Book Review: Jaguar by C. A. Gray

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Author: C.A. Gray

Narrator: Melissa Williams

Series: Uncanny Valley Series, Book 3

Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing

Released: Sep. 14, 2018

Length: 9 hours 48 minutes

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

The Silver Six have blown the Renegades’ underground compound to bits, killing several of Rebecca’s best friends in the process – and to her horror, the boy Rebecca had convinced herself she loved for all these years was the one to betray them all. At the same time, General Specs, the company Liam was once slated to inherit, has developed a super intelligent robot called Jaguar which is quickly becoming godlike in her omniscience. As the remaining Renegades flee to their last bastion of safety in the Caribbean, Liam makes his way back to London, in a last ditch effort to convince his father to destroy Jaguar before it’s too late.

Rebecca, meanwhile, finally understands her own heart: she never loved Andy. He was merely a “safe” choice who would never require anything of her. Liam, on the other hand, exasperating as he was, had seen past her defenses. All of his teasing and provoking had been his attempt to get her to be real with him – but the more he made her feel, the further she had retreated. She had even substituted her companion bot Madeline for real, deep human friendships, and for the same reason: she’d been avoiding love to protect herself from another loss like the one she had experienced when her father was killed for the Renegades’ cause. Ironically, she only realizes this once Liam is on his way to a similar fate. But she’ll be damned if she lets him go without a fight.

This high stakes conclusion to the Uncanny Valley Trilogy envisions a world not too far off from our own, in which super intelligence is a reality, humanoid bots have supplanted human power and influence, and there are eyes watching and reporting our every move. If humanity is to survive, the Renegades will have to galvanize support across the globe, under the radar – and it will require every last bit of ingenuity they possess. But is attempting to outwit a super intelligent being really the answer? Or will it require something much more fundamentally human?

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By day, C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ, and she writes medical books under her real name (Dr. Lauren Deville). She lives with her husband, with whom she maintains a facetiously contentious movie review blog, and travels as often as they can get away. When not writing or seeing patients, she does yoga, drinks red wine while eating dark chocolate, and consumes audiobooks like there’s no tomorrow!

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Narrator Bio

Melissa lives with her family, including two dogs and a cat, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Denver, Colorado.

After having a corporate job for most of her life, and as a self-proclaimed introvert, she decided to leave corporate America to work from home. Voice overs had always tugged at her heart as something she would like to explore, so she attended some classes and landed with a company that taught her how to break in to the industry.

Loving to read, she explored the fast growing world of audiobooks and fell in love with it. She has ten audiobooks under her belt and is currently working on the 11th. Understanding that she should always be learning how to improve her skills, she is currently working with Sean Pratt.

When not talking to herself in a padded room, she can be found walking her dog, singing or fishing the Arkansas River.

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Those of us who have been reading science fiction and watching the old classic movies for longer than we may care to admit have harbored a not-so-secret concern that someday we would be confronted with robots who are not only sentient but super-intelligent and in a position to take over the world. In the Uncanny Valley Trilogy and especially Jaguar, Ms. Gray has brought a fresh approach to this concept.

Rebecca and the rest of the Renegades are living on the edge of such a doomed future and are really the last bastion against the Silver Six and Jaguar but they now need to spread their fight to other parts of the world. The AIs have been very successful at convincing people that having them in charge is best for all but there’s another, perhaps more dangerous, threat in Jaguar, the most self-aware and powerful AI ever.

This conclusion to the trilogy is thought-provoking, especially regarding our very real proclivity for believing the lies of those in power when they speak to our desires and fears but this is not the entertaining part of the story. Rebecca and her colleagues have to face up to personal issues, betrayals and life-threatening danger and Ms. Gray never lets the tension ease.

Once again, Melissa Williams brings life to an already exciting tale and I have to say she’s been an important element in my enjoyment of the Uncanny Valley Trilogy. I hope to hear more from her in the future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2019.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by C.A. Gray. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card

Uncanny Valley Series Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card
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THE SILVER SIX

May 2nd:

Lone Tree Reviews

May 3rd:

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

Turning Another Page

May 4th:
Momma Says To Read or Not to Read

May 5th:

Book Addict

May 6th:

Jazzy Book Reviews

May 7th:

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

May 8th:

The Book Addict’s Reviews

JAGUAR

May 9th:

Lone Tree Reviews

Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author

May 10th:

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

Buried Under Books

May 11th:

Book Addict

Turning Another Page

May 12th:

Momma Says To Read or Not to Read

May 13th:

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

May 14th:

Jazzy Book Reviews

May 15th:

The Book Addict’s Reviews

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Book Review: The Silver Six by C. A. Gray

The Silver Six
Uncanny Valley #2
C. A. Gray
Narrated by Melissa Williams
Wanderlust Publishing, September 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

What is it that makes us truly human?

