Review: Replica

Replica by Jenna Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For dystopian YA fiction, Replica is average and middle of the road. Some aspects are far superior to other books in the genre, while other elements are decidedly inferior. The plot is overly familiar but the main focus of the story – friendship between a mild mannered female forcibly turned into a formidable foe (ha) and a spoiled gay playboy – is very engaging. There is very little romance and the plot is overtly a mystery in a dystopian setting but the writing is decent and premise offers just enough surprises to keep the story from being dull. I did find my attention wavering and I appreciated that I could put the book down for days at a time until my interest peaked again. That said, I do want to continue with the series and would still recommend this story for dystopian YA fans.

Nate may be the Chairman’s only son but he’s also a notorious playboy. He bucks the system whenever possible and generally tries to make himself known as an irresponsible reprobate. He’s also selfish, thoughtless, and often cruel. However, Nadia knows her fiancé also can be charming, kind, and protective. In the top echelons of society, their every move is watched and discussed so when Nate is murdered and Nadia is questioned, their worlds are thrown into turmoil. When the replica Nate wakes up with no memories of the last two weeks, the friends are desperate to figure out what really happened. Their lives aren’t the only ones being threatened with the secrets they uncover.

The story is told in third person narrator from both Nate and Nadia’s viewpoints. Nate is the son of the Chairman, who rules the state of Paxco also formerly known as New York. In the Dystopian future the US has been torn apart and taken over by corporations that rule former states. The society is a throwback to Victorian with class divides and puritanical morals, not to mention any tolerance for homosexuality. Nate is in love with his butler, Kurt, and hides his true sexuality. He is content to marry Nadia, who knows the truth about Nate and frequently covers for him, since the two are good friends even if they’ll never be lovers. The world building here is decent to good in some spots though there are quite a few holes as well. So much time is spent on the actions of trying to find out who killed the original Nate and why that the world building definitely suffers.

Likewise the characterization is nuanced and actually pretty good. I was left thinking I didn’t know the characters that well but when I thought about their arcs, I realized they were actually pretty well realized. Nadia has a very nice progression from mild mannered, rule abiding 16 y/o to strong, tough, and risk taking. It’s not often females are afforded that kind of growth in a reasonable and understandable way. She has flaws and definitely shows her fear in the appropriate situations but she also grows from meekly agreeing with Nate to make him happy to standing up to him and for herself. Similarly Nate grows from being a spoiled, thoughtless playboy who actually became the thing he thought he was merely portraying to a more thoughtful, careful, and considerate young man. Their friendship is the highlight of the story since they both have very real flaws as well as strengths. It’s not often you see a three dimensional female not stuck into a stereotype as the tag along best friend to the gay character. Nadia is definitely not a tag along and the care her and Nate have for each other shines through. It’s a totally different relationship than Nate has with Kurt, but no less important.

The mystery of who killed Nate is interesting. I kind of guessed the culprit really early on, and cheated to see if I was right, because it really was the only option. However, the story does a decent job of prolonging the action until the inevitable villain confession at the end. The end is a bit overdone with the typical “good vs. evil” showdown and Scooby-doo’ish, idealistic kids winning out over evil corporations and their bottom line. The epilogue actually cheered me because I thought the ending was too cookie cutter until then. I liked the ending but I was glad to see a seed of discontent sown in to make it slightly more palatable.

It’s not often in fiction, let alone YA, that there is a well-written female with a strong relationship to a gay male and it’s not clichéd or a stereotype. Their friendship is the strongest, and best, aspect of the book and worth reading for, in my opinion. The mystery and decent, if slightly weak, world building add to the overall story, making it one I mostly enjoyed reading. I read it at lunch over two weeks so taken in those short bursts worked extremely well for me. I think I’ll read the sequel in much the same manner. I’m not sure it’s strong enough to hold my attention to read all at once but I liked it enough to continue with the series.

