Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother

 

Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: “M1k3y” will take down the DHS himself.


 

I started reading this book expecting to be as blown away as I was four years ago, but I think I’ll settle for 3.5 out of 5 (or 3.75) stars this time.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book, I did a lot in fact, it was just I wasn’t inclined to give this book full 5 stars which I did the last time.

Firstly, the writing; I think the writing is decent and strong overall, but there were some scenes that failed to peak the tension and excitement as much as I had hoped; it felt slippery and underwhelming at times. However, as I said it’s pretty gripping and intense and I liked this book is told in the first person, through Marcus’s narration which I personally think made this book more engaging.
What bothered me was the volume of ‘tech talks’ in this book. This book deals with a lot of cyber issues such as Internet privacy, electric surveillance, coding, snooping, cryptography etc, etc. Although these talks are accompanied by a crash course along with ample examples, as the story proceeds and gets more complicated, I started to feel it a bit overwhelming. I did think Cory Doctrow did a great job of breaking technical aspects down to bitable pieces, but you might find it a bit over your head if you are not a tech-savvy. It is OK that you don’t understand all the tech talks in this book (because I didn’t), it is totally enjoyable even if you just follow the main plot, but it might be a good idea to know the basics prior to reading this.

As for the characters, other than the protagonist, Marcus, none of the other characters left much impact on me; I didn’t find the characters are fleshed out enough.
In this book, Marcus attempts to save his best friend, Darryl, who is still held captive by the Department of Homeland Security and goes to such length of waging a war against the government. However, the bond between those two characters is not drawn well enough so Marcus’s desperate attempts to save Darryl didin’t strike me as strongly as I would have liked. As for Ange, the love interest and who was supposed to be an impactful character that drives Marcus forward – felt one-dimensional, too. Overall, all the characters felt a bit lackluster and underdeveloped.

I think what kept me going was the plot. It is gripping right from the beginning and entertaining to read through. The plot itself is pretty simple but it’s got some exciting and thrilling sometimes devastating twists scattered throughout the book.
I particularly liked the execution of the Operation False Positive; it describes how Marcus sucks down the numbers of others’ credit cards, their car keys, passports, every sort of identification that proves who is who and then swaps them with someone else’s unnoticed. It beautifully illustrates how sharp and smart he is; it was pretty exhilarating to read. Brilliantly done.

What jumps out about this book is the author incorporated some history lessons such as the freedom campaign and civil rights movements into the main plot. Through this sequence, we get to see how our predecessors fought against the authorities and the government for our fundamental human rights, for freedom of speech, how many lives had lost and how the United States has become a ‘free country’ as it is today. Since this sequence is done against the backdrop of social studies classroom and includes some enlightening discussions, it comes into me quite naturally, it doesn’t come across preachy but it definitely brings such issues to our attention and I appreciated that.
I also enjoyed Marcus’s transformation that takes place as the story goes. In the beginning, he is just an incredibly smart 17 year-old high school student who can easily outsmart school surveillance system. But after the bombing attack and the detention by DHS, being stripped away first his privacy then his dignity – he becomes more Constitution-minded and realizes how much he loves his country and values freedom and then wants to take back what has been lost since the attack.
Although I don’t find the romance between Marcus and Ange necessary, given the ensuing development in the latter part, I can make sense out of it.

Overall, I enjoyed this re-read. There are parts that I found a bit redundant and drag which could have been cut, but the last 30% of the book is definitely exciting, it’s a page-turner.
If you are a tech-savvy and like this type of genre, it’s recommended.
Even if you’re not, I think you’ll end up enjoying this. It would be definitely better if you had some knowledge of Internet technology though.

Winter by Marissa Meyer

winter

Winter

I could give this book billions of stars. Five stars could never, ever be enough.
I ADORE THIS BOOK. THIS WOULD REMAIN AS MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE, I’M CERTAIN OF IT.

Despite its volume, which is over 800 pages, this book never bored me. I never had a dull moment.

So many things happen, so many dramas take place, it’s literally like a whirlwind. Everything flashes so fast, yet leaves an incredibly big impact on me.
And let’s not forget about the romance between the characters; each romance felt so adorable, and MADE MY HEART SWOON. I can’t get enough of this. I love it soooo much.

