Book Review – ‘This Vicious Cure’ (#3 This Mortal Coil) by Emily Suvada

A beautiful conclusion to a possible future where biology and technology merge.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 440

Two factions at war.

A plague that can’t be stopped.

A cure that could destroy them all…

Cat’s hacking skills weren’t enough to keep her from losing everything – her identity, her past, and now her freedom.

Meanwhile, the person who’s stolen everything from her is close to realizing a hacker’s dream: the solution to humanity’s problems in gene form. Or so she thinks…

But now a new threat has emerged – a threat that could bring the world to the brink of a devastating war.

Both sides will stop at nothing to seize control of humanity’s future, and that the centre of this war is Cat, and a race against the clock save millions of lives . . .

This is hands down one of my most favourite science fiction series read to date. Emily Suvada manages to surprise the reader in each instalment. Face crack of the season for me.

This, as a conclusion, had all the plot points I was expecting, but the climactic ending took an emotive humanitarian route (and rightly so) which was a departure from the scrappy band of soldiers fighting for freedom. So half of me wanted an all stakes battle, blood and guts everywhere, casualties, and world at the brink of an apocalypse… and the other half understands that the underlying battle of this series was to be fought in a laboratory and none of that balls-to-the-wall gore can actually play out in that scenario. I think Suvada did justice to this trilogy at the end, but it did not end with that definitive thump I was craving.

We see character arcs galore in ‘This Vicious Cure.’ I loved how everyone has to face personal demons in order for the world to change. Hats off to you Suvada, you know how to structure a character driven story with a plot engorged with action.

The ending, though slightly sickly sweet (cure Disney theme music) really leaves the reader with a sense of hope and wonder. I actually appreciated it. It was also easy to see that the job of healing the world was not over, neither was the growing developments in science, technology, and biology… each character finds new drive and motivation in the changed climate.

I really gelled with Suvada’s writing style. She manages to leave enough space for you to get to fall for a character without bogging you down with too much plot (info dumping) which is prevalent in science fiction. While I have read a few novels around technology and biology merging, and the ramifications of advancing in this area, none of them explored it in detail as much as Suvada. This trope was a character in the storyline in its own right; it wasn’t a plot device. You could see that this biotechnology was the heart and soul of this trilogy, and not a by-the-way aspect to show some futuristic wonder in setting a scene.

In hindsight, I think there were a lot of characters to keep track of (especially in book 2) but by the time I started reading ‘This Vicious Cure’ I was used to the cast and it did not feel like a struggle to keep all the characters straight in my head. Even though the pacing was a little slower at the beginning of the novel, it was not noticeably so, and this final instalment flew by and kept me engaged throughout. I only put the book down because I needed to sleep.

I don’t want to talk about the characters too much because it will spoil too many plot points for the series, but many of the main cast get a lot more fleshed out, motivations come to the forefront, and we really get to see them test their mettle.

A massive recommendation from me. This is a great exploration into a dystopian world where genetic tampering and biotechnology have brought the world to its knees with a masterful plot and interesting, driven characters. This is definitely sitting in my top 10 list.

Overall feeling: Inspirational

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookporn #coverlove

Top 10 Standalones – Top 10 series

I thought I’d take a look back to recommend my top 10 standalones that I read in 2020, it’s a mixed bag but maybe you’ll find that new-to-you read!

I’ll Give You The Sun – yes this was released ages ago, and has been sitting on my shelf since, but in the past year I’ve been making a concerted effort to shrink my TBR and stop getting detracted by too many new shiny covers. This contemporary lived up to the hype I remember it getting when it first came out. Interesting characters and fantastic reveals that brought all the feels.

The Luminous Dead – On of the latest purchases, a sci-fi psychological thriller set in caves on a distant planet, the protagonist faces treacherous terrain, a controlling guide, alien nasties, and a few dead bodies. With a F/F romance to boot this was everything I needed and didn’t know it.

Famous Last Words – a contemporary mystery set in the Hollywood Hills. A young girl moves into a spanish estate that might be haunted, oh, and there might be a killer lurking about.

Highway Bodies – a zombie apocalypse that a diverse group of youngsters have to survive. Set in Australia, and a gem of a novel.

The Sky is Everywhere – Another contemporary romance from Jandy Nelson I let sit on my shelf for too long. Quirky characters painted with artistic flare.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue* – A historical rom-com as brother, sister and their best friend take a road trip across Europe and all sorts of hijinks ensue. This was a laugh riot. *Not a standalone, there are two more novels and a novella in this series, but I’m including it here because I’ve only read the debut.

Life Expectancy – Dean Koontz has been a favorite of mine since I was in junior high. This tale is a crazy twist of futures that keep getting intertwined: one is a family man, the other is a killer clown.

