses on the lonely coastline, but it is grueling work for a woman alone. One of the first shipwrecks washes ashore a handsome captain she thinks is a Tory, but she soon finds out he’s working as a spy for Washington. Much stands in the way of their happiness including the need to protect his secret, pressure from John’s family to marry another, near-constant disapproval from the townspeople, and the appearance of Hannah’s wayward sister. Coupled with the strain of war, Hannah isn’t sure she’ll ever see the light of freedom.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

Some time ago, young Hannah Thomas was being courted by Galen Wright, a man who seemed lovely and attentive enough at first but later proved to have a terrifying dark streak to his soul. His interest in her turned obsessive. To protect herself from further unwanted attentions from him, Hannah agrees to a marriage to the lighthouse keeper of Gurnet, Massachussetts, a man some 20 years her senior. Though it might have not been a traditional love match, over the course of their first year of marriage, the two did develop a comfortable companionship. 

 

Now Hannah is eighteen and has just received word that her husband, who had gone off to fight in the Revolutionary War, has been killed. Widowed, left without the protection of her husband's person or name, Hannah is fearful of what the future holds but continues to do her best to hold down the fort, both literally and figuratively. She has the slight misfortune of living just down the road from a difficult, nosy mother-in-law but does her best to keep relations there as civil as possible, though MIL makes it clear she does not like Hannah taking up her son's work at the lighthouse. She's also slyly made it know that she does not want Hannah to continue carrying the family name, though Hannah's brother-in-law has made an offer. Needing some distraction from all this family noise, not to mention some companionship, Hannah invites her younger sister, Lydia, to come stay with her. All is quite cozy and fun until Galen shows his face in town and Hannah is increasingly distressed with just how much interest Lydia is showing in him.

 

Then comes the pivotal night when Hannah fails to keep the lighthouse flame burning and a ship wrecks on Gurnet's shores. Much of the crew is lost, but Hannah manages to save the captain, Birch Meredith. Seeing his leg is severely damaged, she brings him into her home where he spends the next weeks & months recovering. During this time, a testy friendship develops. Though they amuse each other and Birch gets a kick out of Hannah's quietly fiesty nature, they struggle to bridge the political divide between them. Hannah, fiercely for the Revolution, cannot bring herself to accept that Birch is Team Loyalist (meaning he wishes for the United States to remain under British rule). Birch has reasons and secrets for his actions, but revealing them to anyone, even Hannah, is just too risky in these times.

 

image courtesy of SlidePlayer.com

"American Revolution: Treatment of Loyalists"

 

 

 

Covertly working for the US under the leadership of then General George Washington, Birch comes and goes from Hannah's life throughout the course of the novel, though she is never far from his thoughts. Birch is set on avenging the death of his brother, the killer being someone close to Hannah's circle (though she's unaware). General Washington reminds Birch not to let lust for revenge distract him from the mission of securing independence for the United States.

 

 

Guess I was unintentionally on Team Loyalist while reading!

 

 

Each time Birch reappears, Hannah finds her convictions shaken just a little more. Her friendship with Birch causes a growing fury within her Puritan community. More than once, she is brought before the elders to answer for her actions. At one of these tribunal sessions, in so many words the church elders basically say it's not so bad to throw yourself at a man as long as he's not a Loyalist! LOL But they later backtrack on this, saying Hannah really should answer "for the state of your soul", something they weren't AS concerned about a moment before, telling her "you and your God alone know the state of your heart."

 

There is a noticeable amount of inspiration pulled from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in this story, but I checked the author's note at the end and I don't see Colleen Coble fessin' up to it. Instead, she mentions that this is a story that's "languished in my virtual drawer for eighteen years...". She goes on to say that it wasn't previously published due to Revolutionary War era material being a tough sell. I'm assuming she meant within the Christian Fiction market, where she has since found her fame? I'd say it has a healthy enough fan base within other genres.

 

But back to the P & P similarities: First, there's Lydia. Not only does Hannah's sister share a name with Elizabeth Bennett's little sister, but she also gets into a similar fix. Both Lydias appear to have a weakness for a uniformed man.

