May 30th, 2010


#50 Skinned by Robin Wasserman

Lia Kahn lives the perfect life. She's beautiful, smart, rich, athletic and worshiped by all of her peers. Then the accident happens, completely destroying her fragile human body. Her parents decide to keep her alive by downloading her consciousness into a mechanical body. When Lia wakes up, she is horrified at what she has become. Upon arriving at home, she finds that her family, friends, and boyfriend struggle to accept her new “skinner” body. Her perfect life has been decimated, and Lia must determine what her new existence will entail. Will she chose to spend her time with the outsider Auden, or the strange group of skinners who have rejected the idea of being human?

Skinned is a young adult science fiction novel, and the first book in a trilogy. I finally decided to pick it up when I heard a podcast featuring the author, Robin Wasserman. I could not help but be fascinated by the story. Admittedly many aspects of the plot are similar to Mary E.Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox although the book itself is a different beast. Lia's story is far grimmer, and the ending much more depressing. Lia herself probably would have been the type of person I would have silently despised in high school. She's beautiful, popular, and often rather cruel. Still, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her as she descends from grace because of her mechanical body. The cruelty that she suffers at the hands of her former friends and peers was a little surprising to me. In a way, I could understand why they rejected her. After all, to them Lia was no longer their friend, but a monster that walked and talked like her in a mechanical body. Still, I couldn't imagine treating another human being the way they did, even if there was some sort of doubt on the person's humanness. Although Lia wasn't always the most likable protagonist, I felt as if she reacted in a way that most people would, given her unique situation, and that I could not dislike her as a result.

Skinned is an unpredictable book that's not afraid to venture into some uncomfortable territory. From the beginning chapters, when Lia is learning how to walk and talk again, to the final pages, the book is not afraid to emphasize just how not human Lia herself has become. While reading the book, I could not help but ask myself if Lia was really Lia anymore. Did they truly transport her consciousness into a mechanical form? Was she merely a copy of the original Lia? Did being a machine mean that she couldn't be human, even if she felt human? The vision Wasserman creates of the future is also quite grim, taking many things that we worry about now and pushing them to extremes. It paints a future where museums, libraries, and any outside entertainment centers have been truly replaced by the internet. Where the divide between the rich and the poor is so extreme that the poor are isolated in large improvised cities, while the rich have everything they could want at their fingertips, from digital concerts to customizable babies. Where religious war caused many people to give up on God, save for the crazies (although I found it interesting that even though lack of faith was supposedly the norm, so many people still question whether their could be a God).

I think it's safe to say that my expectations were completely blown out of the water by Skinned. It's a fascinating sci-fi book that reads very fast and is filled with twists and turns. Looks like I'll be picking up the next book in the series, Crashed, the next time I hit the library.

Rating: five stars
Length: 361 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
Challenge: This book is part of the 2010 Support York Local Library Reading Challenge, and the 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge
Similar Books: The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson (my review), and The Uglies Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld (especially the second book, Pretties (my review))
Other books I've read by this author: This is my first

xposted to temporaryworlds , bookish , and goodreads
  • quippe

Mortlock by Jon Mayhew

The Blurb On The Back:

Every now and then, a gentle scratching made Josie flinch and pull the bedclothes closer around her.

‘I can come in whenever I want to,’ the noise seemed to gloat. ‘You may think you’re safe, but I can come in. Whenever I want.

Josie is a knife thrower in a magician’s stage act.

Alfie is an undertaker’s assistant.

They are both orphans and they have never met, but they are about to be given a clue to the secret of their shared past.

A past which has come to seek them out.

And while they flee for their lives, they must unravel the burning mysteries surrounding the legacy that threatens to consume them.

Morsel by morsel.

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The Verdict:

A dark, thrilling historical fantasy this story has a likeable and resourceful hero and heroine, plenty of magic and some great set-pieces. It is a dark story and the Aunts (while my favourite characters) may be a little too dark for younger readers although I thought that it was a great read and a lot of fun.

I am giving away a signed copy of MORTLOCK on my LJ here for anyone who is interested in checking it out.

Cross-posted to fantasywithbite, kiddie_lit and middlebooks.
  • quippe

Vicious Circle by Mike Carey

The Blurb On The Back:

Felix Castor knows how to deal with the dead. It’s the living who piss him off ...

