Friday, July 18, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Naturals is a 2013 YA novel written by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. It was published on 7 November 2013 by Quercus and its ISBN is 1780876823. I picked up the paperback from an evil corporate conglomerate plotting to take over the world. There are NO SPOILERS in my review.

PLOT

Cassie Hobbes is not like most teenagers. Most teenagers don't lose their mother in a bloody, unsolved murder. Most teenagers can't tell who you are, where you're from and how you're likely to behave within moments of meeting you. And most teenagers don't get chosen to join The Naturals.

Identified by the FBI as uniquely gifted, Cassie is recruited to an elite school where a small number of teens are trained to hone their exceptional abilities. For Cassie, trying to make friends with the girls, and to figure out the two very different, very hot boys, is challenging enough.

But when a new serial killer strikes and Cassie is drawn into a lethal game of cat and mouse, she realises just how dangerous life in The Naturals could be.

WHY I BOUGHT IT

I follow Jennifer Lynn Barnes on Twitter so I saw the whole thing as she talked about a new project and watched as it formed into The Naturals. I followed Jennifer Lynn Barnes after reading Tattoo and Fate which I had a love/hate relationship with.

WHAT I THOUGHT

As mentioned I heard a lot about the ongoing development process of the book and it was worth the wait. At first you might think trying to combine YA with grisly crimes would be a step too far and that the effect would be discordant at best. JLB somehow manages to combine the two, I say somehow but I know how she did it, good research and great writing.

Cassie is an interesting protagonist with a rather unique set of strengths and special skills but at the beginning of the book she is just a girl who is a little aimless in life the arrival of the FBI offers her a chance at purpose and at justice.

The rest of the Naturals are an interesting group but as it is only the first book I am not going to judge them yet it would not be fair as we have barely just met them and I for one need more time to decide if they are three dimensional.

Now for the story which is scary it does as many commentators have stated capture the feel of Criminal Minds that whole “why the hell am I watching this is totally creeps me out” vibe, there is no doubt that this is a scary read, a different kind than something like Michael Grant’s Gone series  but still very scary.

I mentioned that this was similar to Criminal Minds a lot of the same terms are thrown around and indeed apparently it was Criminal Minds who started that whole UNSUB thing that has pressed its way deep into pop culture. Indeed much like Criminal Minds we get to see things from the killer’s perspective though more in his thoughts as this is a book, I think I would have liked to hear how that was done on an audiobook but I have the paperback.


So by now you should have realised I like the book and now all there is to see whether or not it is for you. If you like action and a plot that makes you think with the YA elements of snappy dialogue then this book will welcome you with open arms.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother is a YA book written by Cory Doctorow it is the first book in a series. Little Brother was released on the 13 October 2008 and published by Harper Voyager. The ISBN is 0007288425.

PLOT

The ultimate tale of teen rebellion – one seventeen-year-old against the surveillance state.
Big Brother is watching you. Who’s watching back?

Marcus is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works – and how to work the system. Smart, fast and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. 

In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison, where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.


When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state, where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

WHY I READ IT

The premise was just so very interesting there is not a lot more than that. I had not heard anything about the book beforehand or the author.

WHAT I THOUGHT

This book blew me away totally unexpectedly. Due to my own habits I generally know a little something about a book or author before reading, most of the books I read are part of a series but I have not been so surprised by the effect a book had on me since Daemon by Daniel Suarez which is also a techno-thriller with some similar themes.

A lot of books feature unfair, horrible things happening to the protagonist but this is one of a few books that actually make you feel it deep in your bones leaving you actually angry. This book takes the personal freedom vs security argument straps it in to a rocket and sends it off into the wild blue yonder.

Not only does this book make you think, it also manages to be very entertaining, Little Brother is a techno-thriller with far more believable and reachable tech. The things mentioned in here are not some logical extension of technologies that will be available “soon” they are things that happen here and now. The parallels with real world events aren’t difficult to make and one only need look at the news to see snooping legislation being discussed and voted on both in the US and the UK as I write this.

The issues around liberty versus security are only slightly less contentious then the situation in the Middle East with two sides that are never going to be able to meet in the middle. The book comes down on one side but it certainly doesn’t ignore the other side of the argument which would have been an easy thing to do.

This book though isn’t just about a fight for privacy it is about a guy in high school, trying to connect with his parents, and hanging out with his friends. It is the length that he goes to in order to avenge his friends that moves the story along and it is the conflict with his friends and family that keeps things real and not just like watching some debate.

I thoroughly recommend this book, I’m not going the cheesy route and say it changed my life but what it did do was make me think about things like my use of the Internet and what I am doing even in a small way to campaign for change. OK now that part sounds a little cheesy, go read the book.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Personal Blog: What Have I Been Doing?

