Monday, December 19, 2011

REVIEW: How Genius Girl Saved My @$$ by Garry McNulty

How Genius Girl Saved My @$$How Genius Girl Saved My @$$ by Garry McNulty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book blurb pretty much sums up what the story is all about because the story was short — finished it in five minutes. The breakup between Ryan-from-the-future and Lana was absolutely hilarious. I only wish Ryan would learn from the experience and become a better person, because from start to finish Ryan was a jerk.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

REVIEW: The Apocalypse Gene by Suki Michelle &

The Apocalypse Gene The Apocalypse Gene by Suki Michelle &
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review

The Apocalypse Gene (TAG) is a work of speculative fiction. It's dystopian because the neighborhoods are community hospices where law-abiding citizens are either government-paid health caretakers or terminally ill patients. It's apocalyptic because there is an incurable plague and a looming future for the extinction of the human race. It's young adult because the main characters are teenagers. It's cyberpunk because the internet is a virtual reality world of its own. It's urban fantasy because there are angels and demons. It's science-fiction because those angels and demons are aliens from another planet. *wheeze — out of breathe* Give me a sec.

In short, TAG is a bunch of things.

TAG is told in 3rd POV, alternating between fifteen years old Olivya and seventeen years old Mikah.

The Characters

+++ Olivya

I didn't care for Olivya as a main character. I like smart-mouth kick-ass heroines, but Olivya wasn't one. Anything she said, I found immature. She knows martial art and sword art — enough to kick ass, but her ass were often kicked. She says she care about the terminally ill patients and hate for them to choose euthanasia, yet she labels them GAD — "A Good-As-Dead. A goner." — and gives them pet names like Half, Marigold, and Slim. There were alot of tellings about how Olivya care for these poor patients, but I never saw any defining scenes that shows this.

I also thought Olivya bordered on TSTL — Too Stupid To Live. Why? 1) She decides to met a boy whom she only met online without parental supervision, let alone permission. 2) She agrees to meet him in a place without people, at night, in an abandoned zoo where there are cages to make the perfect prison. 3) She chooses to walk through a place overrun with drug dealers and gangbangers to reach her destination — doesn't matter if that was the only route, she still should have known better.

Only two things that stop Olivya from being totally TSTL: she secretly took her cellphone back from her mother and carried pepper spray — although both proved to be useless in a fight scene later on. And the pepper spray was just kind of weak considering the ShivPack (what TAG called gangbangers) carried knives. Olivya was lucky they didn't carried guns.

Nevertheless, I couldn't keep thinking Olivya as a possible TSTL heroine. I know desperate times call for desperate measure, but I eye-rolled when Olivya decides to try to make a deal with Prime, a demon lord of some sort, to save her mother. And it was not like she was ignorant.
No longer exhausted, powered by adrenaline, she learned all she could cram into her head about demons, gods, and monsters. She searched the so-called Storied. Eventually, a pattern emerged. The religious stories and myths had something in common: You could make a deal with gods and demons, get them to do something beyond the power of mortals, like heal someone. Problem was, these deals never seemed to work out well, at least for the mortal.
Why would she think she would be the exception? I like how she did her research, but I did not like how she choose ignore the advice from the fruits of her research. Talk about reckless and impulsive. Even her holo-sim Ayvilo says so.

Olivya never seems to show any major character development, not enough for me to like her. Sure, she was courageous in the face of danger. But courage without wisdom is foolishness. This is not a character I can root for. =/

+++ Mikah

He was kinda emo, kinda whiny, and just overall meh. Sure, his life was harsh and lonely, but... eh. I didn't see anything impressive about him beside his good looks and telempathy power. But compared to Olivya, Mikah was an easier character to follow.

Mikah seems to have a sense of humor, I wished there were more instances of this.
[Mikah] “Would that be before or after you turn me into an emo-vamp?”
[Changarai] “Did you learn that ridiculous term from your new friend?”
[Mikah] “Um, new friend? Nah. I made it up. Emotion sucking vampire, you know?”
LOL! I love this.

+++ Avyilo and Hakim, the Holo-Sims

They were my least favorite characters, I wish they'd had died in those life-or-death scenes. Avyilo tried too hard to come off as sassy; she was just plain annoying. And Hakim... he was blandly stoic.

The familiars did played a significant role in the story, but near the end I didn't see any value in their continual survival.

+++ The Neo-Twins

They were definitely antagonist to Mikah, but their motive were confusing to me. One moment they were trying to control (or kill?) Mikah and takeover the Kindred clan, the next they're saving the world via Null Requiem which required them to self-sacrifice. I can't decide if the Neo-Twins were power-hungry villains or self-righteous nuts. I don't get them at all.

+++ Olivya's mother, "Mama"

She was my favorite character, her voice was the most distinctive whereas the other characters were not so (Changarai and Lylobriel sounded kinda the same). I like how when she says things, she means it. I like how she wasn't fool by Olivya and quickly discovered Olivya's illicit sneakout. I like how Mama didn't hesitate to inject Olivya with the Sat-Link chips — think GPS pet tracker. I just like how Mama was a no-nonsense character. And her scenes near the end, with her meeting Mikah for the first time, were very funny.

