Solid

Solid by Shelley WorkingerSolid by Shelley Workinger
Solid # 1
Publisher: Independent
Number of pages: 221
My copy: ebook review copy from the author

Eighteen years ago, a rogue Army doctor secretly experimented with a chromosomal drug on unknowing pregnant women. When he was killed not long after the children were born, any knowledge and evidence seemed to die with him – except the living, breathing, human products of his work.

Almost two decades later, the newly self-proclaimed “open-book” military unearths the truth about the experiment, bringing Clio Kaid and the other affected teens to a state-of-the-art, isolated campus where they soon discover that C9x did indeed alter their chromosomes – its mutations presenting as super-human abilities. The military kids, who come from across the nation and all walks of life, come into their own as lighter-than-air ‘athletes’; ‘indies’ as solid as stone walls; teens who can make themselves invisible and others who can blind with their brilliance.

While exploring her own special ability, forging new friendships and embarking on first love, Clio also stumbles onto information indicating that the military may not have been entirely forthcoming with them and that all may not be as it seems…

* * *

This year, I discovered a little sub genre that I’m starting to like — superhero fiction. I’m not sure if it really is a valid sub genre (I’m pretty sure it falls under science fiction), but I’m really, really liking reading stuff about superheroes or mutants. I’m pretty sure this stems from all the X-Men cartoons I watched when I was younger. I’ve only read two books that dealt with superheroes, or at least people with powers that didn’t involve magic (The Rise of Renegade X and Being Jamie Baker) this year, so when Shelley Workinger, author of Solid, sent a review copy for the first book in her series, I was glad to accept.

Eighteen years ago, an army doctor secretly created a drug that modified the chromosome of a baby while they were in the womb and administered them to unknowing pregnant women. No one knew about this even after he was killed, until the military unearthed the truths of this experiment and called on all these children to spend some time in a hidden campus for some testing. Turns out this drug allowed the children to have superhuman abilities, much like superheroes — if only these kids know how to harness their powers. One of these kids is Clio Kaid, who joins the program not knowing what it was really about. As Clio explores whatever ability she had, she also makes new friends and even possibly found her first love. And then things turn weird when she finds information that tells them that maybe the military is hiding secrets from them, and she recruits her friends to find out what exactly is going on.

Solid is very entertaining, as it plays on familiarity and some pop culture to make it an easy to relate to novel. In a way, this book reminds me of The Secret World of Alex Mack, and I could definitely see this one being made into a TV show for teens. I liked Clio’s voice, and while I didn’t really anything super spectacular about her, I found her very easy to like. Her friends were also very interesting and different — snobby and domineering Miranda, shy Bliss (who, for some reason, reminds me of Glimmer from She-Ra), funny Garrett and charismatic Jack. I liked their group’s chemistry a lot, and it was nice for Clio to have a group of friends to turn to in the middle of all of this.

That being said, however, despite the entertainment value, I felt that Solid lacked a bit of “oomph”. It may be because it was a bit too short for everything to make sense. I felt a bit detached from the climax, probably because I didn’t feel a proper build up for it? I didn’t have a whole sense of danger, really, maybe because I found that I could predict what could happen when the high point of the book happened. I could see it being very well played on TV, though — so maybe it could work as a TV show? I also wished for more explanation for their abilities, because that’s always something I look forward to in reading these kinds of fiction. Maybe it will be explained in the next books? Also, the ending also felt a tad too cheesy, but it may just be me.

Still, Solid was a pretty good debut, and I think it has a lot going for something independent. Maybe with a prettier cover, it could get picked up more? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not really feeling the purple chromosome — it gives me a first impression of a paranormal romance novel when it’s really not. Or maybe a prettier typeface, one that doesn’t really remind me of some labels on cord covers.

Solid is available in ebook and paperback format. Its sequel, Settling, is out today, and is also available in both formats.

Rating:

Other reviews:
All of Everything
Raindrop Reflections
Book Lovers, Inc

Ultraviolet

Ultraviolet by R.J. AndersonUltraviolet by RJ Anderson
Ultraviolet # 1
Publisher: Orchard
Number of pages: 416
My copy: ebook ARC from Netgalley

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori — the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?

* * *

Ultraviolet is far from my radar and from any of my reading plans. I’ve never read any of R.J. Anderson’s work, and I wasn’t just really that interested even if I’ve read some good reviews for them. I saw the ebook on Netgalley but just looked over it, thinking that it’s not something I would be interested in.

And then.