 

 

 

 

Take out Galen Wright, insert George Wickham... OMG I just now realized they even have the same initials. But yeah, the guys are interchangeable with the same goal of getting their grubby, libidinous hands on a young innocent for the sake of getting closer to the older sister. Likewise, we have the arrival of Captain Birch Meredith mimicking the entrance of Fitzwilliam Darcy... in both instances, the ladies having an abrasive early introduction to the men which later turns into playful friendship and then love. Much in the way Darcy helps Elizabeth save & protect Lydia from Wickham, Captain Meredith from Freedom's Light sets out to take down Galen Wright and his cohorts and help get Lydia back to the safety of her sister, Hannah.

 

Though Coble first crafted this novel nearly twenty years ago, there are themes addressed here that not only make for an engaging historical read -- leading readers to think on experiences of our ancestors -- but still read relevant to today's times. Coble does a fair job tackling sexism of the 1700s. Take Hannah, our main character. Hannah, having served as her husband's assistant tending the lighthouse, she learns all about the care and maintenance of the light and how much the sailors rely on these towers for safety. She takes up her husband's post while he's away at war, and once she hears of his death she reasons that someone still must tend to the light. She has the training, so why not her? But nope, nope, nope.... the very idea unnerves the community. I mean, she's out there painting the tower in PANTS, people! The woman is just trying to do her best to live a right and good life, she has a defined moral code she guides herself by, but because the image of it all doesn't match the preferences of those in power, the community won't let up on her! 

 

Image result for revolutionary war life

 
 
by Baron Theodore Gudin (1848)
 
 

 

Then let's consider Birch. Though I liked Birch generally as a character and found him quite warm and funny for most of the story, his ageist side irked me. Perhaps I'm more sensitive to it as I creep along my 30s.... and from what I've read of history, his attitude was not uncommon... but UGH. There was a scene where Birch attends a party hosted by Molly Vicar. Birch is there to spy on Galen and his crew, but keeps making it a point to note how amazing it is that Molly Vicar can still capture attention and turn heads at her age of "around 40". Imagine that, a woman making it to that age and somehow avoiding the expected metamorphosis into a bridge troll! One line of this I likely would've laughed and overlooked, but Birch brings it up multiple times in this ONE scene! I was going to root for the character of Molly Vicar until she made the "any man that doesn't want me must be gay" (paraphrasing here) comment. Nevermind, a girl that smug can end up with whatever LOL. 

 

While I've not been the biggest fan of Coble's more modern novels -- while decently written, I find many of them bland and forgettable -- I was cheering for this one because it left me thinking Hallelujah, Coble finally showing some edge to her writing! Looking over the reviews of others though, seems many did NOT like this aspect of this novel. In Freedom's Light, Coble incorporates espionage, hangings, whippings, sexual assault / rape, hostage situations and babies born out of wedlock. I've seen many reviews criticize Coble for putting this out there, crying "How dare you?!" Well, here's the thing folks. History --- real history, not the sanitized Hallmark image you must have in your mind --- plays dirty. Since the dawn of civilization, people have made questionable choices for the sake of love, survival, money, power, what have you. That includes such things as murder, rape, illegitimate children, etc. Open a real, non-fiction history book and it's all in there. It's DANGEROUS to never acknowledge the darker side of human nature. So I say yes, put them in novels. Make people look at it. And then craft characters around it who show us how to overcome such situations! Give us a sense of hope in dark times! 

 

Consider Hannah and her interactions with Birch: Hannah has strong faith which in turn provides her with strength and belief in herself and her abilities to overcome any of life's difficulties. Birch, fueled by rage and a need for revenge over the murder of his younger brother, scoffs at any mention of religion. Hannah urges him to reconsider his feelings. As time passes and Birch's love for Hannah grows, he confesses that if he could just have her, he'd let go of everything else. She could save him! Hannah calmly and wisely explains something vitally important for him to understand: it is incredibly foolhardy for a person to pin all their hopes of faith, salvation or redemption on any one person. Sure, others can help you along the path but putting all your eggs in one basket (so to speak) only leads to a false sense of security. 