Castor has reluctantly returned to exorcism after the case of the Bonnington Archive ghost convinced him that he really can do some good with his abilities (“good”, of course, being a relative term when dealing with the undead). But his friend, Rafi, is still possessed; the succubus, Ajulutsikael (Juliet to her friends), still technically has a contract on him, and he’s still – let’s not beat around the bush – dirt poor.

Doing some consulting for the local constabulary helps pay the bills, but Castor needs a big, private job to really fill the hole in his overdraft. That’s what he needs. What he gets, good fortune and Castor not being on speaking terms, is a seemingly insignificant ‘missing ghost’ case that inexorably drags himself and his loved ones into the middle of a horrific plot to raise one of Hell’s fiercest demons.

And when Satanists, sacrifice farms, stolen spirits and possessed churches all appear on the same police report, the name of Felix Castor can’t be too far behind ...

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The Verdict:

A brilliant sequel to THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, this is a complex story with multiple plot strands that come together in a breathtaking finale that leaves a great set-up for the next book. Carey is an incredible writer and this is urban fantasy at its very best.

Cross-posted to books, bookworming, fantasywithbite and urbanfantasyfan.
  • quippe

Crawlers by Sam Enthoven

The Blurb On The Back:

Four boys and four girls are on a trip to the theatre.

Little do they know that they will never see the play.

They’re about to be plunged into a nightmare.

Beneath the theatre lies a secret.

And now she has been released ...

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The Verdict:

This is a fast-paced YA horror novel with plenty of chills and frights and which makes great use of the dynamics between the teens in trouble. I wasn’t struck on the ending, which felt like a cop-out given everything that happened before, but it’s still worth a look – especially if you’re interested in horror as there are plenty of nods to some horror greats.

Cross-posted to cool_teen_reads and yalitlovers.
Kitty: Angry Calico

Robson, Justina: Natural History

Natural History (2003)
Written by: Justina Robson
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 325 (Trade Paperback)

The premise: ganked from IMAGINE A WORLD... 
Half-human, half-machine, Voyager Isol was as beautiful as a coiled scorpion–and just as dangerous. Her claim that she’d found a distant but habitable earthlike planet was welcome news to the rest of the Forged. But it could mean the end of what was left of the humanity who’d created and once enslaved them.

It was on behalf of the “unevolved” humans that Professor Zephyr Duquesne, cultural archaeologist and historian of Earth’s lost worlds, was chosen by the Gaiasol military authority to uncover the truth about this second “earth.” And her voyage, traveling inside the body of Isol, will take her to the center of a storm exploding across a spectrum of space and time, dimension and consciousness. 

On an abandoned planet, in a wrinkle of time, Isol and Zephyr will find a gift and a curse: a power so vast that once unlocked, it will change the universe forever. With civil war looming, Zephyr’s perilous journey will lead her to a past where one civilization mysteriously vanished...and another may soon follow.

My Rating

Worth the Cash: but ONLY to the more experienced science fiction reader. Rosbon's Natural History, despite being something of a space opera and something of a first contact story, is actually quite hard SF when you look at all the jargon. Oh, it's poetic jargon, no doubt, but the nature of the book is such that unless you're USED to reading harder, more technical SF, then this may not be the book for you, and it's certainly not the first Robson book you should try (for your first Robson, unless you're SUPER HEAVY into SF, I'd recommend Mappa Mundi or Keeping It Real). The book itself is good. It picked up, for me, in the middle and started moving in interesting intellectual directions, and it's the kind of book that, while not engaging me on an emotional level in regards to the characters, engaged me so on an intellectual level that I kind of want to read it again. Hell, I want to give the sequel another shot, now that I've read this. That'll be a future project, to read the two back-to-back, but as it stands, it's a good book, but rather difficult to get into. SF novices/light SF readers should start elsewhere in her collection.

Review style: I know for a fact that some of you had some difficulties with this book, so let's sit down and talk about the pluses, the minuses, and how all of it adds up on the end. I want to talk about some pop culture influences I see in the book, as well as its themes of slavery, individualism versus community, and what the price of change and evolution really means. Spoilers? Yes. But this may be a book you want to be spoiled for, and I don't mean that in a bad way. Sometimes it helps to know where a book is going so that you have a focus when you start, you know? At any rate, unless you're trying to avoid spoilers at all costs, you're welcome to click the link below for the full review at my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome! :)


Happy Reading!

