In These Eyes: A Review of Vicarious by Paula Stokes

26114131Title: Vicarious (Vicarious #1)
Author: Paula Stokes
Genre: Science Fiction / Mysteru
Publisher: Tor
Publication Date:  August 16th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 336 Pages
Source: Personal Purchase

Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together, the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States. But they’ve escaped the past and started over in a new place where no one knows who they used to be.

Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities at the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you—for a price.

When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter is devastated. She won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the digital recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her life in the process.

“Clouds of steam blanket the mirror as the scalding water turns my hands pink. I close my eyes and count to ten. My flesh protests, But I lather for another ten seconds and then rinse. The pain washes away the memories”.

Everyone wants something. More specifically, everyone wants something else- a life, a lover, and experience they can’t or don’t have easily within their grasp. Winter Kim and her sister Rose help their employer and guardian Gideon provides those experiences. For the right price, anyone can bungee jump off a cliff, swim with sharks- or break into a multi-million dollar corporation and steal sensitive documents. Gideon is the creator of VISE, a virtual reality technology that lets people record their experiences so that others can enjoy them. The VISE tech records sensory input; taste, touch, smell, sound… all of this captured so that the person playing the recording feels every tiny detail exactly as the recorder felt it. Winter sticks to her assigned jobs, mostly those of the less than legal nature, while Rose often moonlights recording more tantalizingly- and in some ways more dangerous- erotic fair, such as switch parties and intense club scenes. When a recording of Rose’s death is delivered to Gideon, a recording that doesn’t quite add up to reality, Winter becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to her sister.

The hook for Vicarious promises a cyperpunk-esque murder mystery, and Tor’s video ad for the book only reinforces that impression. As a fan of both genres, I dropped Vicarious on my pre-order list the first time I came across it. It arrived just in time for me to take it along on a business trip, and it kept me engaged through multiple flight changes and layovers.

Vicarious almost disappointed me. I really was jonesing for a good cyberpunk story, and the tech elements were not as front and center as I expected. Yes, the VISE tech and Winter’s job as a recorder is central to the story, but at the same time, it wasn’t nearly so tech heavy as I was expecting. I was expecting something a bit more Johnny Mnemonic, or more reminiscent of the film Strange Days. While Vicarious’s plot certainly seems influenced by the latter, the VISE tech serves more as a vehicle for plot delivery and twists than as the driving force I expected.

However, I didn’t care. The book may not have delivered what I expected, but what it delivered instead was fantastic.

As we uncover more and more of the truth behind Rose’s murder, we also uncover more and more of the truth behind Winter. The author establishes from the beginning that Winter suffers from several mental conditions, the most significant of which PTSD brought about from their time spent as unwilling currency in the sex trafficking industry. Winter’s reality slowly unravels the longer she is without her sister, and the closer she gets to discovering the truth of what happened. I found myself completely engaged in Winter’s story and struggles. The murder, the corporate espionage, the blackmail threats- all of this was interesting and necessary, but they really served as catalysts to Winter’s development. She grows in a believable way throughout the book, and her struggles with her illness felt strikingly familiar.

Vicarious is not a story about a girl caught up in solving the mystery of her sister’s murder. Vicarious is a story about a girl struggling to maintain her control on her reality when everything she knows is falling down around her. It treats the difficult topics of PTSD, self-harm, and suicidal behaviors in a way that is believable, even within the story’s slightly futuristic framework. The twist at the end, well… let’s just say that it wasn’t the twist I was expecting.

Vicarious is the first of a duology, but was written to be a complete story in and of itself. If you’re looking for an engaging read that features a primarily PoC cast, with an alt reality future flair, I’d definitely pick up this one.

 

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Waiting on Wednesday: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

24909346Title: Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2)
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 18th, 2016

From Goodreads:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and theHypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

Why we are waiting:

Guys! I am such an Illuminae fan girl! I just cannot recommend that book enough. It is Space Opera at it’s finest. Now, I know that Gemina doesn’t follow the same main characters as Illuminae, but if it has the same unique formatting, I am positive that I can get past that.

This one has to be just as good, right?

 

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Waiting on Wednesday: Replica by Lauren Oliver

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Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

28448287Title: Replica (Replica #1)
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Sci – Fi / Dystopian
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: October 4th, 2016

From Goodreads:

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.

Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing , they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…

Continue reading “Waiting on Wednesday: Replica by Lauren Oliver”

Hyping a Hidden Gem: A Dicsussion of Lotus and Thorn by Sarah Wilson Etienne

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Welcome back! Tune in to the fourth episode of Shelfie, where Caitlin and Cynthia discuss book news, Sci-Fi, and Lotus and Thorn by Sarah Wilson Etienne!

WARNING: This is not a spoiler free review. If you haven’t read the book or hate spoilers you should check back with us once you have read Lotus and Thorn.