Rebecca Cordeaux’s entire world has been turned upside down. In a single day, she’s learned that Senate Leader Halpert and his Board of Advisors are actually illegal humanoid robots created underground twenty years ago—and they tried to have her killed. Her mother Karen, whom she always believed to be passionately against the cause of the Renegades, turns out to be their leader. And Liam, a man she never thought she cared for, is now fighting for his life—and she finds that she cares desperately.

Fortunately Karen, known to the Renegades as M, has planned for exactly this sort of eventuality. Using Rebecca’s father’s blueprints, Karen patiently built an underground compound in an abandoned part of the Americas where they can regroup and plan for the coming war. The compound becomes an unlikely oasis as their number grows, both on accident and on purpose. In attempting to recover her best friend and companion bot Madeline, Rebecca gets what she thought she’d always wanted: Andy arrives at the compound too, along with her friends Jake and Julie. But with the sudden addition of an old flame from Liam’s past, Rebecca discovers just how little acquainted she has been with her own heart.

Meanwhile, the Silver Six are running a worldwide campaign of indoctrination to ensure that the people are on their side. In the name of peace, they want nothing more than to wipe out every shred of resistance, while pursuing their ultimate goal of robotic superintelligence. With the assistance of a neuroscientist who helped to build the Silver Six decades ago, Rebecca attempts to understand how synthetic minds work, hoping this information can be used against them. She’s sure that the mysterious, brilliant, and beautiful Alessandra Russo is the key somehow, but Alex’s hatred for the Silver Six is only matched by her hatred for the Renegades. Can the Renegades find and exploit the weakness of the Silver Six before synthetic intelligence passes the point of no return?

When I read or, rather, listened to Uncanny Valley, the first book in the trilogy, I was pulled into a vortex of misdirections and revelations, especially towards the end, and that alone made me  anxious to read the next book. The Silver Six is every bit as intriguing as the first book.

Now that Rebecca and the rest of the Renegades know that the Silver Six, lead by Halpert, are actually robots, all the earlier conspiracy theories have been proven correct. War is inevitably coming and the Renegades must plan for it while they work to subvert Halpert’s propagandizing. That in itself is perhaps the most critical part of their fight because humans are so gullible, easy prey for the lies that are so much more comfortable than truth.

And because life goes on, no matter the circumstances, Rebecca can’t help being distracted by the two young men vying for her attention. As so often happens, one of them will be found wanting but is it possible that the Resistance will be affected by this?

Melissa Williams is a better than average narrator, easy to understand and with good pacing. I couldn’t always distinguish one character from another but that didn’t impede my enjoyment of a strong tale with lively action. I appreciate this second book as much as the first; come back tomorrow to see what I think about the trilogy’s conclusion .

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2019.

Book Review: Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax

Plum Rains
Andromeda Romano-Lax
Soho Press, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-61695-901-2
Hardcover

Skip forward to 2029. Angelica Navarro is a Filipina nurse who is paying back student loans by working in Japan. Years later, the cost of those loans is about to bury her, as her brother’s debts have been added to her own. He signed on to work in Alaska and became sick from the poison left behind when a plague was eradicated by destroying the land. Angelica is nursing a Japanese woman, Sayoko Itou, who is about to celebrate her one hundredth birthday. When her son gives her a robot for a present, Sayoko and Angelica’s lives both take a drastic shift. As for the robot, the self-learning technology with which he (yes, a he) programs into himself will allow him to become both a friend, and an enemy.

The story is convoluted, the author’s vision of the near future rather terrifying, especially as, in a world that grows more crowded every day, privacy has gone by the wayside. And everything costs. One feels for Angelica, working in a strange country. One feels for Sayoko, too, whose background is tragic. Oddly enough and although neither are aware of it, her story is similar with Angelica’s. And oddly, one feels for the robot, who grows more human in exponential leaps and bounds.

The writing is often lyrical, the characters strong, the dialogue always draws the story forward. I felt a sense of dread as I read it, which certainly proves the writer’s ability to impart emotion into the tale. And I believe the end may surprise you.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Uncanny Valley by C.A. Gray

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Title: Uncanny Valley
Series: Uncanny Valley #1
Author: C.A. Gray
Narrator: Melissa Williams
Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing
Publication Date: March 27, 2018

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Uncanny Valley
Uncanny Valley #1
C.A. Gray
Narrated by Melissa Williams
Wanderlust Publishing, March 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Rebecca Cordeaux knows exactly what her future will hold: she will marry Andy, her crush of the last five years. Once Andy is ready to settle down, she’s sure he will discover that she is his soulmate. After several small parts on stage, Rebecca knows she can become a renowned actress. Her writing also shows promise as a future author. Robots perform most human jobs that can be automated, leaving many free to pursue their personal creative interests.

