The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #bookreview #scifi #history

Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of either a genius, or a madman.

Montgomery Laughton: a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.

The hybrids: the fruits of the Doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.

All of them living in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction.

For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.

THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU is both a dazzling historical novel and a daring science fiction journey.

I’ve been anxious to read this author and have had Mexican Gothic waiting on my Kindle for far too long. When I received an ARC of Moreno-Garcia’s newest release, I knew the wait was over.

The gorgeous cover perfectly complements the vibrant descriptions of Moreau’s secluded home, Yaxaktun, and the surrounding jungle. Because of this seclusion Carlota grows up very sheltered, and the villa hosts few visitors over the years. It’s a ideal place for Moreau to carry out his unorthodox scientific experiments – experiments Moreau’s patron, Lizalde, has threatened to stop financing due to lack of results for so long. Since Carlota is now of age, it seems logical to Moreau that the solution to his problems is for her to charm Lizalde’s visiting son into marrying her. Moreau’s utmost priority is his work. If you think he sounds selfish – bullseye.

This is a character-driven novel, and although I’m a fan of that style, I struggled to like any of these characters. Carlota is stubborn and determined, but also pretty spoiled. Montgomery at least has some redeeming moments, but both are kind to the hybrids. The character discussions of ethics, humanity, and abuse of power are interesting and will certainly have you mulling over some of the points made.

I liked the blend of sci-fi and history and the setting of 19th century Mexico, and the story provides some unsettling moments along with a few surprises. But don’t go into this anticipating a briskly paced adventure story. It’s more of a languid journey than a sprint. While it’s not exactly what I’d anticipated, I enjoyed this atmospheric tale.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Vitro (Corpus #2) by Jessica Khoury

On Skin Island, even the laws of creation can be broken.17617762

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw.

Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. With the help of Jim Julien, a young charter pilot, she arrives–and discovers a terrifying secret she never imagined: she has a Vitro twin, Lux, who is the culmination of Corpus’s dangerous research.

Now Sophie is torn between reuniting with the mother who betrayed her and protecting the genetically enhanced twin she never knew existed. But untangling the twisted strands of these relationships will have to wait, for Sophie and Jim are about to find out what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach. – Goodreads.com

I’ve read all three of the Corpus books now, and I have to say, Vitro is my least favorite.  Loved the premise, the story took off from the first page and jumped right into the action – then it just seemed to lose steam.  Not that this was a bad book by any means, but for me, it just didn’t rise to the heights of the other two.

The scientific aspects of this story just fascinated me – throw genetic engineering into the equation, and you usually have my undivided attention.  I thought having an island as the setting added to the intensity of the plot – there are only so many places you can go, and options for help and escape are very limited.  Jim’s sense of humor and his ‘go with the flow’ attitude gave me some laughs, and you really had to feel for the guy, because doing a favor for an old friend with a pretty face probably gave him the crappiest days of his life.

Somewhere around the middle, the story lost its pace and the ending seemed prolonged and a little predictable.  There were a few twists and revealed secrets, but the last half of the book wasn’t as compelling as the first.

Although there are three books in the Corpus series, all are stand alones and don’t need to be read in order.  I’m hoping the author continues with this series in the future – there are so many directions she could take and I’m anxious to see what’s next.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious18007564 man-vs-nature survival thriller, set on the surface of Mars.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Completely.  Amazing.  I bought this book the day it came out and why I waited until just now to read it is unfathomable and totally my loss.

If everyone had the optimism of Mark Watney, no doubt the world would be a better place.  I just loved this guy and if I’m ever stranded on Mars – or just stranded on an interstate somewhere – I’d want Mark with me.  His humor, intelligence, indomitable spirit, and ingenuity got him through a situation in which most people would have just asked for the Kool-Aid and called it a day.  If something had the potential to go wrong, even a fraction of a percentage point, it would happen to Mark.  One of my favorite quotes in this book that made me laugh out loud – “Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.” Tell me you can’t identify with that statement to some capacity.

Yes, there was a lot of science in this book and no, I certainly didn’t understand everything, but that had no bearing on enjoying this novel.  Between Mark’s journal entries and a glimpse into what was going on with NASA on Earth, the reader is given better insight into Mark’s situation and the dangers he faces, whether he is aware of them or not.  I’m not exaggerating when I say my heart rate was above normal for the last thirty pages or so of this book – it was that good.

