This Mortal Coil (Emily Suvada)

This Mortal Coil (Emily Suvada)This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
Published by Penguin Books Ltd on November 2nd 2017
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
Goodreads

When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta's death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world's leading geneticist, and humanity's best hope of beating a devastating virus. Then, hidden beneath Cole's genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope: Lachlan created a vaccine.

Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world's genetic tech. But it's too late to turn back.

There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★
Readability: ★★★★★

I expected to love This Mortal Coil – science, basically zombies, end-of-the world? These are serious buzz words for me!

Good things first: This Mortal Coil was immensely readable.  It’s more than 400 pages long, and yet despite that I flew through it in three days, squeezing it into every spare moment around work.  The story is full of twists and turns that made sure I didn’t want to put it down. The science is great – it reminded me of The Martian, in that both books give you actual science and just expect you to keep up, which I absolutely loved.  Cat’s smart, and feisty, and likeable. The world is genuinely interesting, and believable, and complex.

Onto the less good: for a book with so many twists and turns, I thought the ending was predictable. I felt a bit like the overall story was very predictable, and so Suvada had deliberately tried to make the story more convoluted and unexpected to try and distract from that – while that made it an addictive read, some of the twists also felt a bit like unecessary diversions, and the book could easily have been a fair amount shorter.  There’s a love triangle which wasn’t my favourite thing, but it wasn’t overwhelming or too angsty so it definitely wasn’t a dealbreaker.

This book definitely seems to be polarizing: most of the reviews I’ve read have either been adoring or hating, with not much in the middle. For me, despite the flaws, it was an interesting read and I’m certainly intrigued to see where the rest of the series goes if I can borrow a copy, but I won’t be rushing out to buy one.

One StarOne StarOne Star

Review: Encounters

Review: EncountersEncounters by Jason Wallace
Published by Andersen Press on May 4th 2017
Genres: Children's, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: Hardback
Source: Borrowed
Goodreads

Zimbabwe, 1994. A group of children spot peculiar lights in the sky over the grounds of their school. From this moment on, six young people's lives are changed forever. Gary hides the anguish he feels now his mum's left, acting out in fury and hatred. Chloe has no words for the thing she fears most every day. Karl is the headmaster's son, now fallen from grace. Tendai knows he can never live up to his grieving father's ideals. And Sixpence watches all, knowing he'll never be like these other children. All of them have seen something they can't explain.In amongst these tangled, tortured lives, comes a group of psychologists to verify the spookily similar claims of every witness. Their daughter, Holly, can tell there's more to it than aliens or mass hysteria – can she reveal the dark truths that haunt them?Inspired by true accounts, this is the long-awaited new novel from Costa-award-winner Jason Wallace.

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★
Readability: ★★

I had really high expectations for Encounters – aliens or mass hysteria? Zimbabwe? Multiple points of view, from different kids with a connection?  Honestly, Encounters sounded like something I should have loved, but it just didn’t work for me at all.

The writing style feels very young, more like 9-12 than teen, but in terms of content, it’s definitely older.  It’s an emotionally complex story filled with shades of grey, and characters who aren’t good, or bad, or necessarily even likable, just people in difficult circumstances making the decisions they think they have to. The early chapters are littered with racist, homophobic and otherwise offensive comments from a particular character.  The very-mature content along with the childish writing style felt like an awkward juxtaposition, and it made it hard for me to connect with the story from the very beginning.

Ultimately, the synopsis for the book and the story itself just didn’t match up for me at all, and if I’d known what sort of book I was picking up, I probably wouldn’t have bothered, because it’s not my kind of story.  The sci-fi elements are almost non-existent. This isn’t a book about aliens, or even mass hysteria – it’s a book about kids.  If you want a gritty, emotionally-intense story about kids who have problems at home, or at school, or emotionally, you’ll probably enjoy this. If you like ambigious stories, you’ll probably like this.  If you’re looking for a sci-fi read though, this isn’t it.

One Star

Review: A Street Cat Named Bob

Review: A Street Cat Named BobA Street Cat Named Bob: How One Man and His Cat Found Hope on the Streets by James Bowen
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on March 1st 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Social Issues
Pages: 279
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
Goodreads

The moving, uplifting true story of an unlikely friendship between a man on the streets and the ginger cat who adopts him and helps him heal his life.

In 2017, I joined a book club.  It’s a pretty tiny club, but just like all book clubs, the whole idea is that we take turns choosing books, read them and then discuss them.  A Street Cat Named Bob was our book club choice for January, and although not something I would normally pick up, I decided to give it a chance.

James Bowen is a recovering drug addict who is trying to get his life together when he comes across Bob, an injured and apparently stray cat.  He takes Bob in for a little while while his injuries heal, but to his surprise, Bob seems to have no desire to leave, and soon the two are pretty much inseparable.

To be honest, I don’t feel like there’s a huge amount I can say about A Street Cat Named Bob.  I got pretty much exactly what I expected.  The story is touching, and life-affirming, and if you’re an animal-lover, it’s impossible not to be charmed by Bob.  It’s great to see James’ perspective of life on the streets and trying to get things back on track, as well as the hurdles he has to overcome in order to do so.  The writing isn’t great, but it didn’t bother me to the same extent as a lot of other reviewers.  It’s a very quick, simple read that only took me a couple of hours, and while I enjoyed it, there were definitely moments that grated.  A lot of Ellie’s review resonated with me.  I felt like James was trying really hard throughout the book to break prejudices and assumptions about homeless people, Big Issue sellers and those recovering from drug problems, and that he made quite a few comments determined to prove his own good nature, but then had his own prejudices and judgements against others.  For example…

By far the most annoying people to work the streets around me, however, were the bucket rattlers: the charity workers who would turn up with large plastic buckets collecting for the latest cause.  Again, I sympathised with a lot of the things for which they were trying to raise money […] they were all great worthwhile charities. But if the stories I had heard about how much of the money disappeared into the pocket of some of these bucket shakers were true, I didn’t have much sympathy.

In all honesty, it’s a lovely, touching, uplifting story, and of course all the Bob moments are great, but I wonder if perhaps I would have enjoyed the film more.

One StarOne Star