Pet Semetary – A re-read of an old classic that never fails to entertain and send a shiver down your spine. Bringing back the dead, indian burial grounds and a spooky wendigo… it never gets old (but parts of the story haven’t aged well – it fun to see how writing has evolved in the last 30-40 years)

Reckoning – the only non-fiction title in this list. Magda Szubanski, Australia’s first lady of comedy takes a serious tone exploring her family history: a father who was an assassin, her dreams of becoming a tennis star and falling into acting… and discovering her own identity in a time when being in the spotlight was a dangerous thing.

Cold Fire – A re-read that I didn’t know was one. I owned this book in high school and has lost it in my travels across the continent. I bought another copy thinking it was a title I didn’t have in Dean Koontz’s back catalog…. and the whole time I was reading it though ‘this sounds familiar.’ Still it was a great story of possible aliens haunting a man’s past who has the uncanny ability to foretell certain peoples deaths and goes out of his was to prevent them.

The top 10 series I completed (or nearly completed) in 2020 are:

This Mortal Coil – a science fiction future where the world is ravaged by genetically modified viruses, body modifications, and advanced technology. Warring factions for control and freedom, super soldiers… this really shows where a STEM education could take us. My no.1 pick for the year.

Warm Bodies – I finally completed this epic series, though it slowly left it’s satirical roots and turned philosophical. But is was fun to get answers to how the zombie apocalypse came about, and what the future holds for R and the gang.

The Rook* – There are still more installments to come in this series*, but this is all that is published for now. A spy thriller with supernatural powers set in England with a sense of humor! This collection has a special place in my heart (the television adaptation did not do it justice.)

Midnight Sun* – I got around to what I thought was finishing off the series I started back in 2007, but since have heard there is the possibility of another two books to come!? Nontheless this was a fun return to the beginnings of the Twilight franchise and the story of Edward and Bella (if a little long-winded) but I managed to read it in two days.

Impossible Times trilogy – a collection of novellas that is very timey-wimey. Set in England this has an echo of Doctor Who and mixes in a heavy dose of time travel. Well-written and a blast to read.

Death Works trilogy – Aussie author Trent Jamieson pens a great collection of novels about a Pomp (think grim reaper) guiding souls to the afterlife and fighting all sorts of supernatural nasties… but it’s all handled like a well-oiled corporate office. Best in my backyard : Brisbane, a story very close to my heart.

Proxy – another sci-fi dystopia with a gay main character where the wealthy can get a proxy to stand in for their punishments. A fantastic tale of class structure, technology and rebellion.

Zeroes*- A group of supernatural teens – crooks come heroes that have to navigate their powers, face the consequences of their actions and face-off similarly powered foes. It has a fun twist on the superpower genre, I just have to read the concluding novel to complete the series.*

One Man Guy – a contemporary romance duology featuring a M/M couple as they come out, and navigate romantic rivals, clashes of culture and class structures.

Nil* – a science fiction portal trilogy about a supernatural island that pits teens against the elements and predatory animals, but they have a year to untangle the mystery and catch a portal home before they die. Just have to read the concluding novel for this series*, but so far it has been one heck of an adventure.

Book Review – ‘This Cruel Design’ (#2 This Mortal Coil) by Emily Suvada

Human evolution and technology start to take on a new meaning to me…

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 435

In bunkers and strongholds across the world, people are celebrating. There’s a vaccine to the virus that has ravaged the planet for years.

But the vaccine isn’t working. The virus is evolving. Catarina – genehacker, reluctant warrior – must find the one person who can help: her estranged father, who is guilty of unimaginable crimes.

Time is ticking. She has three days before the shadowy gentech corporation Cartaxus will use lethal code to wipe out every person on the planet’s surface: kill the hosts, kill the virus.

Forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts, and with the end approaching, Cat discovers that the biggest threat of all may be buried in her own mind.

Such a fantastic book!! I have not read a science fiction series that I have been so engrossed in that is not based in space or alien planets ever. I bow to you Miss Suvada!

There is only a few teeny-tiny things that stopped me from giving this novel a perfect score. The first being I had difficulty getting my bearings at the start. I was about 50 pages in before everything clicked. Even though the story takes up right after the debut ended, there was no summary or re-cap and given the length of time between picking up ‘This Cruel Design’ since reading ‘This Mortal Coil,’ I was just floundering along trying to make sense of things and trigger memories – in a sense I was like Cat attempting to fill in gaps of memory.

I really think a foreward would have been helpful just to summarize and set the scene from ‘This Mortal Coil’ and then ‘This Cruel Design’ could have launched in earnest.