It has been awhile since I have talked with you my readers. Some things have changed and some have stayed the same. Recently I went back to a story idea I had for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) I didn’t get very far back then with all the pressure on but looking at it now it just seemed to be easier to let the words flow so that is pretty cool. Oh the word count is at around 4500 so just a start but a decent one.


Something that just happened this week though is a job interview. Yeah a single one but that one is so much more than what I have been getting over the last few months of futility. I am making notes about the job and the University at which it is based but we will have to see, also there is a test probably something Excel based.


Unfortunately for me lately I have had no end of net problems but hopefully that is behind me now I mention it because it means that I am behind on my various blogs which is a shame but I am sure people will bear with me now especially as I have to make time for interview prep.


Book wise I am falling behind in my book challenge target but catching up slowly. I recently read The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes and that stands out as the best new property I have read this year easily. I am looking forward to the latest Bloodlines by Richelle Mead book though that should be excellent.



TV wise I am all caught up on True Blood and 24 and now trying the new episodes of both series though I am a bit behind on 24. I am so far liking this new Chloe seriously toned not so sure about the goth gear though. I think this new 12 hour episode could really help revitalise the show.

Monday, June 23, 2014

TV REVIEW: True Blood "Radioactive"

Here we are at the end of an interesting run of a series that successfully resurrected itself from near death. Before my season 6 marathon I was dreading the final season until this one restored my faith in Bon Temps.  Anyway enough of this wanton praise let us discuss what actually happens in “Radioactive”.


To me the most controversial but necessary step was to turn Warlow back into a bad guy I think it was simple and weak choice it could have been done a little better but it was a fairly packed finale. Now for some reason Warlow being alive was providing the daylight resistance to all the vampires who fed from Bill with his death they revert to your normal run of the mill vampires. Let’s face it there was no way they were going to let the daylight thing run over to the new season.


Violet is a weird possessive girl but I like the dynamic between her and Jason, I wonder if he thinks he can change her because as we see she has a hell of a temper.


And then we have the time jump which was interesting in itself, 9 months is a good space of time and allowed for the interesting changes around Bon Temps such as Sam as Mayor, Violet moving in with Jason and finally Alcide and Sookie getting back together.


It seems the Hep V takes a lot longer to kill vampires when it is out in the wild so they have become quite a problem in Louisiana. The mayor and Bill who has become a bit of a celebrity after breaking the Hep V/Tru Blood story have come up with a plan for a vampire to protect a human on a one to one basis.



To that end the hold a mixture at what is now Arlene’s bar, things seem to be going well until dun dun dun, Bill and Alcide smell trouble and we see the zombie vampires attacking the party in force. This season has been a revelation and for me at least the season MVP has to be Sheriff Bellefleur, Chris Bauer definitely brought it home and helped make True Blood something other than a mess of sexy times and nonsensical plotting. I just hope things stay at this level next season.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

TV REVIEW: True Blood "Life Matters"

I know that penultimate episodes are usually action packed drag out battles but True Blood did something rather unique by setting the episode in two incredibly different settings Vamp Camp and Terry Belflour’s funeral. I will start by saying for me this is simply the best of the current season and perhaps of the series as a whole from my point of view.


Let me talk about the raid on Vamp Camp, gruesome action packed and actually in some points moved character development on which to be honest was a bit of a surprise. Personally I would have thought that they would be better prepared for a vampire attack after the whole escape thing but between it being the day and the fact it had to go that way I am willing to give it a pass.


Did Eric really have a plan? It seemed a little bit loose as he knew that there was a deadline for the death of Pam and Nora even if he didn't care about the others yet he seemed to be just strolling up and down the installation at least until he found and healed Jason, then things began to seem like they actually mattered. Also that little dialogue between the two blonde bombshells was good with Jason’s almost apology for being all crazy and racist for awhile and to be fair Eric seemed to be in a forgiving mood so that whole thing worked out.


How did Bill know where the Vamp Camp was? Hadn't this been something he had been trying to ascertain for most of the season with no luck? Anyway I feel for Bill being painted into a corner as a saviour and trying to do the right thing where mostly everyone else thinks he’s completely lost it. He tried to help Eric and Eric screwed him over royally, he goes to Sookie for help to rescue their friends in common and she shuts him down and doesn't even apologise for staking him.


The way this episode moves between the funeral and the vamp camp is amazing and poignant. The service itself was beautiful though I was amazed by how fast the turnaround was. The speeches and those new scenes where we got to see Terry and his struggles with PTSD. All the speeches except for Sookie’s which came across more than a little self-centered with her coming out and all.


Jason missed out on the funeral which was a shame but ultimately made sense as he had a lot less time with Terry and his confrontation with Sarah Newlin was powerful I had more than a moment when I thought he might actually pull the trigger and his speech shows that despite appearances he isn't just a dumb hunk.