 

 

Image result for Shipwreck in Stormy Seas 1773, Claude-Joseph Vernet

"A Shipwreck In Stormy Seas" (1773)

by Claude-Joseph Vernet

 

 

 

Humans... humans are fallible by nature. Answers to questions regarding faith and life purpose can only be answered from inside one's soul. And typically those answers come about through surviving those most unpretty of life scenarios.

 

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

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review 2019-01-10 10:33
The Orphan's Wish - Melanie Dickerson

Orphaned and alone, Aladdin travels from the streets of his Arab homeland to a strange, faraway place. Growing up in an orphanage, he meets young Lady Kirstyn, whose father is the powerful Duke of Hagenheim. Despite the difference in their stations, Aladdin quickly becomes Kirstyn’s favorite companion, and their childhood friendship grows into a bond that time and opposition cannot break. Even as a child, Aladdin works hard, learning all he can from his teachers. Through his integrity, intelligence, and sheer tenacity, he earns a position serving as the duke’s steward. But that isn’t enough to erase the shame of being forced to steal as a small child—or the fact that he’s an orphan with no status. If he ever wants to feel equal to his beautiful and generous friend Kirstyn, he must leave Hagenheim and seek his fortune. Yet once Aladdin departs, Lady Kirstyn becomes a pawn in a terrible plot. Now, Aladdin and Kirstyn must rely on their bond to save her from unexpected danger. But will saving Kirstyn cost Aladdin his newfound status and everything he’s worked so hard to obtain?

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

In this re-imagining of the classic tale Aladdin, Dickerson takes Aladdin out of his original setting and moves him to Hagenheim, Germany in the 1400s, where he finds a place of sorts with the Duke of Hagenheim's family. Aladdin, orphaned at a young age, is taken in by the priest of Hagenheim Cathedral. Through this connection, Aladdin meets Lady Kirstyn, the duke's daughter. Both little children at the time, Aladdin comes to her rescue one day during a game where he thinks she is being bullied. Moved by his attention to her, Kirstyn befriends him and the two fast become constant companions. 

 

Fast forward a few years, and Aladdin now works as the duke's steward while also being Kirstyn's best friend, indulging in her many privileged whims. While he cares for Kirstyn, Aladdin does find enough of a sense of fulfillment from his current life situation. He explains to Kirstyn that he does not wish to be seen merely as a lowly servant his entire life, but instead wants to make something of himself, find success (and hopefully wealth) on his own terms. He breaks it to her that he intends to leave town to find his fortune. Rather than being encouraging and understanding, Kirstyn falls into a whiny fit and makes it all about her, only focusing on how this change will affect HER and HER wants. (Trust me, you'll be begging for a Jasmine return during this ridiculous pout fest). As kindly as possible, in so many words Aladdin tells her she'll just have to get over it because his mind is made up.

 

He goes off, finds work apprenticing with a merchant in Lüneberg, a neighboring town. Aladdin moves in with the merchant's family and is soon doing quite well for himself. He proves to have quite the business & finance acumen, inspiring the merchant to suggest Aladdin one day being his successor. For years, Aladdin had silently been throwing around the dream of one day marrying Kirstyn but previously had felt that to be impossible, with their difference in class stations. But should he do well with this business, it may be an opportunity after all! The thought drives his dedication to only work harder.

 

All is going very nicely until Aladdin gets word that Kirstyn has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. From there, everything else is dropped, so beginning Aladdin's efforts to bring his maybe-one-day-wife back home to safety. 

 

Ohhh, the issues I had with this book. First off, the quiet but annoyingly present whitewashing of one of my favorite childhood fables. Good lord, could this have been made any more white-bread boring?! I've been working my way through Dickerson's Hagenheim series --- the whole series meant to be re-imaginings of classic stories --- and while some of them have been just okay, some have been really enjoyable. So while I had my doubts about this one, I gave her the benefit of the doubt since the one I read before this, about a landlocked Little Mermaid, was actually a lot of fun (even though, again, I had my doubts about that one, taking a mermaid out of the water... but Dickerson made that one work, surprisingly!).