The other small aspect, was the novel had a bit of a slow start. ‘This Mortal Coil’ starts off with a bang, and I didn’t get that sense with ‘This Cruel Design.’ There is a lot of science and technology in this series. A true STEM geek-out (which I adore) but with having to get back into world building of a universe the reader was already familiar with felt counter intuitive.

Besides those niggling aspects, ‘This Cruel Design’ is an excellent read. I have not read a series that has continued to surprise and delight me multiple times with each instalment. I am so envious of Emily Suvada’s writing and ability to craft a plot and plot twists. She doesn’t drop obvious hints that have you sleuthing out the ending… she is a true master craftswoman. Add to that the science, theories, grounded in practical experience lends so much credence to the storyline. It may be isolating to some readers who don’t have a grasp on things like genetics, coding, and technology, but this was right up my alley. All those shows discussing the direction of human and technological evolution are like an appetiser to this series.

I felt we really got to see what Cat was made of in ‘This Cruel Design,’ like she became even more fully resolved. Plus the aspects of biology and technology she plays with is truly mind-bending. The relationship she had with Cole did feel slightly too fast. Not insta-love, but not a slow burn either, and did not feel quite organic.

The rest of the gifted children (genetically altered soldiers) while each a fully rounded characters – both endearing and annoying… there is always something holding me back from falling in love with them. Maybe it’s the military aspect with them withholding information; or the fact they may be controlled or manipulated to some extent, but that is a truly marvellous storytelling device. This is interwoven with the expansion on Cat and Jun Bei’s family through flashbacks, history and present day events.

I love the introduction of a counter-faction to Cartaxus; equal in diverging biology and technology.

A side note of things yet to come, like the Dax mystery, the Lachlan mystery, and Agnes (yaya) secrets – these should be the big ones in the final book of the trilogy. The pigeons still have a part to play – they’ve been mentioned far too much to not have any significance. I’m keen to find this out. Not to mention the final showdown between Cat and Jun Bei… I’m clenching my buttocks with excitement for that one. Oh, yeah, and the ending of Cartaxus and orientating the world towards a new freedom. No biggie.

Though the story concluded, you still get a sense that there is still a much bigger picture and fight to be had (sans abovementioned notes) – setting up ‘This Vicious Cure’ really well. Can’t wait to see what surprises are in store. What new twists Suvada has in store.

Overall feeling: Mind-blowing adventure galore!

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Stiletto’ (#2 The Checquy Files) by Daniel O’Malley

Supernaturally powered spies and medically advanced group of body modifiers team up against a foe while solving murders… it’s outrageous and I love it!

Genre: Science Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery

No. of pages: 583

When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers—and the bureaucratic finesse—to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries:

The Checquy—the centuries-old covert British organization that protects society from supernatural
threats, and…

The Grafters—a centuries-old supernatural threat.

But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women, who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war.

This took me a long time to read because there is a lot of filler. The pacing is slow. I am in love with Daniel O’Malley’s writing though, he is fantastic with world building and crafts some interesting and intriguing characters. The imagination that has gone into creating the universe of The Checquy astounds me.

I’m really excited to see where this series is going. Book three is already in edits and book four is underway so we should get some publication dates towards the end of this year.

On a side note, I’m not surprised the television adaptation got cancelled. To be honest, it took out all of the aspects that make this collection so much fun. The irony and comedy, the way-out there elements and wild paranormal powers. Instead it concentrated on political subterfuge and the spy elements, and they executed the powers in a way that felt bland. While I enjoyed the show, it did not deliver on all the facets that made ‘The Rook’ great.

Stiletto’ picks up shortly after events that took place in ‘The Rook’ and introduce some new perspectives. We still follow Myfawny, but the main storyline is told from the perspectives of Grafter, Odette Leliefeld, and Pawn, Felicity Clements.

With the Grafter contingent, a sworn enemy of the Checquy, wanting to amalgamate their organisations. But what the Checquy don’t know is that the Grafters (or Wetenschappelijk Broederschap van Naruurkundigen – Broederschap for short) have an enemy that is systematically wiping them out; and now with the tentative ground of the two organisations navigating tensions and mistrust, their threats have doubled. So much intrigue, subterfuge, and diplomacy mixed in with paranormal powers, events and, medical technology to create a melting pot of tension.

Felicity is a soldier. Work is her life. She is assigned cases to eliminate paranormal threats (or hotspots) and now also assigned as Odette’s bodyguard/minder/liaison. We get a sense of her Spartan life, the only luxury she indulges in is her pet dog. She flat shares with two other Pawns in a tiny converted town house. She is a rule follower, down the line straight man but has a close relationship with the others with whom she grew up with in the Estate. They are her new family.