Thank you so much for tuning in!This book really is a hidden gem. It’s not getting nearly enough press. We really hope you’ll read it and enjoy it as much as we did! If you have already read Lotus and Thorn we would love to hear your opinions. Share them below in the comments! We love hearing what you thought! Even if you disagree.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the books mentioned in this episode!

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Stacking the Shelves: June 11th

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Stacking the shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews in which we talk about the books we’ve acquired (bought, received for review, borrowed from the library, etc.). Here’s what I’ve acquired in the past week:

Lets start with books I bought:

ladyjaneTitle: My Lady Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016

I am a sucker for Tudor Era Historical Fiction, and I have always found Lady Jane Grey fascinating. So, when I heard that this trio of ladies had written a humorous Alternate History about Lady Jane Grey, I was sold. I preordered it and it arrived right on time. I have also convinced Cynthia to give this one a chance. So, we will be talking about it on the next episode of Shelfie! That gives me two weeks to read it. I can manage that, right?

lotus2Title: Lotus and Thorn
Author: Sarah Wilson Etienne
Genre: Sci-fi / Dystopian
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016

Here is another June 7th release that excited us. We won’t be featuring it on our podcast until late in July. But, I am sure it will be an awesome read. There does seem to be some confusion about whether or not this is a Fantasy novel. Reviewers have noted that is is more sci-fi than fantasy, so if you do decide to pick it up (or tune into our discussion), remember that it’s Science Fiction. 😀 Nothing wrong with that, right?

StarQueenTitle: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: April 26th, 2016

I have been staring at The Star-Touched Queen since it came out. Every time I went into the book store I would pick it up, flip through it, and put it back. Until last weekend, when I finally took it home with me. The Reviews are a little polarizing. Some people love it where other hate it. Sarah J Maas is quoted on the cover. She calls it “dazzling”. I think that is what finally convinced me to buy it. I trust Ms. Maas. So, I’m am sure it’s fabulous!

Continue reading “Stacking the Shelves: June 11th”

Hybrid Genre Hype: A Review of Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

24397041Title: Hunter (Hunter #1)
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Genre: Fantasy / Dystopian / Sci-Fi
Publisher: Disney – Hyperion
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Kindle Edition: 384 Pages
Source: Netgalley

Centuries ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were slashed open allowing hideous fantastical monsters to wreak havoc; destroying entire cities in their wake. Now, people must live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the evil creatures constantly trying to break in. Only the corps of teen Hunters with lightning reflexes and magical abilities can protect the populace from the daily attacks.

Joyeaux Charmand is a mountain girl from a close knit village who comes to the big city to join the Hunters. Joy thinks she is only there to perform her civic duty and protect the capitol Cits, or civilians, but as cameras follow her every move, she soon learns that the more successful she is in her hunts, the more famous she becomes.

With millions of fans watching her on reality TV, Joy begins to realize that Apex is not all it seems. She is forced to question everything she grew up believing about the legendary Hunters and the very world she lives in. Soon she finds that her fame may be part of a deep conspiracy that threatens to upend the protective structure built to keep dark magic out. The monsters are getting in and it is up to Joy to find out why

“I see you, Hunter.” There it was, the traditional opening of a battle. But not a duel. Good, that meant I could cheat, and I intended to. 

I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into with this book. Having never read anything by Mercedes Lackey, I went to Goodreads to scope things out. I was disappointed by what I found. Most of the top reviewers didn’t even get a quarter of the way through this novel before they gave up. While that made me nervous, I found the synopsis intriguing enough to give it a shot. I am glad I did.

Continue reading “Hybrid Genre Hype: A Review of Hunter by Mercedes Lackey”

Stunning Space Opera: A Review of Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

illuminaecoverTitle: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Publication Date: October 20th, 2015
Hardback: 599 Pages
Source: Gift

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

“The universe owes you nothing, Kady. It has already given you everything, after all. It was here long before you, and it will go on long after you. The only way it will remember you is to do something worth remembrance.”

Five years ago a friend loaned me a copy of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I got a quarter of the way into the 700 page tome and decided it just wasn’t for me. I absolutely hated the non-traditional formatting the author used to tell his story. I considered taking scissors to the book in order to “correct” it a handful of times before I finally called it quits. I promised myself that I was done with “unique” formatting. My OCD simply couldn’t handle it.

I stuck with that promise until Christmas, when I asked for Illuminae. I couldn’t help it. I knew going in that the formatting was going to be interesting. I knew that I would probably hate it. The reviews were just too good to ignore. Plus, I can’t get enough space opera. So, I broke my promise and I read it. It took me a grand total of three days to blow through all 599 pages.

Guess what? I didn’t reach for my scissors once.

Continue reading “Stunning Space Opera: A Review of Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff”