30 October 2013

Beta

Author: Rachel Cohn
Series: Annex #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Beta started out as an interesting concept.  We are introduced to a "Beta" clone just as she is being awoken.  She is one of the first of her kind as a teenage clone, and we discover in order for a clone to survive, its "First" has to die.  Then I guess the First's memories are transplanted into the clone, but the clone - unlike the human First - does not have a soul.  While the Beta remembers the memories of its First and is loaded with a basic knowledge and vocabulary, the Beta still starts with the social characteristics of a young child.

The Beta that narrates this story, called Elysia, is sent to replace a family's dead daughter.  She gets to live in a perfect utopia of a world, although she soon discovers that this seemingly perfect world is anything but.  She spends the first part of the novel trying to acclimate herself with her surroundings, her new family members, the other teenagers on the island, and their behavior and vocabulary she isn't programmed with.

While the book can be classified as having sci-fi themes as it deals with cloning, I would hardly call it a sci-fi novel.  There is no interesting descriptions of the technology or really why the society has developed the way it has.  The clones seemingly just exist to cater to the whims of the humans who no longer want to work but somehow still make a living.

While the plot and the characters are interesting to start, it gets very cliche towards the middle and by the end I found myself hardly caring at all except for finishing the novel.  The plot lines become cliche, and the story begins to remind me of Twilight for some reason I cannot quite peg.  Of course, a love triangle has to be thrown in as well since it is a modern day YA novel.  While there was still one or two surprises left towards the end of the book, when it ended on the cliffhanger, I closed the cover and was ready to return the book to the library with no need to follow up on the Annex series again.

The biggest theme in the novel is that the clones are not as docile as the humans believe.  It is a "classic" A.I. issue where the clones become self aware and realize they have feelings and perhaps they don't want to be slave anymore.  But even with the "classic" plot line, Cohn's YA style of writing doesn't allow the story to take the plot very far, as it finds itself stuck in a pool of swallow, cliched water.

26 October 2013

Death Without Company

Author: Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire Mystery #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

While different from the television show (which was my first introduction to Walt Longmire), the Cold Dish was an interesting enough read and a well enough written mystery - even if the ending left something to be desired.  It was a decent enough debut novel to have me venture into Death Without Company, the second novel in the series.

While the plot of this novel was interesting enough - Walt and crew set out to find Mari's murderer when the ole sheriff Connally is determined her death at the assisted living facility was in fact murder and not just death by old age and bad health.

I found this novel a lot harder to follow and get engaged in than the preceding one.  It took me a while to read, and with the numerous number of characters that are introduced in this book, it was hard to recall them all as I picked up where I had left off a few days before each time.  By the time I got to the end and the mystery was solved, I am not even sure I remember all the characters involved and how they relate to the beginning of the story.

That being said, it's not a bad novel.  For people who love mystery novels in general, I am sure they will find it a great read.  And Walt still has his moments of internal thought that make you want to laugh out loud.  Henry Standing Bear doesn't play as big of a role in this novel (which is a shame, because his banter and relationship with Walt is what really got me through the first novel) but Cady plays a role in this book, and her dialogue and relationship with her father brings its own entertainment.

As a mystery novel goes, I think there are much better options out there.  Certainly, the Walt Longmire Mystery series so far has been a little lackluster and a bit disappointing to me.  But where the plots and mysteries fall sort, the characters help pick up the slack to balance them out well enough for a library read or a loan from a friend.

24 October 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 15

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

The rift between the Sohmas and Akito exists for obvious reasons, but in this volume we get a little more insight into the reasons behind Yuki's disdain for the god of the Zodiac animals.

In addition, the school performance of Sorta Cinderella is finally performed, and it is as hysterical as you might expect.  And while the play doesn't go exactly as scripted, it reveals two secrets two actresses are trying to hold in.

This volume is heading in the right direction and helps develop the plot towards motivations towards breaking the curse.  I just hope the pace continues to pick up.

07 October 2013

The Unidentified

Author: Rae Mariz
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Mariz creates a social networking crazed world that pulls you in slowly and then keeps the pages turning even though you may not understand why.  The Unidentified isn't a fast paced thriller, and while there is a bit of a mystery as Kid tries to found out more about the so called Unidentified group, the pace of the book is still rather slow.

I did not get hooked on this novel right away, but the further I got into it, the more it interested me.  I thought it was going to be a social commentary about how much the lives of today's youth revolve around social media and networking and how we over share to the point of wondering if nothing about ourselves is left a secret anymore.  To a point, I guess this book still delivers some aspects to that point.  But what started out as an interesting premise along these lines fell off the rails by the end.  The world Mariz creates is hard to take seriously as well.  Dozens of "Games" around the country/world where kids pick the fashion, what's trending, everything?  No more schools?  What about the rest of the world outside of the Games?  If you stop to think about the possibility of this novel even for a moment, it immediately becomes less and less attractive as a good read.

Nevertheless, it is a quick read that teens may enjoy, even though the ending definitely felt like a letdown.

01 October 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 14

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #14
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

This volume focuses mostly on Rin and Yuki.  Rin, like Tohru, is determined to find a way to break the Sohma curse not for herself but for the sake of others.  She goes to Shigure, who she hopes will have an idea, but she comes up empty handed in that respect.  What she doesn't discover to find, as she ends up passing out and eventually winds up in the hospital, is that she finds a friend in Tohru despite her own wishes.

Yuki focuses on the student council board and his zany new friends, including the girl who rips apart the room without explanation.  We get some back story on some secondary characters, but it really doesn't interest me much however.  And a revelation in the Yuki/Tohru relationship is made.

The greatest interest in this volume is right at the end, when they reveal the casting for the school play.  The plot line is definitely starting to drag, so hopefully Rin or Tohru can make a break in the Sohma curse soon.