But Rebecca’s mother Karen fears the new world of robots, and insists her brilliant daughter join a university research team, studying the hazards of a complete robotic economy. Rebecca’s father Quentin was obsessed with the subject to a degree that even her mother considered absurd, prior to his untimely death. So long as she can reserve enough of her time to pursue her true passions on the side, Rebecca half-heartedly agrees to join the research team, if only to please her widowed mother. There she joins a post-doc named Liam, whose conspiracy theories rival even those of her late father.

Liam is convinced that world Republic leader William Halpert’s worldwide challenge for researchers to develop synthetic creativity will lead not to the promised utopia, in which every kind of human suffering has been eradicated, but rather to an apocalypse. Rebecca, whose best friend is her own companion bot Madeline, writes Liam off as a bot-hating conspiracy theorist, just like her father was…until she learns that her father’s death might not have been due to mere happenstance.

With Liam’s help, Rebecca learns of an underground organization known as The Renegades, where Quentin Cordeaux was considered a legend. While Liam attempts to stop Halpert’s challenge if he can, Rebecca tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to her father. Did he and many of his contemporaries die for something they knew? Who is the mysterious informant who calls himself John Doe, and only seems to want to drive her out of harm’s way? And if Halpert’s challenge is answered, will it usher in a brave new chapter in humanity’s history… or were Quentin Cordeaux’s dire predictions right all along?

I won’t take any time re-hashing the core storyline since the publisher’s description is very thorough, almost too much so. Instead, I’ll focus on what I liked and didn’t like and, this being science fiction, my first thoughts have to be about worldbuilding.

Any speculative fiction needs a strong sense of when, where and how and I have to say there’s a lack here. Certain cities are named occasionally, like Dublin and Geneva, but I got no real sense of when this was taking place or how society had arrived at a bot-driven existence. As a result, I couldn’t get a grasp of how long the bots had been so prevalent nor how long a few conspiracy theorists had been working to stop further development.

The primary characters, on the other hand, were quite well-drawn and I felt I knew them well. That doesn’t mean I liked them all and, in fact, one of the romantic leads plucked my last nerve with his controlling ways although I also saw his good points. The bad guys, Halpert in particular, were appropriately callous and remote and, as for Rebecca, this was a girl I understood. She’s young enough to be starry-eyed about a guy, smart enough to get involved with some serious research and education, well-rounded enough to have other interests and attached enough to her mother to want to please her. In short, she’s a normal young woman.

Narrator Melissa Williams does a credible job with a pleasing tone, good pacing and clear enunciation but I don’t hear much vocal distinction between the characters. Still, I enjoy listening to her.

All that said, my favorite character of all is Madeline, a very small personal bot. Madeline is a pure delight and a great friend to Rebecca even while she’s just shy of having true emotions. This little mechanical creature is involved in the heavy-duty cliffhanger at the end and she’s the reason I’m going to have to read the next book 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2018.

About the Author

By day, C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ, and she writes medical books under her real name (Dr. Lauren Deville). She lives with her husband, with whom she maintains a facetiously contentious movie review blog, and travels as often as they can get away. When not writing or seeing patients, she does yoga, drinks red wine while eating dark chocolate, and consumes audiobooks like there’s no tomorrow!

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

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About the Narrator

Melissa lives with her family, including two dogs and a cat, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Denver, Colorado.

After having a corporate job for most of her life, and as a self-proclaimed introvert, she decided to leave corporate America to work from home. Voice overs had always tugged at her heart as something she would like to explore, so she attended some classes and landed with a company that taught her how to break in to the industry.

Loving to read, she explored the fast growing world of audiobooks and fell in love with it. She has ten audiobooks under her belt and is currently working on the 11th. Understanding that she should always be learning how to improve her skills, she is currently working with Sean Pratt.

When not talking to herself in a padded room, she can be found walking her dog, singing or fishing the Arkansas River.

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Frost by M.P. Kozlowsky

Frost
M.P. Kozlowsky
Scholastic Press, October 2016
ISBN: 978-0-545-83191-8
Hardcover

She lives on the 23rd floor of a decaying building, dependent upon Romes, her broot, for companionship while Bunt, the robot who sometimes cedes control to the memory chip containing her father’s memories and identity, scavenges in an ever wider circle for food, fuel and other necessities.

This is Frost’s reality. She’s lived in the same room for as long as she can remember, with only vague memories of what life was like before disaster hit her world. When it did, utilities failed, buildings were destroyed, robots began going rogue and most human survivors turned into Eaters, flesh-devouring creatures who were so desperate for meat, they even devoured parts of themselves. Her own mother became one and was banished from the apartment after eating one of her husband’s fingers.