This book started popping up everywhere on my Goodreads feeds. One friend read it and liked it, then a few more did. All reviews refused to talk too much about what this book was about, and they were all just saying what a surprise/shocker/gender-bender this particular book was. I got curious, and thought, “Fine. If it’s still in Netgalley, I will get it and read it.

So Ultraviolet was still there, and I got it and read it. This book starts with a very curious introduction:

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

I wasn’t sure what to place this in from there. We find our heroine, Alison Jeffries, waking up in a rehabilitation facility, surrounded by people in nurses uniform, with no memory of why and how she got there. Alison is sixteen, confused and worried about her current situation. As her memories start trickling in, she is moved to Pine Hills Psychiatric Treatment Center, where she grapples with the possibility that (1) she’s crazy and (2) she may have just killed her school mate and rival, Tori Beaugrand with her mind, as she can see what color a number is and taste things like lies, things that normal people could not do. Alone and treading the thin line between sanity and not, Alison finds a friend in neuropsychologist, Sebastian Faraday, giving a name for her condition and convincing Alison that she is a normal girl.

And then.

To reveal more would be spoilery, so I’ll let you find out for yourself. I was aware of a coming twist that would turn Ultraviolet around and I resisted the urge to read ahead just to find out when, where and what it was. It was easy to stick to the story though, because the author’s writing is just so good that I wouldn’t think of skipping any page. The story was tight, and I felt genuine sympathy for Alison as she struggles with her ordeal. I just really wanted to give Alison a hug and believe that she isn’t crazy, you now? At the same time, I was very interested in Alison’s condition — which apparently, is real.

And then…things changed. I was expecting it because of the reviews I read, but I wasn’t sure when it would happen. Like what other readers have said, it was done quite seamlessly that I couldn’t question how untrue it was. I’m usually skeptical about how things turned out here, this one worked. I had a hunch about what it was, and it turned out correct, but it wasn’t also 100% right. The author managed to keep the balance between what’s real and not real and make it work, while also giving us readers a way to describe something infinite. Forgive the flowery word, but that was just the only way I could describe it. Infinite.

Ah, I’m sorry I can’t reveal that much more because it would destroy the reading experience of anyone who reads this and decides to read Ultraviolet. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, and I’m glad that I gave in to the good review pressure and read it. This is definitely one of those books that will have readers discuss and laugh and share a secret smile about.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
The Midnight Garden

Armchair BEA 2011: Best Reads (So Far)

Armchair BEAHappy second day of Armchair BEA! :) It was fun blog hopping through the intro posts yesterday, and I’m not yet done checking them out. Talk about busy!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to prepare a giveaway today, so instead, I’ll be writing about some of my best reads in 2011. Not all of them were published in 2011, though — some of these books here have been in TBR pile since God-knows-when. It feels nice when you pick a book there and you come out loving it in the end, right? :)

Here are five of my best reads in 2011:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroAh this is one of those books that I never thought I’d enjoy reading, but was totally, absolutely blown away when I was done. I loved how simple and haunting it was, and how it leaves you with lingering thoughts on the characters life and how it all ended. The movie was also just as good (and depressing!), but go for the book first. If you haven’t read this one, I suggest you put it in one of your books.

Never Let Me Go is one book that truly did not let me go (no pun intended). It reeled me in with its simplicity and refused to let me move on long after I finished with the last page.

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca LeeI’ve had this book since forever, but it kind of slipped under my TBR pile until I unearthed it late last year. Since Tosca Lee is coming up with a new book this year (with Ted Dekker!) and another one next year, I figured it’s about time to read this. Oh, and it was such a beautiful adventure. Havah is definitely one book that spoke to my heart.

I can say that reading Havah became more than just leisurely reading but almost a personal journey. Eve, christened as Havah by the adam because she “…will live, and all who live will come from [her], and [she] will give birth to hope.” (p. 102), spoke to my heart as she told her story.

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly by Cynthia HandI rarely read YA paranormal romance because honestly, I’ve gotten tired of the genre. If it wasn’t for the good reviews of blogger friends who also don’t read much paranormal romance, I would never have picked this up. Unearthly had a good set of characters, solid mythology and a healthy romance, and the story’s very engaging, too. :)

If you’re planning to pick up a paranormal romance novel soon, or if you want something to surprise you, then definitely get this book. Take it from someone who’s given up on paranormal romance — this is one of the good ones. ;)

The Last DragonSlayer by Jasper Fforde
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper FfordeJasper Fforde has been one of my favorite, favorite writers of all time. When news came out that he was coming out with a YA book, I was thrilled. I was lucky enough to snag a copy of this as soon as Fully Booked had it, and this book seriously saved me from a slump. If you love Fforde, you’ll enjoy this one. If you’re new to Fforde, The Last Dragonslayer is the best book to get your feet wet. :) Quark! :3

This book had everything I loved about Jasper Fforde. The best thing about his novels is how real they are even in their impossibility. Fforde writes in such a deadpan manner that you just can’t help but believe what he writes no matter how outrageous they all seem to be.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road by Melina MarchettaI love contemporary YA, but I’ve surprisingly never read any Marchetta. My first Marchetta was actually Saving Francesca, and I loved it. But when I read Jellicoe Road, I was blown away. This is one book that you’d want to reread immediately after finishing it. This book made me love the contemporary YA genre more, and it made Melina Marchetta my auto-buy authors.

