Anthropomorphic Sentient Individualized Servile uniT
Rogan is a robot. More specifically, he is an Asist – a personalized humanoid servant that provides protection, assistance, and companionship for a lonely young woman living on her own in the city. Chloe is trying to get her big break, singing at bars and clubs all over the city at night while she pays the bills as a substitute teacher during the day. Ever since she activated him many months ago, Rogan has been her beautiful, dependable, obedient, dead-eyed security blanket.
One morning she is shocked when he disobeys a direct command in an attempt to please her and his dull artificial eyes flash a hint of something new. Is this the result of the adaptive Asist servility programming or is Rogan actually thinking? Can a robot think? Can a robot feel?
As Chloe struggles with these thoughts she is blindsided by the singular Niven Adams, a handsome, confident man with the voice of an angel who is everything she’s ever wanted in a boyfriend. He’s the perfect guy for her, except for one problem. Niven doesn’t approve of Asists and takes an immediate dislike to Rogan. As Niven charms his way deeper and deeper into Chloe’s heart, Rogan tries to convince her that he is more than a mass-produced disposable servant.
With Rogan doing everything in his power to prove that his thoughts and feelings are real and Niven trying to persuade her to abandon her robot and have a normal human relationship, Chloe is trapped between the two things that mean the most to her. Does she embrace her relationship with the blond newcomer, or face that her Asist’s feelings may be more than features of his programming?
What really makes a person a person?
Is it a ticking muscle inside their chest, or is it something more?
C.E. Wilson is 32 years old, grew up in Millersville, Pennsylvania, and has been living in Pittsburgh since 2009. For the first few years living in Pittsburgh, she was an English teacher. Her first book, Oath of Servitude, was published in 2012. In 2013, she quit teaching to be a full-time author and hasn’t looked back since. She loves spending time with her daughter and husband.
Since then, Mac's life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac's hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy's killer:
A white werewolf.
Lupine syndrome - also known as the werewolf vius - is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control.
Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy's murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy's boyfriend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.
Kathleen Peacock's thrilling novel is the first in the Hemlock trilogy, a spellbinding urban fantasy series filled with provocative questions about prejudice, trust, lies, and love.
Like many other readers, I have to credit Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga for initiating me in the ways of paranormal romance. Prior to meeting Bella Swan, Edward Cullen, and Jacob Black, I never would have dreamed of venturing beyond my realm of realistic fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy. Twilight opened my eyes to a totally different genre than the ones I was used to, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
Though I’ve expanded to paranormal fiction, I have to admit my experience within the genre has been decidedly lopsided. I’ve gobbled up countless vampire novels, but the werewolf side of the house has been noticeably anemic. Hemlock is the beginning of my attempt to balance this out.
In Kathleen Peacock’s novel, the world is coming to terms with the existence of werewolves and dealing with the fear and prejudice that go along with this. Strict rules regulate werewolves, requiring that anyone who becomes infected by lupine syndrome, the disease that triggers a transformation from human to werewolf during periods of stress, anger, or other intense emotion, reports themselves within 30 days. At that time, the werewolf forfeits their assets and basic human rights and is relocated to a rehabilitation camp, where they must live out the rest of their lives “quarantined” from the rest of the population.
In the town of Hemlock, the general fear and mistrust is exacerbated by a rash of brutal werewolf attacks. When Amy, teenage granddaughter of a U.S. senator, is savagely murdered, the senator calls in a group of hunters known as the Trackers to help maintain order in the town and apprehend the wolf responsible. The group has its roots in white supremacy groups, so as you can imagine their methods and ideology leave something to be desired.
Amy’s best friend Mackenzie wants justice for Amy and the other victims, but she doesn’t agree with the Trackers that justice means the eradication of all werewolves. When it becomes evident that the police and the Trackers are more committed to furthering their own political agenda than actually solving Amy’s murder, Mac decides to take matters into her own hands and launch an investigation of her own.