 

Let me just say, I'm not hating on the German setting itself. I married into a German family, clearly I'm down with the culture :-) But Germany in the context of ALADDIN -- an ARABIAN fable --- nah, didn't work for me. All the magic, allure, sand, desert winds, mystical stories ... all gone here. Instead, Dickerson gives us a whiny, spoiled brat of a female lead, her family all-around serving a heaping helping of white saviour complex,  and pretty much all the non-white characters have been made servants or criminals. Aladdin falls in love with Kirstyn in all her blonde-haired, blue-eyed glory. Later on, when the merchant's daughter develops an interest in him, Dickerson writes of how Aladdin finds her "pretty" with her dark hair and small mouth, but not nearly as beautiful as Kirstyn with her "pale blond hair, full lips and large blue eyes". YAWN. Aladdin has had his traditionally Muslim beliefs canceled and is now preaching the importance of strict Christian morals. There is virtually NO trace of the original story except for the use of the names Aladdin and Abu (Abu here is a small homeless child Aladdin looks after). Maybe, if you really stretch, you could liken Kirstyn's kidnapping to the time Jafar tried to keep Jasmine captive... but that's about it.

 

Beyond that, let's talk about the writing itself:

 

* Historical "say what now?" moments:  IE. Dickerson writes, regarding Kirstyn, "She was only sixteen and marriage seemed like something far in the future." Marriage at 16 far-fetched in the 1400s? Where if you took good care of yourself, you MAYBE made it to 40?! LOL 

 

* The dialogue in general: UGH, SO MELODRAMATIC. Reminded me of silent film emoting. Not every moment of the day is that *OMG* *SWOON* *SCOWL* *GASP*

 

* All around boring or head-knock-into-wall inducing characters: IE. Anna to her violent boyfriend: "You promise not to hit me again?"... proceeds to believe him... *eyeroll*

 

* The same few sentiments are repeated over and over again to convince the reader that Kirstyn and Aladdin are totally headed for forever love: Mainly, 1) They love long walks in the woods and 2) They of course understand each other better than anyone else in the world. Problem is, they spend the majority of the book spending ZERO time together, sooo... 

 

Lastly, while I understand this book is published through a Christian publisher (so some religious elements are to be expected at some point), here the religious undertones were not well done (as to feel natural to the story's enviroment / set up), instead coming off much too forced. The ending scenes are especially heavy-handed.

 

I'll continue on with the series installments, but this one was a definite disappointment.

 

 

FTC Disclaimer:  TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

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review 2019-01-09 05:30
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

Jean Rhys's reputation was made upon publication of this passionate and heartbreaking novel, in which she brings into light one of fiction's most mysterious characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. A sensual and protected young woman, Antoinette Cosway grows up in the lush, natural world of the Caribbean. She is sold into marriage to the coldhearted and prideful Rochester, who succumbs to his need for money and his lust. Yet he will make her pay for her ancestors' sins of slaveholding, excessive drinking and nihilistic despair by enslaving her as a prisoner in his bleak British home. In this bestselling novel, Rhys portrays a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind. 

~ back cover 1982 Norton paperback edition

 

 

 

 

So you've recently read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and you think to yourself, "I really want to know more about the story behind Rochester's first missus!" Well, aren't you in luck! Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea takes a stab at what that story might have been. Taking the reader away from all they know & remember at Thornfield Hall, Rhys has us visit 1830s Jamaica (Dominica), introducing us to pre-Mrs. Rochester Antoinette Cosway (aka "madwoman in the attic"). 