I like how the authors didn't bench Mrs. Wither-Ono as a side character, and that she continued to play a role all the way to the end. Too many YA books (at least the paranormal subgenre) often make the parents disappear into the background, especially when the stories revolves around them parents. It's kinda ironic since alot of the YA protagonists make their decisions based on their parents' influence, for good or bad. The parents should be there somewhere in the story. TAG didn't do that. No sireee and thank goodness. After all, it says so in the blurb, one of the main quests was to save Mrs. Wither-Ono.

Now if there was kick-ass heroine in this story, it was Mrs. Wither-Ono. Step aside, Olivya. Your mama is cooler.

The Jargon

There were way too many jargons for my liking and readability. Let's list them: Storied Siblings, Aether, Null Requiem, Holo-Sims, Doom Criers, GAD, Sanctorum Incunabula, Hypno-Peace, Zeroed, Telempathy, Cy-Chi, Xeraf'Yim, Pandymore, Exvolution, Aetherwahl, Aii'Vonn, Adversarii Body, Involute, Nagamaki, Indigs — there's more, but let's just leave as that.

A few of the jargons I get. GAD is acronym for Good As Dead. Holo-Sims is abbreviation for Holographic Simulation. Aether is non-elemental magic power. Telempathy is portmanteau for telepathy and empathy.

One I just got now. Cy-Chi is abbreviation for Cyber Chicago.

The other... I still don't get. What the frell is a Pandymore? O.o And is Indigs supposed to abbreviate for something? What is so special about the Sufferer of Perpetual Molt — the explanation at the end didn't make sense to me. =S

This was a major weakness of TAG, the abbreviations were never wrote out in their full unabbreviated form when these words were first introduced. The story placed too much trust on the reader's mind to get it instantly.

Moreover, the story played around too much on the namings. I think the story would have been alot better and definitely easier to read if TAG just stick with the commonly used words. Use Seraphim instead Xeraf'Yim, Heaven instead of Aii'Vonn, Adversary Body instead of Adversarii Body, Lucifer instead Lylobriel, Olivia instead of Olivya, grounded instead of Zeroed.

I believe there was nothing special added to the story by using jargons and alternative forms of name. If anything, this hindered my flow of reading and confused me. A glossary at the end of the book would have alleviated some of the confusion.

The Writing

The writing was decent. Some of it was choppy due to the overuse of jargons and weird names. Other times, it was choppy because — and I'm not 100% sure since I am not an English major — of the sentence structures. Not that the sentence structures were grammatically incorrect or anything, but it just didn't feel smooth-reading to me.

Except for one case, the spelling was perfect to me in my first reading of TAG. (That one case was "Horde what they don't want while others die for lack of those very things." on epub page 134. It should be hoard instead of horde.)

One part where I got lost in the story was when Lylobriel showed his flashbacks to Olivya explaining how the bad guys got their start on Olivya's world. There were too many angelic/alien names to follow. And it didn't helped that as a reader, I just personally dislike flashback as a storytelling method. They tend to be too long and disrupt the main action, IMO of course.

Things started to make sense to me when Mikah conversed with Changarai for the last time. It probably helped that I preferred Mikah's POV over Olivya's.

One thing TAG didn't disappoint me was the action. TAG was action-packed and this made up for the slow-pacing of Olivya's scenes. The ebook said in the author's bio that Carlyle was the main author for the fight scenes. Well, kudos to him, he did a good job. =)

The World-Building

TAG did a great job setting up the near-apocalyptic world, especially with the creepy community hospice thing. The only thing that confuses me were the angels and demons. If the angels/aliens were the good guys and the Kindred were the descendants of these angels/aliens, why did human history and mythology paint Kindred as demons?

I thought it was cool how TAG didn't use a black and white version of angels and demons, but I would have like more explanation on the Kindred. I didn't completely understand why they would look down on humans (or Indigs as TAG labeled them) yet would totally self-sacrifice their entire clan to save the world.

I also didn't understand why the gangbangers (AKA ShivPacks) didn't kill the cult followers (AKA Doom Criers) since the gangbangers seem to thrive on violence. Kinda of like how the Vikings would freely plunder and pillage women and villages because they thought Ragnarok (AKA Apocalypse) was inevitable and might as well live life however.

Not that the world in TAG was shallow — it wasn't — but there were some details that weren't explained or explained enough to my satisfaction.

The Kindle Edition Mishap or how Suki Saved the Day

On my Kindle edition, the cover-art image and the authors' photo at the end are broken. That is, those two pictures are not there where they should be.

I alerted Suki — one of the authors of TAG — to this and she very nicely gave me an epub for replacement. She had no obligation to do so, but she did it anyway. Shout-out to Suki! ^_^V

Also, the price was reduced to $2.99 — so yay!


I rate TAG 2-stars for it-was-okay. Even so, I wouldn't mind reading the sequel because the authors gave a strong impression to me that they are striving to improve. =) TAG was definitely original, no doubts about it.

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