What little Frost knows about her current world comes from looking longingly toward Brooklyn where a mysterious blue light shines at night. At those times when her father takes over Bunt’s functions, she learns dribs and drabs, like the possibility that there’s a safe haven under the blue light. When Romes gets so weak he can no longer eat or stand, Frost is determined to get him to the mysterious blue haven in order to get him get well. Despite her father’s pleas to stay put, she gathers her courage and orders Bunt to help her get Romes down 23 flights of stairs and head off to find the help.

It’s an arduous journey, one that comes with multiple threats, attacks and an encounter with a father and son surviving in a jury-rigged play area in what’s called the Zone, an area where nature has reclaimed the terrain faster than others. Further along, she must deal with capture by John Lord’s men, a mix of humans and robots who are controlled by a mysterious individual who is rarely seen.

Frost is faced with her first contact with someone human who also happens to be her age, the deteriorating condition of her beloved pet and her growing horror as she learns just how bad conditions are for those under John Lord’s control and the gradual realization of her father’s role in the disaster that destroyed her world. These should be more than enough emotional bombshells for a teenager raised in isolation. However, there are more in store for Frost near the end of the book, the biggest dealing with who she is.

I enjoyed reading the book, but felt that it started to unravel in the last few chapters. This was in part due to the author trying to pack so much into the story line and because some things weren’t wrapped up well. For instance, it felt like things were left unfinished between Frost and Flynn, the boy she met in the Zone. Still a fast-paced and, for the most part, enjoyable read.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, May 2017.

Book Review: Revolution 19 by Gregg Rosenblum

Revolution 19Revolution 19
Gregg Rosenblum
HarperTeen, January 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-212595-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Twenty years ago, the robots designed to fight our wars abandoned the battlefields. Then they turned their weapons on us.

Headstrong seventeen-year-old Nick has spent his whole life in a community in the wilderness, hiding out from the robots that have enslaved mankind. But when the bots discover the community’s location, he, his tech-geek younger brother, Kevin, and adopted sister, Cass, barely make it out alive—only to discover that their home has been destroyed and everyone they love is missing.

All survivors were captured and taken to one of the robots’ Cities. The siblings have been hearing tales about the Cities all their lives—humans are treated like animals, living in outdoor pens and forced to build new bots until they drop dead from exhaustion. Determined to find out if their parents are among the survivors, Nick, Kevin, and Cass venture into the heart of the City, but it is nothing like they’ve been told.

As they live among the bots for the first time, they realize they’re fighting for more than just their family. The robots have ruled for too long, and now it’s time for a revolution.

The premise of this first in a series (trilogy?) was so appealing that I practically begged the publisher for the e-galley. It isn’t often we find good science fiction that centers on robots and, making it even more attractive to me, this one is young adult post-apocalyptic and dystopian.

Don’t get me started on the definitions of those two subgenres because the argument could go on endlessly. Suffice it to say that I distinguish between the two as follows: post-apocalyptic means that the world has changed drastically due to a wide-scale life-threatening event that can be a natural disaster, a massive war, a pandemic, an alien invasion, etc., while dystopian refers to the very undesirable controlled society that comes into existence following something that dramatically changes the world as we know it. The two can co-exist in the same story or the story can focus on one or the other but dystopia does not necessarily follow an apocalyptic event nor does such an event necessarily result in a dystopian society.

But I digress. The point I want to make is that Revolution 19 is certainly dystopian and seems to be post-apocalyptic but, in this first novel, we don’t really learn enough to be sure of that. That lack of worldbuilding is a big part of why I felt this book just did not reach its full potential. The other major difficulty I had was with the main characters. Put simply, I didn’t care much for any of them and didn’t find them or their actions very believable. They do really dumb things and I was wondering why they were so shallow and why the scenes changed so quickly, allowing no time or content that would allow the reader to come to know and understand these teens and their elders—and then I figured it out.

This story was created by an entertainment company and then developed into a novel and that is exactly why it doesn’t “feel” like the really good books of this sort—it reads like a movie or a TV show. There’s no depth to it and, thus, very little worldbuilding or character development. What a disappointment! Somebody had a great idea but…

Oh, and by the way, the central character is 17-year-old Nick and he is the one who is given a robotic eye so why is a girl featured on the cover?

I won’t say this is a terrible book because it isn’t; it’s just very weak. I think the next book could make up for a lot of this one’s shortcomings if the author will take to heart some of the things reviewers are saying. There are reasons the majority of those reviewers are not raving about what a wonderful book this is but the next book could save the series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2013.