Read this book.  I can’t recommend it enough.

 

 

The Body Electric by Beth Revis

The future world is at peace.22642971

Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift—the ability to enter people’s dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother—to help others relive their happy memories.

But not all is at it seems.

Ella starts seeing impossible things—images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience—and influence—the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love—even though Ella’s never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing…

Someone’s altered her memory.

Ella’s gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn’t even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella’s head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings.

So who can she trust?

I’m a little conflicted about this book.  Until I read some other reviews, I didn’t realize this was a companion novel to the author’s Across the Universe series and, as I haven’t read that series, I feel like maybe I missed some things, even though The Body Electric is considered a standalone.

Ella was a breath of fresh air.  Sometimes in YA novels, female characters seem incapable of functioning without a guy around, but not Ella.  She was proactive and didn’t hang around with tear-filled eyes waiting for someone to rescue her – she took charge of the situation.

The sci-fi aspect was very intriguing – entering people’s dreams and altering their memories?  I’m totally there.  Throw in some androids, scientific research secrets, and conspiracy theories?  Even better.  There were a couple of twists that threw me. However, the pacing was a little inconsistent for me.  At times, I couldn’t put down the book – at others, it seemed somewhat repetitive (are we really going over the trust issues again?) and the last part of the book was confusing and seemed to drag on a bit.

Maybe if I’d read the Across the Universe series, I would have been more vested in this book.  Judging by other reviews, people who have read the series enjoyed this companion novel more than others who haven’t read it.

This review is based on an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

17235026Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her ‘our little genius’. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad. – Goodreads.com

I admit I read a couple of reviews of this book before I began reading it myself.  The reviews were fabulous and hinted there was a big secret that shouldn’t be spoiled by reviews that might give it away, so I immediately stopped, anticipating a mind-blowing twist in this novel.  About ten pages in, I figured it out and assumed since it was that easy, there must be something else.  But there wasn’t.

Without giving anything away, this book is about a topic that’s pretty popular right now, but is explained in scientific terms that made complete sense and I liked that.  Although the story was told in varying POV’s, I especially enjoyed learning how Melanie perceived her world and had to make decisions far beyond her years.  I also found it fascinating being in loathsome Dr. Caldwell’s head to understand how she justified her actions.  The relationship between Melanie and Sergent Parks was fascinating, and even touching at times as it evolved, although the primary focus was meant to be on the interaction between Miss Justineau and Melanie.  I thought Parks was more of a realist, while Miss Justineau occasionally refused to see logic, although I really admired her spunk.

While this book had several ‘rush of adrenaline’ moments, adequate pacing, and kept my interest, I thought the title, and even the cover were misleading and probably missing this novel’s target audience.  On the other hand, those who were misled but stick with it may be surprised at how much they enjoy this book.

I would recommend The Girl With All the Gifts to sci-fi, horror, and dystopian readers – it was a different take on a subject that’s been around for quite some time and was an engaging read.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Furies: A Thriller by Mark Alpert

For centuries, the Furies have lived among us. Long ago they were called witches and massacred by17934444 the thousands. But they’re human just like us, except for a rare genetic mutation that they’ve hidden from the rest of the world for hundreds of years.

Now, a chance encounter with a beautiful woman named Ariel has led John Rogers into the middle of a secret war among the Furies. Ariel needs John’s help in the battle between a rebellious faction of the clan and their elders. The grand prize in this war is a chance to remake the human race.

Mark Alpert’s The Furies weaves cutting-edge science into an ingenious thriller, showing how a simple genetic twist could have inspired tales of witchcraft and sorcery, and how the paranormal could indeed be possible. – Goodreads.com

I read Mark Alpert’s Final Theory a few years back and enjoyed it, so when I saw this book on NetGalley, I was excited to try something else by him.  When I saw genetic twist, thriller, and witchcraft in the description, I was a goner.

Rarely have I been thrown so many curveballs in the first 80 or so pages of a book – things I really didn’t see coming, my mouth hanging open in surprise.  These twists made me want to keep reading.  The action began on the first page, with hardly any down time between sequences, and I thought using a genetic mutation to explain witchcraft was very thought-provoking.