I haven’t read enough werewolf books to truly gauge how Hemlock stacks up against its peers, but it didn’t strike me as particularly awe-inspiring. It’s a decent book, and I enjoyed Peacock’s writing style, but the plot is extremely predictable, and the mystery didn’t really wow me. The book also lacked the depth and weight I’d been expecting from a book about murder and prejudice and hate.
One thing I did like about Hemlock was watching the evolution of the characters’ relationships. When Amy was alive, she and Mac were part of a happy posse that included Amy’s boyfriend Jason and his best friend Kyle. After Amy’s death, the relationship between the three survivors understandably changes. Jason’s guilt and grief drive him into a self-destructive downward spiral, and Mac’s determination to help him out of scrapes causes friction between her and Kyle. Grief, secrets, prejudice, and vastly differing opinions about the Trackers’ mission test the trio’s limits and strain their friendship.
I always find it fascinating to read about relationships where people try to operate as though nothing’s changed when it obviously has. It was interesting to see Mac try to reconcile the Jason and Kyle she knew and loved when Amy was alive with the Jason and Kyle who are left behind after Amy’s death. The “new” Jason spends a lot of time getting drunk, getting into fights, and basically being a dillweed, but Mac can’t help but remember the great guy he used to be before Amy’s murder. She can’t stop herself from caring about that Jason, and this is what keeps her in his corner, even when he’s acting like a jackass.
This is another thing that I liked about Hemlock: it doesn’t glorify being a “bad boy” like a lot of other YA novels do. While I’m all for fictional troublemakers, it’s a nice change to see a book that sends the message that dealing with drama and danger isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Jason is rich and gorgeous, but the fact that he’s undependable and self-absorbed detracts from his appeal. As one character points out, “Someone needs to tell him that the drunken and tragic antihero isn’t all that sexy in real life.”
If it weren’t for the relationships in Hemlock, I probably wouldn’t have given this book more than 2 stars. As it stands, though, I feel like the trilogy has good potential, and I look forward to seeing the plot and characterization taken to the next level in the sequel, Thornhill.
The purest intentions can stir up the darkest obsessions.
In this prequel to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor’s twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him. Unwilling to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry on a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.
Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science, and love—and how much he is willing to sacrifice.
Prior to reading This Dark Endeavor, my only knowledge of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came from watching Frankenweenie and Young Frankenstein. I knew the bare minimum of the plot – a mad “scientist” creates a monster out of spare body parts and uses electricity to bring said monster to life with disastrous results – but that was it. I didn’t really have a desire to learn any more, either, and I never had any real interest in reading Shelley’s iconic work for myself.
All of that changed after I read This Dark Endeavor, a prequel to Frankenstein that shows Viktor Frankenstein taking the first steps on his path to knowledge and power. Even I, knowing as little as I did about the original story, was captivated by Kenneth Oppel’s teenage Frankenstein. Young Viktor is an incendiary combination of inquisitiveness, pride, jealousy, and brilliance, and it was fascinating to see the first sparks of wonder and desperation that would eventually set his world aflame.
Viktor Frankenstein is a memorable character if ever there was one. He’s dramatic, theatrical, and mercurial, with an excitable imagination and a hunger for adventure and renown. He loves his family and friends with all his heart, but darkness and jealously lurk beneath his surface. He simultaneously adores and envies his twin brother Konrad, who is Viktor’s dearest friend as well as his greatest rival.
When Konrad falls ill, Viktor determines to do whatever it takes to keep his brother alive, no matter the cost. Aided by his childhood companions Elizabeth and Henry, Viktor embarks on a dark quest for a cure, a quest that ignites Viktor’s curiosity and lays the groundwork for the events of Shelley’s novel.
This Dark Endeavor has a deliciously gothic feel that made me shiver and grin while reading it. Viktor and his accomplices discover secret passageways, explore hidden libraries housing forbidden tomes, and creep through dank cellars. There are portentous dreams, sleepwalking maidens, and beakers full of organs and fluids. The pages burst with alchemy, magic, and elixirs whose ingredients must be gathered in darkness. It’s not a frightening book, but it is an atmospheric one, and I enjoyed this very much.
