“The First Conception” is a very hard book to read for obvious and not so obvious reasons. The obvious: right in the synopsis we know that this is a revenge story told from the perspective of the female survivor—she was raped and abused sexually and physically her whole childhood and well into her adult years. This “inspired” her to take away the ability to conceive for the whole world. Now, I love a good revenge plot where the MC is less than “good”, especially when it’s over something as heinous as abusing a child so repeatedly. Also, there are your trigger warnings for rape, graphic violence against both women and men, sexual assault against children, spousal abuse, and if topics of infertility are sensitive for you, then this may not be a good fit. Granted, some of these warnings make sense for the genre—it’s billed as a thriller, after all—and while that’s fine, I think this book got to the point of being gratuitous.
I love true crime, and I read and watch a lot of documentaries about different serial killers; some who have been caught and others who took their secrets to their graves. It’s often easy to forget that True Crime is Non-Fiction—that you are reading about someone, or multiple someone’s, very personal tragedy. You get that filter of time where something horrific has occurred a hundred years ago, and it’s easy to forget that these were real people who had something horrendous happen to them. That isn’t the case with “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark”. McNamara never lets you forget that this man, this serial rapist and murderer, is a real person, a real terror that did his prowling up and down California for decades. The people he tormented are still alive, some of them anyway, or their families remain to carry the burden of not having answers as to why, why, why? Until recently. McNamara was obsessive about tracking down clues, weeding through the red herrings of this long standing crime. She didn’t care who caught this man, as long as someone did. She was tenacious and dogged about following leads and working with investigators to follow up on things she found peculiar, but weren’t explored at the time of the crime. Unfortunately, she died half way through writing the book, which is bad for a number of reasons.
AndroDigm Park is a virtual-cyber park where the park and its occupants are all androids, very sophisticated and life-like, but still androids. In this theme park created by the world’s leading android and bio-cybernetic research groups, humans have their dreams analyzed, and that dictates the kind of quest they will go on—from the safety of a secure room while the sleeping participant controls a human replicant. They will feel what the replicant experiences, but since they can’t die, they are allowed to follow their every fantasy. Sounds a bit idyllic, sure, but that means you just KNOW there’s something sinister lurking in the background: who controls the park? What are they really after? Again, sounds really interesting, but all of that only starts coming into play well after the 50% mark of the book, and then we only see and interact with AndroDigm Park for maybe 15%. So what’s the rest of the book, you may ask? It’s groundwork for the main characters.
Before you ask, the answer is: it’s a waning gibbous moon. Now! If you enjoy Lovecraftian vibes in a more modern setting with some very witty, sassy, and grumpy characters, then this book is definitely for you! “Under the Gibbous Moon” is first and foremost a supernatural mystery, where a grumpy, brilliant, college professor is tapped by the police to help them investigate their… stranger mysteries. So when Dr. Temple is asked to help the local authorities with a very odd murder case, he brings along his new teaching assistant, where things get very interesting very quickly, all while keeping that undercurrent of creepiness throughout the novel.
It’s no secret that I’ve always loved the Phantom of the Opera. I adore tragic love stories and gothic vibes. So really, this review shouldn’t surprise anyone as “Phantom Song” was inspired by the original Phantom of the Opera, and the author does some truly marvelous magic weaving in the original with the far-future world she’s built with the Toccata System. How the original phantom of the opera house is brought back with the ghost, and the Phantom Angel guarding over the city (which, honestly reminded me a bit of Batman but I kind of loved that, too) while also being the masked opera star of Landry City… This story was a perfect homage to a classic while braving its own unique path. I loved getting to know Claire, and seeing her beautiful relationship with Iz, as well as having Henry and Astra return. Plus, this book has creepy AI, murderous cyborgs, and themes of prejudice that apply to many groups and peoples today. Really, what's not to love?
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