The story-crafting is just as amazing as the rest of the series, but I think Marissa Meyer’s writing gets only better each book.
Just like ‘Cress,’ they are the scenes where the characters of Cinder’s gang split up and go their separate ways to fulfill the missions assigned to them and a lot of things happen along the way. Each of them are driven into a corner, give or take,  but their paths do cross in the latter of the book. The way each side story between the characters beautifully entwines is just enthralling and captivating. I must say that my most favorite would be the story between Cinder and Kai, yet I admit that the book held me in thrall the entire time.

Although I have never touched on the aspect of this series being a Sci-Fi retelling of fairy tales and each book based off of fairy tale characters, I think I must mention this is a great retelling of ‘Snow White.’  Jacin’s dedication to Princess Winter is so sweet and adorable. Particularly the scene where Jacin kneels down and tries to kiss Winter to peace her deranged mind together reminded me of the Prince kissing Snow White; it was a perfect reflection of the original story.

Another thing I want to mention here is how amazing the each speech made by any of the main characters sounds in the book. The story involves royals from both Luna and the Eastern Commonwealth, so it does include a lot of political messages and diplomacy and I assume it’s kind of hard to make those speeches sound realistic and cogent. In that respect, the author did it a spectacular job. The words just resonated with me, tugging at my heartstrings and they evoked my emotions; it gave me all sorts of feels. Sadness, despair, angst, and delight.

I had moments where I gritted my teeth, felt my skin crawl, sighed in despair, squealed both with frustration and delight, and had my eyes welled up – and I adore every single inch of the book.

The character development is also stellar – I got even warmed up to Wolf and Scarlet whom I hadn’t appreciated much in the previous books. In particular, Wolf’s characterization is amazing; his bashfulness and concerns after the re-bio engineering (You’ll know what scene I’m talking about if you have read the book) made me chuckle. It warmed the cockles of my heart. My gosh, how I adore all those characters!!

It hasn’t been even ten minutes since I closed the book, but I’m already missing all the excitement and good times that I had reading this book.

I now realize what the BookTubers were talking about when they said they were not ready for the series to end. I was in no way ready for this…(sobs).

But I appreciate the ending; I am glad that it did end on a positive, hopeful note.
Although it was a teeny bit of a letdown that I didn’t get to see the explicit closure between Kai and Cinder’s romance, namely, a happy ending between those two, it still casts a ray of hope of them being together someday, so I’ll try to be cool with that.

Oh, my God. I want to read the after story, particularly what happens between Kai and Cinder!!
(I know I’m gushing so much about those two, but I can’t help feeling attached to those two. Who wouldn’t?)

I highly recommend this book. This is definitely worth the appellation of ‘the Grand Finale.’

Cress by Marissa Meyer

cress-cover

Cress

Marissa Meyer did it again.
I would definitely say Cress, the third book in The Lunar Chronicles series, is the best of the three. I absolutely adore this book.

As I mentioned in my Scarlet post, I wasn’t a massive fan of Scarlet, the heroin in the previous book, so I didn’t love ‘Scarlet’ as much as I had thought I would.
However, this ‘Cress’ is just like a roller coaster – with a lot of drama and twists going, I never felt bored while I was reading it.

The new character, Cress, is simply adorable and such a sweetheart. She comes across so timid in the beginning which is totally understandable given the fact that she had been trapped in a satellite circling the orbit for the last seven years, but she develops herself into a much stronger and confident girl as the story goes. Her innocent, naive personal traits and her flair in hacking make her attractive and endearing. I am so glad that I can say that I could relate to the main character this time because it didn’t happen in the last book.

The story crafting is just amazing and stellar – an awful lot happen in this book and it makes the book so gripping and riveting. I didn’t want to put it down but I had to put it down. I had to take a moment and take a calming breath to let the story sink in and brace myself for the next twist.
An incident happens in the early stage of the story splits Cinder’s gang and they go their separate ways from the point onward; Cress with Thorne, Cinder with Wolf and a Lunar Guard Jacin, while Scarlet has to fight her way all alone.

I found it interesting to read the multiple story lines go in parallel with each other but don’t get jumble up. All the story lines come together in the end so perfectly concurrently with the reunion of all the members (except for Scarlet). It was just glorious.