Something else that I loved, though it may seem silly, was the precise, specific language in the book. How often does one get to read about characters who use words like “scoundrel,” “apparatus,” “ghoulish,” and “phantasmagorical?” Rather than coming across as tedious and contrived, Oppel’s diction feels authentic and right, and it pleased me greatly.
I may not have had any desire to read Frankenstein previously, but after finishing This Dark Endeavor the first thing I did was high-tail it to Google to search for anything about Frankenstein that I could get my hands on. I applaud Oppel for interesting me in Shelley’s classic at last and can’t wait to find out what I’ve been missing out on all these years.
Franny's supposed to be working this summer, not flirting. But you can't blame her when guys like Alex and Harry are around. . . .
Franny Pearson never dreamed she'd be attending the prestigious Mansfield Summer Theater Program. And she's not, exactly. She's working for her aunt, the resident costume designer. But sewing her fingers to the bone does give her an opportunity to spend time with her crush, Alex Braverman. If only he were as taken with the girl hemming his trousers as he is with his new leading lady.
When Harry Cartwright, a notorious flirt, shows more than a friendly interest in Franny, she figures it can't hurt to have a little fun. But as their breezy romance grows more complicated, can Franny keep pretending that Harry is just a carefree fling? And why is Alex suddenly giving her those deep, meaningful looks? In this charming tale of mixed messages and romantic near-misses, one thing is clear: Flirting might be more trouble than Franny ever expected.
It’s no surprise that I enjoyed The Trouble With Flirting – after all, it’s a retelling of Mansfield Park, my favorite Jane Austen novel. What did come as a shock was just how MUCH I enjoyed it. I love, love, LOVE this book, and I want you to love it too.
Here are the things you need to know about The Trouble With Flirting:
It’s set at a summer theater camp for high school students.Franny Pearson, our protagonist, is suckered into spending her summer with her stodgy aunt working in Mansfield College’s costume department. As you might imagine, a theater program full of aspiring teen actors has no shortage of colorful characters. The zany kids and the melodrama that they bring are part of what makes this book so much fun; LaZebnik’s portrayal of the theater world is so spot-on that it’s almost comical. There’s the drama of people not getting their coveted roles, or wanting to have a say in their costume design, or being upset that their crush is running lines with their rival. It brought back memories of my own theater days and kept me smiling throughout.
Franny is an utter delight. Hilarious, smart, and entertaining as hell, I couldn’t have asked for a better heroine than Franny Pearson. She’s one of those characters who’s always up for meeting new people and trying new things, which allows her to be drawn into interesting scenarios and relationships. She’s easygoing and fun, and even when she isn’t thrilled about a situation she takes it in stride and tries to make the best of it. She approaches all things with humor and directness and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She’s also flawed, like all great characters, which adds to her believability.
There are great romantic twists and turns. I was positively giddy over the romance in this book. There’s a love triangle with two guys who are each appealing and multi-dimensional; relationships peppered with humor, banter, and actual conversations; and dates that are fun, sweet, and sexy. Best of all, the relationships aren’t predictable. The title, cover, and synopsis may make The Trouble With Flirting sound like light-hearted fluff, but there’s more to this book than summer flings and casual romance. LaZebnik is able to flout clichés and take the plot and characters down unexpected paths, making the romance that much more rewarding.
It’s gut-bustingly funny. Franny has a wicked sense of humor, as does Harry, and in scenes where they play off each other LaZebnik had me laughing so hard I was close to tears. I was so charmed by their exchanges that I couldn’t stop smiling. The little quips, observations, and tongue-in-cheek comments kept me laughing almost constantly; I’m talking giggles, snickers, and even outright guffaws. Here are just a couple of quotes to highlight this point:
“I want to ask the guy up front if he has any antique books about the care and feeding of dogs. My mother collects them.”
“I’m fairly hopeful you’ll survive this injury, Franny.”
“Unless gangrene sets in.”