 

Young Antoinette grows up loving the lush climate of her native land, the warmth, the abundance of creature comforts... but some years into her youth, things turn ugly. There is much tension around the family, what with Antoinette's parents being slaveholders. The time of Emancipation rolls around, bringing several riots and all-around domestic upheavals to the area. In one instance, even one of Antoinette's own friends attacks her! Fearful that the employees will turn on the family, Antoinette's mother, Annette, makes the choice to burn the house down. Annette becomes mentally unstable after the fire and Antoinette is enrolled in a convent school. This pretty much makes up Part 1 of the novel.

 

"I am not used to happiness... it makes me afraid." 

~ Antoinette Cosway

 

Part 2 is where we first meet Rochester and hear of how Antoinette came to be sold into marriage to him.  (Part 3 of the novel is basically her life as the first Mrs. Rochester, though the novel periodically rotates between these three periods of her life as the story progresses). Rochester and his new Mrs. seem to get along pretty well in the beginning but the choice to return to the Cosway family estate as their first residence after marriage proves problematic. The whole place seems to make Rochester increasingly restless, but it doesn't seem to be the sole source of his unease. Any number of things appear to trigger his dark moods. Still, outwardly Rochester admits to liking the natural environment of Jamaica (even if he is giving off that "great place to visit but wouldn't want to live there" attitude). Meanwhile, there are momentary glimpses into Antoinette's character that suggest a true genetic struggle with mental illness of some sort, but there's a sadness to it, as behind her words and mannerisms, she gives off something of a sad, confused, scared little girl trying to figure out what happened to her life. Where did her sunlight go?

 

Antoinette's half-brother, Daniel (same dad, different moms), writes a discreet letter to Rochester warning him of the "mad" family he's so casually shackled himself to. Rochester shrugs the dark warning off at first, but as the story moves along, we start to see that that letter actually did quite successfully leave its mark on his mind, gradually driving him into his own unique madness. He becomes consumed with anger and righteousness until he comes to the decision to imprison Antoinette as punishment for her family's history with slave trading.

 

I'd say Rhys does a respectable job staying true to Eyre's Rochester, at least to a point. He still carries a certain level of charm, still somewhat child-like with his petulant moods. But this story takes him to an even darker place. Rhys forces the air of mystique around Antoinette a little too hard at times, making the reading experience annoying at times with the over-reliance on cryptic behavior or speech.

 

The few pages that make up Part 3 take the reader back to Eyre's setting, first getting impressions from Grace Poole, attendant to Antoinette all that time she was locked up in the tower. The very last pages are given over to Antoinette once again to offer her final say before we bring things back to Eyre's scene of the fire.

 

It's a decent prequel to a beloved classic. Not earth-shattering, but entertaining in the ideas it presents. I noticed in the list of discussion questions at the very end, one opens with "In Jane Eyre, the madwoman in the attic is a very unsympathetic character...". I can't help but disagree with that. Sure, she comes off as insane when we first meet her in Bronte's book, but even so, I myself wouldn't go so far as to say I found her unsympathetic. Isn't that why we are compelled to pick up Rhys's book in the first place, because we were left wondering what drove Rochester to have her secreted away all those years? He gives Jane a much sanitized version of events, or so we readers suspect... which is why so many classic lit. lovers can't help but have this on their TBRs at some point in their reading lives.

 

As humans, it unnerves us to think that criminal behavior is entirely senseless, without root. There is a small measure of comfort in being able to say, "Yes, this person was undoubtedly mad, but look at what they were driven to... they just snapped... it's tragic!" That need to have everything compartmentalized, explained, rationalized... Even in the worst of stories, we don't want to think of souls coming into this life with a purely demonic makeup... sometimes we can't help but feel the need to understand, rehabilitate, counsel. Even in Eyre's story, there was something to "the madwoman" that left me thinking some earlier version of her had been deeply wronged to have ended up so... seeing how Rhys wrote a whole novel on this premise, looks like I wasn't the only one feeling a sad question mark around such an "unsympathetic" character! 

 

 

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review 2018-09-27 17:15
Eve & Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant
Eve and Adam - Michael Grant,Katherine Applegate

In the beginning, there was an apple –

And then there was a car crash, a horrible injury, and a hospital. But before Evening Spiker's head clears a strange boy named Solo is rushing her to her mother's research facility. There, under the best care available, Eve is left alone to heal.

