Catching Up: 4 Mini-Reviews

A fair few books I read last year went unreviewed for a variety of reasons. Here’s a catch-up post of four very different books.

Crux by Ramez Naam
Six months have passed since the release of Nexus 5. The world is a different, more dangerous place. In the United States, the terrorists – or freedom fighters – of the Post-Human Liberation Front use Nexus to turn men and women into human time bombs aimed at the President and his allies. In Washington DC, a government scientist, secretly addicted to Nexus, uncovers more than he wants to know about the forces behind the assassinations, and finds himself in a maze with no way out. The first blows in the war between human and post-human have been struck. The world will never be the same.

Crux is the second book in the Nexus series, which I also read, enjoyed and reviewed. In Crux, Nexus (the mind-altering drug) is out in the world and people are making varied uses of it. Some are forging beautiful new connections, whilst others are bending strangers to their will in sinister and downright criminal ways. The authorities want to clamp down and control the drug; their methods are fearful indeed.

Kade and Samantha are still main characters in this book, but are joined by Ling, Su-Yong Shu’s daughter. She is fiercely protective of Kade, and desperate to find her mother despite her corporeal death. The Post-Human Liberation Front, a terrorist group, adds extra urgency to the plot. The pace is swift and the technology is scary, especially if you read Naam’s science notes at the end of the book. I loved how alliances shifted as the world changed, making it harder than ever to know whom to trust.


The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond
The Woken Gods
The more things change – Ten years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke all around the world. The more things stay the same – This morning, seventeen-year-old Kyra Locke was late for school. But that’s not out of the ordinary in a transformed Washington, D.C., dominated by the embassies of divine pantheons and watched over by the mysterious Society of the Sun that governs mankind’s relations with the gods. What is unusual is Kyra’s encounter with two trickster gods on her way home, one offering a threat, and the other a warning. Kyra escapes with the aid of young operatives from the Society, who inform her that her scholarly father has disappeared from its headquarters at the Library of Congress and taken a dangerous Egyptian relic with him. The Society needs the item back, and they aren’t interested in Kyra’s protests that she knows nothing about it. Now Kyra must depend on her wits and the help of everyone from a paranoid ex-boyfriend to scary Sumerian gods to operatives whose allegiance is first and always to the Society. She has no choice if she’s going to clear her father’s name and recover the missing relic before the impending summer solstice. What’s at stake? Just the end of the world as Kyra knows it.

The Woken Gods is fun adventure, which is a bit of strange thing to say considering the end of the world might be nigh! We’re thrown into a world where the gods have fallen to Earth with a bump. Trapped and vulnerable, the seven Trickster gods manage relationships between humans and immortals from their impressive strongholds. I loved the descriptions of the seven houses – Hermes House flanked with white columns, Legba House set in a sacred grove, Loki House shrouded in night.
Change, and not for the better, is in the air. Caught in the middle of the coming storm is Kyra Locke. She’s about to learn some stunning truths about her family, putting her in great danger. Kyra’s pretty cool, and so are her best friends. Knowing who can be trusted is the key to survival, but sifting truth from lies is near impossible with seven Tricksters as well as slippery humans to deal with.

I had a good time reading this one. The gods and their entourages are great, and the devious plotting revealed behind all the chaos is worth the wait.

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler
The Bookstore
Love doesn’t always go by the book Ardent and Idealistic, Esme Garland has arrived in Manhattan with a scholarship to study art history at Columbia University. When she falls in love with New York blue-blood Mitchell van Leuven, with his penchant for all things erotic, life seems to be clear sailing, until a thin blue line signals stormy times ahead. Before she has a chance to tell Mitchell about her pregnancy, he abruptly declares their sex life is as exciting as a cup of tea, and ends it all. Stubbornly determined to master everything from Degas to diapers, Esme starts work at a small West Side bookstore to make ends meet. The Owl is a shabby all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters, such as handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke and George, the owner, who lives on spirulina shakes and idealism. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme-but will it be enough to sustain her when Mitchell, glittering with charm and danger, comes back on the scene?

This is a transatlantic romance that at times charmed me and at others irritated me greatly. Esme Garland is a young Englishwoman in New York, studying for an Art History PhD at Columbia University. Her refuge from major culture shock is The Owl bookstore, a bibliophile’s paradise with a cast of eccentric staff. Her problem is her relationship with the hideous Mitchell van Leuven, 33-year-old self-centred man-child who blows hot and cold even before Esme falls pregnant.
The bookshop is a wonderful place, as much safe haven for life’s misfits as store. Esme is at home there; I wish she’d spent more time there rather than with Mitchell van Useless. Esme has an artless, naïve quality that on occasion made me wonder how she managed to get on a plane and travel halfway across the world. What drove me mad though was her determination to cling onto an illusion of love with Mitchell when all he does is behave like a brat. The problem is, I think, I have known too many amazing women do something very similar!

Enjoyable and infuriating.

The Name on Your Wrist by Helen Hiorns
The Name on Your Wrist
It’s the first thing they teach you when you start school. But they don’t need to; your parents tell you when you’re first learning how to say your name. It’s drummed into you whilst you’re taking your first stumbling steps. It’s your lullaby. From the moment it first appears, you don’t tell anyone the name on your wrist. In Corin’s world, your carpinomen – the name of your soul mate, marked indelibly on your wrist from the age of two or three – is everything. It’s your most preciously guarded secret; a piece of knowledge that can give another person ultimate power over you. People spend years, even decades, searching for the one they’re supposed to be with. But what if you never find that person? Or you do, but you just don’t love them? What if you fall for someone else – someone other than the name on your wrist? And what if – like Corin – the last thing in the world you want is to be found? 

I enjoyed the beginning of The Name on Your Wrist  in particular. Corin’s obviously struggling with life; her statements that she likes bodies but not people felt very real and direct. In a society where individuals are soul-bonded, their future partner’s name appears on their wrist in infancy, what room is there for freedom of choice? This destiny stuff bothers Corin, and her efforts to find out whether there really is ‘one true love’ has the potential to explode her own future happiness.
Although it didn’t set my world alight I did like this story. Corin’s family is interesting, and I was intrigued by the situation. I’m not sure I was totally convinced by the underlying structure of the society, but I was more taken with the rebellions against it. A decent chunk of story is packed into a fairly short read. I’d keep my eye out for the author because this is a promising debut from a young writer.

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