Odette is a prodigy with medical ‘grafter’ surgery. She is all about her work and an indulgent Broederschap upbringing. A bit of a party girl. A girly-girl. So the juxtaposition of class, society, and being bound by rules and hierarchy clashes between Odette and Felicity (and the Checquy.) But she adapts to the change because it’s what her ancestor and leader of the Broederschap wants.

Myfawny is still adjusting to her new role (and memory loss) but we see her much stronger and competent than she was in ‘The Rook.’

I capital-L-Love the outlandish paranormal events! And despite Daniel O’Malley’s tendency to indulge in filler, his writing is something I’m envious of. So while, extremely well written, ‘Stiletto’ suffers from a huge pacing issue. The plot is intricate and we see several arcs unfolding tangentially, though I did get a slight episodic feel from the novel. There are some marvellous plot twists throughout which took me by surprise and a few threads are left hanging for the next instalment, though there is a real sense of accomplishment for ‘Stiletto.’

I’d love to recommend this to everyone – but if you did not care for ‘The Rook,’ ‘Stiletto’ is much the same fare. You need to have patience and enjoy exploring the universe of the Checquy without worrying about the plot moving forward at a strong pace. I really enjoyed this – the only real issue I had was with the amount of filler, but it did not detract too much from my revelling in the escapist nature of O’Malley’s writing style.

This is a long book (583 pages), and having purchased the hardcover version (with heavy stock pages) it was a pain in the ass to read at times because the book is so heavy and cumbersome to read. But with my few gripes, I have become addicted to Daniel O’Malley and this series. Eagerly awaiting future adventures and craziness!

Overall feeling: Deliciously outlandish!

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Rogue’ (#3 Croak) by Gina Damico

Moody Emo Grim.

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal

No. of pages: 326

Lex is a teenage Grim Reaper with the power to Damn souls, and it’s getting out of control. She’s a fugitive, on the run from the maniacal new mayor of Croak and the townspeople who want to see her pay the price for her misdeeds. Uncle Mort rounds up the Junior Grims to flee Croak once again, but this time they’re joined by Grotton, the most powerful Grim of all time. Their new mission is clear: Fix his mistakes, or the Afterlife will cease to exist, along with all the souls in it.

The gang heads for Necropolis, the labyrinth-like capital city of the Grimsphere. There, they discover that the Grimsphere needs a reboot. To do that, the portals to the Afterlife must be destroyed…but even that may not be enough to fix the damage. Things go from bad to worse, and when at last the fate of the Afterlife and all the souls of the Damned hang in the balance, it falls to Lex and her friends to make one final, impossible choice.

The whole Grimsphere is against Lex and the gang of Junior Grims with Uncle Mort in the lead. Expect death, Damning and running, screaming for your life.

The plot for ‘Rogue’ was a lot of fun, plenty of action and twists that I enjoyed. Though there was something about the tone and narrative style that was lacking in comparison to the first two novels. The witty banter, Dad jokes, and sarcastic asides felt juvenile and did not pack a punch. Plus there was this whole dynamic between Uncle Mort and Lex where the parental figure was keeping information and facts from the junior ‘for their own good,’ that whole just do as I say thing. It was repeated so many times it was frustrating. It was set up this way for latter reveals in the plot… but, um… girl that’s not a good way to do it. Such a heavily guided hand by the author, instead of letting the story unfold organically and let the characters grow.

I found myself putting this book down a lot. A lot. I’d get five to ten pages read and then need a rest. The pacing did not start pick up until after the halfway point. I did enjoy the story overall, but it felt a little scattered. The cast are on the run from place to place, and there was no thread to anchor the narrative. Character reactions were all over the place, motives kept changing, some scenes were just messy. I think there was just too much going on in some places. This was not the concluding novel that I was hoping for. The snarky humour was gone, so there wasn’t much to balance out all the loss and death that kept happening.

And even the afterward did not tie up and address the main characters in a way that put the full-stop after The End.

Lex felt like a sullen whiny teen – I don’t get a feeling that she had a great character arc, not in this novel, and not since the start of this series. She was so funny in the first book, but the humour did not translate to the finale. Also I appreciated the more intimate moments between Lex and Driggs, but again it felt manufactured. Almost like cut scene, make out, and snap back to the action.

A cute-ish read that I think would have been awesome from a stronger developmental edit. A mostly satisfying end to the series, but not one that ended in an exclamation point.

Overall feeling: satisfactory finish.

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookquotes

#BQ Chilling Effect by Casey Carlisle

I am so excited to add this to my ‘to read’ pile. It sounds like a lot of fun… space, alien overlords, sarcastic humor. Right. Up. My. Alley.  Stay tuned for a review coming soon.

Anyone have recommendations for a books similar to ‘Chilling Effect?’