Review: Conscious Bias

46008700. sy475 ★★☆☆☆

Conscious Bias is billed as a legal thriller with f/f romance. I felt primed to read this after coming off Grace Mead’s Defense of an Other and was eager to start, but things go awry very quickly.

Calling this a thriller is just plain wrong. There is little to no tension in this story. I was propelled forward as I struggled to figure out what was going on instead of being compelled by the plot. The main character is a gifted lawyer, but she takes a backseat in the case central to the book. In the trial that is the focus of Conscious Bias, Monica Spade is not the prosecutor or even a member of the prosecutor’s team. She prepares two witnesses to testify and sits back to watch the trial. It’s interesting enough, but left Monica feeling more like a supporting character than our protagonist.

The crime that sets off the divisive trial in Apple Grove revolves around the death of Abdul Seif, an exchange student studying at the local university. There isn’t a lot of ambiguity with the crime, the reader knows that the defendant is guilty, it’s just a matter of waiting to see which side can get the system to rule in their favor. This is where Venice’s law career comes in handy, but it is hardly the saving grace of this book. The trial central to this book doesn’t start until past the halfway mark, mostly because this book is a blow-by-blow account of Monica’s every waking moment from start to finish. Silly subplots (a monkey loose in a hospital?) only add to the painful pacing.

Outside of the trial, Monica spends lots of time at the gym, where she meets Shelby. Their insta-love connection isn’t something I was in to, but that’s just a personal preference. What really killed it for me was the cringe-worthy dialogue. Shelby’s eyes were “firebombs” and her butt cheeks were “orbs.” It’s pervasive throughout the book, but peaks during the scenes in which Monica is at the gym, fantasizing about Shelby. And, that’s mostly it. For a book that’s billed as a f/f romance, there isn’t a lot going on besides fantasizing, some flirting, and getting together right at the end of the book. The sticking point for me was, again, that even though this book only spans a few weeks, they’re emphatically in love by the time they get together.

The story is further burdened by two-dimensional bad guys (sexist bosses, sleazy defense attorneys, corrupt businessmen) that fail to add and tension to the story because it is very apparent early on that the main character is always going to land on her feet because the author wants her to. I gave this book the benefit of the doubt until the very end, but there was no redemption with the rushed, senseless wrap-up. Clearly I’m in the minority here, but pick this book up at your own risk.

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Review: Birthday

★★★★★

39863399This is a difficult book for me to review. Not because I have mixed feelings, but because there is so much I loved that I only hope I can do it justice. Birthday is the story of two best friends, born on the same day, in the same hospital. On the night they were born a freak snowstorm struck the area and stranded their families together. From then their fates were sealed: friends for life. Their story is told in snippets, starting on their 13th birthday and continuing until they turn 18.

By 13, Morgan has realized that something is wrong. Between the loss of her Mom, a struggling with a distant relationship with her father, and being the subject of her rural town’s torment, Morgan can’t imagine losing her best friend. She’ll play it safe, even if it means hiding here true self from the person she cares about most.

When my copy of Birthday arrived I picked it up with the intent of skimming the first few pages to get an idea of Meredith Russo’s style. I read a page, and then a couple more, and then all of a sudden I was 100 pages in. Without exaggeration, this is easily the best YA book I have ever read, and certainly one of my favorites of this year. This own voices story is equal parts powerful, uplifting, and heartbreaking. I have so much appreciation for the way Morgan, a trans girl, is represented in this book and I cannot wait to pick up Meredith Russo’s books in the future.

Going off initial impressions I don’t think I would’ve picked this for myself, but I couldn’t be more thrilled that I did. Even if you’re on the fence, give Birthday a try. Let it surprise you in all the best ways.

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Advance Review: The Time Collector

★★★☆☆41711272

I have such mixed feelings about this book. I loved the premise and I wanted to love the story, but it wasn’t meant to be.

The Time Collector focuses on a group of gifted individuals known as psychometrists. Psychometrists range in their strength, but all share the ability to discern the past of objects the touch. Our male protagonist, Roan West, is one of the most powerful psychometrists among their small numbers. Roan has become increasingly worried with the disappearances of several psychometrists across the globe, including one of his closest friends. Then arises the problem of Melicent Tilpin.

Melicent is a young woman scraping by as she tries to balance work and raising her teenage brother following their mother’s recent death. She’s also a psychometrist whose powers have newly awakened. After peering into the past of objects found at flea markets and antique swaps, Melicent find herself on Antiques Roadshow where her items are appraised for tens of thousands of dollars and she’s admitted her gift to the world. Upon seeing the video Roan rushes across the country to warn Melicent, hoping she’ll listen.

The greatest triumph of The Time Collector is Gwendolyn Womack’s skill as a writer. This book touches on phenomena like out-of-place artifacts (OOPArts), crop circles, and more as Womack spins a tale that spans all of Earth’s breadth and history. I went in with very little foreknowledge of many of the phenomena she describes, but I never found myself lost in the explanations – the world she creates is easy to slip in to and enjoy. Some of the chapters that I enjoyed most were those where as a character reads an imprint, you are transported back in time. From 18th century Vienna to South Korea on the cusp of The Forgotten War, these periods are captured with incredible realism that drew me in despite their intrusion into the main plot.

So here’s the caveat of all this: I just didn’t like the romantic aspect. I was pulled in by the tension between Melicent and Roan through the first half of their story, but once the romantic tension was dissipated everything seemed to lose momentum. I’m also seldom a fan of stories where two characters are fully in love in a matter of just days. I tried to see past it because there was so much else that I enjoyed, but it ultimately left me feeling a little disappointed as I finished this book. I’m certain The Time Collector will be the perfect read for many people, just not me. Continue reading “Advance Review: The Time Collector”