I can’t go without talking about the emotional aspect of this series; just like the last two books, this book broke my heart so many times.
In particular, what happens to Thorne came as a jolt; it happens at a relatively early stage of the book and I knew a lot more would be coming, but I couldn’t resist the urge to find out if he was going to be Okay – I went to Google and I ended up reading some spoilers (Duh). That goes to show how I was engrossed in the story. I just couldn’t stand it.
It always hurts when something bad happens to the characters whom I’m so invested in, and in that sense, this book wrecked me more than once. It was so heart-wrenching and I couldn’t help screaming in frustration and angst.
That said, I also have to say it is quite entertaining.

The romance between my two favorite characters, Cinder and Kai, literally made me swoon.
I had to wait for like 460 pages to see them together, but it was definitely worth the wait. The ensuing romantic scene was to die for, at least for me.
I thought things went a bit too smoothly between Cinder and Kai, but the author did an amazing job in getting us readers to snap out of it and focus on the immediate retaliation by the conniving, despicable Queen Lavana.

I wonder what will happen in the last book, ‘Winter’?
I’m totally ready for another epic ride!

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

scarlet

Scarlet

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.


First thing first, I enjoyed this book so much. I really liked it.
However, I’m afraid I have to say that it did not move me as strongly as ‘Cinder’ and I think it’s because of the lack of character development of the new heroine, ‘Scarlet.’

Scarlet is sassy and feisty and rather STUBBORN – I do understand her concerns over her missing grandmother and how much her grandmother means to her, but then again, I can’t help being kind of fed up with her stubbornness; she tends to jump the gun and fixated to the wrong idea and adamantly believe she’s right, she has NO intention of listening to others. Her desperation over her grandma kind of clouds her fair judgment and makes her really headlong. And I didn’t like it.
On top of all that, other than her concerns over her grandma, very little of her personality is narrated in this book. I couldn’t see her inner struggles and her emotional process and that made me hard for me to relate to Scarlet completely like I did to Cinder in the last book.

Speaking of the characters, I adore the new character, Thorne so much. He is funny and a bit cocksure but not arrogant at all. He has some quality that makes him endearing to me. I liked him being a bit slow to connect all the clues and hints that suggest Cinder is Princess Selene. (Spoiler!)

While I adore Thorne a lot, I wasn’t particularly attracted by another new character, Wolf. In particular, the whole genetic transformation thing? It baffled me and I felt a bit thrown off. I know it’s all plausible that such crazy mutant-like characters do exist in such a crazy world-setting of Luna, but yet… it made me a bit cringe.

The plot and story line is as gorgeous and spectacular as Cinder; it’s action-packed and I was amazed by Marissa Meyer’s on-point writing. It just kept the momentum going and kept me on tenterhooks. I was really excited to see how two story lines between Scarlet and Cinder finally entwine later in the book. The marge of those two story lines is just beautiful and enthralling, even.
It was also good that we get to know Emperor Kai’s inner turmoil and how he feels about Cinder a lot more in this book. I know Prince (Emperor) Kai had some feelings for Cinder, but his true emotions were not narrated much in the last book. For that reason, I was so excited to read how he actually feels toward Cinder. It was so heart-wrenching, yet so sweet.

That aspect makes the decision Emperor Kai reaches in the end even more poignant and gut-wrenching –oh, that broke my heart yet again!
I was inwardly screaming, “No, you’re not thinking straight! You can’t do this, please, just re-think!!”
I just don’t want to see that happen, no, no. absolutely NOT. (and I believe I’m not the only one saying this, right?)

Although I enjoyed Scarlet and Wolf’s side of the story a lot, but I must say I enjoyed Cinder and Emperor Kai’s side of the story a lot MORE. I was actually looking forward to reading their side of the story rather than reading Scarlet and Wolf’s one. I’m afraid that speaks volumes that I didn’t think much of the new characters.

It seems that some reviewers say the insta-love between Scarlet and Wolf a bit of a turn-off, but it was actually totally fine with me.
I have to admit it does seem like a bit too fast for their love to blossom, yet in such crazy, frantic situation, such adrenaline-driven love can happen, it’s not far-fetched, I think.

