Book Review #35: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

 Matteo Alacran was not born ; he was harvested. His DNA came from El Patron, lord of a country called Opium–a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt’s first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster–except for El Patron. El Patron loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself.

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by sinister cast of characters, including El Patron’s power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacran Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn’t even expect.

This book reminded me (although I have not read it in full) a bit of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. It is similar in many ways, although this novel was vastly different.

My initial thought when I picked up this book was that it was Dystopian. I was definitely right about that. When you first open the book, you are taken a bit slightly off-guard at the table of contents, which revealed that you were going to be reading the entire childhood of this boy. Next is a list of characters, and an Alacaran family history. In my opinion, those additions to the book didn’t really seem necessary as I could easily follow what was going on, and who the characters were.

Honestly, I really liked this book. Matt is a character that you fall in love with; he is genuinely a good person, thrust into some awful situations. You are watching this boy grow up, and it is really entertaining. I’m not going to reveal too much of what happens in this book, to keep this review spoiler-free. I will say that the twists and turns this book had were very well done, you could hardly expect them coming. The setting and secondary characters in this novel are very well developed. Nothing seemed sort of “out there” as some dystopian books have done in the past. My only gripes with this novel are that some of the excitement and tenseness dropped off about two thirds into the tome, which wasn’t by much, however, it is still noticeable.

The idea of Matt as a clone, and how he was treated because of it made him into the character he is by the end of the novel. Clones were treated as less than human; as monsters. As Matt grappled with this concept, you could see his innermost confusion with the idea of what it means to be human and to have a soul.

The House of the Scorpion is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the literary struggle of the concept of humanity.

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Book Review #33: The 100 by Kass Morgan

“No one has set foot on Earth in centuries–until now.

Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth’s radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents–considered expendable by society–are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life…or it could be a suicide mission.

Clarke was arrested for treason, though she’s haunted by the memory of what she really did. Wells, the chancellor’s son came to Earth for the girl he loves–but will she ever forgive him? Reckless Bellamy fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only pair of siblings in the universe. And Glass managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind’s last hope.

After watching the first season and a bit of the second season of The 100 on Netflix, I decided to read the book that inspired the fan-favourite series. You know how they usually say that the book is better than the adaptation? Well, that’s not the case, especially for The 100. There were definitely interesting moments in the novel that I’m sad to say weren’t translated into the show, but overall the novel was sub-par.

The only interesting and engaging character seems to be Bellamy, as Clarke, Glass, and Wells seem tied up in love triangles of their own (and sometimes with each other, in Clarke and Wells’ case). The story ultimately tells you what happens instead of showing you what happens. It leaves much to the imagination, in this case, is that being the bad thing, and leaves us with characters we can’t empathize with.

When you have Sci-Fi or dystopian-like stories like this, you need to be grounded with your characters, settings and plot points. I honestly couldn’t care less about any of the characters.

In short, I’d say pass on the book and just binge-watch the show.

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Book Review #31: The Farm by Emily McKay

Life was different in the Before: Before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across North America, before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days we know what quarantines are–holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.Lily and her twin sister, Mel, have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else does–like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race…”

There seemed to be an overarching dullness to this novel that I only found was breached by a few moments in the novel. When Carter was first introduced, I thought, “Yeah! This novel might be going somewhere with him and his secrets and ladeeda!” However, it definitely went somewhere. Just nowhere necessarily exciting. Sure, there were some parts where I was glued to my book, waiting to see what happened next, but overall it was kind of dull for me. I mean, maybe it wasn’t descriptive enough in describing the Ticks or maybe I didn’t feel scared enough for the characters. I’m not sure. Maybe it was because that in an almost 450 page novel, not all too much happens. The ending however, was interesting, not sure where the author is going to go with that in the second novel. On the plus side I didn’t find the main character annoying. So it wasn’t THAT agonizing to read. It was just okay is all. If you’re looking for a new take on vampires, this might be the book for you. Otherwise, this may not be your cup of tea. I guess I’ll read the next book and see what happens.

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My Rating