Initially, I empathized with John Rogers and his tragic past and many imperfections that made for a good protagonist; however, as the story went on, I began to lose respect for him when he did as he was told, without question for the most part, and seemed to accept his role as a second-class citizen.  I really didn’t connect with Ariel either.  Although a strong female protagonist, I just didn’t feel anything for her and the relationship between her and John seemed rushed and superficial.

Despite my character disconnect, I enjoyed the first 80% of the book – the writing was tight and the pacing was great.  Then the story just seemed to veer off and lose focus.  Around the 80% mark, I began to wonder if there would be a sequel because things didn’t seem to be wrapping up, but I’m glad that wasn’t the case and this is a standalone novel.

If you enjoy a more action than character-driven thriller with a touch of science and paranormal, I’d recommend The Furies – it absolutely didn’t disappoint in that department.  If you’re looking for a character-driven story with an abundance of witchcraft, this isn’t your book.  The Furies: A Thriller is scheduled for publication April 22, 2014.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

Pandemic (Infected #3) by Scott Sigler

8087710The explosive conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with Infected and Contagious.

The alien intelligence that unleashed two horrific assaults on humanity has been destroyed. But before it was brought down in flames, it launched one last payload-a tiny soda-can-sized canister filled with germs engineered to wreak new forms of havoc on the human race. That harmless-looking canister has languished under thousands of feet of water for years, undisturbed and impotent…until now.

Days after the new disease is unleashed, a quarter of the human race is infected. Entire countries have fallen. And our planet’s fate now rests on a small group of unlikely heroes, racing to find a cure before the enemies surrounding them can close in. – Goodreads.com

Pandemic is the third in a series and although I haven’t read the first two, I had no problem jumping right into this one as the author gives a brief summary at the beginning of the book.

To say this book is action-packed and fast-paced is an understatement.  A lot is going on in this story and there are numerous characters, but I never found it difficult to keep them straight.  The character that became my favorite actually started out being one I didn’t care for at all.  I initially found Dr. Tim Feely (Dr. Feelygood) to be creepy, repulsive, and the kind of man who overlooks a women’s intelligence, instead speaking to her in sexual innuendos.  But he redeemed himself – can’t tell you how, but it took a lot for me to change my mind about him.

Something I found interesting was that this male author had mostly female characters in positions of power – can’t say I’ve ever seen that before and it was a nice change.  I also liked that some of the characters were faced with hard choices in almost impossible situations and the author didn’t shy away from that.  The science of the story fascinated me and could easily make a reader become paranoid about what they could catch from just touching surfaces or breathing air, which just added to the story.

Although the last fifty or so pages flew by because of the action and tense situations, I felt like the story could have been tightened up a little in the middle.  There were parts that  seemed to drag a little and I was ready to wrap things up and move along.

I’d recommend Pandemic to anyone who enjoys action/adventure, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic thrillers.  Pandemic is scheduled to be published January 21, 2014.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

Relativity by Cristin Bishara

If Ruby Wright could have her way, her dad would never have met and married her stepmother Willow, her best friend George would be more than a friend, and her mom would still be alive. Ruby knows 17286818wishes can’t come true; some things just can’t be undone. Then she discovers a tree in the middle of an Ohio cornfield with a wormhole to nine alternative realities.

Suddenly, Ruby can access completely different realities, each containing variations of her life—if things had gone differently at key moments. The windshield wiper missing her mother’s throat…her big brother surviving his ill-fated birth…her father never having met Willow. Her ideal world—one with everything and everyone she wants most—could be within reach. But is there such a thing as a perfect world? What is Ruby willing to give up to find out? – Goodreads.com

What a pleasure it was to read this book.  I absolutely adored Ruby and her deep love of all things science, her open-minded acceptance of possibilities, and her methodical approach to problem-solving.  She was a very mature and wise-beyond-her-years 15-year-old taken away from everything familiar and thrust into a difficult situation.  But deep down, she wants what many teenagers want – a stable family life and the boy she crushes on to see her as more than a friend.

Who hasn’t wondered what would have happened if they’d taken a different path at some point in their life?  Ruby has the rare opportunity to travel to nine alternative realities and see what life could have been like, hoping for the “perfect world”; however, like most of us have realized, life is a give and take and “perfect” doesn’t exist.  It’s a tough lesson to learn, but in this way, I felt like Relativity was a coming of age story.