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Review: The Douglas Fir

The Douglas Fir
The Douglas Fir by Anyta Sunday
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I actually got this back in November but ignored it until recently. It’s a really cute, well-written story that kept me guessing where it was going to go. Looking back I can see where it was heading all along but I appreciated the writing and construction such that it could have taken numerous twists. It’s been a while since a story surprised me and I really liked not knowing what could happen next. The characters are decent, but two-dimensional and a little flat. The dialogue is cute and the supporting cast makes a nice little novella to read and has me curious about other books by the author. I’d easily recommend it – $1.50 for a novella, which makes it really cheap – and it’s a fun, entertaining story. Continue reading

Review: Lance

Lance by Jet Mykles
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I had a really weird reaction to this book. It’s classic Mykles rock star book but oddly I didn’t believe any of it. I mean I know it’s fiction and all but I never bought into the main couple together and I thought they were better off apart the entire book. So when they finally got together I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a huge mistake. I like these easy to read and fun books by the author but the IK series pales in comparison to the HS series and it shows in just about all the books. That’s not to say this one in particular isn’t enjoyable to read. The angst is light, if even there, and the characters very easy to take. They’re fun and not too serious while they fall in love and in committed relationships. My main hang up is that I never thought the main guys should be together and I agreed they were better off apart so the final resolution of them happy in love rang very hollow for me. But fans of the author will easily like this one. Continue reading

Review: Off Stage: Right

Off Stage: Right
Off Stage: Right by Jaime Samms
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had initially read the reviews on this one when I got it months and months ago and only remember that it was supposed to have a ton of angst; the kind of angst where you’re exhausted when you finish reading the book, ie. Keeping Promise Rock or Red Tainted Silence. Perhaps my tolerance for angst is higher than other readers because while there is angst in this book, I didn’t really feel like there was that much. It definitely did not exhaust me and frankly I felt there could have been quite a bit more. The story is good, as Samms is a good writer. However, I never connected to the characters so I always felt removed from the angst and it never really affected me. I never felt for nor commiserated with the characters so I actually wanted more angst and for it to be real and meaningful. That said I enjoyed the book and read it in one sitting, which is saying something considering the length. However it’s not a book I would re-read. I liked it but did not love it, even if it’s a book I think I would remember (which is hard when you read a lot and have a crappy memory). Continue reading

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know I’m late to this party – but I seriously loved this book, and not because it’s about cancer. I have drunk the Kool-Aid and I do think this is “omgthebestbookever.” It’s not necessarily realistic because teenagers don’t speak or act that way, nor do adults even. It’s more like the way you wish someone would speak with endless witticism and clever comebacks that roll of the tongue of those who can’t possibly be that articulate and well read. I honestly didn’t care though because I loved the dialogue and prose. I didn’t mind that the teenagers act and talk in ways that are in no way realistic. To me the story isn’t even attempting to be realistic. It’s pure fantasy in contemporary setting and I could go with that. Continue reading

Review: Missed Connections: I Swear to You

Missed Connections: I Swear to You
Missed Connections: I Swear to You by Sloan Parker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really liked this little novella and tore through it right up until the end. It ended so poorly that it affected how I viewed the story as a whole. Other than that blip, the writing is good with solid characters and some seriously hot sex scenes. I also say that as a reader who has become somewhat inured to sex scenes since they are so ubiquitous within the genre. The premise has enough innate tension to hold my interest without the addition of the crazy ex-boyfriend, which was by far the weakest aspect of the novella. Prior to that ending I was thinking this was a story I kind of loved and would rate at least 4 stars. With the sad ending that had me rolling my eyes and saying “really?!” out loud the rating dropped unfortunately. I’d still recommend this though as I think it’s a really good and engaging story, just know the ending sucks but it’s quick so try to get by it. Continue reading

Review: Blood Cross

Blood Cross
Blood Cross by Faith Hunter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is how I like my urban fantasy – heavy on the action and UF with a little light romance on the side. The main character of Jane annoyed the crap out of me for most of the book. She’s too snarky with few consequences for all her nosey, unrelenting ways and the timeline is wonky. Often Jane rushes into situations without thinking her plan through and usually makes it through unscathed. I appreciate that occasionally she gets her butt kicked, which she always deserves and then some. Thankfully the story has a lot of good urban fantasy elements – I especially like the vampire mythology – and a solid enough plot to keep me listening during the moments I wish Jane would die. She’s a better than average heroine, if pretty cookie cutter in a lot of ways. Continue reading