Just when Eve thinks she will die – not from her injuries, but from boredom―her mother gives her a special project: Create the perfect boy.

Using an amazingly detailed simulation, Eve starts building a boy from the ground up. Eve is creating Adam. And he will be just perfect . . . won't he?

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Husband and wife Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate team up to write this YA sci-fi tech-y novel combining computer programming with DNA experiments gone rogue. 

 

Evening "Eve" Spiker survives a San Francisco streetcar crash... just barely. Eve is pulled from the crash site and is whisked away to Spiker Pharmaceuticals, her mother's research facility. Though Eve lives, she suffers a ruptured spleen, a severed leg and the necessary removal of a rib. She eventually heals physically but emotionally struggles to cope with her altered body. Eve's mother gives her project: using a DNA simulation program designed by Spiker Pharm, Eve is asked to create the perfect guy, literally. Part of what makes this ultimately largely bland sci-fi story worth reading is the characterization of Eve's ice queen mother. She comes off cold a lot of the time, but there's enough here to have the reader wondering sometimes, DOES she actually have good intentions toward her daughter? Or is Eve simply another worker bee to her? There are elements here that are similar to J.A. Souders' Elysium Chronicles series (but IMO Souders is the stronger writer).

 

So Eve jumps into developing this mythical perfect guy from the ground up. Once she has a prototype together she gives him the name Adam. In the background is Solo, mostly an office go-fer, dishing out coffee / donuts / bagels to the Spiker scientists, but he also finds opportunities to move under the radar and hack into computer files to see what secret projects Spiker Pharm has going on. What he discovers conjurs up some Dr. Moreau style freakishness. Solo's voice gets a bit over the top skater boi at times (I kept picturing the kid from A Goofy Movie lol).

 

"There is no always," I (Adam) say. "Nothing persists forever."

 "Nothingness persists," she says. She is testing me.

"No. So long as anything exists, nothingness is impossible. In fact, it's nothingness that cannot persist. Nothingness gives way to somethingness. The nothingness that preceded the Big Bang Theory was obliterated. Nothing became something."

 The woman nods. "Good. You've absorbed data well. Your intelligence is obviously fully functional. You sound like a college freshman taking his first philosophy course too seriously, but that's good. Eve will like that."

"I would still like to know how I came to be," I say. 

 "Consider it a mystery," Terra Spiker says. "Like the Big Bang Theory. One second there is nothing, and the next there is a universe."

 

It seems like the intent here was to go for a YA sci-fi thriller of sorts, but really it just ends up being kind of silly, especially in the beginning. The characters struggle to have a believeable voice --- they're meant to be teens (if I'm not mistaken) yet the "voice" of these characters runs the range from middle grade to teen up to late 20s. It's weird. Also, if this is meant to be YA, there are a number of references here that I doubt many teen readers here will identify with, such as Solo using the screen name Snake Plissken. And that conversation when the mother has the line, "Mixing home and work is like mixing single malt and sprite." I mean, as an adult liquor aficionado, I can appreciate that line, but how many teens are going to get the joke there, honestly? Again, it's just another layer of odd in a book that's marketed toward a teen crowd. But then again, maybe it's like when you watch Disney or Pixar movies as an adult and catch jokes you know there's no way the little ones in the crowd are going to understand. Maybe Applegate and Grant are playing the other side of the coin as well, knowing that a large percentage of readers in the YA market are actually full blown adults. Either way, doesn't change the fact that the writing as a whole was pretty muddled and weak... but still entertaining at points.

 

 

Yeah, it does get pretty good, comparatively, about 3/4 of the way through. Fun reading in parts, but largely forgettable after awhile... but I did find the closing moment a cute, comical one. 

 

 

---------

 

EXTRAS

 

Check out the book trailer for Eve and Adam that kinda looks like a Navy Recruitment ad ... or maybe an Olay Regenesist commercial LOL 

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