Although I’ve still got a lot more to say about this book, but I’ll refrain myself and leave it to you readers to find out what it is all about!
I really adore this series and can’t wait to dive into Cress!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

dark-matter

Dark Matter: A Novel

 

Let me say this out loud first – I have never read anything like this before.
I’m still reeling from the impact that this book had on me and I still can’t process all the feelings that this book gave me.
This book has just toppled my perspective upside-down.

Oh, my gosh.

This
is
Crazy!!!!

 

All right, that’s my initial thought.  Let’s talk about my personal thoughts on this book.

Like I said, I have never read a book like this before. This is such a weird, straight-up crazy, yet a fantastic Sci-Fi book.  An incredibly powerful, mind-bending read that captures the imagination of the readers and hooks us on adrenaline.
The shear craziness and weirdness gripped me and wouldn’t let me go till the end. It was was so addictive and riveting.

I think it is next to impossible to express my thoughts and feels on this book without giving anything away, because even a snippet of details can be a spoiler and ruin the fun you’d get out of reading this book, but the plot is just incredible and the writing is brisk and spectacular, the last 60 to 70 pages are super fast-paced, incredible page turner, I just couldn’t put it down nor did I want to put it down.

Jason Desson is a brilliant physicist and teaches physics at Lakemont College. He was on the cusp of a scientific breakthrough in quantum physics when he found out that his girlfriend, Daniella, was pregnant with a boy fifteen years ago.

He was sort of content with his life as a mediocre professor and his role as a husband and a father.

One Thursday night, on his way home from the local pub where he had some drink with his old friend who has just won a prize, he gets abducted, knocked unconscious and then gets injected some weird substance.

when he wakes up on a laboratory bed, he senses that something is wrong.

Everyone seems to be overjoyed by his return but Jason himself doesn’t recognize any of them. They tell Jason that 14 months have gone by since his disappearing.
Daniella- who is supposed to be his wife in his world (The world Jason is familiar with) turns out to have been seeing his friend. Daniella and Jason parted ways 15 years ago; not to mention, they don’t have a son.

Dumbfounded and utterly baffled, Jason tries to figure out the way to get back to the life he belongs to – the way that leads to his beloved wife, Daniella and his son, Charlie.

The concept of the plot may come across a bit far-fetched; I must say I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around on some points and there are things that I find hard to process, but it is not over-the-top difficult to digest nor hinder you from enjoying the story.
Blake Crouch did an amazing job in breaking the mind-bending concept into manageable bits of information and make them easy enough to understand even for people like me who can’t make head or tail of science or physics.
Yes, it is still mind-blowing and crazy, but one part of me actually finds the idea very intriguing.

What if different versions of life do exist? What if different versions of YOU do exist?

That’s all can divulge as far as the story goes, that I can vouch for this being an extraordinarily fantastic, amazing book.

The writing is also amazing and just spectacular – he makes what is already creepy and eerie even creepier, what is already intense even more intense. This book sucked me in straight away and spat me out at the end of the book. How gripping it was!

I found the pacing was a bit odd somewhere in the middle because Jason makes a game-changing discovery in how to get back to his own world, what factors affect to which world he lands next.
I was like, “Hold up, isn’t it a bit too early for him to figure this out? We’ve still got more than 100 pages to go.”

But that’s how it should be – the plot gets even crazier towards the end.

Everything happens in the last 100 pages are totally unexpected – so twisty and mind-bending. I felt like I was in a vortex and looking how fast everyhting flies past in front my eyes.
The last 60 pages in particular, is such a page-turner; I couldn’t put it down and I read the rest in one sitting. I could even hear my heart hammering in my chest. I’m not exaggerating, I didn’t even realize that I was holding my breath till the end.

My mind just went blank when I closed the book. ‘What was that I’ve just read?! ‘ That was all I could think of at the time. I was overwhelmed by the exhilarating twists and the brilliant end.

I’m so glad that I believed the hype and picked this book up.
This is no doubt a thrilling, exciting page turner that won’t disappoint you. I seriously think this book would make a fantastic movie and kind of hope it would.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who is interested. Don’t worry if you’re not big on science fiction, the theory is broken down easily enough to follow.
This is definitely worth your time, I can vouch for that.