I can’t properly put into words how well-crafted this episode was and the fact that this is my undisputed favourite episode of True Blood. I have admit to myself that this season has been a hell of a turnaround from the shenanigans of recent times.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

TV REVIEW: True Blood "Dead Meat"

True Blood
Season 6
Episode 8
Dead Meat

After this there are only two episodes left, to be honest I thought that I would have more questions. At the end of the season there is going to be a major death apparently now I take that to mean a death that would have someone staying dead and not being resurrecting through some weird hijinks. I don’t know who is going to die but trying to bait us into thinking Sookie is going to turn isn’t going to work with me. Still let’s get to what actually happened.


Jason is now in a committed relationship with Violet who is awesome because she seems to be a vampire who intimidates Pam, yeah I’ll give you a minute while you check to make sure you read that right. She is a really odd vampire and definitely not lacking in confidence she also seems pretty old so I hope she sticks around even if it seems to signify the end of any hope for Jason and Jessica.

Now that whole Bill and Eric scene to me just ending up with Eric bitching about things far beyond Bill’s control, yeah he is mourning but he was also just being a jackass he broke a deal and then went from jackass to that crazy revenge trip he went on with Russell.



Ah the Werewolf Pack I still really don’t care but it was nice to see Alcide half step up against Rikki the fight itself just made me feel uncomfortable so I’m glad it didn’t last that long. The fallout though was that Alcide left seemingly his positon and with Nicole and her mom and later returned them to Sam.

Terry’s life insurance scam and Arlene’s struggle with the Belflour Matriarch were actually far more interesting than I thought they would be I was always confused by Arlene and where the show wanted to take her given how much of a 180 she is from the books but I can say this season has been good. Also seeing Arlene’s friends around her is given the cast something to do and get their teeth into, Sheriff Andy’s speech about whether or not he should go after Terry’s killer was something special though I can’t blame him for Terry as it was Terry’s idea.



Sookie, oh Sookie I don’t even know what to write in here I just don’t get even half of her motivations to do the things she does or more accurately more moan about the circumstances to which she finds herself. Warlow wanting to turn her into a vampire yeah that sucks but his seemingly genuine declaration of love is a bad thing? Yeah a little over the top and teleporting into her bathroom speaks of boundary issues.

Bill puts things to her plainly enough your blood can save your friends but she sits there and second guesses him all this after pretty much begging Pam to turn Tara and her agreeing to, just seems that she forgets what others have done for her in the past. Then when she went to Sam and said that he was her safety husband I was like I’m sorry wut. That has got to be one of the most insulting things she could possibly say, I know Sam was mad but after that I would have been furious, it just shows how self-involved she is. Unfortunately given this is the second to last season it doesn’t seem like something that is likely to change.


Oh crazy Sarah Newlin, to be honest I don’t have a clue what is going on with this storyline but I guess the writers really wanted Anna Camp back after last season. Still without Anna we wouldn’t have Vamp Camp without her so I’m going to try and forgive her god inspired craziness.


Well I really do wonder what is going to happen next episode as most shows tend to go big penultimate and resolve some in the final. I am assuming Warlow is alive as that would be way to abrupt if Eric had actually just killed him.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

TV REVIEW: True Blood "In The Evening"

Season 6
Episode 7
In The Evening

Wow Jason that was a seriously gentlemanly thing to do and I feel kind of bad for him I don’t think he was expecting such a cool reaction from Jessica but even with that he still went out and did what she wanted. I like this Jason much funnier and easier to deal with than the weird Jason who sees racist visions of his parents (*cough* still not explained).


Poor Jessica though she really is in a very dark place and after her recent experiences and the fact that she is really young even by human standards I am amazed that she didn’t entirely fall apart. I’m not really sure what to make of the whole sex thing, in fact I actively do not wish to discuss so let’s move on.


So Nora isn’t looking too good and Willa is actually kind of growing on me, you got to step it up though I suppose if you spend all your scenes carrying a severed hand. We learn about Nora’s origins but bleh who cares about that – not me. Nora then died so we now know exactly how deadly Hep V would be should those bottles successfully ship out.


Arlene’s grieving breaks through to Sookie and she leaves Warlow in Faeville and helps out her friend, Arlene is falling to pieces and lashing out all over the place but we can see that the family has rallied around her. Bill strolling in like a boss was interesting to say the least, his words to Arlene were immaterial the real scene was the face down with Andy, a speech about his losses and Andy’s losses and the fact that they both have one daughter left… that was intense. Put simply I’m sorry Jessica killed your daughters but touch her and I’ll probably execute your entire family scary stuff but hey Andy just stood there in front of the Vampire strolling around in the daylight and only backed down because his girlfriend asked.


Things are getting interesting down in Bon Temps to say the least and I need to know what happens next.
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