Book Review: DECEPTION, a continuation of the Dark Matter Trilogy

Happy publication day to Deception by Teri Terry, Book Two in the riveting Dark Matter Trilogy!

Shay, believing herself a carrier of the deadly Aberdeen Flu, flees her boyfriend, Kai, in the night to turn herself in. She’s imprisoned with a group of other survivors under the management of physicist Dr. Alex Cross, Kai’s hated stepfather.

Although angry Shay abandoned him, Kai can think of nothing but finding her. However, with no leads, he decides to find Freja Eriksen in London—a mysterious woman who has been posting videos disputing that survivors are contagious. Callie, Kai’s “cured” sister who can only be seen by survivors, follows him.

Meanwhile, as the epidemic spreads across the UK, jumping quarantine lines, a cure seems ever more elusive.

Deception expands the cast of characters from the first novel in the Dark Matter Trilogy, Contagion, and explains more about the mechanisms of the Aberdeen Flu as well as the surprising powers of the survivors.

With Freja, Shay and Kai enter a love triangle made complicated by distance and distrust as well as the survivors’ new capabilities. Dr. Cross’s motivations remain suspicious—and while Shay is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, Kai is certain he is a malevolent force. At the same time, Callie must confront uncomfortable truths about her situation.

Written for a young adult audience, this trilogy offers an entertaining series that engages questions of identity, difference, and power. Deception is a satisfying continuation, and I look forward to the final volume, Evolution.

Thank you to NetGalley and Charlesbridge Teen for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: LITTLE PEOPLE, BIG DREAMS – MARY SHELLEY

Books in the Little People, BIG DREAMS! series never fail to impress me with their accessible storylines and delightful illustrations, especially when featuring historic women scientists, artists, and writers. Mary Shelley does not disappoint.

Born in 1797, to philosopher and political writer William Godwin and famed feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley became the writer of what might be the most famous horror novel of all time: Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. From dealing with her childhood struggles through her ample imagination to her scandalous affair with married Percy Bysshe Shelley, whom she later wed, Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara’s text presents appropriate, relevant, and interesting language for readers aged five to eight paired with illustrations that capture the mood and time of the era. The book closes with a more in-depth biography for older or adult readers.

If I could change anything about the book, I would want more information about what Shelley did after writing Frankenstein, though I understand why her early life and the book itself is the biography’s key focus.

Mary Shelley celebrates the power of imagination and illustrates the powerful and ongoing effects of literature and presents a wonderful role model for imaginative children!

Thanks to NetGalley and Frances Lincoln Childrens Publishing for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: THE LAST ONE, a blurred line between reality and reality television

I read The Last One by Alexandra Olivia about two years ago, and I still think about it, so it seemed a perfect book to share for #throwbookthursday.

One of twelve contestants in a reality game show, Zoo navigates checkpoints in a remote wilderness area. But as she completes the challenges marked with her assigned color, she encounters widespread devastation that she forces herself to believe is constructed as obstacles to the contestants. The alternative would be unbearable.

Early in the The Last One, the nearsighted Zoo loses her glasses, and after that, her vision betrays her as much as her reality. As someone who is extremely blind without glasses or contacts, the idea of navigating a challenging wilderness without sight is harrowing!

I thoroughly enjoyed the world created by Alexandra Olivia and the questions it raised about loyalty, obedience, the role of the media (and reality television) as well as the challenges and necessity of perseverance in the face of mounting despair.

Book Review: FISHNET, exploring the world of sex work in the context of a missing persons case

Fishnet
Kirstin Innes

Happy U.S. Publication Day to Fishnet!

Six years ago, Fiona’s independent, younger sister, Rona, unexpectedly called for help. Fiona welcomed her into her apartment, pleased Rona finally needed her. But, the next morning Rona was gone. Fiona and her parents haven’t heard from her since.

Now, Fiona is an underemployed single mother who lives in a flat above her parents. For the first time, Fiona receives new information about Rona: she learns that before Rona disappeared, she was working as a prostitute. At the same time, the building occupied by Sanctuary Base, a haven for sex workers in the city center, has been acquired by the Jackson Group, and they’ve contracted with Fiona’s company to help with development.

Fiona takes the opportunity to search anew for Rona, but as she dives into the work of sex work, her assumptions about the women and the industry are upended. Rather than victims without choice, she finds an organized group of determined, ambitious, and intelligent women who decided to become sex workers rather than pursue other careers. At the same time, others insist that prostitution degrades women and lobby for stricter laws. (Set in Scotland, the laws around prostitution are different than in the U.S.) As Fiona is seduced by the allure and glamour—and steeliness of the women she meets, she dissociates from her work, her family, and even her daughter.

While Fiona may initially focus on the alluring aspects of sex work, Fishnet provides a wider view. Although ultimately the novel comes down to giving women choice over how to use their bodies, it does acknowledge that sex work can be risky and that women are stronger when they work together. In addition to providing Fiona’s perspective, the book includes excerpts from fictional blogs and ads written by sex workers which I thought added to the narrative. At times, it sounded slightly didactic, but I think that is because so many readers will come to the book anti-prostitution, and Innes wants to challenge that position.

Beyond presenting the question of sex work, the novel addresses Fiona’s malaise, and Innes’s descriptions of her office life are amusing. Additionally, the structure is unusual and surprising, so the reading is never boring, though how could it be with a subject like this!?

Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery/Scout Press (a division of Simon & Schuster) for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: LITTLE VOICES, Devon tries to exonerate her friend, accused of murder – who will get her first? Her enemies or the little voices?

Lillie, Vanessa - Little Voices (1)Little Voices
Vanessa Lillie

Three months early, in September, Devon Burges goes into labor and is rushed into an emergency C-section. As the anesthesia pulls her under, she hears a report on the radio: Belina Cabrala was found murdered at Swan Point Cemetery. Belina, her close friend as well as the nanny for Emmett, son of Alec, one of her college classmates.

In December, Devon begins venturing outside the house with her premie, Ester. Alec is one of the first people she sees, and he divulges that the police are treating him as their primary suspect in Belina’s death. He begs Devon, a lawyer, to help him prove his innocence.

Not only does Devon believe Alec, she is driven by a compulsive need to find justice for Belina. Though still physically and emotionally fragile, she begins an investigation parallel to that of the police. However, in the throes of postpartum depression, Devon begins hearing voices—cruel, hateful pronouncements that seem to be rooted in childhood trauma.

Nevertheless, Devon doggedly pursues the killer’s trail, following it through Belina’s passionate affairs and illicit business dealings. She uncovers secrets of powerful individuals, and it’s unclear whether her voices or her enemies are most dangerous—and if she or Ester will pay the price for her persistence.

Little Voices offers an interesting protagonist: a strong, intelligent, yet flawed and vulnerable woman who takes on a male-dominated environment to seek justice for her friends. Even when Devon’s internal voices were eating her away, she projects self-confidence and power. The book had a wide roster of supporting characters, including siblings Cynthia, an astute businesswoman and Philip, a reporter, and Derek, Devon’s animal-loving, addict brother. Her husband, Jack, was both a calming force and a foil, and Jack’s Uncle Cal provided access to the city’s upper echelons. I wish Derek and Jack had been more developed; Derek was one of my favorite characters.

For me, the voices sometimes were so frequent, they were distracting to the narrative. While I suppose that’s a good approximation of Devon’s experience, it doesn’t always make for pleasant reading. Additionally, I thought the pace and the delivery of crucial backstory was a little awkward.

Still, this is a promising mystery debut by Vanessa Lillie, and I’m especially excited that like me she is from Oklahoma! I look forward to her future novels.

Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.