While I was going through the first part of the book, I wasn’t really sure if I would like it as much as my other bookish friends did. When I closed the last page, I was sure that I had just as much love for this book as they do…reading this book was like breaking my heart and then putting it back together again.

I’ve learned that I’ve become a bit more critical with my book reviewing this time around. Back when I first started my blog, I used to give five-star ratings for many books and I was hesitant to give lower ratings even if I didn’t really like the book. But after some time, I’ve become…I don’t know how you call it, braver? Have you experienced that, too?

These are just five of the best books I’ve read in 2011. I have a separate shelf in my Goodreads account so I can keep track of them and list-making is easier by the end of the year. :) And even if I can’t be physically present in BEA this year, I know I’ll still be able to get copies of the books they’ll be featuring there some day, and I look forward to reading more good books this year. :)

Invasion (C.H.A.O.S. # 1)

Invasion (C.H.A.O.S. #1) by J.S. Lewis
Thomas Nelson, 320 pages

He didn’t ask for the job, but now all that stands between us and chaos… is Colt.

Colt McAlister was having the summer of his life. He spent his days surfing and his nights playing guitar on the beach with friends. He even met a girl and got his first car. But everything changes when his parents are killed in a freak accident.

He’s forced to leave his old life behind and move to Arizona with his grandfather. The only person he knows at the new high school is a childhood friend named Dani. And Oz, a guy he’s sure he’s never met but who is strangely familiar.

But what if his parents’ death wasn’t an accident? His mother, an investigative reporter, was going to expose a secret mind-control program run by one of the world’s largest companies. Before she could release the story, what if agents from Trident Biotech made sure she couldn’t go public?

Vowing to uncover the truth, Colt gets drawn into a secret world of aliens, shapeshifters, flying motorcycles, and invisible gateways.

The Invasion has begun.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I requested Invasion by J.S. Lewis from Booksneeze, so I had zero expectations when I started reading the book, too. Invasion is the first book in the C.H.A.O.S. series, and the first book tells the story of Colt McAlister, orphaned at 16 after his parents died in a car crash. Soon after he moved with his grandfather in Arizona, weird things start happening such as weird creatures chasing him, and random people trying to kill him for some reason. Soon Colt finds out that his mom was about to release a story about mind-controlling chips from a huge and powerful corporation, Trident Biotech. As Colt tries to uncover the mystery of his parents’ death, he runs for his life with his friends and he encounters all weird creatures and high technology, and he realizes that there may be more to this than he thought it was.

Invasion has 57 chapters, which I found a bit daunting when I started reading. These were short chapters, however, which made it for easy albeit a bit shallow reading. There is strong world building in Invasion, backed with interesting facts and information with how aliens and different creatures have been hidden among humans since the start. If you liked the setting in Men In Black, this book provides the same kind of world. Just like other books that involved conspiracies, action wasn’t lacking in this book: chase scenes, fights, random people trying to kill the heroes are a-plenty here. There’s also enough secret hideouts, mysterious people and advanced technology to excite sci-fi fans around.

However, I never felt invested in the characters. I liked Colt, Oz and Danielle, but I didn’t feel like I knew them for real. It may be because of how the story flowed or maybe even because each chapter is too short for me to glean much about who they are and what makes them tick. There also seemed to be a crowd of secondary characters all over the place, and while I get that it’s needed to build the new world that Colt is moving into, it was kind of hard to keep track of them. The overall premise was interesting, and it does make for an interesting read but I felt that I would be more interested in this if it were a movie instead of a book.

I think Invasion is still a good book, but I think it’s not for me. Perhaps it’s my age, or my lack of scifi knowledge and love. I like my aliens and wild worlds with chase scenes and explosions, but this one just failed to capture my interest. Maybe younger boys or longtime scifi fans would enjoy this more than I did.

Invasion by J.S. Lewis is already out in hardcover, published by Thomas Nelson. Thanks to Booksneeze for the review copy.