During Ruby’s journey, I loved that she was able to spend some time with her mother and a brother she never knew was a possibility.  At times, it was heart-wrenching, but so worth reading.  She also learned more about her stepsister, Kandy, and the potential reasons for her actions, which enabled her to be more sympathetic, although at times, I felt like Kandy didn’t deserve sympathy.  Traveling to nine different realities could have been a little repetitive and slowed down the action, but that didn’t happen in this book – the story was well-paced and compelling.

The author has created a superbly written, thought-provoking, heart-warming, intelligent story, one I would recommend to anyone who is a sci-fi/fantasy fan.  The story is appropriate for ages 14+, although the science/math aspects may be somewhat confusing.

I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Troop by Nick Cutter

Lord of the Flies meets The Ruins in this frightening novel written in the bestselling traditions of Stephen King and Scott Smith.

Boy Scouts live by the motto “Be Prepared.” However, nothing can prepare this group of young boys 17571466and their scoutmaster for what they encounter on a small, deserted island, as they settle down for a weekend of campfires, merit badges, and survival lessons.

Everything changes when a haggard stranger in tattered clothing appears out of nowhere and collapses on the campers’ doorstep. Before the night is through, this stranger will end up infecting one of the troop’s own with a bioengineered horror that’s straight out of their worst nightmares. Now stranded on the island with no communication to the outside world, the troop learns to battle much more than the elements, as they are pitted against something nature never intended…and eventually each other.

“Lean and crisp and over-the-top….Disquieting, disturbing,” says Scott Smith, author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan, The Troop is a visceral burn of a read that combines boldly drawn characters with a fantastically rendered narrative—a terrifying story you’ll never forget. – Goodreads.com

I was immediately intrigued by the description of this book and was looking forward to a good read.  On that note, some parts were good, some not so much.

What I liked:  The setting was perfect – boy scouts on a secluded island, a stranger shows up, chaos ensues, and they have no one to rely on but themselves.  But can they trust each other?  The bioengineered horror (I don’t want to give anything away) was a new approach and added a scientific element to the plot.  I also enjoyed the rotation between what was currently happening and the court transcripts and reports during the aftermath of the island occurrences and the varying POV’s between the boys and the scoutmaster.  The backstory on each boy was also helpful in explaining their personalities.

What I didn’t like:  This book isn’t for the faint of heart.  Give me gore, blood, guts, murders, etc. of people in any story – not an issue.  But when it involves animals, it can be a problem for me.  There were a few incidents of graphic animal abuse in this story and I just had to skim through those parts.  The boys seemed pretty stereotypical – the jock, the nerd, the psychologically disturbed one, etc.  The scoutmaster, Tim, supposedly a responsible, upstanding doctor in a small community who had worked with these boys for years, made some incredibly bad choices that seemed a little unbelievable for his character.

I’ve been a horror fan since the 3rd grade and if you’re into horror books and have no problem with animal abuse, this novel is enjoyable.  Although the majority of characters in this book are 14, this is most definitely an adult book, so I don’t recommend this for younger readers.  The Troop is scheduled to be published January 7, 2014.

This review is based on a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the 13638125same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will.

Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end? – Goodreads.com

I received a 100 page preview of this book from Netgalley and I CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS BOOK!  I’ve read the YA book The Archived by Victoria Schwab and am anxiously awaiting the sequel, but this is the first Adult book she’s written and I was immediately hooked from the first page.

The relationship between Victor and Eli fascinated me – they were friends/rivals/enemies and their character development was truly exceptional, making it easy to identify with parts of both characters.  With the book alternating between the past and present, I’m anxious to see how their relationship evolves from one state to the next.  It seems as if neither is black or white, but all the shades of gray in between.

The experiments Victor and Eli were involved in reminded me a little of the 80’s movie, Flatliners – medical students pushing the limits and seeing how far they can go.  The subject matter completely engaged me and it’s obvious the author did her research.

The writing in Vicious in comparison to The Archived is a great deal more mature and intelligent and there were several ‘quote-worthy’ segments.  The pacing was such that I had an extremely hard time putting down this book and would highly recommend it to anyone.  Vicious is due to be released September 24, 2013 and you can bet I’ll be parked on the B&N website impatiently waiting to download it!