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REVIEW:  The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

REVIEW: The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

bodies-roberts

Dear Ms. Roberts,

My thriller kick continues, this time with one falling into the science fiction genre. I’ll be the first to admit that the science fiction is light in The Bodies We Wear, which is fine with me because I’m not in the mood for a rigorous read. Your book almost has a dystopian feel but I’m pleased to say that this isn’t a case of dystopian masquerading as an SF thriller. Publishers have tried that before, and it’s never worked.

In the near future, a drug called Heam reigns. Highly addictive, it has the effect of showing users a glimpse of a place many consider heaven. But it has some other side effects. People who overdose come back marked with a spider’s web over their chests. Thus marked, they’re ostracized by society — unable to complete an education, get an job, which in turn only encourages them to pursue their addiction.

Faye is a survivor of a Heam overdose, through no fault of her own. Her father was a Heam dealer and when things went wrong on his end, his boss went after Faye in retaliation. While Faye’s best friend died, she survived. Unfortunately, her mother kicked her out and eventually Faye was taken in by a former detective.

Driven by revenge against the men responsible for ruining her life and killing her best friend, Faye trains day in and day out in the hopes that one day she’ll be ready. Then one day she meets a guy named Chael, who seems strangely familiar and makes her begin to question her mission.

I thought this book had a promising concept. Even the beginning worked fine for me, but as it continued, I found myself frowning at various point. For example, the book makes a point of talking about how Heam is “so” dangerous, that in some countries, creating and distributing it results in the death penalty, not just a life sentence. This displayed an ignorance of international drug to me since many countries already have anti-drug trafficking laws and it is already an automatic death sentence. This is not actually a change.

Another thing that kept bothering me was the death of Faye’s best friend, Christian. Christian’s death is the primary impetus for her revenge quest. That’s fine. But she goes on and on about how Christian was the love of her life. This happened when she was 11. Now I’m willing to buy that you might meet your soulmate very young, but I’m not quite so willing to believe that you’ll recognize them as your soulmate until you’re at least in your teenaged years. It doesn’t seem like a big difference in years but I can buy this type of declaration in a 15- or 16-year old, not in an 11-year-old. I just couldn’t buy it as a motivation.

Chael’s true identity was not a surprise or a revelation. It was obvious very early on what was going on there, so I found it irritating that Faye took a huge chunk of the book to put the pieces together. Part of it is also that I didn’t like Chael at all as a love interest. He stalked Faye and he constantly came down hard on her mission. We all know how I feel about stories where random boys who come along and tell the girl they supposedly like that their way of doing things is wrong. You’ve known each other for 5 minutes, come on. And in particular, there are things he does later in the book, that take away Faye’s agency and choices, which made me unable to like him.

The Bodies We Wear isn’t entirely bad. I liked Faye’s experiences in school and wish we could have seen more of her trying to have a normal life in spite of the overdose stigma. I liked her attempts to help other overdose survivors. There are passages that I really loved:

“The bodies we wear,” he says. “They’re not the ones we always want. They get damaged. Used. It’s who we are on the inside that counts. The person waiting to jump free.”

or

The bodies we wear can only take so much damage. We wear them down and eventually they stop working. But I now know that who we are lives on, even without our bodies.

A lot of my dissatisfaction with The Bodies We Wear stems from mislaid expectations. I went in, thinking I’d get a revenge story. What I got was ultimately more of a meditation on life and death, what we do with the time we have and what happens after. I don’t want to spoil the ending but let me just say, if readers expect an HEA, that’s not what happens here. C-

My regards,
Jia

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REVIEW:  Caught in Amber by Cathy Pegau

REVIEW: Caught in Amber by Cathy Pegau

“Recently out of rehab, Sasha James is determined to keep her head down, complete her parole and never touch amber again. The chip in her neck controls her cravings for the highly addictive drug, but also tracks her every move. Not that she goes anywhere other than work and the halfway house she calls home–a far cry from her luxurious former life as lover of the mining colony’s top drug dealer, Guy Christiansen.

Agent Nathan Sterling has no desire to see Sasha fall back into amber, but his sister has become Guy’s latest conquest and the unexpectedly attractive Sasha is the key to getting her back. So in exchange for an introduction, he offers Sasha the one thing she can’t refuse–her freedom. From the chip, her parole and even the planet if she wants. Though he would be sorry to see her go…

Torn between her growing attraction to Nathan, fear of Guy and the allure of amber, Sasha accepts. But who will save her if Guy refuses to let her go a second time?”

Dear Ms. Pegau,

I liked the first book, “Rulebreaker,” enough to keep going in the series despite some problems I had with it. This book gets most things right for me that I didn’t get in “Rulebreaker.” The world building is still good but this time the romance lives up to the genre of Romantic SF.

Caught-in-AmberTo me, this story has much more emphasis on the romance and the character relationships. Perhaps this is just my feeling based on the fact that I’ve read the first book so this “world” isn’t as novel to me anymore. But I honestly feel that the focus here is the people and not the place. Which isn’t to say that the world building is sloppy or neglected. It’s mentioned as if having an artificial eye complete with zoom lens is nothing new, like hover cars are standard and off world trading is ho-hum normal – in other words integrated into the story you’re telling rather than made splashy just for its own sake.

Sasha is a wounded heroine. She thought she knew what she was doing, thought she was in control, she turned away from her parents’ attempt to get her out of this amber world and paid the price when it all crashed down on her. She learned that Guy was a user and a controlling asshole, that she was weak enough to almost sell her soul for the drug she craved and when she was arrested, tried and sentenced to jail, that no one seemed to care. This was devastating to her – being rejected by everyone – and her self esteem sank. The terms of her parole also impose little, petty reminders of her ex-con status that serve to chip away at any small rebuilding of her self worth.

So when Sasha doubts that Nathan has any feelings for her beyond how she can help him get his sister out of Guy’s influence, I believe her and don’t see it as just feeding the plot point.

Nathan is a bit harder to read as a romance hero. But his growing feelings for Sasha seem to build in a realistic way. At first, she’s a means to an end to save his sister. Then slowly he begins to see her as a person with a weakness that could wreck her if she begins to use again. His guilt followed by worry over this seems appropriate at that point in the book. He also admires the chances she’s willing to take when she spots an opportunity to further their plan. As the story progresses, it’s her strength that stands out to him and how much he’ll miss her if she goes off world. The moment of truth arrives when he owns up to the fact that he’ll risk everything to make sure she survives a final encounter with Guy.

The undercover part of the plot works well for me too. Even though Nathan seems to be ‘seat of the pants-ing” it at times, the basic framework of his plan shows he’s put some thought and detective work into it. Still even here the main emphasis of the scenes serve to advance the characters’ relationships.

There’s nothing dramatically different about the way the resolution of the story is reached or plays out. Not to say it’s bad or weak but just that it’s a thriller ending in a story obviously set up to have a thriller ending. Sasha discovers strength she didn’t know she possessed, Nathan keeps his promise to free her from her parole, Sasha falls for this man who not only believes her but believes IN her and they both feel saved by each other. And I believe all of this because it’s shown and not just told. So next up is “Deep Deception” with another f/f romance featuring two strong women I’m looking forward to watching go toe to toe. ::rubs hands in expectation:: B

~Jayne

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