DON'T MISS OUT: Here's your chance to win a Corine Solomon novel from Ann Aguirre, and you get to pick either the first book, Blue Diablo or the second book, Hell Fire, and it's open to anywhere the Book Depository ships. Interested? Click here.


Book club selections @ calico_reaction. Hop on over! We'd love to have you!

May: Natural History by Justina Robson
June: Sunshine by Robin McKinley
July: Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff

The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman

The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman.  Illustrated by John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, and Paul Johnson.
    There is a whole other series based on this stand-alone.  I want to say that first.  And this is a graphic novel.  Having said those two things let me just say this book is awesome.  The story line is pure Gaiman and the art work is incredible.  The book is about Tim Hunter, a twelve-year-old boy who must choose his path whether it will be magic or science.  Four people take him on a journey (one to the past, one to the future, one to fairyland, and one in the present.  Different artists have an impact on the story they draw.  I can see how this book would be a jumping point for the series (9 books) but this one was written by Gaiman and the series wasn't.  And this is definitely a stand-alone (although the ending leaves you wanting more).  If you like graphic novels/comics like I do then is definitely for you.  Or if you are a Neil Gaiman fan this book is for you.  Actually if you like a good story you should probably pick this up or borrow it or get an interlibrary loan.  I give it a 5 out of 5.
     And right now I'm halfway through 'Y: The Last Man' and on the third book of 'The House of Mystery' series.  Good reading everyone.

Katherine of Aragon

Coraline by Neil Gaiman


Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Rating: 4/5
Pages: 162
Genre: Children's Literature

Summary (Off Goodreads):   Coraline lives with her preoccupied parents in part of a huge old house--a house so huge that other people live in it, too... round, old former actresses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible and their aging Highland terriers ("We trod the boards, luvvy") and the mustachioed old man under the roof ("'The reason you cannot see the mouse circus,' said the man upstairs, 'is that the mice are not yet ready and rehearsed.'") Coraline contents herself for weeks with exploring the vast garden and grounds. But with a little rain she becomes bored--so bored that she begins to count everything blue (153), the windows (21), and the doors (14). And it is the 14th door that--sometimes blocked with a wall of bricks--opens up for Coraline into an entirely alternate universe.

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Books so far this year: 25/75
Currently reading: The Naming by Alison Croggon
You can read this review and all others at im_writing  and my Goodreads account.

Dawn of the Dreadfuls

Title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
Author: Steve Hockensmith
Rating: 4/5 stars

The Bennets are back in this prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The story begins with Mr. Ford, a neighbor, crashing his own funeral. Right away, Mr. Bennet has the girls face the zombie, but there is one problem: he had not trained them to be warriors as he had once sworn. Seeing that the plague has once again returned, he takes it upon himself to train his daughters. He is soon met with Geoffrey Hawksworth, their new Master in the deadly arts. Hawksworth seems to have his eyes set on Elizabeth, while Jane is being chased after by the selfish local baron, Lord Lumpley. Along the way, Elizabeth meets the quirky Dr. Keckilpenny, who is interested in studying the zombies and possibly turning them back into humans. Meanwhile, the townspeople shun the Bennet girls, as slaying unmentionables is not the proper thing to do, much to the dismay of Mrs. Bennet and the girls as well.

I found the book to be more enjoyable than P&P&Z. I was very much distracted by the mixture of Austen's words with Grahame-Smith's and found myself wanting to reread Pride and Prejudice. Since that mash-up does not exist in this book, I was able to read it much faster and without over-thinking the plot. Dawn of the Dreadfuls does a good job in showing how Elizabeth in particular formed her opinion of men, as this book takes place around the time that she was to have her coming out into society. Dr. Keckilpenny is quite the delightful mad scientist, creating theories and experiments that have the potential to get himself killed. The characters stay true to their personalities. Lydia and Kitty somehow manage to kill the zombies and gossip at the same time. Jane believes that Lord Lumpley is nice and has no evil intentions.

My one complaint about this is that Master Liu does not train the girls. He is mentioned in passing, but given the part that he played in Elizabeth's thoughts in P&P&Z, I was really hoping that he would appear in Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Given Master Liu's harshness in Elizabeth's mind, however, the book probably would have had more cringe-worthy moments.