“Gangrene always sets in,” he says darkly.
“What are you talking about?” asks Julia as they all gather around us again. “No one gets gangrene anymore.”
“They do in old books. If Franny were a Hemingway heroine or something, gangrene would set in and she’d lose her leg. Or her life.”
“But I’d be very attractive on my deathbed,” I add.
LaZebnik is a master of writing teenage relationships. She excels at capturing the camaraderie of a bunch of theater kids thrown together for the summer. Every scene involving Franny and her friends feels organic and right, whether they’re taking a trip to the beach, eating lunch, or simply hanging out in the student lounge. It’s the little details that make the relationships ring true – the playful nudges, the bickering and teasing, the way Franny’s friends crowd together and sprawl on top of each other on the common room couch.
It’s impossible not to have a great time reading The Trouble With Flirting.I was charmed, delighted, and surprised by this Mansfield Park retelling, and it will be a while before I stop grinning whenever I think about it.
A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.
If Second Star weren’t a retelling of Peter Pan, my rating of it would be entirely different. There are some pretty big detractors – frustrating romance, a second half that feels entirely off the rails – that would result in a low rating if this were your average book. Luckily for Sheinmel, her creative reimagining of Peter Pan enchanted me enough to appease the part of me that was irritated by the questionable parts of this story.
Wendy Darling is on a mission to find her brothers, 16-year-old surfers who ran away from home to chase the waves. Nine months later, they still haven’t returned, and the police and Wendy’s parents have given up the search, convinced that the boys have perished in a surfing accident. Wendy isn’t so sure, and as soon as she graduates she takes off in pursuit of her brothers, determined to find them and bring them home.
Wendy’s hunt leads her to Kensington Beach, where she meets a scruffy band of surfers – our Lost Boys in this retelling – who live in an abandoned mansion and spend their days on the water. Wendy finds herself enticed by the boys’ carefree lifestyle, drawn into their little world of salt and sun and sand. She’s especially beguiled by the group’s leader, Pete, who teaches her to surf and whose kisses make her feel like someone new, someone whose family and world haven’t fallen apart.
As delighted as I was by the Lost Boys, I was even more impressed by Sheinmel’s clever reimagining of Captain Hook. The role of the villain is played by Jas, a drug dealer who rules the opposite side of Pete’s beach. (What happens to people who take drugs? They get hooked. Get it? Huh? Like I said, clever!!) Wendy’s investigation reveals that Jas may have a hand in her brothers’ disappearance, and when she goes to confront him she soon realizes he’s an enticing as he is dangerous.
Jas is both a positive and a negative of this book for me. On the plus side, he has this dark pull that really appealed to me. He’s smooth and sexy and magnetic, and even though he’s a “bad guy” he’s charming and educated and polite, which adds great complexity.
The downside is that all this sex appeal makes Wendy fall for him, which I didn’t think was believable. It’s one thing to be attracted to him – I certainly was – and to accept his help in finding her brothers. It’s another thing entirely to trust him and fall in love with him. He is a drug dealer, Wendy! He ruins people’s lives and is fully aware of this fact! The stuff he does is unconscionable, and he shows no signs of changing his behavior! Yet you’re into him? Please.
Something else that detracted from the book’s appeal is the question of whether Wendy’s liaisons with Pete, Jas, and the like are real or a fantasy. I was so invested in the world of Kensington that I resented being distracted with questions like, “Is this a hallucination? Does anyone else remember ever seeing Pete? Or Jas?” It seemed out of nowhere and was the number one reason I didn’t award Second Star a higher rating.
Despite these qualms, I still really liked the parallels to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan stories. I enjoyed seeing how Sheinmel wove elements from the book into her adaptation. A lot of the references were subtle, such as Jas stopping at a bar called The Jolly Roger, a description comparing Pete’s laugh to the crow of a bird, and Pete encouraging Wendy to think of something happy to help distract her while she’s trying to surf (which she says makes her feel like she’s flying). It’s a very smart and unique retelling.