Rating:
→ I didn’t really finish the book, but I thought it had enough potential to get a 3-star rating.

My copy: ebook, review copy from Booksneeze

Cover: Booksneeze
Blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Pessimistically Optimistic Meanderings
The Pumpkin Pie Patch

Getting inked may not be that cool

The Barcode Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 256
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Individuality vs. Conformity

Identity vs. Access

Freedom vs. Control

The bar code tattoo. Everybody’s getting it. It will make your life easier, they say. It will hook you in. It will become your identity.

But what if you say no? What if you don’t want to become a code? For Kayla, this one choice changes everything. She becomes an outcast in her high school. Dangerous things happen to her family. There’s no option but to run…for her life.

* * *

I really meant to review this book after I got it, then I planned to review it for Pinoy Pop, but I never got around to it because there were other more interesting books that came in. I wasn’t really planning to review this book anymore and make this as one of those books that I never bothered to review this year but after I read Unwind by Neal Shusterman, I felt the need to revisit this book (or at least, my notes of this book) and write a proper review before writing one for Unwind.

I found The Barcode Tattoo during one of my Amazon Kindle sample days, and I remember being sorely disappointed that this book had no Kindle edition. I wasn’t sure if the cover or the premise attracted me to this — perhaps it was both. The idea of a sinister requirement tattoo is kind of creepy, and the cover was equally as creepy as that idea. I found a lone copy in Fully Booked a few weeks after I added this to my wish list, and I was immediately off to the cashier to purchase the book.

The Barcode Tattoo reminds me of those sci-fi TV shows that I used to be very interested in but never found the time to watch. I think the first time I saw a barcode tattoo on screen was in Dark Angel, where I think each of the clones had a barcode tattoo at their nape to identify them. I can’t remember the details anymore, but I was pretty sure they had that. :P In this book, the tattoos serve as a symbol for “coming of age”, and where everything can be done using your very own tattoo. This spells convenience for everyone as there was no more need to carry an ID or money around since everything can be done with the barcode (including buy compression stockings online).  But as expected, people in power can easily manipulate it. This is where we found Kayla Reed, who’s about to turn 17, but is wary of getting her tattoo. She turned out to be even more wary when her dad starts acting suspiciously, and pretty soon, her avoidance in getting the tattoo turned her life upside down and she starts running for her life.

The concept is good, and it makes for a very good dystopian fiction. However, I think that was the only thing that made this book good. I knew from the get-go that the tattoos were evil, but it was never really explained in the story why it was evil. Sure, the tattoo meant control for those in power, but it was never really expounded on. Like Kayla, I only got the faintest idea on what made the tattoos bad but she never really found out about the exact details of it.

It may be because the book was written in 2004, so the setting (which was 21 years later) showed a world where everyone was wearing a modified space suit and moving sidewalks are common. It took me a while to get into the setting probably because I felt it was a bit too unbelievable even if it’s in 2025. My friend Jana coined it as the “flying cars” setting, where people think of the future as a time where flying cars are the norm. Personally, the setting reminded me a bit too much of those Zenon movies from Disney. I couldn’t imagine myself inside the world the characters are living in, so I remained a mere spectator for Kayla’s adventures.

Furthermore, I felt that there was no defined villain in the story — sure, there was Global 1, the mastermind behind the tattoo, and there were the kids that chased Kayla around…but who was her real villain? Was it the tattoo? It is their destruction of privacy because the tattoo contains all information about them? I’m not quite sure. Sure, Kayla had some personal stake over the matter because of her family, but if that was taken away, would Kayla still have resisted? Where is the Truly Evil Government that dystopian fiction is known for?

I also felt a bit cheated with the ending. I’m not really a sci-fi reader and I’ve only started to appreciate fantasy, but I know there’s a way to make the two mesh well without sounding forced. Kayla’s situation felt truly hopeless as she ran away from those who want her inked (or in some cases, dead), and I truly felt that she had no more allies…but when she finally found her allies, I found that the solution to the problem felt a bit too over the top. Deus ex machina, if you may. The resolution never really sat well with me, leaving me a bit unsatisfied at the end of the end of the book.

It’s not really a bad book, but I didn’t really find it spectacular, either. It’s an in-between book, really, and it’s not one I’d lose sleep or mull over for the next few days thinking about the story or the consequences or the characters even. The story had a lot of potential that wasn’t explored, unfortunately. Interestingly, there is a sequel to the book: The Barcode Rebellion. Will I read it? Probably. Will I buy it? I’m not sure. Maybe someone can lend me a copy instead?

Oh, and one last question: how the heck do you pronounce Mfumbe?!

Rating: